Tag: school

A New School Year by Sally Derby

A New School Year by Sally Derby

A New School Year: Poem Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song (9781580897303, Amazon)

Six children, ranging in age from kindergarten through fifth grade, tell the stories of their first day of school. Each of them begins with the night before where readers will see that even children who are older worry about school and who their teacher will be. Arriving at school is busy and quick, though some have time to say hello to old teachers or to be the first to arrive and meet the class pet. They meet new teachers, say hello to old friends and make new ones too. Finally, they all head home to tell their families about their day, even if some aren’t home right away.

Derby writes in poems that wonderfully universal to the school experience. She moves this from being about starting kindergarten or starting a new school to a wider subject of returning to school and the fact that everyone feels similarly. Still, in making this a universal story, Derby makes sure to also speak to children of different backgrounds and races, children with different sizes of families and latchkey children.

Song’s illustrations highlight the individual children, moving with them through the day, each both a part of the overall school but also entirely themselves as well. The illustrations are simple and will work well shared with a class.

A great book to start the new school year with poetry. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Super Manny Stands Up by Kelly DiPucchio

Super Manny Stands Up by Kelly DiPucchio

Super Manny Stands Up by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (9781481459600, Amazon)

Manny has a collection of superhero capes that he wears to fight different foes. He wears his blue cape to fight sea creatures, his red cape to battle zombie bears, and his yellow cape to bring down cloud monsters. Manny always wore his top secret cape to school. It was invisible and he wore it on the playground to fight the monsters there. When a big kid starts to pick on a smaller child in the lunchroom though, Manny didn’t do anything at first. Then he remembered that he was wearing his invisible cape and stood up. It let all of the other children in the room also remember that they could be heroes too!

As always, DiPucchio writes with the ease of a master storyteller. Manny is a delightful new character whose imaginary world also bridges into the real world in tangible ways. His capes are an inventive way of showing this, including his invisible one for school. The scene with the bully is powerful as is the way that the other children stand up once Manny does. It is with one simple protest that bullies are stopped, something we all need to remember.

Graegin’s illustrations create a visible imaginary world for readers to share. The villains that Manny battles in his capes match color with each cape. Manny as a raccoon is a very friendly protagonist and one that children will relate to easily. Make sure to check out the end pages too for even more Manny (and friend).

A heroic new book that will fly off library shelves. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books.

 

Priscilla Gorilla by Barbara Bottner

Priscilla Gorilla by Barbara Bottner

Priscilla Gorilla by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley (9781481458979, Amazon)

The bestselling duo behind the Miss Brooks books returns with a new book. Priscilla loves gorillas, mostly because they get to do whatever they want. She acts like them and dances like them. She loves to wear her gorilla costume all the time, particularly at school. But because she acts like a gorilla, her teacher puts her in the Thinking Corner sometimes. As Priscilla starts to be seen as a troublemaker, other children join her in the Thinking Corner in their own costumes. But perhaps it’s not being really gorilla-like to be so troublesome, since gorillas are also known for cooperating together. Can Priscilla figure out how to be true to her own inner gorilla even if it means cooperating?

Bottner has such a way with capturing the spirit of childhood on the page. Priscilla speaks for all children as she struggles to navigate the lines between being troublesome, being an individual, and cooperating with others. Bottner writes in an engaging way, allowing the story to unwind at a natural pace that keeps readers caught up in the story. The book ends with Priscilla’s class visiting the zoo and the book beautifully comes full circle as cooperation merges with gorilla dancing.

Emberley’s illustrations are superb. He depicts all of the children in their animal costumes with a wry sense of humor, plushness, bent tails and wrinkles. One wants to crawl into a costume and join the fun. The depiction of Priscilla’s parents and teacher are also cleverly done, showing parents who are allowing their daughter to figure things out but also giving a gentle gorilla nudge in the right direction.

Funny and smart, I’m bananas about this picture book. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.

The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi

The Teacher's Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi

The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora (9781484743645, Amazon)

Mr. Stricter, the teacher, has always wanted a pet. So when the class hatches tadpoles, he tells them that they can keep one. They choose Bruno who grows very quickly and unexpectedly. Soon he has left the fishbowl and entirely taken over the classroom. He farts, eats furniture, and munches school supplies. He also hasn’t turned into a frog at all! But Mr. Stricter can’t see how troublesome Bruno is until one day Bruno proves it once and for all.

