Kids can compare other school stories to their own

Books - October 2006


Judy Belanger

For most kids, school has been in session for a good four to six weeks and they are pretty well settled into their new classrooms. Family life revolves around the school schedule and what the kids do in class. Let kids see how their school experiences stack up against others' by reading these books together.

WHAT A DAY IT WAS AT SCHOOL!, by Jack Prelutsky, pictures by Doug Cushman, Greenwillow, $15.99; ages 5-12.

In this newest of Jack Prelutsky's books, readers will find 17 poems pertaining to school events, not necessarily taking place all in one day. Any student who has ever had homework will identify with the poem about the backpack weighing a thousand pounds. As another poem suggests, it is much easier to pass a "spellink" test when you study "harrder." Oftentimes, the school nurse has a visit from an ill student who has a case of unfinished homework. Other subjects, such as library time, musical instruments and field trips, are covered in the poems as well. MS. BITSY BAT'S KINDERGARTEN, by Pamela Duncan Edwards, illustrated by Henry Cole, Hyperion, $15.99; ages 4-7.

It is the second day of the new year and the animals discover they will have a different teacher. Mr. Fox will have to stay home and help Mrs. Fox with their five babies. Just as any class would be apprehensive about a change in teacher, these students are concerned that their new teacher won't do things the right way.

CAN I BRING MY PTERODACTYL TO SCHOOL, MS. JOHNSON?, by Lois G. Grambling, illustrated by Judy Love, Charlesbridge, $6.95; ages 4-8.

A pterodactyl in the classroom-what fun! He could be the class' own dinosaur exhibit. If it were cold in the room, he could cover everyone and keep them warm. If it were hot in the room, his wings could fan the whole class and keep them cool. These are a few of the creative reasons a young boy gives to persuade his teacher to let him bring a pterodactyl to school after he won it in a magazine contest. The real reason is because he knows his mother won't let him keep it at home. He discovers, though, that he read the letter wrong and didn't win second prize but first prize. Now, what can he do with a woolly mammoth?

THE SHOW-AND-TELL LION, by Barbara Abercrombie, illustrated by Lynne Avril Cravath, McElderry Books, $16.95; ages 3-7.

Nothing exciting has happened to Matthew and it is his turn for show-and-tell. He makes up a story about his lion. Each day his classmates ask him for more information and his lion story keeps getting better. Matthew tells his mother what he has done. She explains to him that although he has a wonderful imagination, he needs to tell his class that he made up the story. Matthew makes a book of his story and reads it to the class. AMELIA'S SCHOOL SURVIVAL GUIDE, by Marissa Moss, Simon & Schuster, $9.95; ages 8-12.

It is a new school year and Amelia wants to be sure to not make the same mistakes she made last year. To help with this situation, she records 10 school-year resolutions. Included are: always have two sharpened pencils, return library books on time, eat a good breakfast every day and always be prepared for class. Amelia includes a guide to a variety of stereotypes of teachers, like the gruff grump or the homework heaper. Of course, everyone hopes for the perfect teacher. As students read this book, I am sure they will be reminded of events they have experienced, and find a few tips from Amelia on how to survive and have fun during the rest of the year.

ROOM ONE: A MYSTERY OR TWO, by Andrew Clements, Simon & Schuster, $15.95; ages 8-12.

In the small town of Plattsford, with a population of 108, each day starts the same way for Ted. He delivers the papers, then stops at the diner for a doughnut and a glass of milk. This morning it was a little different-as he passed the boarded-up Anderson house, he was sure he saw a girl standing in the window. It's not unusual to see boarded-up homes in town, as many families have moved away because of hard times. Ted thinks about the face in the window for the rest of the day.

The plot thickens. This year may be the last for the local school because there are only nine students-four in eighth grade, four in fourth grade and just Ted in sixth grade. All activities are held in one room: Scouts, pancake breakfasts and school.

Ted is not only concerned with the possibility of having to travel to a neighboring school next year, but also with who could have been in that window. We eventually learn the story of who is living in the house, why they are hiding and what Ted does to help them while they are in town.

Judy Belanger is Chicago Parent's children's book reviewer and a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.

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