Classroom mischief enlivens South Surrey author’s children’s fable

Sandip Sodhi creates a memorable debut with Ms. Chievus in the Classroom

Artists Ken and Janet Priebe have supplied the colourful illustrations for the book. Contributed photo

Artists Ken and Janet Priebe have supplied the colourful illustrations for the book. Contributed photo

Ms. Chievus – very much like her creator, South Surrey author Sandip Sodhi – is a teacher with a plan.

Faced with an impossible, out-of-control class of elementary school kids (the ominously-named Division ‘O-O’), she must find a way to engage with them, and at the same time, let them know what is acceptable, appropriate behaviour.

In Sodhi’s charming, cheerfully whimsical children’s book, Ms. Chievus in the Classroom she finds her best strategy is to be even worse-behaved than her students.

She yells in class. She stands on desks, she does somersaults and cartwheels. She chews bubblegum annoyingly loudly. Worst of all, she doesn’t even bother to teach the children anything.

And while that’s fun for a while, the children can’t help feeling there’s something wrong, somehow.

Before long Ms. Chievus is in trouble with the school principal, Ms. Fedup – and the children realize it’s up to them to save her by coming up with a plan of their own.

Sodhi’s fable, for all its humour, has some underlying lessons about “discipline, self-regulation, playfulness and mutual respect,” the author said.

READ ALSO: ‘Magic Wheelchair’ book tells story of thrilled author’s Surrey-area granddaughters

READ ALSO: White Rock author offers online storytime

Self-published through IngramSpark and available from amazon.ca and Vancouver’s Kidsbooks – it’s an ideal early text for beginner readers, with plenty of highly relatable illustrations created by Ken Priebe, who teaches animation in Vancouver, and coloured by his wife Janet, a watercolourist.

Sales will also go to help two worthy causes – Sodhi has decided to donate net profits equally between the Canuck Place Hospice and the MAMTA Foundation which provides homes for girls.

Sodhi, a 26-year veteran K-7 classroom teacher and teacher for Surrey School District, told Peace Arch News she wasn’t originally intending to pen such a frivolous literary debut as Ms. Chievus in the Classroom.

“I went on a course a couple of years ago on the ‘virtues’ and how to teach them,” she said. “I wanted to write an A-B-C book for young readers, but I got stuck. I said to myself, ‘this is too serious – you need to have fun with it.’”

Once she hit on Ms. Chievus – Sodhi acknowledged, with a smile, that the unconventional educator just might be inspired by her own “mischievous nature” and a few of her earlier teaching experiences – the character just seemed to take over from there.

The book was written and illustrated pre-pandemic, she said – and test-read by her own students, even before the Priebes became involved in the project.

When she realized that the notion of a mischievous teacher was involving the children’s imaginations, she decided to go ahead and commission the illustrations.

“Ken wanted to have them in black-and-white at first, but when I told him it had to be in colour he suggested that Janet would be an ideal person to provide that,” she said. “They’re both lovely, very nice people.”

The book was first published in March – at about the time COVID-19 struck – which has inevitably slowed the process of launching and promoting it, Sodhi said.

Since then, she has finished the more serious book (“I didn’t want to get stuck in one genre of writing,” she said) and has almost finished a third, an alphabet book for younger readers highlighting “positive experiences during COVID”.

“We forget how many things we should be grateful for,” she said.

Among those she is personally most grateful for are her daughter Soheyla, 15, who attends Semiahmoo Secondary (“she’s highly involved in the music program there”), and her husband Arvinder (“he’s awesome – he supports me in everything I do – he just says, ‘Go for it!’” she said).

Born in Coventry, England to a family that had originally emigrated there from India in the 1930s, Sodhi has lived in Canada since the age of two.

The youngest of seven siblings who grew up in Vancouver’s East End, she has been keenly aware of the multi-cultural fabric of Canadian society and has been careful to make sure that her story reflects that.

“The students in the class are from diverse ethnic backgrounds, just like the students I teach,” she said.

“I put in names that are unique to different cultures. It’s so great when children can pick up a book and identify with the different characters.”

But just as important in engaging the imagination of children is the blend of the humorous and the unusual that Ms. Chievus in the Classroom achieves.

“If we can find something funny in a book, we’ll stay in the story,” she said.

“Particulary if there’s a twist of ‘what if?’ – a sense that anything is possible.”

And she acknowledges that her own students have been fascinated by the similarities – and differences – between her and Ms. Chievus.

“I do like to have fun, but I can also be quite strict with my class,” she said.

That has led some of her students to declare, flatly, “Mrs. Sodhi wouldn’t break the rules,” she added.

And yet…

“Some of them will still ask me ‘Mrs. Sodhi, are some of the things in the book true?’

“What I do is answer them with another question,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye.

“I say, ‘which ones do you think are true?’”



alex.browne@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

authorBooks

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

book cover

Just Posted

A worker from Yellow Fence Rentals installs fencing around Cloverdale Youth Park Nov. 25. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Cloverdale Youth Park closed

Basketball court and skate park fenced off

File photo
Surrey Downtown BIA launches shop local campaign

Meantime, BC Buy Local Week runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 in Surrey

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, acting vice provost, Teaching and Learning, with Kwantlen Polytechnic University. (submitted photo)
Students save money in KPU’s novel ZTC program, or ‘Zero Textbook Cost’

Launched in the spring of 2018, the program has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic

White Rock firefighters hang a banner on their firehall Wednesday to celebrate the completion of a joint effort with the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society to raise $500,000 for the Peace Arch Hospital. (Aaron Hinks photo)
Surrey RCMP have provided shoppers with a number of holiday-shopping safety tips. (Unsplash photo)
Surrey RCMP offers holiday-shopping safety tips

Be safe when purchasing items online or through marketplace-type apps, police warn

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Damien Smith, with father Thomas Smith, is “frozen” with joy as he watches a special message Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recorded for Damien’s 9th birthday on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy celebrates 9th birthday with family, community and Ryan Reynolds

People from around the world send birthday cards showing young Canoe resident he’s not alone

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Beaver Creek RCMP Cpl. Robert Drapeau, left to right, Gary Bath, Lynn Marchessault, Payton Marchessault, Rebecca Marchessault and Tim Marchessault pose in this recent handout photo near the Canada-U.S. border crossing near Beaver Creek, Yukon. A family reunion trip for the woman from Georgia that left them stranded ended on a bright note when Bath drove them to the Alaskan border following an appeal for help. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Gary Bath *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Help from B.C. man allows American family to reunite in Alaska

Lynn Marchessault drove from Georgia to the Alaska border to join her husband, who serves in U.S. military

Most Read