Book – The Adventures of the Jolly Puffin Crew
Author – Emma Ramsay
Year – 2019
Pages – 25
Genre – Children’s
At the time of writing, I have just finished my seventh year as a teacher, and my tenth working in education. This is the peak time of year, as I am about to embark on six weeks off, and it is the perfect time to recharge the batteries. And you need to as a teacher; it is a hard slog. The pressures of helping these kids to get grades that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives are huge, and the drain by this point in the year is immeasurable.
I know a lot of teachers; seemingly everyone I know is involved in education nowadays. Each of them puts countless hours into making their kids lives better, and often in ways that most people hardly ever see. Every now and then though someone does something so special that you can’t help but be impressed and moved.
In this case it is my friend Emma (sorry, I should say, Miss Ramsay). Emma always goes the extra mile for her students. The number of times I have seen her painting enormous cardboard portcullises on the kitchen floor, writing three dozen inscriptions in copies of books, or making enough salt dough to build a family home, I couldn’t even count. This year, as a leaving present for her year two class, she wrote them a book.
She let me have a read to check for typos, and whilst I started with that in mind, I soon found that I was actually totally invested. Their class has been studying pirates this year, and the whole book is written based around their ship, the Jolly Puffin, headed up by Captain Ramsay. They deal with mysterious ooze, fight sea monsters, and enter a pirate singing competition to win some treasure.
The first beautiful moment was realising that the crew was her class. Everyone makes several appearances, and by the end I was starting to really feel the personalities of all of these kids – who were the performers, who were the jokers, who had big imaginations. I can only imagine the thrill that I would have felt to find myself in a story at that age, and this already struck me as a wonderful thing for a teacher to do. Once I realised that each of the six chapters related to a term of the school year, and the plot followed whatever they had been working on that term, I was totally in love with this book.
There was more to come however, as (spoilers) I was absolutely blown away when in chapter five the Jolly Puffin is destroyed by a monster! The whole crew find themselves washed up on the shore. I am aware how ridiculous it sounds, but it genuinely was one of the most surprising twists that I have read in a book. You wouldn’t expect something like that from a published book, let alone one written as a present.
However chapter six showed me exactly why, when two ships came to rescue them – one with a captain but no crew, and another with a crew but no captain. Captain Ramsay had to go off with a new crew now, but was pleased that her crew would have a wonderful new captain and fantastic memories of their time on the Jolly Puffin.
I was a mess. Reading something like this brings it home in so many ways. One, reading is powerful, and anything we can do to encourage it is so important. Through allegory and metaphor we can tell stories that speak to people of all ages and this is something that should never be lost. Two, there are teachers out there who really really care. Who put their own time and energy into creating an environment that stretches, nurtures and encourages kids, and whether we are in education ourselves or not, we should all be championing teachers who care. Three, Emma is absolutely brilliant and she is exactly the kind of teacher I would want to teach my own kids.