Avi is one of my favorite authors. It is interesting to note that this author was dysgraphic as a child and told he would never be able to be an author - now he is a star in his genre. For grades 3-6 but will definitely be interesting and a help to all ages. Set in the 1920s, this book really glows with the effort of children who want above all else to keep their school - Ida, the 14 year old who is elected to be their teacher, is an excellent role model for blase modern youth.
Avi is one of the authors that I always expect great things from, and I am never disappointed when I read one of his books. The Secret School is about a fourth grade reading level, but perfect for a class that I teach of struggling readers. This quick read (about 150 pages, but larger print than normal) is about a valley of farmer's children that go to school in a one room schoolhouse. Their teacher is leaving because her mother is ill and the school board has decided to close the school. Then a student (Tom) decides that they could continue going to school if one of the other students (Ida) becomes the teacher. After a night of thinking about it, Ida decides that if the whole class agrees on it, then she will take over as teacher. The only thing is, they can't let the school board know, so the secret school is born. Ida learns that it is difficult becoming the teacher, as well as studying herself and working on the farm, but for the most part everything goes well, until...
I'm sure that you can figure out some of the problems that erupt when you have a secret school, but you'll have to read the story to find out more. All in all, this is a great book that can get student's thinking about what it was like when everyone went to school in the same room regardless of age. There are lessons about motivation and helping one another as well. As a teacher, I would encourage others to take a deeper look at what it would be like if we were not forced to get an education. I think that if our students begin to really look at what privileges they have now, they might not be so upset when they have to get up in the morning or do their homework. Also, there are tons of history lessons that can pop up from discussing this book.
It's a small book but can lead off to greater things. I highly recommend it to beginning novel readers, struggling older readers, or teachers that want something quick and sweet to start off their units. 4 out of 5 stars