Hello everyone! I want to share my thoughts on a few lovely picture books here: thanks to kind friends at Raincoast Books, I’ll be talking about Time for School, Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated in the style of Jill McElmurry by John Joseph, and The New Kid Has Fleas by Ame Dyckman and Eda Kaban. Two just-right for back-to-school or distance learning picks!
The Little Blue Truck books are a smash hit in our household (with both kids!) and as evidenced by their beloved, bestselling status, they are clearly a hit with many, many others! In the latest entry, Time for School, Little Blue Truck, our friendly, caring truck meets a rather intimidatingly big and useful school bus that is carrying all of Blue and Toad’s friends to school. Opening with its beautiful singsong refrain of “Horn went ‘Beep!’/Engine purred. Friendliest sounds/you ever heard”, the new story sees Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad calling out a cheery “Beep! Beep! Hi!/ to a big, bright school bus passing by”. Wishing aloud to Toad and their new friend that he had a great job like the school bus, the bus replies to Little Blue Truck that they are “shiny yellow!…long and wide/with lots of windows- and seats inside!”. Now, Little Blue Truck is, of course, not built nor outfitted like a bus and that knowledge makes him feel a bit sad as he carries along his route. But when Blue and Toad respond to a cry from their distressed friend Piggy- who overslept and missed school bus pick-up!- the two stalwarts step in to try and help their friend make it to school as quickly as possible. A jaunty and sweetly exciting build to the finale follows, with a delightful, cheery ending. As ever, Alice Schertle’s kindhearted and comforting rhyming words, and John Joseph’s completely endearing illustrations- rendered so gorgeously in the style of the late Jill McElmurry– make Time for School, Little Blue Truck a terrific read.
There are, to be sure, picture books out there about being the new kid in school, or making friends with a new kid in school. But, have you ever read a story about a new kid who AROOO’s…or chases squirrels for their lunch? Well, hang on to your shoes (…the new kid doesn’t really wear them) and get ready for The New Kid Has Fleas by Ame Dyckman and Eda Kaban. Told in first-person narrative, The New Kid Has Fleas follows a young child at school as they tell us a bit about a new kid in their class. The new kid, we learn, is a bit different…in how they behave, interact, and in the kinds of cuisine they prefer. A classmate named Molly goes so far as to spread a rumour that THE NEW KID HAS FLEAS. When our narrator finds out that they’ll be paired with the new kid for a science project, they are more than a bit nervous. What’s it going to be like? What’s the new kid like outside of school? Where do they live? And…what’s their family like? A few reviews I have read noted that a particular ~moment~ in the story changed their experience and thoughts about the book (you’ll know the moment when you get to it), and I considered that, too. But I ended up delighting in the slightly surreal, swing-direction that Dyckman and Kaban take their story: without giving away spoilers, I will just say that it’s awesome how The New Kid Has Fleas takes on differences big and small, and features a young person who cares and takes the time to build a new friendship around unanticipated circumstances. Ame Dyckman, who you may recognize as the author behind a bunch of very funny books (like You DON’T Want a Unicorn! with Liz Climo and Dandy with Charles Santoso) teams up with animator and illustrator Eda Kaban (Even Superheroes Have Bad Days written by Shelly Becker) here for surprising, giggly story matched perfectly with Kaban’s relaxed, fluid and wonderfully expressive artwork. A funny and genuinely considerate story that looks at differences and the problems inherent in gossip and making unkind presumptions, The New Kid Has Fleas is unexpected and unique back-to-school reading.
I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.