The appealing young heroine of four previous picture books, Jamaica here thoroughly enjoys a busy day with an imaginative substitute teacher who appreciates her quick intelligence and enthusiasm. All is well until spelling-test time, when Jamaica can't spell a word and, seeing her friend Briana's paper, copies it. Conscience wins out and Jamaica confesses. The teacher's response is a sotto voce lesson to all. "You know, Jamaica, you don't have to be perfect to be special in my class. All my students are special. I'm glad you're one of them." A good and special book. A 1999 Parents' Choice® Recommendation.
Parent's Choice (R)
Doing her best to impress her admirable new substitute teacher, Jamaica earns praise for finding a hidden object, reading aloud, and correctly completing a math puzzle. When it comes time for the spelling test, however, she realizes that she has forgotten to study-and so she copies. When her conscience prompts her to confess what she has done, the teacher helps her to understand that she doesn't have to be perfect to be special. As she has in her other books about Jamaica, Havill treats the moral dilemmas of childhood with sensitivity and respect. Jamaica may behave badly, but she's a thoroughly likable child learning to take responsibility for her own actions. Somewhat stiff but warmly colored illustrations depict a cheerful, diverse, contemporary classroom and a sympathetic main character.
Jamaica (Jamaica and Brianna, 1993, etc.) is back in another a gentle story, and in for another moral dilemma. Her class has a calm, smiling substitute teacher, Mrs. Duval, who explains that while the regular teacher is absent,
I plan for us to work hard, but we'll have fun, too.'' Jamaica earns high praise for her reading aloud, for finding the hidden penguin, and for answering math puzzles, but when she gets to the spelling test, she can't remember how to spellcalf.'' Yielding to temptation, she looks at her friend's paper. The tests are corrected, and she gets 100%, but Jamaica knows she copied and doesn't turn the paper in, later confessing (unprompted) to her behavior. The teacher praises Jamaica's courage in admitting she cheated, and says, ``You don't have to be perfect to be special in my class. All my students are special. I'm glad you're one of them.'' The softly colored pastel drawings show Jamaica, her range of emotions, appealing classmates, and the teacher's kindly nature. This sensitive treatment of the topic makes the book ideal for group discussion.