“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gooney Bird is So Absurd • Early reader

Gooney Bird is So Absurd
by Lois Lowry • illustrated by Middy Thomas
March 2009 • Houghton Mifflin Books for Children • Ages 6-10
From the Newbery Award winning author of the popular Anastasia Kupnik series and best-selling novel THE GIVER comes the fourth hilarious title in the popular Gooney Bird series.
Story: It’s January at the Watertower Elementary School--the perfect weather for Gooney Bird Greene to break out her special brain-warming hat. Gooney Bird's brain will need to be as warm as possible this month, because Mrs. Pidgeon is teaching her class about poetry. Who knew there could be so many different ways to write a poem? Haikus, couplets, limericks—Mrs. Pidgeon’s students soon find that writing good poetry takes a lot of hard work and creative thinking. Gooney Bird and her classmates are up to the challenge. But just when things are going well, the kids get some terrible news. Gooney Bird will need all the inspiration her brain can muster to organize the most important poem the class has ever written.

Story behind the story: Since the publication of the first Gooney Bird Greene book in 2002, students, teachers, librarians and parents have embraced the feisty, inspiring character and she's graced countless summer reading and elementary school suggested reading lists. Here's a taste of what the critics have to say:

Praise for the Gooney Bird books:

"A laugh-out-loud chapter book." — Booklist

"Irrepressible Gooney Bird is that rare bird in children's fiction: one that instantly becomes an amusing and popular favorite." — Kirkus Reviews

"Lowry's masterful writing style reaches directly into her audience, managing both to appeal to young listeners and to engage readers." — The Bulletin

"Lowry displays a keen understanding of how second-grade classrooms operate . . . [Gooney Bird's] a fine storyteller and her message to classmates—that they too have stories to share—is a good one." — Horn Book

Now it's YOUR turn to tell us what YOU think!
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.


Susan Appleton said...

Did anyone receive this book? I put my name on the request list as soon as it was posted, but I haven't received a copy and I just noticed today that no comments have been posted by anyone else. Did the publisher mail the copies or are they still waiting?? Just curious.

se7en said...

Just got mine today! I will read it to my kids over the next week or so (chapter a day)...

alotalot said...

I have received mine (about a week ago)

wordwarrior said...

As always Lois Lowry doesn't disappoint wit her new installment in the Gooney Bird saga. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Gooney's teacher Mrs. Pidgeon is teaching poetry. This story could easily be a bridge into poety styles and a poetry unit as Goney and her classmates find out how much work writing poetry can be. I enjoyed it very much and am sure that early readers or less accomplished readers would be thrilled with the new Gooney bird story.
I give it a 5

Laura Miller
BHS paraprofessional

Pamela Kramer said...

I am now a Gooney Bird Greene fan. This is the first Gooney Bird book I have read and I enjoyed it immensely. Although at first glance it seems like a book for early readers, the content calls for higher readers. I am currently teaching the book Love That Dog and this one struck me as a perfect alternative that could be used with lower level readers. What a great way to introduce poetry!

I give this book a 4.5 out of 5.

Pamela Kramer
Reading Teacher
Oak Terrace Elementary
Highwood, Illinois

ESnover said...

Although it took quite awhile to get to me, it was worth the wait - I love Gooney Bird Greene! This is the first time I met Gooney, and it is love at first read. Although this is marked for young readers, 6-10, I think many other age ranges would enjoy this story - including middle schoolers! There is so much to enjoy - Gooney's above average humor, the poetry, the tender relationship between the students and their teacher, best of all - that everyone in the book is shown to accept the very unusual, very unique Gooney, and her one-of-a-kind wardrobe.
5 out of 5!

Eileen Snover
South Mountain MS
Grades 6-8
Allentown, PA

Sandra Stiles said...

