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Children's Book Reviews


School Daze

School Daze

by
Kate Marley


So much of a child's life is spent in school and for good or bad, the influence and impact is probably on a par with family time. School is where kids are not only educated about acedemics, but about important social skills they'll need when adults. How to handle doubt and fear. How to deal with bullies. How to work with a group, etc, etc. Here are some good fairly new books about schools situations.


PICTURE BOOKS

Emily's First 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells. c 2000, Hyperion.
The teacher promises the class something special on their 100th day of school, and Emily thinks that will take forever. But for each day she finds a matching number, and in a way that shows how learning can integrate itself with the rest of a child’s life, and how time really does fly when the learning is interesting. Very cute illustrations (as always!), fun, and reassuring.

Science Fair Bunnies by Kathryn Lasky. c 2000, Candlewick Press.
Those adorable first graders Clyde and Rosemary are back, this time tackling the nerve wracking science fair project. What’s even worse, their plants die a week before it’s due! Fortunately, Clyde does come up with another idea, and while a bit unusual, it gets them through the fair. Colorful illustrations are by Marylin Hafner.

Class Trip by Grace Maccarone. c 1999, Scholastic.
Bright, simple pictures by Betsy Lewin are an excellent compliment to this neat rhyming story about a field trip to the zoo. Kids will enjoy Sam’s curiosity and the refrain to keep up with the rest.

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. c 2000, Charlesbridge Publishing.
The alarm goes off, but Sarah Jane doesn’t want to go to her new school. She doesn’t know anyone, and it’s just too hard. She’s nervous, she feels sick and wants to stay home in bed. But finally she drags herself up, gets her lunchbox and goes to school. The hilarious illustrations by Judy Love and the surprise ending will delight everyone.

Day Care Days by Mary Brigid Barrett. c 1999, Little Brown. Told in bouncy rhymes, this is a simple story of one little boy’s busy day. In the morning, everyone rushes to get ready – his big sister goes to school, and the younger two go to day care while Mom and Dad go to work. Colorful pictures by Patti Beling Murphy show a happy day care routine.



TRANSITIONAL BOOKS

So Long, Stinky Queen by Frieda Wishinsky. c 2000, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. How does a kid handle a verbal bully in school? Samantha wavers between ignoring Evelyn’s taunts and mind games or looking for a way to get her back. But when you’re in third grade, it’s hard to find a balance between being good and standing up for oneself. How Samantha does both makes for a good story. Pen and pencil illustrations are by Linda Hendry.

Phoebe Flower’s Adventures: That's What kids are for by Barbara A. Roberts. c 1998, Advantage Books. Lively Phoebe just can’t seem to stay out of trouble in school. Not big trouble, but the steady kind brought on by her impulsiveness and tendency to be easily distracted. Many kids (particularly ADHD kids) will recognize, empathize and cheer her on with her struggle to be good and her long, hilarious explanations about what really happened. Excellent pen drawings are supplied by Kate Sternberg.

Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in Her Pocket by Barbara Park. c 2000, Random House. Irrepressible Junie and her class are headed for a field trip to a farm. But Junie has some secret fears, about scary ponies, and roosters that will peck your heads. How she copes with this new challenge will delight young readers. Black and white pictures are by Denise Brunkus.



FOR OLDER READERS

Starting School with an Enemy by Elisa Carbone. C 1998, Knopf. Sarah’s family moved to Maryland in August, and she hates it. But even worse than starting school with a bunch of strangers, is starting school with an enemy, and she has inadvertently gotten on the bad side of the boy down the street. He continues the hostilities in school, and Sarah has to find a way to deal with him and keeping another friend. A good true to life story by a Maryland author.

6th Grade Nickname Game by Gordon Korman. c 1998, Hyperion. Jeff and Wiley have been friends since forever, and few in their school have escaped the pair’s relentless habit of hanging nicknames on people. But the nickname game starts to unravel this year, and the guys aren’t sure why. Could it be the new redheaded girl who defies easy labeling? Their new long term sub, who’s also a football coach? Or is it the Iceman’s fault? It’s an extremely funny story, laced with some home truths about perceptions, the power of language, and school society.

Define Normal by Julie Anne Peters. c 2000, Little Brown. Antonia signs up for the peer counseling program at school because she needs an extracurricular activity to get into the advanced placement program. In the beginning, this is the only reason she sticks with her assignment, a punker named Jasmine with black lipstick and an eyebrow ring, big black boots and heavy mascara and an attitude to match. As they persevere, though, the girls find out that they have a lot more in common than they would have guessed, and that any lifestyle, even “normal”, can be camouflage for all kinds of secrets.

The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss. c 2000, Dial. There are quite a few books that talk about cliques in school, but this is one of the best I've read. The chapters are rotated, so each girl gets to tell part of her side of the story herself, and readers can see for themselves how the manipulative behavior of the clique hurts everyone, even the leader, pretty, popular Candace. It’s a thought provoking look at friendship and the abuse of power.



For Adults

Teacher Time by Marty & Stephen Swaim. c 1999, Redbud Books. Straight from Northern Virginia comes this radical idea to….give teachers more time. Between them, the authors can count the following jobs on their collective resumes – teacher, school board member, economist but most importantly, parents. Using their own experiences and that of other teachers, and LOTS of numbers and charts, they make a compelling argument for reduced class sizes, fewer classes per teacher and more planning time. All this would give teachers more time for the children. If this seems a bit simplistic, they have other suggestions also, but relieving the time crunch is the main focus. It’s a very interesting book, and worthy of greater exposure.


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All contents © 2000, Kate Marley. All rights reserved.