It’s 1948 and ten-year-old Fred has just watched her teacher leave – another in a long line of teachers who have left the village because the smell of fish was too strong, the way of life too hard. Will another teacher come to the small Athabascan village on the Koyukuk River to teach Fred and her friends in the one-room schoolhouse? Will she stay, or will she hate the smell of fish, too?
Fred doesn’t know what to make of Miss Agnes Sutterfield. She sure is a strange one. No other teacher throws away old textbooks and reads Greek myths and Robin Hood. No other teacher plays opera recordings, talks about “hairy os,” and Athabascan kids becoming doctors or scientists. No other teacher said Fred’s deaf older sister should come to school, too. And no other teacher ever, ever told the kids they were each good at something. Maybe it’s because Miss Agnes can’t smell anything, let alone fish, that things seem to be all right? But then Miss Agnes says she’s homesick and will go back to England at the end of the year. Fred what this is about: Just when things seem to be good, things go back to being the same.
How Fred and her friends grow with Miss Agnes is the heart of this story, told with much humor and warmth by Fred herself. This is a story about Alaska, about the old ways and the new, about pride. And it’s a story about a great teacher who opens a door to the world – where, once you go through, nothing is ever the same again.
Once Upon a World Book Award, Simon Wiesenthal Center,Museum of Tolerance,2001
American Booksellers Association, Fall 2000, Pick of the Lists
Children’s Books of Distinction , Riverbank Review,2001
International Reading Association 2001, List of Notable Books for a Global Society
Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children, 2000
Capital Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children, 2000
Kansas State Reading Circle, Kansas National education Association 2000
School Library Journal, Best Books of 2000
Global Reading Challege, 2007 Seattle Public Library
National Council of Teachers of English: Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts 2002