June 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Back-to-School Roundup | Reviews

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Time for School! (Biggs) ©2017 by Brian Biggs


Berger, Samantha & Martha Brockenbrough. Back to School with Bigfoot. illus. by David Pressler. 40p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545859738.

K-Gr 2–No one has bigger back-to-school jitters than Bigfoot. In this humorous first-person narrative, Bigfoot explains how everything is bigger for him: shopping for extra-extra large clothing, a haircut that takes all day, and don’t even get him started on shoe shopping (he is Bigfoot, after all). Berger and Brockenbrough aim to make returning to school no big deal at all, especially after Bigfoot realizes that if he doesn’t go back to school, he’ll miss out on having the best teacher ever, doing enormous art projects, going on field trips, and, most important, he’ll miss seeing all of his friends. The text includes some helpful reminders about school, but Bigfoot, with his extra-large concerns, is the appeal of this silly story. Pressler’s digitally rendered pen and ink illustrations are lively, amusing, and packed with entertaining details, and feature a diverse classroom. VERDICT Great for the classroom, storytime, or one-on-one sharing for anyone with anxiety about starting school. Pair with Adam Rex’s School’s First Day of School for some fun, unexpected first-day-of-school comic relief.–Brianne Colombo, Fairfield Free Public Library, NJ

Biggs, Brian. Time for School! illus. by Brian Biggs. 32p. (A Tinyville Town Book). Abrams. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419725661. POP

PreS-Gr 1–There are no schoolyard scuffles in Tinyville, where everyone shares, everyone helps, and the cafeteria crew creates delicious meal for students—and Ellie, the new girl in town, is welcomed into class with a “We’ve been expecting you.” Through minimal text, the author introduces children to some of the routines and staff they will encounter when they begin school. There’s also mention of what some of those people do. For example, Ms. Parker, the principal, makes sure “things run smoothly,” while it’s the bus driver’s job to “get her riders home on time.” Short sentences and dialogue bubbles featuring large black font may even tempt emergent readers to give the text a try. Biggs’s distinctive illustrative style—also seen in Gets To Work and the other “Tinyville” titles—features colorful outdoor scenes packed with detail and action, or alternatively, interior scenes with large figures framed by plenty of white space. Bright, luminous tones and playful patterns demand attention, while the button-nosed, occasionally googly-eyed figures with goofy expressions elicit smiles. VERDICT The story’s bubbly tone and the smiling figures are sure to soothe any first-day jitters, and perhaps, set a few positive expectations.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Brimner, Larry Dane. The First Day of School. illus. by John Bendall-Brunello. 32p. (Puppy & Bear). Amazon/Two Lions. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781503950962.

PreS-Gr 1–Puppy happens upon Bear, bored and grouchy, sitting under a tree. Puppy convinces Bear to play, and the happiest of friendships begins. The friends play all summer long until one day Bear doesn’t come to the forest. It is the first day of school and Bear does not want to be late. Puppy, saddened to lose his buddy to school, patiently waits for him. When Bear doesn’t show up after school, the dog tries playing by himself and then takes a nap. Bear finds Puppy sleeping in the forest. He assures Puppy they are best friends and will play every day after school through all the seasons. Eventually, Puppy will be old enough to go to school, too. Softly washed illustrations in watercolor and pencil create an engagingly serene backdrop for Bear and Puppy’s bond. All the characters in the book, including classmates in the schoolyard, are anthropomorphized animals in clothing complete with scarves and backpacks. The story is told in straightforward conversations between Bear and Puppy and omniscient point of view. VERDICT Bear and Puppy’s relationship, may help children adjust to the childhood plight of missing a dear friend, whether to the school day or other reasons.–Mindy Hiatt, Salt Lake County Library Services

Crow, Kristyn. Zombelina: School Days. illus. by Molly Idle. 32p. Bloomsbury. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619636415.

