Miss Nelson is Missing! - Thao Lam
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Miss Nelson is Missing!

Miss Nelson is Missing!

Miss Nelson is Missing!

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Did the school principal have your parent’s telephone number on speed dial. Or were you covered in gold star stickers, a teacher’s pet? Every principal I ever had knew me by name. I always had the knack for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. School records are permanently sealed, right? Keep reading…

Miss Nelson is Missing!, written by Harry Allard and illustrated by James Marshall, is a humorous story about mischievous kids. The students in Room 207 are always misbehaving – making faces, throwing spitballs and refusing to do their lessons. They’re downright rude to their teacher Miss Nelson, one of the nicest teachers in their school. One day, Miss Nelson doesn’t come to school and the kids go wild with mischief. Until, that is, one Miss Viola Swamp, the substitute teacher, walks in. Miss Swamp promptly lays down the law: “Keep your mouths shut,” “sit perfectly still,” and “if you misbehave, you’ll be sorry.” She then loads them down with homework; the kids in Room 207 have never worked so hard. The kids soon miss Miss Nelson. Where is Miss Nelson and will she ever come back?

Miss Nelson is Missing! was probably the most read aloud story in my elementary school. It was very popular among the teachers. I took it as a subtle threat by the teachers to keep us kids in line, or else Miss Viola Swamp could show up in our classroom.

Allard has an honest and blunt way with words, or perhaps the story was a reflection of the era because I can’t see teachers these days getting away with telling their students to shut up. But I don’t think Miss Swamp would come across as such a witch if Allard wrote the dialogue in any other way.

One could mistake Marshall’s illustrations as ones created by elementary school kids; that could explain the popularly of his art among that age group. Rendered in a simple manner, the drawings seem to almost have a personality of their own. The messy approach of the pen and ink with colour washes reminds me of the rowdy kids of Room 207, both are quick and dirty. What Marshall might lack in composition and finish is made up for in wit. His ability to capture the personalities of the impish kids and the nasty Miss Swamp with just the basic lines and colours is comical.

Miss Nelson is Missing!,a children’s book review by Thao Lam

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Author Harry Allard

(January 27th, 1928 to 1992)

Harry Allard never intended to write children’s books until he met James Marshall, whose illustrations and friendship inspired him. Born January 27th, 1928 in Evanston, Illinois, Allard had a thirst for knowledge and a talent for languages. Upon graduating from high school, he attended Northwestern University and received his Bachelor of Science. Moving on to Middlebury College in Vermont, he completed his M.A. in French. He then continued his study of language at Yale University and graduated with a Ph. D. in French Literature. For years, he taught French at the college level until he met Marshall. Together they collaborated on 12 different books up until 1992, when Marshall passed away from a brain tumor.


Illustrator James Marshall

James Marshall sadly passed away at the age of 50 from a brain tumor. In his lifetime, he illustrated more than 70 books and also wrote many of them (sometimes under the pseudonym Edward Marshall). Born in San Antonio, Texas, James Marshall grew up in a musically talented family; his father was in a dance band and his mother was in the church choir. So, it seem natural that Marshall received a scholarship to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, but his career as a violist was cut short when he injured his hand on a plane trip. He returned to San Antonio to complete his studies in French, and in fact he ended up studying under Harry Allard. Like his friend Harry Allard, he never intended on becoming an author or an illustrator (he as a degree in history and French from Southern Connecticut State University). Having received no formal art training, his book career happened by chance: while sketching one summer afternoon, as his mother was watching Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, the movie’s protagonists inspired the creation of George and Martha, the hippopotamuses who became characters in his first children’s book.


Publisher Sandpiper (October 28, 1985)

ISBN-10 0395401461

ISBN-13 978-0395401460