Viola Swamp, the strict and mean teacher who “meant business” and loaded students with homework, lives in infamy as the type of teacher students fear. Although Miss Nelson is Missing was published in 1977, it has remained a timeless classic to generations of school children and a cautionary tale about what happens when students misbehave. Author Harry Allard and illustrator by James Marshall have written spin-offs titled Miss Nelson Is Back and Miss Nelson Has a Field Day and a DVD version can also be found online.
In the original story, Miss Nelson had difficulty getting the students to behave or respect her in class, so one day she sends a substitute named Miss Viola Swamp. Miss Swamp is tough on the children and it gets so miserable that they eventually meet with a detective, Detective McSmogg, to get help finding her. Detective McSmogg declares, “I think Miss Nelson is missing.” The children hypothesize what happened to Miss Nelson and generate ideas like being eaten by a shark or traveling to the moon. When Miss Nelson finally returns, the students are ecstatic to see her and from then on are well behaved and appreciative. One of the final pictures shows Miss Nelson giggling to her self and part of Miss Swamp’s characteristic black dress and wig are visible in her closet.
This story is fun for children because they get to imagine what having a teacher like Miss
Swamp would be like. For some students, the reality of Miss Swamp comes alive when they receive a visit from Miss Swamp in person! This yearly tradition takes place in Paige’s grandmother’s classroom when her mom dresses like Viola Swamp and comes to class to interact with the children. It is definitely a fun way to get the children involved with the literature.
The book is recommended for age 4-8; however, it is a timeless story that can be revisited at any age. In fact, when Dr. Neely brought it out in class we got very excited and shouts of “I loved that book!” and “awww” could be heard throughout the classroom. As a future teacher, I especially hold it close to my heart. So to all the “Miss Nelsons” out there, thank you for your guidance and wisdom, may your classes always remember Viola Swamp and appreciate you.