K-Gr 2–Zombelina is looking forward to show-and-tell at school. She loves to dance, as she demonstrates on the bus, and plans to share her skills with her class. Naturally being a zombie means that she has difficulty holding things together. Zombelina and her best friend, Lizzie (human) gladly welcome Morty, a new student who is rather blue (literally) to their twosome after neither Zombelina’s nor his talent sharing goes particularly well. Zombelina falls apart (she is a zombie after all) but still finds the confidence to encourage Morty. After playing together at recess, Zombelina is inspired to invite everyone to a party at her house where she is finally able to share her dance prowess. The themes of inclusion and welcoming differences shines through in such a clever way that readers almost won’t notice it. Zombelina delights with her confidence and acceptance of herself as well as her persistence. VERDICT This is a school story that could easily double as a Halloween selection. A first purchase wherever zombies are popular.–Heidi Grange, Summit Elementary School, Smithfield, UT

Derby, Sally. A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices. illus. by Mika Song. 48p. Charlesbridge. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781580897303.

K-Gr 3–The angst suffered by many youngsters contemplating the first day of a new school year is charmingly and realistically captured in this collection of 24 poems that express the thoughts and concerns of six children entering kindergarten through grade five. Each of the book’s four sections—“The Night Before,” “In the Morning,” “At School,” and “After School”—includes a first-person narrative by one of the children. In the first section, Ethan hides his teddy bear’s fuzzy jacket in his pants pocket to bring him comfort on his first day of kindergarten. Zach wonders if first grade rules will be different from last year’s, and Katie contemplates the news that her second grade teacher is a man. Third grader Jackie worries about having to arrive “a whole hour before school starts/so Mama can catch the bus to work.” Carlos (grade four) fears being friendless at his new school, and Mia falls asleep fretting about fifth grade homework and whether to fix her hair to cover her hearing aids. Song’s delightful large cartoon illustrations—brushed sumi ink outlines and detail filled with watercolor—show various ethnicities at home and in the classroom and concerned expressions that become relaxed and happy as children quickly adapt to school routines. Kids in grades four and five share the same round faces and short stature as the younger children. VERDICT Teachers will enjoy using this engaging collection as an ice breaker or as impetus for a first day writing project.–Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH

Durst, Sarah Beth. Roar and Sparkles Go to School. illus. by Ben Whitehouse. 40p. Running Pr. Kids. Jun. 2017.

PreS-Gr 1–Roar, a young dragon, is having a great summer. He loves swimming with sea monsters, making sandcastles (then smashing them with his tail), and playing with his big sister, Sparkles. He wishes it would never end. Roar also knows he will have to start school in the fall. The thought is worrisome and makes him think of so many questions. What if he has to breathe fire by himself or he has to fly over an exploding volcano? And worst of all, what if his teacher is a knight who doesn’t like dragons, barbecues, or s’mores? His sister assures him that nothing bad will happen. When the day arrives, Sparkles helps him on the bus and holds his hand during the ride. She brings him to his classroom and patiently waits until he meets his teacher. Roar discovers that school isn’t as scary as he had anticipated. This book helps to address some of the fears and concerns about starting school, and provides opportunities for discussions about a child’s anxiety regarding this topic. The story also shows the strong bond between siblings and the importance of their help and support. The illustrations are large, extremely colorful, and humorous. Children will enjoy the flying dragon school bus and the fun things the dragons do. The text is strategically placed so it does not interfere with the pictures. VERDICT This book will comfort young ones just starting school and show older siblings how they can help. A solid addition to most library collections.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Ehrlich, Nikki. Twindergarten. illus. by Zoey Abbott. 32p. HarperCollins. Jun. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780062564238.

PreS-Gr 1–Dax and Zoe are inseparable twins who are about to start school. But Dax and Zoe aren’t so sure about it, since starting kindergarten will mean being in different classes. With the help of their parents and each other, they find the courage to go their separate ways on the first day of school. Then with the help of teachers and new friends, Dax and Zoe soon realize that despite being apart from each other, kindergarten isn’t so bad. Simple but attractive color pencil illustrations depict the action and emotions equally well. The writing is direct and effective, and the story adeptly depicts a challenging time for most families. VERDICT This heartwarming tale is perfect for storytimes, and an excellent choice for families with young twins.–Candyce ­Pruitt-Goddard, ­Sno-Isle Libraries, Marysville, WA

Fergus, Maureen. Buddy and Earl Go to School. illus. by Carey Sookocheff. 32p. (Buddy and Earl). Groundwood. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554989270.