I loved the book "Gooney Bird is So Absurd". I thought the way she taught poetry through her character Mrs.Pidgeon was great. I received it the day before our spring break started and it has given me much to think about as we return and will start our poetry unit. I also thought the way she addressed the issue of old age and death was handled in a diplomatic way. Student would understand death this way and would be able to openly discuss it with their peers. I definately give this book a 5.

Anonymous said...

"Gooney Bird is So Absurd" is a delight. Pulled me in by author but pulled in second graders by front cover and title.

It really is well written for this age group. Many students in listening audience had friends like these characters.

The poetry connection is timely. I give it a 5!

Liz said...

Why did books like "Gooney Bird is So Absurd" not exist when I was in second grade. This was a wonderful introduction to poetry for early elementary kids. I also thought it was a nice story about kids accepting other kids for who they are. If they are different, it isn't a bad thing or a reason to tease, but to learn to love the uniqueness of each friend.
It portrays the relationship between teacher and student in a fun, loving, positive way too.
Definitely would rate this book as a "5".

Anonymous said...

My first Gooney Bird book, I was delighted by the carefree, "just be yourself" theme. I would reccommend this book to my students anytime. I liked the poetry that was streaming through this book. Great touch! Reminds me a bit of Pippi Longstocking or Ramona Quimby in that children can relate to the quirky characters. Love the underpants hats! This is a 5!

5th Grade Teacher/ ELD tutor
Hercules, CA

Martine Battista said...

At first glance this book appears to be just another slapstick story with a Junie B type heroine. I was delighted to discover more depth than I expected. The principal brought to mind the picture book -Mr. Tanen's Ties- which would pair nicely with this Gooney Bird tale. It would also work perfectly with a poetry unit for any elementary grades. I particularly liked the respect for the elderly and how our older members of society still have so much to offer if we'd only listen. The only criticism I have is that I did not like Felicia Ann's speech impediment. It was a little too sweet and syrupy for me. I could see Gooney Bird growing up to be a young lady much like Spinelli's Stargirl. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I give it a 4.5
Denair Elementary Library
Denair, CA

PLLoggerR said...

Lois Lowry's Gooney Bird Is So Absurb is a light-hearted, gentle read with a lot to offer. I liked the way the children treat each other and the way Mrs. Pidgeon, the teacher, treats the children--with respect, humor, kindness, and gentle reminders to treat others the same way. I liked the way poetry is interwoven throughout the book and see wonderful ways to use this book when teaching poetry to elementary school students. I found the class just a bit too perfect--everyone gets along, the principal becomes a kid struggling with poetry, and Gooney Bird is always chosen to speak (and has the last word!). That said, I think kids will love the book and teachers and librarians will find ways to use it in poetry programs. What a pairing for National Poetry Month!
Rating 4
Becky Jensen
Co-Director, Peacham Library

Sunshine, Teacher, AZ said...

What a fun story! Apparently there are three others in this series, but it stands very well on its own. A sweet tale of individuality and uniqueness which demonstrates how such qualities can be encouraged and even celebrated. This is a tale for any group that is having or has had difficulties with understanding others and their "special" qualities.

Additionally, this introduces poetry in a manner that is not intimidating or overly scholarly. This will become a part of my poetry unit for its handling of poetry types, explinations of skills, and charming examples.

The students in Mrs. Pidgeon's class are lucky to have her (or any teacher like her). A solid five star picnic basket of a sweet story.

Mila said...

Okay - I don't like poetry. Never did. Gooney Bird changed my mind (just like the class changes the mind of the principal about poetry).
This book is a great introduction to poetry for children. It has enough information about poetry (i.e. funny poems, haiku, ...) and can make a kid curious enough to find out more about poetry.
Great book 4 Picnic Basket rate

Susan T. said...

I would rate this book a 5!!! I read it to my preschoolers and they loved it!

Julia Pitau said...

