Tomorrow will be my last 4th grade classes of the school year. I worked hard to get Out of My Mind done with them and I think I’ve found a nice way to finish their careers at my school.

I know, Madonna isn’t the author you expect from a book with a great life lesson in it, but I can’t argue with the words on the pages: this is a book every middle grade kids should read.

Mr. Peabody is the beloved baseball coach and history teacher in a small town. One day a baseball player sees him choose a shiny red Apple at the grocery and take it without paying for it. Instead of confronting Mr. Peabody or even the grocer, he tells his friends. Soon the rumor has spread all over town and Mr. Peabody is asked to quit coaching.

Once Mr. Peabody finds out who started the rumor, he takes the boy to the countryside and they cut open a feather pillow. As the feathers scatter across the meadow, Mr. Peabody explains that an apology will never be enough to stop the rumor, which he compares to gathering all those feathers back up.

It’s a sad fact that in 4th grade, that’s kids 9 and 10 years old, you can already recognize bullies and mean girls. I’d like to say my four 4th grade classrooms are exempt, but they aren’t. My own daughter had a mean girl run in just yesterday.

I hope that the simple message of this book comes through and helps them make better choices as they venture out into the world.

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