A Book Of Coupons by Susie Morgenstern
Morgenstern, S. (2001). A Book of Coupons. USA: Viking.
Fiction, appropriate for ages 8+
At the start of every new year of school, students come to class with wonder and hope for a “cool,” or at least an interesting teacher. But too often our judgements are based on visual appearance. Students of the Marie Curie School in France found their new teacher Monsiur Noel somewhat of a disappointment. Their new teacher was wrinkly, overweight, and he was old. But the students will find out that Monsieur Noel is full of surprises. On the first day of class Monsieur Moel gave each child a book of coupons.
The book is filled with unique adventures. I enjoyed seeing the bond form between the children and their new teacher.
Morgentstern gives a well thought out story with a tiny arc that ends with a tear or two. Hubert Noël has been called “Santa” ever since he was a child. In addition to his name, the French word for Christmas, and his nickname, he fits the bill as he is an older gentleman with white hair and a big belly who loves to give presents. This is precisely why he became a teacher. He considers every thing he teaches his students to be a gift from him to them. On the first day of the new school year at a new school, without even a word of greeting, he presents his students with gifts. This first gift is a book filled with coupons for things like sleeping late, skipping a day of school, losing your homework, not listening in class, copying from your neighbor, dancing in class, telling a lie, and many creative others, including a wild card coupon. The students are puzzled initially, but eventually excited by the possibilities the present. Next, Monsieur Noël gives them the gift of the word “cataclysm,” which, he assures them, “when used three times will become yours – a present from me and the dictionary to you!” When Constance asks what that word means, he gives her yet “another magical gift” – a dictionary.
I would teach this in a 3rd-4th grade class. It could be used to help teach students to do nice deeds. They could make their own coupon book of nice gestures of deeds that they and redeem from one another.
A Book of Coupons gives us a reason to believe that life comes with many free coupons and we might as well use them. If any new opportunity is presented to us, we should take it and enjoy it. Many life lessons are presented in a new and unusual way to the students of Monsieur Moel.
This story also reminds us not to “judge a book by its’ cover”. The students were skeptical of their new elderly teacher at first, but as the story went on the students began to realize his worth and how much of an impact he had on each and every one of them.
- How would you feel if your teacher gave you a book of coupons like the one in the story on your first day of school?
- Do you think it was a good idea for most of the students to take advantage of their coupons?
- Would you have used your coupons or saved them until the very end of the year?
- What coupons might you want to add to the coupon book?
After reading A Book of Coupons, students will be able to create a book of coupons of their own.
- Read the story to the class and have them keep in mind all the coupons that are given out.
- Have a class discussion about the book and then have them discuss in table groups.
- Hand out 10 paper squares to each student, and have them create their own coupons. Allow them to add pictures and color.
- As they finish, help the students put their coupons together by punching holes and tying it together with ribbon or string to create their very own coupon book.