Gooney Bird is So Absurd: The author's name stands out more than the title of the book with larger font that is highlighted with glittery snowflake colors and stars. The illustrations look like they've been drawn by a school-aged child. The main character (a second grader) wears underware on her head (and can you believe the other kids in class think this is great and start following suit?) and talks back to the substitute teacher who is so unprofessional, she suddenly picks up and leaves in the middle of class after singling out a girl with a speech impediment and another girl for being Japanese. This book was not for me.

Picnic Rating: 1

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

jackie purificato said...

I thought that this book was a really fun book for young readers. I even think that my sixth graders will love it. Gooney Bird is a real "character", and you can't help but love her. I enjoyed how the author portrayed the teacher in the story.
You could use this book when teaching poetry.
I give this book a 5 in my picnic basket.
Jackie Purificato
consultant teacher

Anonymous said...

"Gooney Bird is So Absurd" is worth reading. This is the first "Gooney Bird" I have read, but look forward to starting at the beginning! While most of the book is light-hearted, I appreciated how the author addressed the sensitive subject of the passing of a loved one. I have passed on my copy to a reluctant third grader in hopes she will find the book as enjoyable as my daughter and I did.

I give this book a 5.

Nicky Kemp
Williamsburg Elementary

Tina's Blog said...

I am reading Gooney Bird Is So Absurd by Lois Lowry. I can't believe that I have never read the Gooney Bird books before. I am loving this one! I am not overly excited about Junie B., and this is a great substitute. I actually think I would equate it to Amber Brown, who I also enjoy. This title focuses on Gooney Bird and her class learning about poetry - perfect for April, National Poetry Month. I am thoroughly enchanted by the way poetry is introduced and a part of the story created by Lowry. This book is smart, funny, and clever and I am so excited to use it with my classes and at home with my daughters. In addition, to the subject of poetry that the kids are learning about, Mrs. Pidgeon is also teaching them about the aging and death of her mother. This book is wonderful, and I am highly recommending it to all young readers.
Rating 5/5

Lemon the Duck said...

I received this book right at the beginning of April. Perfect for poetry month and our curriculum until on Poetry.
This is the first one I have read in the series and I slipped right into and enjoyed it thoroughly. The characters and their relationships are enjoyable and ones with which the readers can connect.
I liked the poetry weaved throughout the book as well as respect and caring for others.
I rate this book a 4 out of 5.

Laura Backman
Reading Specialist
Melville School
Author of "Lemon the Duck"

Nan Demmler said...

I really enjoyed this book. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all had a Gooney Bird in our classroom. She is quirky but in a nice way. Many of our grades have a poetry unit, and I will definitly recommend this book as the read aloud. I also loved the principal and his attempts at poetry. Also the wonderful way that the author handled the sadness around Ms.Pigeon's mother's death. Very well done. It is a five out of five.
Nannette Demmler
Elementary School Librarian

Mary Lou said...

Gooney Bird Greene is an over-the top character that you love.
Fans of Gooney Bird Greene will not be disappointed with this book. This unpredictable, lovable character is at her best in this book. What character do you know would have a “logical” explanation for wearing frilly underpants (clean, of course) on her head at school? I would definitely use this book as a read-aloud in a first and second grade classroom. Third and fourth graders could read this book on their own. A teacher could easily use this book as an introduction to a poetry unit. I give this book a 5.

Believe in angels,
Mary Lou Damjanovich
literacy facilitator
Bella Vista Elementary, UT

Anonymous said...

"Gooney Bird is So Absurd" is an absolute delight! Having never been introduced to Gooney Bird before, I am looking forward to the other novels. I liked how easily this book stands alone but may encourage readers to seek her other adventures. The lessons shared can be used with a variety of age groups. I'm sure if added to an elementary or classroom library it will be well received!

Mary said...

This was my first experience with Gooney Bird,and for the most part I enjoyed it. My second graders loved it. I liked the different types of poetry that it introduced and the overall story line. However, I didn't care for the underwear on the head, especially the thong. I think that there are other ways to show that children can have a unique style, and other ways to portray a "thinking cap".

