Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done (guest review)

I recently received a surprise book in the mail, which I passed on to my friend Louise, as it sounded like her type of book (and I already have a towering pile waiting for my attention). Happily, she also agreed to review it. Here then is her review...

Both as a former third-grader and as an adult who reads stories to children, I thoroughly enjoyed Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done (rhymes with phone). Parts of Close Encounters are laugh-out-loud funny, others are moving, and one chapter in particular is downright sad. Done’s sense of humour had me giggling out loud on the bus and gasping with laughter at my desk. His descriptions of the trials and tribulations of a male third-grade teacher are priceless.

One thing bothered me though—the author’s tendency to address his female students as sweetheart and honey. It creeped me out. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to the professional stance now expected of adults working with children, but I wouldn’t dream of calling my audience members by anything other than their names.

Aside from that, I would recommend this book to anyone who knows a third-grader, remembers being in the third grade or just needs a good laugh. The stories in this book ring true, and the author is honest and generous in his telling of them. Done says that he started this book when he wrote some tips for a niece who was going into teaching. I think other new teachers might benefit from his 20-plus years of experience.

For other reviews of this book, head over to these blogs:
A Bookworm’s WorldBetter with BooksBonggamom FindsFabulous Miss SMama’s MouthSelfish MomStarting Fresh

Thank you to Hachette for sending me this book for Louise to review!


  1. I remember my kids in the third grade. This should be good.

  2. I'm reading this one right now (a library copy), and I'm really enjoying it! I do agree with Louise's quible, though I've worked with kids before (and am working now on my elementary certification!), and I get the instinct to address them that way.

  3. Sounds like a good book, and I wish I knew any third graders. Its been too long since I was one myself, I'm afraid ;-)

  4. For some reason, I thought this was a children's book. Is the author from the South? Terms of endearment are very common here.

  5. Sounds like a book that we all can relate to and I would love to read this one!!

  6. Thanks for the review! I received this in the mail about a month ago and of course haven't gotten around to reading it yet...I really want to though :)

  7. Sounds like a great book! It would be interesting to read this as my son starts his journey in elementary school. And I do think "honey" and "sweetheart" sound a bit better coming from a woman than a man ... but it does seem like a teacher should just call the children by their names!

  8. My daughter is in the third grade and this sounds like the kind of book we would enjoy reading together. By the way, you can find Montreal Review of Books (mRb) at your local library or bookstores. I was very pleased with their review of my book. You can read it here if you wish:
    The editor even contacted me and we met for coffee to further discuss my novel. The whole experience blew me away!

  9. Bookbirddog, it does sound good, doesn't it?

    Eva, I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts about this book. I didn't know you were working on your elementary certification. (But then I realize I don't know what most bloggers do, other than read and blog!)

    Louise, it's been a long time since I was a third-grader too!

    Kathy, nope, he's from California...

    Staci, that's kinda what I'm thinking now, that I should have read it before I passed it on. (But I can always borrow it back one of these days...)

    Bookshelf Monstrosity, I'll keep an eye out for your review! I hope you enjoy the book as much as Louise did.

    Jenners, he certainly sounds like a fantastic teacher, although I agree that keeping the terms of endearment to a minimum is probably the way to go.

    Thanks for the info, Laura. I didn't realize you could get hard copies of the mRb. I'll have to keep an eye out for it. (And congrats on the review!)

  10. i taught second grade (briefly) and this book sounds like a hoot!!! i work in a high school now and tend to address my charges as 'ruffians' (which they love!). it's a private school and we're encouraged to foster positive mentor-peer relationships with the kiddos.

    this book sounds like something i'd enjoy--it's non-fiction (favorite genre!!) and it's about education. :)

  11. Louise

    I agree, this was a wonderful read - but I had the same quibble. The 'terms of endearment' were inappropriate, especially as they're only directed towards female students.