Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg

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When I was in third grade, I was very awkward and shy (but who isn’t). Picture a skinny eight-year-old girl with red-haired pigtails and buck teeth. That was me. I sat at my desk and paid attention to my teacher.

One particular day, I wasn’t happy. I had talked back to the fifth-grade teacher on the playground at recess for some reason (I was usually very quiet and well-behaved) and the teacher had made me stand at the wall (which meant I couldn’t play on the playground and had to suffer, standing by a wall, watching everyone else play).

I was guilty. I knew it. I was in tears by the time recess was over and I returned to my third-grade classroom. My teacher, Mrs. Gray, obviously could tell I was upset by something, so she took me out in the hall and asked me to calm down. Then, she did something I’ve never forgotten: she got the newest addition to the class library and let me read it first, sitting on the floor outside the door of the third-grade classroom.

It was Two Bad Ants, by Chris Van Allsburg. In this picture book, ants have discovered a special new crystal and they travel to find it in the kitchen. Two ants get away from the group and face all sorts of adventures. It is a perfect picture book: the text follows the perspective of the ants, but the pictures let the reader see that the crystal is sugar and the dark sea is a cup of coffee.

I’ve remembered this book because of the emotions surrounding the reading of it. Reading it helped me feel better. I could go back into the third-grade classroom without any tears.

My journal entry for that day (a regular assignment from my teacher):

Sep. 22, 1989
I had a bad day.
I like Mrs. Gray. Today was P.E.

I still find that books help me when I’m feeling down. Isn’t it great that we live in a world of words? Isn’t it great that words can help us deal with life? I love books and I love reading.

Reviewed on May 12, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • What a wonderful memory to have, and Mrs. Gray was definitely a great teacher. I love that you’ve kept your journals all these years and share your entries with your readers.

  • We cannot forget certain books becos of the memories surrounding those times when we read them. I liked your post.

    Childhood Memories

  • @gautami tripathy–so true…thanks for sharing your post as well!
    @Jill: Yes, I found my journal in a big box of childhood treasures. It’s fun to remember childhood and I’m glad my teacher made me do it.

  • She sounds like a wonderful teacher. And I can totally understand you remembering the book so well because of the emotions that surround it. I think that’s how we make memories.

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