Kara LaReau

INFAMOUS RATSOS: Miss Beavers

Hello, friends, and welcome to the second day of the INFAMOUS RATSOS Kindness Contest!

The winner of yesterday’s contest is…Patrice Jackson! Congrats, Patrice, and thanks so much to those who participated.

As previously mentioned, feel free to share how you’ve been nice or thoughtful or generous or helpful (or all of the above!) in the comments section here. I’ll choose a name at random at the end of the day; the winner will get a signed book, a bookmark, and some INFAMOUS RATSOS “Hang Tough” tattoos (aka “rattoos”). Of course, you’re all winners just for playing (and being awesome), but even if you don’t snag a signed book, you might just be eligible for some nifty Ratsos swag (details to come). The winner will be announced tomorrow. NB: One post per entrant per day, please!

So, I’ve been telling you about some of the experiences and people that inspired me to write THE INFAMOUS RATSOS. Yesterday, I told you all about the people who inspired Mrs. Porcupini and Mr. O’Hare. Today, I thought I’d talk about my inspiration for Miss Beavers, Ralphie’s third-grade teacher.

I must admit, I didn’t always have the nicest teachers when I was in elementary school. Some of them were actually pretty mean! But those are stories for another time. Today, I’m going to talk about my third-grade teacher, Ms. Willis. (I can’t remember if she was married or not, so for today’s purpose, I will address her as “Ms.”) Ms. Willis was my favorite teacher in elementary school; she was not only the prettiest, she was also very kind, and pretty clever.

In elementary school, I was not what you would call a well-behaved student. I like to think it was because I was easily bored, due to my above-average intelligence (ha ha). It might also be because I liked making jokes, especially with the kid who sat next to me, whose name was Rob (more on him later). Before long, Ms. Willis clearly reached her breaking point, because she took me aside and told me it was time to make a change. Rob and I couldn’t sit next to each other anymore, because we distracted each other too much. But instead of Ms. Willis choosing my new seat herself, she let ME make the decision. I chose to sit next to the quietest person in our class, a girl named Amy. This decision seemed to please Ms. Willis…until Amy started laughing at all my jokes. (Could I help it that I had impeccable comic timing, even then?) In any case, I am grateful for Ms. Willis for putting up with me, and for giving me a little taste of autonomy — a rare thing in elementary school, especially back then.

My third grade class, circa 1978. Ms. Willis is on the right, of course, and I’m in the first row, far left. Rob is in the second row in the red tie, and Amy is in the top row in the red blouse-blue jumper combo.

Ms. Willis was definitely in my head when I created Miss Beavers. I love how Matt Myers has portrayed her, especially that log-print motif on her dress. It’s got a bit of a 70s vibe to it, I think!

Illustration copyright 2016 by Matt Myers.

In the days to come, look forward to more stories about the people and things that inspired me as I wrote THE INFAMOUS RATSOS. In the meantime, hope you’ll enter my Kindness Contest — and spread the word about it to others!