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‘The Secret School’

[OCT. 10, 2001]  The Secret School" by AVI. Harcourt, Inc., 2001, 153 pages.

This is a historical novel set in 1925. The main character is Ida Binson, a 14-year-old girl living on a farm in rural Elk Grove, Colo. Her family consists of Father, Mother, her 7-year-old brother, Felix, and baby Shelby.

Ida and Felix attend a one-room schoolhouse with six other students. Ida is in her last year at the country school and hopes to be able to attend the high school in town so that she can study to be a teacher.

They live 5 miles, one way, from the school, so their father lets Ida drive the family’s Model T Ford. Ida is 4-foot-11 and unable to reach the floor or the pedals, so she kneels on the seat to shift and steer while Felix, sitting on the floor of the car, works the gas pedal, clutch and brake with his hands.

As the story begins, the children arrive at school one day to find out that their teacher, Miss Fletcher, has been called home to Iowa to take care of her ailing mother. Mr. Jordon, the head of the local school board, tells the children that it is too late in the year to hire another teacher, so he is closing the school until next year. The children will not be able to take the competency tests, so they will all have to repeat the same grade next year.


Ida and her best friend, Tom, are especially upset because they will not be able to go to high school for another year. Mr. Jordon is not the least sympathetic to Ida’s distress because he doesn’t see the need for a girl to go to high school anyway.

Tom suggests that Ida become their teacher but that it would have to be kept a secret from the school board. Ida thinks about it overnight and discusses it with her parents. She agrees to do it on the condition that all of the children go along with the idea. The children take a vote and the secret school is born.


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Becoming the teacher is, at the same time, exciting and fearful for Ida. She conducts the classroom the same as Miss Fletcher did, and the children do well and accept her as their teacher.

Then, due to an unfortunate confrontation Ida has with one of the parents, Mr. Jordon finds out that she has been teaching, shows up at the school and sends the children home. Ida is sure now that she will never get to go to high school or become a teacher.

One of the boys finds out about a secret school board meeting, and Tom prints flyers to let the parents know about it. To the surprise of the superintendent, all of the children’s parents come to the meeting, and Ida presents her case for keeping the school open. The outcome of the meeting leaves Ida facing an even bigger challenge than before.

This book is recommended for ages 8 to 12 years old. It gives a glimpse into the past of one-room education that is truly fascinating. It is a very enjoyable story of children taking control of a bad situation.

AVI has written many acclaimed books for children, including two Newbery Honor books, "Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel" and the "True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle."

For more information, visit the library at 725 Pekin St. or call (217) 732-8878.

[Linda Harmon, Lincoln Public Library District]

LCHS fall play

Thespians prepare for ‘murderous’ fun

[OCT. 11, 2001]  Lincoln Community High School’s Fine Arts Department will present their fall play on Oct. 12, 13 and 14 in the LCHS auditorium. "Murder in the Magnolias," by Tim Kelly, is a comic parody of the "southern murder mystery" genre, complete with a variety of obvious copies of characters from Tennessee Williams’ plays.

Performances will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12, and continue with a performance on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 8 p.m. and another on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 3 p.m.

The cast includes Kerry Dobihal, who plays Amanda Chickenwing, an eccentric woman devoted to her botanical garden, which has been known to attack people. Col. Rance Chickenwing (Amanda’s brother), played by Patrick Perry, "kicks the bucket" literally, and leaves behind a mansion that is not in the best condition to say the least. Collin Voyles and Adam Voyles play Thornbird Chickenwing III, a southern writer whose personality is split so many ways that he’s fractured. A distant, distant, distant, relation to the colonel, Thornbird, like so many others, has come for the reading of the will.


Princess Lotta Kargo, played by Heather Bean, is a flamboyant celebrity who claims to have married the colonel. Betsy Buttell plays the princess’ secretary, Lorraine, an intelligent young woman not keen on staying at Belle Acres. Her feelings are mirrored by many others who have encountered the Voodoo Woman, played by Julie Wood. Eric Agostino, as Pete Bogg, the engineer who gets caught up in the fiasco, is the only other character who brings a ray of normalcy to the cast.




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Amanda Shelley plays Jezabel, the lazy and unpaid housekeeper. Sheriff Billy Jerk, the biggest man in Tudball County, who tries to solve the mystery but without much luck, is played by Beau Hanger. Brian Welter, playing nutty lawyer Possum, who once had an alligator for a client, is at the mansion for the reading of the will. Bubba Kamrowski, played by Stanton Schumacher, is a distant, distant, distant relative who leaves his job in "show business" to claim his piece of the will, and Blanche du Blank, Callie Davison, shares his interest.

Assistant directors Kelly Dowling and Doug Rohrer have been helping the cast and crews prepare for opening night, overseeing the creation of an attack bird, a killer honeysuckle vine and a couple of voodoo dolls, all of which are (more-or-less) crucial to the plot of the show. The crew has also spent the last three Saturdays "building" a replica of "Belle Acres" for the setting of the show.

Tickets ($3 for adults and $2 for students) may be purchased at the door.

[News release]

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Lincoln Community Theatre website

Lincoln Community Theatre’s website serves a number of functions, from providing information on becoming a season ticket holder to showing what new productions are being planned. Pictures from past productions are also posted.

Visit LCT’s website at, e-mail LCT at, or write to Lincoln Community Theatre, P.O. Box 374, Lincoln, IL  62656.

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