Through her newest middle grade novel, One Time, Sharon Creech reminds us all how our lives can be forever impacted by a highly effective teacher. She also reminds readers of the power of writing, while inspiring the imagination with two explicitly asked questions: 1) Who are you? and 2) Who could you become?

Miss Lightstone poses these questions to her class. Because they are ingrained by “doing school” a certain way, the class initially resists. However, with intentional lessons, well-executed pedagogical moves, careful chosen words, and key dispositions on Miss Lightstone’s part, soon they are experimenting, engaging, and performing without grades in what feels like a kind of mutiny.

Set in Ohio, the key characters in this tale are eleven-year-old Gina Filomena, who tries to slow her jumbled brain; Antonio, who wears a mesmerizing smile and sees things that others do not; and Angel Lucia, who doles out vengeance and grace depending on the situation.

Gina’s grandmother, Nonna Filomena in Italy tells Gina stories about the feisty and moody Angel Lucia. Each year on Gina’s birthday, Nonna sends updates on Angel Lucia, along with some garment or accessory made of delicate materials and featuring unusual colors. This colorful clothing not only sets Gina apart but creates its own version of conflict. Enter, Angel Lucia!

Realizing that not only what she wears but what she says can be a source of irritation to others, Gina grows into a silent and cautious girl, one who watches and listens. Because Antonio has a rich imagination, Gina feels an obligation to protect him. The too share an uncanny link, with their minds often riding the same wavelength. When Antonio suddenly leaves without warning and without saying goodbye, Gina suffers physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Under the influence of Miss Lightstone, Gina experiences how writing rapidly enables a writer not only to more readily keep pace with his/her brain but to discover intriguing connections. With writing, Gina learns a multitude of additional lessons, such as how

  • to use her imagination,
  • to follow the rhythms of her mind,
  • to explore diverse people and places,
  • to notice detail, and
  • to be silly or serious.

Creech’s book reminds every teacher and every writer that writing is magical; it gives us the power of creation, the talent for listening to words, and the ability to make sense of things.  With one word or one phrase–like One time–to lead our thinking, new paths can open to people and places and memories—all of which shape us. We also realize that those who share our lives teach us lessons in kindness and sharing, just as readily as they teach about words and writing.

  • Posted by Donna

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