The Kids of the Polk Street School

valentinestar#6 The Valentine Star by Patricia Reilly Giff, 1985.

Emily Arrow and Sherri Dent have been fighting ever since Emily refused to play a game with Sherri at recess.  It wasn’t because Emily didn’t like Sherri.  She was just having too much fun running around with her toy unicorn, Uni.  But, Emily made the mistake of running up on top of that huge snow pile near the school fence, the one that the kids aren’t supposed to play on.  Then, Sherri told on her to Ms. Rooney.After that, it becomes a game of tit-for-tat, each of the girls telling on the other for little things.  While Emily is acting as room monitor while Ms. Rooney is out of the room, Sherri gets out of her seat to get a book instead of doing her work, so Emily writes her name down and tells Ms. Rooney.  Sherri promises that she’ll get even.

Around the same time, Ms. Rooney’s room gets a new student teacher, Ms. Vincent.  Ms. Vincent is very pretty and nice, and Emily likes her immediately.  The kids are making rhyming Valentine’s Day cards for each other because Valentine’s Day is just a few days away, and Emily wants to give a special one to Ms. Vincent.

valentinestarpic1But then, Emily and “Beast” (Richard Best) make a serious mistake.  It was hot inside at lunch, and they couldn’t resist the urge to run outside in the snow for just a couple of minutes without their coats.  Then, they got locked out and had to get Beast’s sister to let them in a different door.  They thought no one saw them, but a neighbor did and contacted the school.  Now, Emily is afraid of what will happen if their teacher finds out that it was her and Beast.  Will the school be angry enough to hold them both back a grade or maybe worse?  Maybe Emily will be spending Valentine’s Day in the school office instead of at the party, watching Ms. Vincent enjoy her special valentine . . . especially if Sherri happens to know what they did.

Many of the The Kids of the Polk Street School books are about the little problems that kids get into but that seem big because they’re young and inexperienced.  Ms. Vincent’s kindness and understanding help Emily and Sherri to work out their differences, and a President’s Day lesson about the honesty of both Lincoln and Washington help Emily and Beast to realize that tattling on yourself makes you a better person than tattling on others.


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