Third Grade Angels

“First grade babies!
Second grade cats!
Third grade angels!
Fourth grade rats!”

George, better known as Suds, is glad that he’s not a baby or a cat anymore. He’s looking forward to being a “third grade angel,” especially when he begins to understand just what that means. His new third grade teacher, Mrs. Simms, will award a halo each week to the boy or girl who demonstrates the most “angelic” qualities. Well, Suds really wants the first halo, but is he willing to do what it takes to earn the prize?

Suds, along with the rest of Mrs. Simms’ class, is soon behaving better than ever before. They’re picking up trash, holding doors for each other, and even fighting to help a lady who has lost her hat. To be honest, all this angel stuff is getting out of hand! Suds doesn’t know how much longer he can keep it up. And when his mom says that he needs to be angelic at home too–which means being nice to his little sister–Suds gets even more anxious about winning the first halo.

Eventually, when his other classmates forget about being angels all the time, Suds starts to like his chances of being the first “third grade angel.” But he’s not the only one who’s still in it to win it. How can Suds prove that he deserves a halo? What does a guy have to do to show his teacher that he’s the nicest kid around? And will Suds learn that being a real “angel” means doing nice things without being rewarded?

Read Third Grade Angels, a 2014-15 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominee, to see if Suds learns what it means to be truly “angelic!”

Third Grade Angels is a pretty fun, quick read that is well-suited to read-alouds, particularly with third grade students. They will root for Suds to get the first halo, but I hope they question Suds’ motives. Is he being nice just to win a prize, or is he doing it because it’s the right thing to do?

Many young readers may not grasp how fitting the ending of this book was, but that ending–and any confusion that surrounds it–could open up some interesting discussions about how people should behave, even when no one is looking.

Third Grade Angels is a prequel to Fourth Grade Rats, originally published in 1991, and I hope many of my students will want to discover what Suds gets up to when he’s a “fourth grade rat.”

If you’d like more information on Third Grade Angels and author Jerry Spinelli, check out his website!


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