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It is the first day of school and the kids of Marie Curie School are getting a new teacher. Everyone arrives hoping for an athletic and handsome specimen, but instead, they find a fat, wrinkly, and incredibly old one. At first, the class is very disappointed. But then each student receives a strange gift-a book of very special coupons-and it becomes obvious that Monsieur Noël is not the kind of teacher you meet everyday. The school year is bound to be anything but ordinary.
Illustrated by Serge Bloch
Translated by Gill Rosner
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Susie Morgenstern is one of the most popular children's book writers in France. Born in Newark, New Jersey, she has lived in France for thirty years.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
To be honest, all the kids were happy to be going back to school. The lazy French summer was on its way out and boredom had begun to creep into those long hot afternoons. That's why everyone was secretly looking forward to the new year. So, in spite of their grumbling and complaining, deep down they couldn't wait; and even if they were a little bit nervous about meeting their new teacher, it was, all things considered, high time for this final year of elementary school to begin.
It must be said that the teacher they found when they walked into their classroom on that first day was the last one they expected. There he was, sitting behind his desk like some unmovable tree trunk. Charles wondered how it was possible that a new teacher could be so incredibly old. Mohammed peered more closely at the enormous man to make sure he wasn't seeing double...or triple. Could all those wrinkles be real? They all looked at each other apprehensively. They were completely, utterly, and inescapably disappointed. They had been hoping for a young teacher who was athletic and handsome, but they had been given a fat old man who looked like those pictures of God, with messy white hair and reading glasses perched on the end of his nose, not to mention the balloon of a potbelly--which was probably the nearest they would get to anything resembling a ball this year. In their school, there was no special gym teacher. Each teacher decided when, or when not to, have gym and this teacher really didn't seem like the gung-ho gym type.
And they were just as shocked by the sound of his voice. It made Nina jump to hear the deep bass growl which sounded like something from the bowels of the earth. They were surprised by his first words, which were not Good Morning, not My name is, not even Sit down please, but simply "I have a present for you." And with that, this monstrosity who was to serve as their teacher deposited a gift-wrapped package on each student's desk.
Was this a peace offering? An apology for his age and appearance? Whatever it was, he didn't so much as glance at any of them while he was handing them out.
Constance tore her present open and found a book of coupons. An ordinary book of coupons, like a book of raffle tickets sold for charity. A book of coupons with dotted lines along the edge of the pages where you tore them off. Everyone else got one.
"Don't tell me we're going to spend the year tearing out coupons!" cried Benedicte, thinking of her grandpa in America, who spent his life sticking Green Stamps in a book. Once he filled the book, he could trade it in for a silver-plated tray or a set of dishes. But then she was the first to realize that these were not just ordinary store coupons or even green stamps. It was a pack of vouchers. Every single voucher in the book had "One Coupon" written on it. Below that was a description. The teacher tapped on Charles's desk to ask him to read out what was written on his coupons. Charles wondered if this teacher happened to be some kind of visitor from prehistoric times, as all he could do was point and grunt instead of speaking normally. However, he obeyed the silent request, and his initial surprise turned into utter astonishment as he started reading out loud:
One coupon for sleeping late
One coupon for skipping a day of school
One coupon for being late to school
One coupon for losing your homework
One coupon for forgetting your books
One coupon for not listening in class
One coupon for sleeping in class
One coupon for copying from your neighbor
One coupon for not going when called to the blackboard
One coupon for getting out of trouble
One coupon for eating in class
One coupon for making a lot of noise
Charles couldn't believe his eyes. The teacher pointed at Benedicte to continue.
One coupon for singing at the top of your lungs wherever you like
One coupon for dancing in class
One coupon for taking a break from class
One coupon for clowning around
One coupon for telling a lie One coupon for giving the teacher a kiss on the cheek
At this point, Benedicte could go no further. The teacher signaled to Mohammed that it was his turn.
One coupon for hugging whomever you like
One coupon for taking your own sweet time
One coupon for a never-ending recess
One coupon for forgetting the books for your assignment
One coupon for a longer vacation
The wildcard coupon
While the list was being read, the kids were puzzled and excited, but since it was still the first day of school, it was far too early to get noisy about it. And then, out of the blue, the booming voice spoke out. "My name is Hubert Noël. Ever since I was young, and I assure you that once upon a time I was young, people have called me Santa. That is why I became a teacher-I love giving presents, and I am going to give them to you every single day. I'm giving you the whole year of lessons for free. I'm giving away books, I'm giving away penmanship and spelling. I'm giving away math and science. I'm giving away everything life has taught me. I'm even throwing in the cataclysms."
"What does cataclysm mean?" asked Constance.
"Well," he replied, picking up the dictionary, "here's another magical gift. In this book you have, in order, the meaning of every word." He handed Constance the dictionary, open at the letter C. She saw what he wanted her to read : "Cataclysm: a sudden and violent disaster or disturbance such as a flood, earthquake, or tornado." Only Charles was close enough to the teacher to hear his sad whisper:
"Or the death of a loved one."
"Use this word three times, and it will be yours--a present from me and the dictionary to you!"
Charles was not fooled by Monsieur Noël's enthusiasm. He knew that 'cataclysm' was not a word you could use every day.
"You can put away your coupons, class. Use them whenever you need
to from now on. Now I've got another present for you."
He gave out another gift-wrapped package. Opening their gifts, the kids realized that they had all been given the same book: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. It was a thick book written in small, closely set print without a single illustration. It was definitely not a tempting book; in fact it was quite the opposite.
"But Monsieur, this isn't a real present. Look, it's got 'School Property' stamped inside," said Charles.
But that didn't bother Santa. "Even if this book does not legally belong to you, it is yours from the moment that you read it. My gift to you is the story, the characters, the words, the ideas, the style, the emotions. Once you have read the book, all these things will be yours for life. I'll start by reading it to you, and you can finish it for the end of the week."
"Impossible!" Benedicte couldn't help shouting. She set off a revolt that was almost the French Revolution. Everyone started hunting frantically for a "coupon for not reading a book," but in vain. The teacher didn't notice. He started reading in a voice that sounded like a Shakespearean actor.
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Book Description San Val, 2003. Condition: Good. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Seller Inventory # GRP71282863