PreS-Gr 2–When Meredith, Buddy’s and Earl’s child friend, decides it’s time for the dog and hedgehog to go to school, they consider all the career possibilities that may open up for them. Earl wants to become a dentist, and Buddy imagines a whole host of future jobs, including becoming a fire hydrant, until he remembers what he does to them. Their passions dim when they discover that their fellow schoolmates, stuffed animals, ignore them completely and refuse to participate, and that school’s a bit boring. When Meredith, their teacher, has to leave, Earl leads his own lesson in which Buddy gets to practice what he’s really good at, sniffing and tail-chasing. The digitized illustrations, with their clear black lines and solid blocks of color, will help readers of all ages follow along, and Fergus’s wry jocular tone invites young readers in on the jokes that go right over the animal’s heads. This latest adventure of the two mismatched friends may please their fans, but it’s difficult to see what the two friends really learn about friendship, teaching, or learning, and so the conclusion falls flat. Nevertheless, it’s likely that the lack of a consistent theme or plot won’t make a difference for true lovers of the series. VERDICT The jokes and familiar characters may keep young readers giggling, but parents and teachers won’t find much here for discussion.–Anna Stover, Poughkeepsie Day School, NY

Grandits, John. Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want To Survive the Cafeteria. illus. by Michael Allen Austin. 32p. Clarion. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544699519.

Gr 1-4 –The award-winning team behind Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want To Survive the School Bus pen another cautionary tale. The same young protagonist who survived the school bus is minding his own business when his bossy friend Ginny gives him strict guidelines on traversing the dreaded cafeteria. The rules are fairly straightforward and hold such time tested tenets as “Don’t hold up the line” and “Never aggravate the lunch lady.” Since he is reading a book on insects while she lectures him, all of the rules Ginny recite morph into a sort of insect-themed horror story. For instance, sixth graders are as “scary as a swarm of yellow jackets” and the school bully is portrayed as a giant meat-eating water bug. Of course, the boy does everything wrong but still manages to make it through the lunch hour in one piece. He concludes that the best advice is not to listen to Ginny ever again. Filled with engaging and sweeping illustrations done in acrylics, the pictures are engrossing and bring life to an otherwise verbose and confusing tale. The bug rift is intriguing but unfortunately muddles this lengthy and rambling story. VERDICT An optional purchase for those who have a strong fan base for the first book.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, MI

Gutman, Dan. My Weird School: Class Pet Mess! illus. by Jim Paillot. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062367471; pap. $3.99. ISBN 9780062367464.

Gr 1-3–Mr. Cooper’s class is back with another fun adventure. The students are excited to learn they will be getting a class pet. The children have different ideas about what it should be. Andrea wants it to be cute like a fluffy little bunny. Alexia doesn’t agree. She thinks it should be something cool like a snake. A teachable moment arises when the pet, an eastern hognose snake, arrives. Mr. Cooper tries to educate the class about its habitat and defenses. He tells them interesting facts and vital information about the snake. Unfortunately, not everyone is paying attention…particularly Alexia. Since she was the one to suggest a snake, Mr. Cooper selects her to be in charge of taking care of it for the first week. Will Alexia be able to take care of the new pet or will it be a total disaster? This book is full of the type of humor kids will enjoy. Skunks stinking up the whole school or a ferret wetting the floor might seem silly to adults but it will hold the attention of young readers. The illustrations are bold and comical, from Mr. Cooper donning his superhero outfit to the students with their large heads and small bodies. The majority of the vocabulary is not overly difficult. However, there are words that might challenge some readers. Even though the story is packed with crazy antics, children might acquire a few scientific facts about this type of snake. VERDICT A good choice for developing readers who need something funny to pique their interest.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Hale, Bruce. Clark the Shark and the Big Book Report. illus. by Guy Francis. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062279132; pap. $3.99. ISBN 9780062279125.

