Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review of Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done


An elementary school teacher for over 20 years, Phillip Done takes us through a funny and adventure packed year in the classroom. Beginning with the back-to-school sales and preparations in August and going through each month's lessons and highlights, Phillip Done shares the delights and laughs that have kept him satisfied in his job. He's taken trick-or-treating by students, taught children to trap leprechauns, showed them how to master cursive and compose letters, and taught long division - all the while being a beloved force in the kids' lives.


Even if you think that you're not that fond of kids, this book will make you laugh. It might even encourage you to spend time with your nieces and nephews. If you have kids or love kids, I have no doubt that you'll love this book.

Phillip Done tells these stories of classroom antics so well, that not only do you feel that you're right there, you wish that you could follow him around. He reminds me of my favorite teachers and why I loved school. But the best part of the book are the children who come alive and the love that they show each other and their teacher. Read about Done's pistol assessments to determine which children to watch out for, how "pillow student" Rebecca was able to catch up with her classmates, how Done handles the tooth fairy and Halloween, and the different reading strategies that children have developed. Then enjoy the deep and uncomplicated laughs that burst out!

Publisher: Center Street (September 4, 2009), 336 pages.
Courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of his website:

Phillip Done knows it is a child’s birthday without looking at the calendar, that broken candy canes do not taste as good as unbroken ones, that peanut M&Ms spark in the microwave (Peeps do not), and that measuring the diameter of an Oreo cookie is more fun than measuring the diameter of a coffee can lid. After pumping up his 500th red rubber ball, he decided it was time to write it all down. Hence, 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny and Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood were born.

A veteran of twenty-plus years in the classroom, Done is a five-time champion of the staff watermelon-eating contest and was nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year Award. He took a pie in the face at this year’s school talent show and was honored as a Teacher of the Year in California. When not searching for envelopes for newly pulled teeth or making rain parkas out of Hefty bags on rainy field trips, Phil accepted the prestigious Charles Schwab Distinguished Teacher Award from Charles Schwab himself. (He refrained from asking Mr. Schwab if Intel was a good buy.)

Born in San Jose, California, he grew up in Sunnyvale, attended Fremont High School, and studied music and education at San Jose State University. He currently lives in Mountain View, California. His passions are teaching, old movies, and garage sales. His writing has also appeared in Real Simple, Instructor, Parent and Child, and NEA Today. Learn more about Phillip Done and his books on Phillip Done's website at

Thanks so much to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for this opportunity!


  1. Great review, Gaby!
    I loved this book too - - it made me giggle and then laugh out loud. Definitely heartwarming and nostalgic.

  2. I'm looking forward to reading this one. I'm married to a retired teacher (one of his short-lived careers) and have a grand=daughter who is a third grader, so I'm sure I'll be able to relate.