Monday, January 18, 2010
Middle Grade Mondays: Operation Yes
Author: Sara Lewis Holmes
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12
As an educator, I find that I tend to be more sensitive and possibly more critical of books where school and teachers are central to the story. When I read Sara Lewis Holmes’ Operation Yes, I was pleasantly surprised. The story opens with Miss Loupe on the first day of school taping off a “stage” area on the floor in front of the classroom. Her students are not sure what to make of this strange sight. How often is it that you see your teacher crawling around on her hands and knees in front of the room? Now this may not be unusual behavior for a teacher at an alternative school, but Young Oaks School is on a military base and all the students are children of military personnel. For Bo Whaley, the son of an Air Force Commander, maybe sixth grade will be different from past years and maybe that is a good thing.
Lewis Holmes shares with her readers the story of Miss Loupe a new teacher who was once a student at Young Oaks. After leaving the Air Force Academy, much to her father’s disappointment, Miss Loupe focuses on teaching and theater. Bo Whaley struggles to stay focused in class and not get into trouble. Gari, the daughter of an army nurse called back into active duty, must live with her cousin Bo until her mother’s return. Bo just doesn’t want to move again, Gari is angry with her mother being called back up, and Miss Loupe has a few challenges of her own.
While reading the story, I found myself truly enjoying the ways that the author captured the various people at the school. The principal with her need to meet standards and expectations, the school librarian who builds a castle in the library and shouts out the titles of famous children’s books when she is cursing, and the grumpy cafeteria worker were just a few of my favorite people. Miss Loupe is inspiring in her role as teacher and her enthusiasm engages students in the learning process albeit in a less than traditional manner. Students learn from her to say “Yes”. Yes to challenges and yes to risks. How does this lesson of learning how to say “Yes” pull them all together when one among them is emotionally hurting? This is the essence of the book. Learning to say “Yes” can pull everyone together and bring healing and growth into their lives.
This book gets one of the highest recommendations that I can give a book. Some books I hand to students that I think might be particularly interested in a story. Other books I select for the classroom library. However, really good books I read out loud to my students. Operation Yes is one of those really good books which I will be reading out loud. Because even if you don’t live on a military base and attend a military school, everyone can learn to say “Yes”.
Enjoy! And let me know what books you would recommend for read-a-louds?!