Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Teacher's Funeral : A Comedy in Three Parts

The Teacher's Funeral : A Comedy in Three Parts

Richard Peck
For ages 12 and up
Penguin, 2004   ISBN: 0803727364

Russell Culver is determined that he is going to leave his family, their farm, school days, and go out west to South Dakota to be a farm hand. He just has to find the right time. When the local teacher dies in the month of August, Russell hopes that no one will be found to replace her, and his school problem will be solved. Unfortunately he doesn’t factor in his sister Tansy’s plans. It would seem that Tansy wants to be a teacher, and a teacher she will be no matter what.

It isn’t going to be easy though, for Tansy has a very mixed collection of students. One is almost an adult and cannot read, and another is tiny and wants to sit in her lap all the time. Add to this the fact that more than one of Tansy’s students is sweet on her. A surprising series of misadventures makes the days at school far from dull; there is the time when the boy’s privy starts on fire; the time when Aunt Fannie Hamline falls into the ditch; and the time when a puff adder finds its way into Tansy’s desk drawer. It also cannot be easy for Tansy to have her own two brothers in her class, one of whom is itching to leave town as soon as he can.

Richard Peck has once again created a book filled with the most remarkable three-dimensional characters who all but walk off the pages. He presents a picture of a summer and a fall in a small country community where it is hard to find eight children for the county school, and where shoes are not to be worn in the summer except for funerals. Small and often hilarious and memorable adventures pepper the days, and slowly but surely they lead Russell down a road that he never expected to travel.