PreS-Gr 1–Clark attends school with his aquatic classmates and teacher. He is excited to present an oral report about the book The Frog Prince, practices the presentation in front of his family, and perfects his poster with his mother’s help. Clark even finds the perfect riddle for an opener, but the success of the delivery causes him to have a “brain freeze” and forget the meat of his presentation. His teacher, Mrs. Inkydink, prompts him with her mantra, “Be bold, be smart, and speak from the heart!” This advice helps Clark to relax and complete his presentation. Neither the age nor the grade of the class is mentioned, making this book suitable for younger, emerging readers as well as older readers who are working hard to build fluency. Cheerful, expressive illustrations provide contextual clues as they depict a classroom of friendly, supportive students. VERDICT A winning addition to the series and beginning reader collections.–Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI

Holub, Joan. Tool School. illus. by James Dean. 32p. Scholastic. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545685207. POP

PreS-Gr 2–The characters of this brief, rhyming tale head to school on their very first day. Their destination is Tool School, presenting five young personified tools—Hammer, Screwdriver, Pliers, Saw, and Tape Measure—experimenting with their skills and finding their way around a builder’s classroom. Cartoon illustrations feature their wide-eyed excitement for learning, frustration as they try to work independently for the first time, and cubbies filled with enough wood, cardboard, screws, nails, glue, and clamps to satisfy their every experiment. Young readers unfamiliar with basic tools will find an introduction to each character, a description of the tool’s purpose, and how each works. Led by their teacher Ms. Drill, the tools practice safety and skills, working first alone and then learning together to explore the value of cooperation. Text includes a bit of onomatopoeia—the sounds of constructing a toolbox—while speech bubbles highlight a busy conversation. A final spread presents “Cool Tool Tips” and the reminder to work with a grown-up and wear safety goggles. ­VERDICT A must-read for budding makers in all libraries, measuring up to the need for early introduction to creative tools, and entertainingly illustrated for the very young.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

Lehrhaupt, Adam. Chicken in School. illus. by Shahar Kober. 40p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062364135.

PreS-Gr 1–Zoey, the chicken with a big heart and a bigger imagination; her friend Sam the pig; and their other barnyard friends, Clara the cow, Henry the dog, and Pip the mouse are back in this follow up to Chicken in Space. This time, snack-obsessed Sam dreams of going to school, largely because “There are snacks at school.” Zoey, being the good and loyal friend she is, sets off to make Sam’s dream happen. She sets up the barn as a classroom—and proves to be a great teacher. After building a fort out of books, drawing pictures with crayons, and a quick math lesson from Clara, Zoey finally presents Sam with the pie he’s been seeking all day. When Sam is asked which part of school he liked best he answers, “Everything! Because I was with you.” To which Zoey responds, “If you thought that was fun, wait until you try recess.” Kober’s softly hued illustrations add humor through the facial expressions and expertly capture the specific personalities of each barnyard character, carried over from the previous book as well. This is sweet tale of friendship, school and appreciating your friends—quirks and all. VERDICT Give to fans of the first installment or youngsters with first-time or back-to-school jitters. This works well as a read-aloud or one-on-one.–Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn

redstarMcMullan, Kate. I’m Smart! illus. by Jim McMullan. 40p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062449238.

PreS-Gr 2–Oozing confidence and energy, a big-eyed, grinning school bus describes his morning route, informing listeners that it “takes BRAINS to do my job—drive you to SCHOOL and keep you SAFE!” As with previous titles, the McMullans (I’m Brave!; I Stink!; I’m Cool!) infuse everyday activities with an infectious excitement bound to entice vehicle-loving youngsters. When the bus’s lights flash amber, it means “Cars and trucks, SLO-O-O-OW DOWN!” And when the lights turn red and the bus’s stop paddle pops out, he commands, “Everybody stop! And don’t move till I quit flashing.” When a sporty silver car doesn’t heed the bus’s warning to halt, a police car shows up—to the glee of the bus’s passengers. After a closed lane brings traffic to a crawl, the bus keeps the bored kids from getting antsy with a pop quiz, alerts them about a bump in the road, and, at last, delivers them to school. Rendered in bold colors and fonts and rarely skimping on the exclamation points, the text is utterly exuberant, ideal for read-alouds. Though the vehicles have a goofy, cartoonish look, the watercolors are painterly and elegant, particularly those depicting the wide expanse of houses along the bus’s route. VERDICT A perfect back-to-school storytime option, and a fun way to prepare children who are nervous about taking the school bus for the first time.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Monroe, Chris. Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Silly School Mystery. illus. by Chris Monroe. 32p. Carolrhoda. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781512430103.

