Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind
By: Judy Finchler and Kevin O’Malley
Illustrated by: Kevin O’Malley
Reviewed by: Lindsay Baver
“Books are boring and there is nothing that I like to read! I hate reading!” The age old lament has plagued teachers, parents, and librarians for decades. When Miss Malarkey’s school decides to participate in the Everybody Reads in America contest and challenges the students to read 1,000 books by the end of the year, Miss Malarkey sets out to ensure that her students are reading. Despite her best efforts, a group of boys are not interested at all in reading. Book after book is rejected by the boys as they pick up video game controllers instead. When June arrives, the main character is shocked to find out that Miss Malarkey has found a book for each of his friends that they actually enjoy reading. Yet, Miss Malarkey has not given up on him yet. By keeping tabs on what he enjoys throughout the year and continuing to search for books, she has found the perfect book for him and much to his surprise, he actually enjoys reading it!
Kids and adults of all ages will find a way to relate to this book. Whether they can sympathize with the main character and understand his hatred towards reading or whether they themselves have struggled to find a book that they enjoy, all students will find comfort in the fact that they aren’t alone in their feelings. While the main character attempts to find a book that he enjoys reading even though he hates the act of reading, other students in his class are happily reading away. This diverse perspective on the act of reading allows all students to find a character that they can relate to in the story. An added benefit of this story is the array of genres that are referenced in the book. Readers can use this book as an inspiration to read a different genre or a book about a different topic. At the back of the book, the main character lists books that interest him now that Miss Malarkey has opened his eyes to the power of reading. Reluctant readers may find a gem hidden in this list as well.
This book is a personal favorite of mine because, as a teacher, I can relate to the plight of Miss Malarkey. It is clear to see that she deeply cares about each one of her students and will not give up until she finds each student a book that they enjoy. Teachers embark on this journey each and every day with their students and do not give up until they have accomplished their goal. This book is a great reminder and motivator to all teachers. Even though the journey may seem long, the end result is helping a child become an engaged reader and that prize is worth the journey. Miss Malarkey can help inspire any teacher to continue to the journey even the going is tough! In addition, this book reminds me to explore all different types of genres in my classroom in order to reach each and every student. There is no one best genre and it is important for all students to find a type of book that they can enjoy.
The author’s humor and added conversation through the use of speech bubbles keeps readers engaged from cover to cover. The author’s style makes it an easy read for readers of all ages. The artful use of suspense and characterization keeps readers guessing whether the main character will ever find a book that he enjoys. Kevin O’Malley’s illustrations bring life to the words on the page and capture the main character’s emotions as the school year progresses and Miss Malarkey hands him book after book. Not to be outdone by the humor in the text, the illustrator incorporates a lot of puns or jokes into his illustrations as well. Being as the illustrations are so life-like, readers of all backgrounds will be comforted by the fact that many races are represented in the story as well as different genders. Of slight concern is the fact that the author has chosen to highlight the stereotype of boys being less enthusiastic readers than girls as the group of boys are the ones who have not been excited about the reading contest. This being said, by the end of the book, the author has proven that with dedication and resilience from all involved, everyone can become a reader!
In short, Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind is an inspirational story about the power of books to change the mind of the most reluctant readers. Through humor and emotion, the authors show the plight of a young boy with a dedicated teacher on the quest to truly leave no reader behind!