Rissi uses plenty of humor in this picture book that turns the tables on teachers and their responsibility. The class of children must be the ones who see the problem and then rescue their teacher from his own blindness. This twist makes the book all the more exciting and fun to read, especially for children. Add in the humor of what Bruno actually grows into and you can expect when you share this aloud with children for them to be delighted at the huge creature and call out warnings to the oblivious Mr. Stricter.

Ohora’s illustrations are filled with bright colors that zing and zap. He plays the colors against each other with orange-yellow floors and deep red walls. This adds a lot of energy to the book and gives Bruno a dynamic background to appear against in all of his vastness.

The power of children is embraced in this picture book that will have everyone laughing along. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from Disney-Hyperion.

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten by Candice Ransom

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten by Candice Ransom

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten by Candice Ransom, illustrated by Christine Grove (9780399554551, Amazon)

Amanda knows just how she wants her first day of Kindergarten to go. She will print her name large on the blackboard, she will build the tallest tower, and she will run faster than everyone else. But when she gets to Kindergarten, it doesn’t go exactly as planned. Amanda’s favorite color is brown, but another girl dressed all in pink won’t leave Amanda alone. In fact, Bitsy is the one who gets to put her name in the middle of the blackboard. Amanda is scolded for building her tower too tall and she isn’t the fastest either. So she decides to head to her brother’s 2nd grade class and just skip Kindergarten entirely.

Ransom has depicted a certain type of child, one that is vastly confident about school and then realizes that what they have dreamed up is not actually reality. It’s a great variant on the typical Kindergarten picture book about the fear of starting school. It also shows that overconfidence can be just as difficult as being worried. Ransom tells an entire story in her picture book, allowing Amanda to feel big emotions and work through them in her own unique way.

Grove’s illustrations add a large amount of appeal to the book. Amanda remains appealing to the reader even though she is prickly, thanks in part to the way she is shown on the page. From her brown cardigan to her red high tops, she is a vibrant character on the page even as she makes plenty of mistakes.

A nice twist to the typical starting school books, this picture book shows everyone has a lot to learn in Kindergarten. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (9781626724167, Amazon)

Newbery Honor winning author Hale tells the story of her own elementary-school years and the tensions of changing friendships. Shannon has been friends with Adrienne since they were little, but it all starts changing when Adrienne joins the popular kids, particularly Jen who leads The Group. The girls in the The Group vie for Jen’s attention and who will sit closest to her at lunch or at recess. Shannon loves to create stories but can’t seem to tell them without having someone with her. As the years pass, Shannon’s relationships with the other girls in The Group ebb and flow, with situations like bullying and sibling rivalry emerging as well. But what does it take to find real friends?

Hale takes all of the emotions and tensions of becoming a middle grader and honors them in her novel. By using her own personal experiences growing up, she has imbued the tale with personality and wit. It is filled with honesty and humor while not minimizing the drama of bad situations at all. This graphic novel is illustrated by award-winning illustrator Pham. The illustrations are friendly and bright. They reflect both the reality of Shannon’s life but also her rich imagination and the games and stories that emerge from it.

This is a book that will speak to all children in elementary school who are navigating the changes that come at that stage of life. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from First Second.

A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson

A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson

A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (9780375868450, Amazon)

The framework of this picture book is a thank you letter to a childhood teacher. Inside that framework, it is the story of a girl who is struggling to learn to read and the 2nd-grade teacher who taught patience and gave the little girl space and opportunity to bloom. Along with the little girl, there is also a gardening project in the classroom, one too that takes its own time to come to fruition though the hard work is done throughout the year. Through the year, there are learning moments, accidents, setbacks and leadership opportunities. It’s a year of inspiration that clearly lasted a lifetime.

Hopkinson’s words paint a vivid picture of a little girl who much prefers the out of doors over books and classwork. She is something of a loner, someone who learns to love books during the year and becomes much more part of the group by the end. Hopkinson shows a wonderful individual child who is still universal while being so specific. Hopkinson does the same with the character of the teacher, who is patient and yet has structure in her classroom and expectations. It is the story of all teachers who make a difference and see a child for who they can become.

Carpenter’s illustrations are also exceptional. They use color to keep the focus of the illustrations on the teacher and the little girl. The other child become part of the background at times, though they are still there. Carpenter also shows the relationship of teacher and child with a depth that is very effective, using expression on the characters faces to show the trust that is being built.

A perfect gift for teachers, this picture book is also full of hope and opportunity for children to notice how special their teachers are. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.