Genre: Realistic Fiction.
Read-Alouds: This Read-Aloud shows Mr. Noel’s characterization. He is an optimist because he sets his sights on love instead of hate. This tells the reader information about Mr. Noel’s character.
This Read-Aloud demonstrates the theme of appearance.
Summary: A Book of Coupons, a book written by Susie Morgenstern, tells the story of a French fifth grade class who have the new teacher. The class was hoping for a younger teacher but ended up with an old wrinkly male. On the first day, the teacher hands each student a pack of coupons. Each coupon is for an unique opportunity that includes sleeping in late, skipping a day of school, not listening in class, making a lot of noise, and clowning around. At the beginning, the class is skeptical of the teacher but find themselves staying up late at night reading, going on field trips that explore life lessons, and learning about the resources life provides, like the teacher provided with the coupons. The teacher, Hubert Noel and Principal Incarnation Perez are at odds because she does not agree with his teaching instructions.
Themes: One of the themes in this novel is education. Hubert Noel presents the students with gifts on the first day of class. He gives the coupons and also wraps the first novel the students will read; David Copperfield. As soon as the students saw the book said ‘school property,’ they voiced the book was not a present. Mr. Noel told students the words and ideas from the text were the student’s gift. As a result, Mr. Noel’s character represents a laid back yet effective style of teaching. Education is valued in this book, and Mr. Noel’s character shows the students what they can learn not only from books, but in day-to-day experiences. The students claim they can not read David Copperfield by the end of the week. Charles, one of the classmates, stays up late reading the book out of enjoyment. Learning can be fun. Furthermore, the Principal represents the standards teachers need to abide by to see that students are improving or succeeding in. Mr. Noel goes against tradition ways, but still teaches his class valuable lessons.
Another theme is appearance. When the class first meets Mr. Noel, the class assumes he will be boring and not let them play ball due to his age. The class makes assumptions about Mr. Noel because of his appearance. On the first day, when the class goes to lunch, they do not see their teacher and assume he is too tired and lazy to walk them to the lunchroom. Later, they see him for recess. Mr. Noel proves he is not lazy but is quirky. He has students sing, dance, and takes the class on weekly field trips. The classes first impression of Mr. Noel did not coincide with who Mr. Noel is.
Connections: This text would be a good introductory tool to introduce students to a unit on appearances. This book is short enough to read aloud in a single class period and deals with themes that will branch out with the exploration of the core text over appearances and how someone might judge another person. A novel that could be paired with this book is A Lesson Before Dying. Both texts deal with judgement based on appearances. One could also use this novel on a laid back class day after students have just turned in papers. The class would enjoy this story, and this story provides examples of how education is important.
Reactions: I really enjoyed this book. Even though it was short, the story was well written and dealt with complex issues. This book made me cry several times! I was attached to the characters and couldn’t stop turning the page. I would definitely recommend this book.
Reception: On a Books4yourkids, the article states “but an amazing story in 56 pages? I have to admit, this clever plot idea of the title is so rich with possibilities that I was left wanting more – maybe 50 pages or so more. In spite of this, Morgentstern gives a well thought out story with a tiny arc that ends with a tear or two.” Even though this book is short, it is compacted with a good story plot and a powerful message.
On Amazon.com, a reviewer states “my 9 year old raved about the book after reading it, then demanded (which she seldomly does) that I read it out loud to her siblings. The writing is polished. The content is warm and teaches life lessons. As I was invited to peek into the classroom of Monsieur Noel, I, too, could not put the book down and got choked up and teary as I read the last page.” Even though this book is at a lower reading level, the content is complex and furthers student’s interest in reading. This book is engaging and even the mother of the 9 year old child could not put this book down.