Monday, September 5, 2011

1. Don't Worry, Be Happy.

Help kids look at school from the funny side in the first two picture books and walk to school in wonder in the last.
Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the School Bus, by John Grandits, illustrated by Michael Allen Austin, Clarion, $16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages. Kyle has no choice but to swallow his worries and climb up the school bus. It's his first time on one and he's going to have face it alone, now that his big brother James is walking to school. Lucky thing James has armed Kyle with a list of dos and don'ts and some cheeky advice, "Just think of what I'd do and try to act like me." But when Kyle accidentally breaks every rule his brother gave him, including talking to a bully, he learns the most important lesson of all: never, absolutely never pay attention to your big brother's rules for the bus. Here's a fun, empowering story to inspire your child to skip up the steps of the bus (and maybe even sit in the first row).

Louise the Big Cheese and the Back-To-School Smarty-Pants, by Elise Primavera, illustrated by Diane Goode, A Paula Wiseman Book, $16.99, ages 5 and up, 40 pages.  Louise wants to be a smarty pants like her big sister and get straight As. But with a taskmistress for a second grade teacher, it's not looking good. If only a gorilla would grab up her teacher and run away with her. Then one day it seems like her wish could come true. Her teacher is absent. But now the substitute is giving everyone in class an A and suddenly an A doesn't feel that special. On top of that, the substitute is letting Louise get away with sloppy work. Could it be that Louise likes to be pushed to do better -- and may actually miss her teacher? Here's a book that shows that it's how hard you try that counts. Don't miss the endpapers for a parade of famous smarty pants. (Uh, Madonna, what are you doing there?)

A Few Blocks, written and illustrated by Cybele Young, Groundwood, $18.95, ages 4-8, 48 pages. Ferdie doesn't want to go to school, "not now, maybe never." But with a little help from big sister Viola, a walk to school becomes a magical adventure. With every block, Viola spurs him on with imaginative play. First Viola suggests Ferdie's coat is a superfast cape and they pretend to soar toward school. But when Ferdie gets tired, he plunks down and doesn't want to go any further. That's when Viola spots a leaf in the gutter. Look, Ferdie, it's a pirate ship! Soon they're braving fierce storms across another block. But then the leaf slips away and Ferdie throws himself on the grass sobbing. So Viola hands him a piece of cardboard shaped like a knight's shield and asks him to save her from a dragon. But by the time Ferdie frees her, Viola's too worn out to walk the last block. Could Ferdie imagine something to give them both the oomph to walk into school? Everything in Ferdie's fantasy world is cut from cityscape, giving readers the sensation of being in the real world and imaginary one at once.The boy's stead is cut out from a street corner scene and birds are cut from drawings of city signs. Then each of those details is pieced into collages that stream across the page, gentle coaxing the kids to school and readers with them.

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