It is not often that opening a book provokes a gasp, but 'Dear Teacher' by Amy Husband is one of those books: the cover has to be ‘opened’ like an envelope that reveals a series of increasingly funny and outlandish letters from young Michael to his teacher. Each double-page spread contains a different, colourfully illustrated letter recounting a series of unlikely adventures to explain why Michael cannot possibly make it to school this term.
There are many elements that make this a great book to share:
If you are looking for a book that will grab the class’s attention and get them talking, Dear Teacher could be for you. Its presentation provides novelty, but the content sustains interest. Michael’s excuses are clearly untrue (including rescuing an explorer on Everest and chasing pirates on the Orient Express), but he also claims to be truly upset to be missing tests and homework. This book introduces the idea of an unreliable narrator in a simple and relatable way.
Because of the brightly coloured illustrations, and writing in the voice of a child, Dear Teacher feels a very accessible book. Unlike some books of this type, the text is easy to read (no spidery writing or comic misspelling), and the pitch of the writing allows it to be read independently by a confident Year Two reader. The reading is naturally broken up into the individual letters any one of which could be provided for focused reading and comprehension work.
Dear Teacher provides a wealth of discussion and writing opportunities. Children enjoy becoming increasingly dubious as to the truth of Michael’s stories and this in turn triggers interesting discussion as children justify their views and explain their reasoning. Children can reply to one of Michael’s letters in the role of the teacher, recount one of his adventures or write their own excuse letters. The opportunity to write letters to the head should prove irresistible: what excuses will they come up with to avoid their own grammar test?
For teacher planning and resources using this book, see Hamilton's Year 2 English block, ‘Letters and Postcards: Excuse Letters'. Dear Teacher is paired with John Patrick Norman McHennessy by John Burningham (another excuses-themed book). Children read excuse stories and letters, discuss ideas and write their own extended letters. Grammar includes studying punctuation and sentence forms.
Discover another of our favourite books: Mrs Armitage on Wheels by Quentin Blake.