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The day you begin
2018
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Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

In these books, back-to-school jitters give way to smiles, laughs - even a little learning. MAE'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL Written and illustrated by Kate Berube. "I'm not going" is a phrase parents dread this time of year, but a book as clever and friendly as this one may ease the situation. As the first day of school dawns, Mae is holding out, arms crossed, imagining disaster as her mom and dad hustle her out the door, insisting that fun lies ahead. She climbs a tree, where she's joined by a girl named Rosie. Then a "tall lady" climbs the tree too, and tells the kids her own reasons for not wanting to go. She's their teacher, of course - a playful stroke by Berube ("Hannah and Sugar"), whose loose-lined art makes even scrunchy scowls seem delightful. 32 pp. Abrams. $16.99. (Ages 3 to 6) WE DON'T EAT OUR CLASSMATES Written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins. Penelope, a young T-rex in pink overalls, wants to be a good classmate. She just has to kick her habit of ingesting her peers, who all happen to be children. Higgins ("Mother Bruce") knows how to make big, scary animals seem vulnerable, lovable and funny, adding a strategic touch of gross-out when our heroine spits her victims back up. But this story of a reformed predator - Penelope changes her ways after a goldfish chomps her finger - is really about empathy. 48 pp. Hyperion. $17.99. (Ages 3 to 8) THE DAY YOU BEGIN By Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrated by Rafael López. Starting a new school year is hard enough. Add in feeling different from your classmates, and it can shake a kid to the core. The incomparable Woodson ("Brown Girl Dreaming") and López ("Drum Dream Girl") extend a reassuring hand in this verbally and visually poetic book that soothes concerns about having the wrong hair, bringing strongsmelling lunches, speaking imperfect English or spending the summer vacation at home. The kids we meet all take a first step toward making the most of school: finding the bravery to tell their own stories out loud. 32 pp. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. $18.99. (Ages 4 to 8) THE DINOSAUR EXPERT By Margaret McNamara. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This fourth book featuring Mr. Tiffin's class (the previous one was "A Poem in Your Pocket") takes on both the excitement of a field trip to a natural-history museum and one girl's struggle to feel confident sharing her vast knowledge of prehistoric creatures - especially after a boy informs her, "Girls can't be scientists." Mr. Tiffin to the rescue: He steers her to an exhibit featuring Dr. Brandoni Gasparini, dinosaur expert. As always, McNamara and Karas excel at telling a story that balances facts and feelings. 40 pp. Random House/Schwartz & Wade. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8) BESTFRINTSATSKROOL Written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis. Did you know that "on planet Boborp, childrinx go to skrool"? Of course they do! This exuberant follow-up to "Best Frints in the Whole Universe" explains the ins and outs of the little aliens' raucous way of learning (with a little lunch-throwing in the mix). The language Portis has invented for these colorful characters is hilarious and easy to follow - silly perfection, and maybe even an inspiration for little linguists to make up their own. 40 pp. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8) GOODBYE BRINGS HELLO By Dianne White. Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman. Starting school also means letting go of the trappings of little-kid life. This wise book bears witness to the transitions that lead up to that big one: growing out of favorite clothes, moving from trike to bike and from crayons to pencils. White ("Blue on Blue") and Wiseman ("Play This Book") keep the tone encouraging and gentle, offering a chance for even the youngest kids to indulge their nostalgia. 40 pp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $17.99. (Ages 3 to 7) TWIG Written and illustrated by Aura Parker. It's tough being a stick insect. You blend in easily - all too easily, as Heidi, the new girl at bug school, finds. When it comes to making friends, long, lean, woody-brown Heidi suffers, because no one can see her beyond her camouflage until the kind spider-teacher comes up with a solution (a scarf). Truth be told, there's not much to the story, but this adorable debut by Parker teems with delicate details, many of them visual puzzles. 32 pp. Simon & Schuster. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8) MR. WOLF'S CLASS Written and illustrated by Aron Nels Steinke. This upbeat graphic novel - the beginning of a promising new series - chronicles the activities of a bustling class of fourth graders and their devoted, slightly overwhelmed teacher, Mr. Wolf. Yes, he's a wolf; the students are a host of animals, including a frog, a duck, a dog and a rabbit. Everyone has hands and feet and walks upright, though, and their problems and behavior are strikingly like their counterparts in schools for human children - only funnier. 160 pp. Scholastic/Graphix. $9.99. (Ages 6 to 10) MARIA RUSSO is the children's books editor at the Book Review.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) imagines being "an only" in the classroom-what it's like to be the only one with an accent ("No one understands the way words curl from your mouth"), the only one who stayed home during summer vacation ("What good is this/ when other students were flying/ and sailing"), the only one whose lunch box is filled with food "too strange or too unfamiliar for others to love as you do." Without prescribing sympathy, Woodson's poetic lines give power to each child's experience. She describes the moment when the girl who didn't go on vacation speaks her truth, her "voice stronger than it was a minute ago." She has cared for her sister all summer, she tells her classmates, reading and telling stories: "Even though we were right on our block it was like/ we got to go EVERYWHERE." And "all at once" in the seconds after sharing one's story, something shifts, common ground is revealed, and "the world opens itself up a little wider/ to make some space for you." López (Drum Dream Girl) paints the book's array of children as students in the same classroom; patterns and colors on the children's clothing and the growing things around them fill the spreads with life. Woodson's gentle, lilting story and López's artistry create a stirring portrait of the courage it takes to be oneself: "There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you until the day you begin/ to share your stories." Ages 5-8. Author's agent: Kathleen Nishimoto, William Morris Endeavor. Illustrator's agent: Stefanie Von Borstel, Full Circle. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 2-A beautiful and inclusive story that encourages children to find the beauty in their own lives and share it with the world. A young girl with brown skin and curly black hair stays home through the summer to watch over her younger sister while her classmates travel to distant lands. A young boy from Venezuela arrives in his new school and finds the children in his class do not speak his language. Another child brings a lunch that her classmates find too strange while another isn't physically able to keep up with the play of other children. Each child feels very alone until they begin to share their stories and discover that it is nearly always possible to find someone a little like you. López's vibrant illustrations bring the characters' hidden and unspoken thoughts to light with fantastic, swirling color. Shifting hues and textures across the page convey their deep loneliness and then slowly transition into bright hopeful possibilities. Full-bleed illustrations on every page are thick with collaged patterns and textures that pair perfectly with melodic prose that begs to be read aloud. Though the story focuses on four singular experiences, there's an essential acknowledgment that everyone will experience a time when no one is quite like them, when they can't find their voice, or when they feel very alone. Woodson's superlative text sees each character turns that moment of desolation into an opportunity to be brave and find hope in what they have in common. VERDICT This masterful story deserves a place in every library.-Laken Hottle, Providence Community Library © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.<br> <br> There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look, talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.<br> <br> Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical text and Rafael Lopez's dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
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