For the past week and a half, I have been hauling all my books and classroom supplies out of my basement and back to school. It’s been grueling work transferring tubs full of books into smaller crates and getting them up the stairs and loaded in the car. Sometimes I just need to sit down and take a break.
My best break came this afternoon when I opened up another huge tub and saw the book sitting right on top, ready to be moved to its new home—“Mr. Bumba’s New Home”. (How appropriate!!). I immediately picked it up and went into the other room to read it.
My Mr. Bumba book was published in 1964 and written by Pearl Augusta Harwood. I picked it up at a book sale somewhere and have treasured it ever since. The Mr. Bumba books were published in a series, but this is the only one I’ve ever found.
This simply written story does not look appealing by today’s standards. The cover is tattered, the illustrations are old-fashioned, and even the type looks a little dowdy. I don’t imagine very many children would choose it today. But it will always have a special place on my bookshelf, right next to all the beautiful shiny newer books. This is because Mr. Bumba was my favorite character from my first grade classroom.
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Kettler, was strict. (In fact, she is the only teacher who kept me after school…but that is another story!) In 1978, we sat quietly in straight rows of desks and took turns reading from our reading textbooks. We filled in blanks in our little workbooks and practiced spelling out loud by the blackboard. But what I remember best was when Mrs. Kettler would pause in the day and share a Mr. Bumba story with our class. It was then that her love for children and reading stories shone through. She made Mr. Bumba come to life for us, and we loved her for it. I count her as one of my inspirations for the way I read aloud to my students, and I certainly am proud to have become a first grade teacher and followed in her footsteps. I love first graders immensely, and this may be due to the the year I spent in Mrs. Kettler’s classroom.
So in her honor, each year at some point I pull out my Mr. Bumba book and read the story to my students. I tell them about MY first grade teacher and why I keep this special book. I like to think that Mrs. Kettler would be pleased to know that a few kids today still meet Mr. Bumba. And…as old as his story is, every time I read it the kids are entranced and ask to hear it again. And in this way, I keep one of my very favorite teachers close to my heart.