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Close Encounters

Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind by Phillip Done (Center Street, $22.99, 336 pages)

Phillip Done (rhymes with phone) is a veteran third-grade teacher with 25 years of experience in the classroom.   Done charms the reader with his take on “teacherhood,” a word he has coined.   He uses the school year, beginning with August, to frame relevant vignettes featuring classroom activities from the teacher’s perspective.  

In this book he keeps it real, uncomplicated and genuinely funny.   His breezy, fast-paced style draws the reader into a world that is full of energy, wonder and discovery.   Third graders are quick to seize the moment and tell jokes and riddles.   Done willingly goes along feigning surprise and breaking up with laughter even though he’s heard the jokes over and over again.

Some of the most innocent statements by the children are hilarious, such as this after school exchange when a teacher on duty with Done calls out, “Mindy, aren’t you a bus rider?”   “No,” she shouts back, “I’m a street-walker.”

All is not fun and games as the author deftly proves he can get the reader to laugh and cry at the same time.   Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano and is reprinted courtesy of San Francisco Book Review.   Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind is the follow-up to Phillip Done’s first book, 32 Third-Graders and One Class Bunny.

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