Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scalon and Audrey Vernick

Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scalon and Aydrey vernick
Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scalon and Aydrey vernick

today’s children storybook summary is

Dear Substitute

By Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick

Illustrated by Chris Raschka

The takeaway: When teachers must miss a day at school, a substitute takes over. But the sub cannot replace the beloved teacher and the class grows anxious. This book shows exactly what children feel when their teacher is gone for the day and helps them get through the day and even enjoy it.


When the teacher takes a day off, without warning, the children in her class feel like the world is coming to an end. Nothing follows course, confusion is the name of the day, and the initial surprise turns quickly to anguish.

The main character of this book, a girl with brown hair in two ponytails, makes a list of everything that goes wrong when her teacher is missing from class and her place is being taken by a young substitute, Miss Pelly (like a pelican), with red framed glasses and a green top.

She expresses her unhappiness trough short letters, very direct, very explanatory. In a nutshell, this is a summary of her complains: rules are not respected, routines are not followed, diligent homework must wait to be appreciated and, in general, the chaos is just about to rule the day.

First of all, she writes, when she’d entered class, big surprise – a substitute! Where is Mrs. Giordano, her beloved teacher, she asks, exasperated.

Then, the substitute doesn’t even know how to say their names. More, she doesn’t collect the homework that the girl had stayed up all night working on it. That must earn a Pledge to Mrs. Giordano, isn’t it?

And how about the library? They used to get new books every Tuesday but wait, now the substitute brought her own books! Then she even laughed.

What’s worse is that the turtle’s tank won’t get clean today either. Because the substitute said that it may be done tomorrow. What if the tank explodes or the turtle dies because the tank is dirty? Everybody knows that their teacher would never skip the tank cleaning.

Then, there’s the rules that this sub teacher, taking nothing seriously, changes in a whim: like the line leaders, or the chair stacker. Really?

The least, the lunch stays the same. Even the food swapping, which by the way is not allowed. But the sub saw it, like she has eyes on her back! That’s not fun, the little girl must hold her tears.

And then there is story time which is not supposed to happen today, but it does and what’s more is that Miss Pelly reads poems. She says that it is ok to mix things up a little bit.

But the poems are really funny, and the girl discovers with surprise that she likes poetry. She even makes up her own (with the sub’s help!). Maybe Miss Pelly is ok after all.  And if Mrs. Giordano isn’t quite ready to return to school tomorrow that is ok because sometimes is good to mix things up a little bit.


an elementary school girl with brown hair in short ponytails; Miss Pelly, the substitute teacher;


Chris Raschka, a Caldecott medalist, is the illustrator of this book. He captures the story in bright beautiful pictures done and aquarelle, in a childlike style. His illustration enhances every page of this book by adding elements to the story, in a visual narrative. Enriching details emerging from every page along with particular set of colors makes the book a really treasure cove for children, while exploring what a substitute day at school may look like.

Theme: Change

Recommended Age: 5 to 9

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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