K-Gr 2–Something strange is happening at Chico Bon Bon’s and Clark’s school. Things have begun to disappear. When the class arrives at the library, they’re shocked to see half of the books are missing. As the day progresses, the situation becomes even more bizarre. Ms. Crabtree’s ruler is gone, everyone’s show-and-tell pieces are ruined, and classroom items have been chewed in half. Could it be a ghost, sneaky gorillas, or has a book club gone wild? Luckily, the monkey is armed with his famous tool belt and is prepared to begin an investigation. Fortunately, he’s well equipped with a magnifying glass, flashlight, two-inch book hook, protractor, and goggles (safety first). Chico discovers more evidence as he conducts a search of the entire school. He finds many things have been chewed and even more items have gone missing. The mystery becomes more intriguing when he notices an acorn on the pencil sharpener. His extensive investigation will help him discover what or who has been causing the strange events. This book is a good addition to the series. The story line is very entertaining and amusing. The paint and ink drawings are creative and include a great amount of intricate detail. Meticulous features range from the items on Chico’s belt to the titles of the children’s books. While some readers might find the illustrations too busy, many will agree the pictures are interesting and humorous. Alas, after the school mystery has been solved, Chico finds his tool belt helpful when cleaning up Clark’s mess. VERDICT Young mystery buffs, fans of Monkey with a Tool Belt, and those who are new to the series, will enjoy this addition.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Neubecker, Robert. Fall Is for School. ­illus. by Robert Neubecker. 32p. Disney-Hyperion. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484732540.

K-Gr 2–“Fall is for school!” a jubilant girl shouts while her older brother mourns the loss of summer vacation. The boy whines that school is uncool and too hard, it’s full of teachers and homework. But his sister extols the virtues of nice teachers, fascinating projects, recess, and Halloween parties. Eventually, the boy changes his tune as his sister exclaims, with grown-up wisdom, “We’ll learn, and we’ll be clever./A great big world will open up/and change our lives forever.” The full-bleed digital illustrations are full to bursting with fall colors, as well as an accumulating collection of things the siblings will learn about, from Abraham Lincoln to rocket ships. Chantlike rhyming text bounces between the sister’s speech printed in shades of red and pink and her brother’s words in blues. Often the rhyme scheme feels forced, especially when pushing the message that only kids who go to school can learn to do things right. Although this title seems to target a younger audience who are learning their numbers and how to read and write, the characters speak of multiplication, ancient Egypt and Rome, and engineering. Readers may wonder why a younger sibling is telling her older brother what to expect at school, as if he’s never been. VERDICT This cheery (rah! rah!) back-to-school selection is a colorful ­addition for school and public libraries.–Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library

Ransom, Candice. Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten. illus. by Christine Grove. 32p. Doubleday. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399554551.

PreS-K–Amanda Panda is filled with excitement about starting kindergarten and has her entire first day planned. She will write her name in big, important letters on the blackboard and then wow the whole class by being the fastest runner. But as so often happens in life, things do not go exactly as she envisioned. On the bus, she is forced to sit next to Bitsy, a girl whose favorite color is “sparkles” and who seems intent on becoming Amanda’s friend. Amanda does not feel like being kind and ignores this exuberant panda in pink. As if that isn’t vexing enough, Bitsy proceeds to sit next to her in class, Amanda’s block tower collapses in epic fashion, and worst of all; she trips during a race at recess. This is the end of the world, concludes Amanda, who decides to quit kindergarten and sneak off her to older brother’s classroom. In no time at all, she realizes that the older grades don’t have any of the kindergarten perks; the chairs are too big, the room is too quiet and worst of all, there is no building center. When Bitsy comes searching for her in tears, Amanda realizes she has made a true friend. And guess what? It isn’t the end of the world after all. Grove’s illustrations are the perfect medium for this story and she captures the young pandas’ emotions expertly. Ransom has delivered a funny and relatable tale about how even when things don’t go according to plan; they can still turn out okay. VERDICT Filled with droll humor that begs to be read aloud, this is an excellent back-to-school purchase and a great fit for storytime.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, MI

Reagan, Jean. How To Get Your Teacher Ready. illus. by Lee Wildish. 32p. Knopf. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553538250.

