Mr. Quigley’s Keys by Barbara Gruener

Mr. Quigley’s Keys

Barbara Gruener, Author

Audrye Williams, Illustrator

EduMatch Publishing, Jun. 8, 2021

Suitable for ages: 5-10

Themes: Handyman, Deaf, School, Work ethic, Kindness, Empathy, Service 

Opening: “He’s almost heeeeere!” I called out cheerfully as soon as I heard the clanging cadence of Mr. Quigley’s keys.” 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Adapted from the real-life story of an unsung hero, Mr. Quigley’s Keys invites you to walk in the work shoes of a beloved handyman as he quietly jingles through the school hallways, listening for ways to serve and connecting by heart.

Bask in the admiration and pride that the students feel for their Navy veteran, whose war injury left him deaf, and watch as his every move models the school’s keys to connection: love, perseverance, work ethic, empathy, goodness, and peace.

Spend a birthday in the cafeteria and experience the joy of receiving a Quigley creation, then savor the sweetness as the can-doer classmates turn the tables to thank their faithful fix-it friend. Turn the final page for a key twist that’ll wrap you up in a huge hug of gratitude and love.

What’s to love about this book:

Barbara Gruener has written an inspiring story that is full of heart, kindness, humor and connection. Her narrative is rich and lyrical. And to hear Gruencer read her book aloud is a special experience (video trailer below). Audrye Williams’s bright and cheery illustrations illuminate Gruener’s storytelling. This picture book belongs in every classroom because there are many themes that will lend themselves to important classroom discussions.

Mr Quigley’s Keys is based on the life of a beloved school maintenance man who spends his days interacting with students through his acts of kindness and compassion. Mr. Quigley is deaf, but that doesn’t interfere with his ability to connect with students. He is very sensitive to emotions, doesn’t mind tying a shoe lace, and makes sure every student has a hand-drawn card on their birthday.  

You can feel the students’ excited anticipation when they hear Mr. Quigley’s keys jingle in the hallway before he enters their classroom to help fix a problem. His keys are special, because each is engraved with positive traits that fit him perfectly. The students  love him so much they want to do something very special for his upcoming birthday. It’s a BIG surprise!

Mr. Quigley’s deafness touched me immediately. There are few books where deaf or hearing impaired children can see themselves represented. And to have Mr. Quigley as a role model is very special. His story reminded me of our daughter, who grew up with a hearing impairment and wore hearing aids. I noticed very early that she studied people, could sense their emotions and read lips from a distance. She perceived things at a rapid rate — long before most people. And I sensed that same special gift in Mr. Quigley and so much more. I can hardly wait to share this book with my grown daughter.    

Resources: Make sure you check out the end pages, where teachers and parents will find wonderful activities: Comprehension Curiosities, Key Character Questions, and Writing Prompts. There is a page with American Sign Language Alphabet and Numbers and New Vocabulary. There is a picture of Don Pittman, whose real-life story inspired this book. And there is a special message from the Quigley family. There are many themes that will lend themselves to important discussions at home and school.

Barbara Gruener is the author of the Corner on Character blog and the book What’s Under Your Cape? She is a beloved school counselor, speaker, mentor and coach who works passionately to influence school culture and climate change, while helping to foster healthy habits and nurture caring connections among school families and their stakeholders. She positively thrives on encouraging empathy. In addition to spending time connecting with family and friends, Barbara loves inspiring people to savor being in the moment as they unwrap the present with gratitude and hope. She and her husband live in Friendswood, Texas, where they raised their three children.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.