Gooney Bird Greene (series)
by Lois Lowry Gr. K-2 88 pages Houghton, 2002; Dell paperback, 2004
With the annual publication rate for children's books now reaching more
than 8,000 titles, it's inevitable that any reviewer (even the most
attentive) will miss a good one here or there. Such is the case with
Lois Lowry's Gooney Bird Greene, whimsical short novel who is the
antithesis of Junie B. Jones in civil behavior but a carbon copy in
uniqueness and irrepressibility. Somehow, I missed Gooney when it first
came out and discovered it only recently through the recommendation of a
And just like Junie, Gooney Bird would be a welcome addition to any
classroom, except with the latter, even the teacher would be glad to
have her aboard. She's smart, mature, kind, and in charge at all times —
or at least she wants to be, which sometimes presents a challenge for
the teacher. Here's how Lowry introduces us to Gooney Bird:
There was a new student in the Watertower Elementary School. She arrived
in October, after the first month of school had already passed. She
opened the second grade classroom door at ten o'clock on a Wednesday
morning and appeared there all alone, without even a mother to introduce
her. She was wearing pajamas and cowboy boots and was holding a
dictionary and a lunch box.
"Hello," Mrs. Pidgeon, the second grade teacher, said.
"We're in the middle of our spelling lesson."
"Good," said the girl in pajamas. "I brought my dictionary.
Where's my desk?"
"Who are you?" Mrs. Pidgeon asked politely.
"I'm your new student. My name is Gooney Bird Greene that's Greene with a
silent 'e' at the end - and I just moved here from China. I want a desk
right smack in the middle of the room, because I like to be right smack
in the middle of everything. "
The class stared at the new girl with admiration. They had never met anyone like Gooney Bird Greene.
She was a good student. She sat down at the desk Mrs. Pidgeon provided,
right smack in the middle of everything, and began doing second grade
spelling. She did all her work neatly and quickly, and she followed
But soon it was clear that Gooney Bird was mysterious and interesting.
Her clothes were unusual. Her hairstyles were unusual. Even her lunches
were very unusual.
At lunchtime on Wednesday, her first day in the school, she opened her
lunch box and brought out sushi and a pair of bright green chopsticks.
On Thursday, her second day at Watertower Elementary School, Gooney Bird
Greene was wearing a pink ballet tutu over green stretch pants, and she
had three small red grapes, an avocado, and an oatmeal cookie for
On Thursday afternoon, after lunch, Mrs. Pidgeon stood in front of the
class with a piece of chalk in her hand. "Today," she said, "we are
going to continue talking about stories."
"Yay!" the second-graders said in very loud voices, all but Felicia Ann,
who never spoke, and Malcolm, who wasn't paying attention. He was under
his desk, as usual.
"Gooney Bird, you weren't here for the first month of school. But our
class has been learning about what makes good stories, haven't we?" Mrs.
From this point on, Gooney pretty much takes over and teaches both the
art of storytelling and the fact that everyone has their own unique
story to tell. Of course, no one's tale is quite as original as Gooney
Bird's. For example. her first class offering is "How Gooney Bird Came
from China on a Flying Carpet," which proves to be absolutely true, to
the amazement of her teacher and class.
Sequels: Gooney Bird and the Home Room Mother
; Gooney the Fabulous;
and Gooney Bird Is So Absurd
. The Newbery-winning Lowry has long been one of our most gifted writers for children and this series proves again her great versatility. Anyone who can give us Autumn Street; The Giver; Number the Stars; Anastasia Krupnik
; and Gooney Bird Greene
in one lifetime of writing— now that
is a true world-class children's author. Also by the author, the memoir Looking Back: A Book of Memories
. For more on Lowry at this site (including a 50-minute audio interview, see Number the Stars