PreS-Gr 2 –The sweetness of this book will entice readers young and old. Reagan provides guides to basic school rules, celebrations like 100 Days and class plays, and even the bittersweet moment of moving up a grade. These are meant to put kids at ease with school situations and let them know they’re not alone. As the most recent edition in the “How To…” series, this book plays to adult readers, amusing parents, while giving kids a light structure for their student experience, and reflecting gently but profoundly on the special role that teachers play in their students lives. Though the flow of the book is a bit unfamiliar—definitely a “how to” rather than a narrative—it is an effective method to build empathy and appreciation for the formative day-to-day work of educators. Wildish’s illustrations are soft, expressive, full of hugs and smiles and silly faces, and add to the light and upbeat tone. Missteps like a thin-lined font choice and an oddly light hand on character faces distract from but don’t derail the experience. VERDICT A tender read-together for an early elementary or pre-K audience, this is a surprisingly thoughtful read for parents and teachers to share and discuss with children.–Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

Reed, Lynn Rowe. Benny Shark Goes to Friend School. illus. by Rhode Montijo. 30p. Amazon/Two Lions. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781477828038.

PreS-Gr 2–Benny Shark has a big problem—he’s a big bully. And everything about Benny is writ large. Benny’s actions and emotions are overwhelming, the images of underwater antics are rendered in close-up even though they’re simple digital comics, and the big speech balloons make it seem like every word Benny utters is shouted. Benny the shark is a meanie, using his bull shark stature to push other fish around, until Janice Jellyfish decides to set him straight by taking him to Friend School, a place where one learns to be exactly what the name implies. Arriving at Friend School, Benny is presented with a series of rules and challenges—be a good listener, tell the truth, share, take turns, and be a good sport. In the end, Janice’s unflagging kindness to the reluctant Benny proves incentive enough for him to truly learn his lesson. The (literal) chalkboard lessons, and Benny’s snarky responses to them, are good fodder for classroom discussions on following rules and respecting classmates, and an interesting, if imperfect, examination of following the letter, versus the spirit, of the rules set for a child’s social environment. VERDICT Benny Shark’s antics will provide an interesting, if slightly on the nose, way to teach young children about classroom social expectations. A strong choice for most picture book collections.–Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

Rissi, Anica Mrose. The Teacher’s Pet. ­ illus. by Zachariah OHora. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484743645. POP

PreS-Gr 2–From the cover, readers get a sense that all is not as idyllic as the teacher’s face suggests. The children wear concerned expressions and there are large bites missing from furniture and a math book. What is going on? Rissi’s story of a class science project seems ordinary enough, until we notice that Bruno the tadpole looks a lot like a hippopotamus. Suddenly the problem becomes clear. “Everyone could see that Bruno was trouble. Everyone except Mr. Stricter.” Ohora’s acrylic illustrations work seamlessly with the text to juxtapose the teacher’s blind adoration of his pet with the students’ increasing alarm. “Bruno wouldn’t hurt a…” Mr. Stricter is saying, and readers turn the page to see a single sneaker dangling from Bruno’s mouth and a large mustard yellow “GULP!” appears over Bruno’s head. Obviously the class was not overreacting when they said Bruno was trouble, but how will they get their teacher back? Fans of stories like Steven Kellogg’s The Mysterious Tadpole or Mike Thaler’s A Hippopotamus Ate the Teacher will appreciate the saga of a beloved small pet growing out of control. Readers will feel the increasing frustration of the class as the teacher dismisses all their concerns about Bruno and says, “Isn’t he adorable?” And those who enjoy some gross humor will love the result of Bruno’s sneeze. VERDICT Highly recommended. Perfect for classroom read-alouds and lessons on problem-solving or pets.–Suzanne Costner, Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN

Tuma, Refe & Susan Tuma. What the Dinosaurs Did at School. photos by Refe Tuma & Susan Tuma. 40p. Little, Brown. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316552899.