Cassandra said...

Who wouldn't love Gooney Bird Greene? From her outlandish outfits, complete with frilly two pony tailed hats (underwear,) Gooney delights and entertains both her teacher and classmates. This is the third installment of this loveable character, and what a character she is. When the class is taught poetry, will Gooney be inspired by Haiku? Fall in love with adorable girl, who reminds us all, that it's OK to march to the beat of our own drummer! 4.5 out of 5

RickertsZoo; Summerfield, NC said...

I am not the biggest fan of this book. I did appreciate the way the students interacted with each other in appreciating differences and the obvious intertwining of poetry within the story. However, I felt the entire story was a bit over the top and completely unbelievable. I was expecting more of a real life Junie B, but found it more of a modern day Pippi Longstocking.
The ending leaves the readers on a positive note from themes of teamwork, compassion and creativity. I prefer the humor of more realistic situations.

Brian said...

I've liked Gooney Bird ever since she walked into second grade in Watertower Elementary School and said, "I'm Gooney Bird Greene. That's Greene with an 'e' on the end, and I'd like to have a desk right smack in the middle of everything." So when she arrives at school on a cold January day wearing a two-ponytail hat to keep her brain warm, she simply added one more reason for me to love her.

And if there was any doubt, she erased it later when she politely - and correctly - put a substitute teacher in her place. "'Are you finished, miss?' the substitute asked. 'Yes, I am,' said Gooney Bird firmly. She sat down. 'And don't call me miss.'"

Rating: 4 - Recommend without Reservation. Students who have liked Ramona, Judy Moody, Clementine, and others will enjoy adding Gooney Bird to their class.

Susan Appleton said...

What a wonderful story about accepting and loving the differences in others! My kids LOVED it! I read it to my class this week as we were discussing theme and they TOTALLY enjoyed it! I teach 5th grade students and although this book is a lower level reading book, I found the theme to be something that my kids need to think about at their age. We had a wonderful discussion about not teasing others who are different and really enjoying the uniqueness of each other! I will be using this book every year! Definitely a 5 out of 5!

Anonymous said...

I received this book a while after I requested it, but it was definitely worth the wait. I used this book as a read aloud for my second grade class during the month of April, National Poetry Month. We completed the same writing assignments as Mrs. Pidgeon's class.
My class thought the book was very humorous, but while reading it I left out certain parts. I did not use the slang written for the way one little boy speaks since it struck me as stereotypical and not completely appropriate. Also, I omitted the part with the ignorant substitute teacher since it was not vital to the story and in my opinion over the top. I value the message that everyone's differences should be appreciated, but it hit just a little too close to home for me to share it with my learning support classroom.
I did not care for the illustrations and I thought it was strange that the author's name on the front cover was so much larger than the actual title of the book.
This book has a lot to offer and is definitely worth sharing. I rate it a 3.5/5
Jennifer Sherman

Monica said...

What a fun book! Gooney Bird Is So Absurd was a delight to read. Lois Lowry, as always, pulls you in and gives readers characters to identify with. This is a wonderful book for students who are "unique" and for their classmates. In this story Lowry not only address relationships between students, students and teachers, but also a relationship with one's aging parent ( Mrs. Pidgeon and her mother). Students will read this story and not even realize they have learned many lessons in writing poetry as well as on accepting others.
I will definitely recommend this book to students.
I would give this book a 5 in my picnic basket.

Tasses said...

I consider myself a Lois Lowry uber-fan. I subscribe to her blog. I’ve written her. I’ve used her novels repeatedly in the classroom. Yet, I am ashamed to admit never having read her Gooney Bird series. I always thought it was a silly, primary level (not my thing) series. I should have never doubted Lowry. She is a master, even when writing silly, primary level stories.

