The Desert Island Montessori School

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop titled “Essential Books for the Montessori Library” during the annual meeting of the Montessori Schools of Massachusetts.  It was lots of fun – good questions and an inspiring group of teachers. Among my handouts was one called: “The Desert Island Montessori School.”  The premise is that you open a Montessori school on a very small island with a small population.  You have to remain on the island for a full year so what ten books are you going to bring?

Here are the books on my desert island list – with explanations for their inclusion:

The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (the Taschen edition).  This is the one book that I explained could be switched out, but for something along the same lines. Grimm’s Fairy Tales? D’Aulaire’s Books of Greek Myths? The idea was that you should bring a storybook – it will be a long year. I chose Andersen because I prefer those stories to Grimm’s and I chose the Taschen edition because it’s beautiful.

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean. A practical choice, right?  It could come in handy on a desert island, but I also chose it for our Montessori library because the book celebrates making and creating – and it makes you happy to spend time with it.

People by Blexbolex. A tough choice. I like all of the French artist’s books, but I think People may be the best choice because this concept book lends itself to so many interesting conversations and possible writing assignments.

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman. The ultimate Montessori and Desert Island book!  Practical use: building a self-sufficient civilization.  Montessori tie-in: Wesley is an independent thinker. Talk about someone who is imaginative and thinks “out of the box.”  I’d like to see Wesley give a TED talk!

Zen Shorts by Jon Muth. A primer on Zen thinking could definitely be useful on a desert island.

Journey by Aaron Becker. The possibilities are limitless. This book is beautiful and imaginative and could lead to so many inspiring conversations. You could almost forget you were on an island!

The Arrival by Shaun Tan. One of my all-time favorite books. It’s about being different and memory and the experience of being “alien.”  Like some of the other books on the list, you could spend hours pouring over Tan’s stunning pictures.

Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska. Totally helpful on a desert island. And this one, although perhaps not the most practical choice, is the most visually appealing book of maps.

The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest – and Most Surprising – Animals by Steve Jenkins. Just in time for our desert island excursion comes this amazing book by paper artist Steve Jenkins. Excellent browsing material. And you are ready to meet any animal on the island.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. As I said to the Montessori group, Charlotte’s Web should always be packed for a journey – even if you can only bring one book. In under 200 pages, here’s what you get: beautiful writing, the story of growing up and the cycle of life, and a magical portrayal of friendship.

I will add more of my lists from the conference in the next few days – as well as answer a few questions from people in the session. But, one more thing for today: a story about David Cassidy.


As a young teenager, I was a fan of the Partridge family idol. But…truthfully, I hadn’t thought about David Cassidy in many years. In the last couple of weeks, however, Cassidy has come up three times. First, I’m  listening to Allison Pearson’s very funny novel, I Think I Love You, on audio CD.  I’ve had a long-time interest in teen obsessions with celebrities. I work in a middle school. I  hear references to Harry Styles every day.  When I hear the girls at school talking about One Direction, I think about my own teen celebrity crushes and the role those “relationships” play in our emotional development.  And besides that, Pearson’s novel is really witty and fun to read.

A few days after starting I Think I Love You, I was listening to NPR’s Wait, Wait….Don’t Tell Me! and the guest was….Shirley Jones!  It was strange to hear her talking about  David Cassidy when, only minutes before, I had been listening to Pearson’s novel about her TV son.  Fast forward to this morning. I opened the CNN app on my phone to see what was happening in the world, and this is what I read: “David Cassidy Arrested on Drunken Driving Charge.”  Not Keith!  Incongruent news – especially since I’ve been listening to this novel which takes place when millions of girls around the world were obsessed with Cassidy. But still very strange – I feel like Pearson’s novel has been following me around for a few days.

More later…

Have a good week…


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