Title: Not in Room 204
Author: Sharon Riggs
Illustrator: Jaime Zollars
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Audience: Ages 9 and up
Summary: Mrs. Salvador states, explains, and enforces many different kinds of rules in room 204. When Mrs. Salvador teaches the class that students must not be touched in inappropriate places by adults, Regina Lillian Hadwig realizes she can confide to Mrs. Salvador what has been happening to her at home. What a relief for Regina that Mrs. Salvador knows how to handle this problem!
Literary elements at work in Story: The story’s dominant character is Mrs. Salvador who appears on every page, is clear in her viewpoint, gestures, and actions, and is quoted extensively. One of the ways the author succeeds in making sexual abuse a more approachable topic for children is by making it one of many other inappropriate behaviors Mrs. Salvador addresses like name calling, making rude comments, taking things that don’t belong to one, not doing one’s best work, etc. The illustrations work to reveal Regina’s interior life in the midst of the crowded, busy school world.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story?: The characters are diverse racially and ethnically which is made clear from the illustrations (hair color, hair style, skin tone, etc.) and by the names (Zadatowski, Salvador). The illustrations show Regina walking home in a suburban setting, but it seems that the story could be taking place anywhere, its characters and content transcending race, class, ethnicity, etc.
Theological conversation partners: This book teaches how much a kind, consistent, strong teacher can help a student. By modeling and enforcing basic rules of respect and decency in her classroom, Mrs. Salvador instills confidence in her student Regina—confidence to trust an adult to help her address the sexual abuse she is suffering at home. Theological conversations could center on how God loves all children and doesn’t want them to be treated in ways that are cruel, inappropriate or painful. Such discussions could also include references to heroes in the Bible—ie: judges in the OT whom God raised up to lead and rescue the weak or abused. Mrs. Salvador is such a hero.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What are some of the rules in room 204?
- What does Melanie have to do after making a rude comment about the tour guide?
- How would you describe Mrs. Salvador? Would you like her to be your teacher ?
- Why does Regina go early to school in the rain?
- How does Regina feel at the end of the story? How do you know?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Anne Rankowitz