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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ten Rules, written by John Grandits and illustrated by Michael Allen Austin. Clarion, Thomas Allen & Son. 2011. $ 19.99 ages 7 and up

"James had told me about riding the bus. He said if you weren't careful, you could get laughed at or yelled at. You could get pushed around or even pounded. Big kids would steal your lunch and your money and even your football card collection! Sometimes I wondered if he was exaggerating a little. But if even half the stories were true, I was in trouble."
I can't wait to read this book in the fall...just get me some kids who ride the bus and we'll have them rolling in the aisles. And, breaking all of James' rules! Our narrator is very, very apprehensive about taking the school bus on his own. His older brother has much to share about his own experiences and ten rules to follow if he wants to make it to school and home unscathed. It is a daunting task. It doesn't take long for it all to start to fall apart!

"RULE ONE: Never sit in the first row.

The second row was filled - and the third row, too. There were kids of every size and shape and color on the bus, and every one of them was staring at me. I felt like a zebra at a lion party."

That is only the beginning. He goes on to break almost every single rule his brother has given. He makes eye contact, he touches someone's stuff, he talks to a girl and he lets his imagination run wild with the bully beatings that could happen every day from this day all the way through college. When that initial ride is over, he makes a beeline to his classroom and settles in for the day, which goes quite well. 

In fact, something nice happened:

"At recess I was watching a game of kickball, and I saw the talking girl from the school bus. She was the captain of one of the teams, and she was really good! Anyway, while she was waiting for her turn to kick, she came over and talked to me. And talked, and talked."

Things are looking up; then, at home time, his bus is nowhere to be seen. Well, he doesn't recognize it among the 'thousands' of buses that are pulled up to the school. His guardian angel talking girl saves him once more by calling out to him. He's last on (another rule broken) and he has to sit beside the big bully he met earlier. While sitting together he makes a discovery...he and the big kid might share some of the same fears. A short, polite talk with the bus driver brings a solution and all is well.

James is anxious to hear about his day; he listens and then learns that one rule has been added: "Never, absolutely never, pay attention to your big brother's list of Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want to Survive the School Bus!"

Need I say more!

Well, yes. I have to tell you that the acrylic artwork adds so much fun and depth to the tale told. From the title page where our narrator sits diligently watching a science show on TV while his mother pointedly lets him know his time is running out, to the school bus coming over the hill in early morning filtered light, to the expressions exhibited on the final spread by the now experienced bus rider and disheartened advice giver, kids will eat it up and ask for more.   I repeat, I can't wait to share it!

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