Lowry’s child-like eyes are shining in Gooney Bird Is So Absurd. Gooney Bird is a second-grader, a unique second-grader. She wears odd clothing (like brain-warming ruffled under-panties on her head) and is prone to precociousness (to say the least). Her teacher, Mrs. Pidgeon, is teaching the class poetry when a tragedy strikes. Leave it to Lois Lowry to deftly navigate deep waters with a quirky and absurd protagonist.

Gooney Bird Is So Absurd is a MUST for first through fourth grade classrooms (of course I say that about so many Lowry books). It covers themes of tolerance, uniqueness, death & aging, respect, kindness, and teamwork with a light hand that makes approaching the subjects much easier. The story is quickly engaging and would make a wonderful read aloud. Gooney Bird Is So Absurd also works as a stand alone, even though it is part of a series. It's also a fantastic addition or introduction to poetry units.

Highly recommended for independent readers, as a read aloud for K-4 and for all school libraries.

Cheryl Tasses
Reading Specialist
Picnic Basket rating 4.5/5
See my full reviews on Reading Rumpus

se7en said...

In short we totally loved this book and wanted to dash through it to read the story. But it took a while because we had to stop and practice the new poetry skill for each chapter. My kids took a leap in writing their own poetry, which had been sort of sporadic before but now something they do just for fun as part of their free writing time before we start school in the morning.
Here is a link to our poetry notebooks we made that were inspired by gooney bird: http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/04/29/se7en-make-poetry-notebooks

Since this book came on two picnics with us I would have to give it a resounding, brilliant 5.

Stacey Dever said...

I loved this book. I cried at the end. I loved the way the author wrote the way 2nd graders talk. The teachers class was not composed of all "smart" or "good" kids. The class make-up was as close to real world classrooms as I have ever seen in a fiction book.

Anonymous said...

I am a huge Gooney Bird fan, and I have passed the original "Gooney Bird Greene" onto any teacher or student I can think of. Our teachers even did a readers' theatre skit of the original book (chapter 1-2) for Read Across America Day this year. Can you tell I love Gooney Bird?

Kids love her, too. My 4th grade Battle of the Books club loved the book. While none of the others in the series quite capture the same charm as the first - Gooney Bird comes off more as an adult in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books than as a strange kid - this volume, "Gooney Bird is so Absurd," is a welcome addition to the series, especially for my Gooney Bird fans. The reviewer above is correct that yes, Gooney Bird is not quite like Junie B, but these books can be recommended to Junie B fans or fans of "My Weird School."

Teachers are always looking for more books that introduce classroom concepts in a fun, new way, and this book will be a great way to introduce poetry in the classroom (along with Love that Dog, I agree with you other reviewers)!

This is a 4 out of 5 - Recommended without Reservation.

Susan E.
K-4 Library Media Specialist
Hillside School
Mount Laurel, NJ

Jacqueline Simmons, M.Ed said...

This book is wonderful, funny, crazy and the kids will love it!!!! The book is easy to read for elementary school students (Grades 1-6). Kindergarten students can enjoy this book if it is read to them. This book is funny from cover to cover! The author discusses poetry and this is an asset to the hilarious story. This book provides more opportunities to integrate poetry in my lessons. I cannot wait to receive more Gooney Bird books! I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

Lisa Kennedy said...

What a wonderful way to introduce children to the different types of poetry. I wish that Mrs. Pidgeon had been the person to help me understand poetry. I would suggest that any primary teacher beginning a poetry unit read this book to students first. The excitement expressed by the students as they experiment with their thoughts is something we all wish we could create with our students. The love and care they all shared as a group was touching. This is a wonderful book and I would recommend it to anyone, child or adult. Without a doubt, a 5 out of 5!

Tegan said...

I loved this book! It is an appropriate read for younger elementary students. As a 4th grade teacher with lower students, I will be using this as a teaching tool in my classroom! The introductions to poetry are great and I'm sure will keep my students interest!
5 out of 5