PreS-Gr 2–In this rollicking third book from the creators of Dinovember, the dinosaurs from What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night escape in a backpack and head to school. The narrator tries to find ways to hide the dinosaurs in order to keep them from being sent to the Drawer of No Return. Unfortunately, the dinosaurs make a mess everywhere they go, even in the library. An experiment in the science lab goes awry and they are caught and sent to the Drawer of No Return where they proceed to have a party with all the other toys. The whimsical and fun photographs show real plastic dinosaurs posed in various locations throughout the school and they are the best part of the book. Somehow, the dinosaurs’ expressions (which never change) seem to match whatever action is happening around them. While the text adds to the tale, the photographs are what really carry the story. This book might even inspire students to document dinosaur adventures of their own. VERDICT Amusing and fun, students who love dinosaurs will devour this book.–V. Lynn Christiansen, Wiley International Studies Magnet Elementary School, Raleigh, NC

Underwood, Deborah. Here Comes Teacher Cat. illus. by Claudia Rueda. 80p. (Here Comes the Cat). Dial. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399539053.

PreS-Gr 1–Cat is back for his first non-holiday adventure, this time as a substitute teacher. Ms. Melba has to go to the doctor, so Cat is called upon to lead a classroom of eager preschool kittens. Cat has a few entertaining missteps, but by the time Ms. Melba returns, the whole classroom has enjoyed making music, building, and painting. What Ms. Melba will never know is that music included rocking out on a very loud electric guitar, that Cat showed the kittens how to build a fountain that spouted fish, and that the painting was done on the classroom walls. This fifth installment of series follows the same conventions of the previous titles. The unseen narrator prompts and prods the feline hero along, with many a comment and question from Cat communicated through wordless signs on sticks. Readers are encouraged to interact with the text, just as the narrator does. Soft primary colors and light shading, created with ink and color pencil on white paper, complement the amusing facial expressions of the reluctant protagonist. Plenty of white space, clear layouts, and well-placed, large text make this a great book for a group storytime. ­VERDICT Whether new to this series or a seasoned fan, this amusing read-aloud has much to offer the younger back-to-school crowd.–Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library

Underwood, Deborah. Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten. illus. by Ned Young. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423175681.

PreS-Gr 1–Arnold, a young dinosaur, is preparing himself for his first day of kindergarten by transforming into Super Saurus, a masked hero. He is prepared just in case his teacher is Zorgo the Evil Genius, intent on feeding the class to his pet T. rex, Krok. Through the course of music, art class, and snack time, Arnold learns that Zorgo, or Mr. Z, is not the evil nemesis he has imagined and that he can be himself in kindergarten. The story will certainly appeal to young children, with the common theme of first-day jitters. The illustrations are dynamic and energetic, using different media and font styles to depict Arnold’s imagined world. The bright and saturated colors create distinctive characters and detailed settings that fill the page. There is some sequential art and, in the style of a comic book, the arrangement of text across the page varies while the use of space fosters the parallels between Arnold’s imagination and his kindergarten classroom. VERDICT This animated story will provide an engaging read-aloud for preschoolers and young children, while early elementary students could enjoy exploring the detailed illustrations independently.–Kelly Topita, Anne Arundel County Public Library, MD

Vernick, Audrey. Second Grade Holdout. illus. by Matthew Cordell. 32p. HMH. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544876811.

Gr 1-3–The protagonist of this story is not looking forward to entering second grade. He is sure that he won’t get to have fun anymore, his teacher will be mean, and he won’t be with his friend Tyler. All of the signs seem to indicate that the new school year will be catastrophic. He starts to devise a plan: Maybe he could repeat first grade! This plan becomes even more appealing when Tyler’s older sisters begin to taunt him with horror stories about their own second grade experiences. They taunt Tyler as well, and the two friends bemoan their fate together. Eventually, they realize that they are being tricked and that second grade might not be so terrible after all. The story closes with the two boys giving each other a high-five, confident that if they can see through the schemes of Tyler’s sisters they are smart enough to conquer second grade. This is a witty and fun story that will resonate with any child nervous about moving up a grade. Caregivers will find it particularly useful as a springboard to discuss school-related fears and anxieties with their children. Cordell’s colorful cartoon illustrations make the topic seem less scary, and will appeal to youngsters. VERDICT An excellent addition to library collections ­during the back-to-school season.–­Katherine Hickey, Metropolitan ­Library System, Oklahoma City


This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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