Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School

Week of March 25, 2012—New Books on My Shelf
Thursday, March, 29, 2012—The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School

I met Laura Murray at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles last year and then again at the SCBWI conference in Miami. In Miami she was on the First Books Panel which is a tradition at our Florida SCBWI winter meeting. During the Frist Books Panel authors who have published their first book in the previous year tell about their journey to publication. The presentations are always encouraging and put everyone in a celebratory mood.

Laura’s book The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School was released by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., last year. The book was illustrated by Mike Lowery.

Laura was a kindergarten teacher for years. If you’ve been around schools much, you may know about the Gingerbread Man Hunt that many teachers use during the first week of school. One of the main purposes of the hunt is to help kindergarteners get acquainted with the school campus. The kindergarteners are “smart cookies” who are trying to find the missing Gingerbread Man. At each point in their search, the students are just one step behind him. As they search for the Gingerbread Man, the children find the media center, the nurse’s office, the front office, the cafeteria, and so on. When the students finally return to their classroom, they find the Gingerbread Man waiting for them (and often they enjoy gingerbread cookies).

Laura used this activity with her students and often wondered what adventures the Gingerbread Man had while he was out and about. But she never could find a book about the adventure to use with her class. Thus, the idea for this book.

In The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School the freshly-baked Gingerbread Man is left behind when his classmates go to recess. Because he’s “one smart cookie,” the Gingerbread Man embarks on a search for his class. With the help of the P.E. coach, the nurse, the art teacher, and the principal, he finally finds his way back to class and realizes they’ve been searching for him, too.

The book is written in a fun rhyming pattern. This is rhyme that is unique and well done, that’s what makes the rhyme successful. The quick pacing keeps the story moving and the reader engaged. The Gingerbread Man goes from calamity to calamity. Meanwhile the class is searching for him and has put up missing posters. Finally, the principal, himself, helps the Gingerbread Man find his way back to his grateful class.

Mark Lowery uses a graphic novel or cartoon panel approach in his illustrations which helps to organize the action. The illustrations are lighthearted and unique.

What I love most about Laura’s book is that she found a need for a story that no one else had done. She saw a need and she filled that need with gusto. Of course, if her writing hadn’t been stellar the book never would have been published. So Laura not only saw a need and met it with gusto, she always met it with finesse.

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School. Buy it. Read it. Learn from it.

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