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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Follow the Line to School, written and illustrated by Laura Ljungkvist. Viking, Penguin. 2011. $19.50 ages 5 and up

"Elephants live in Africa and Asia. How many elephants do you see? Many chickens live on farms. What other animals here might live on a farm? Whales live in the ocean. What other animals shown here also live in the water? Follow the line to the library..."

I said I would keep my eye out for this book. I so enjoyed the first one, and am totally intrigued by the concept. In this one, we take a journey with the line that leads us from room to room at school. Perfect for sharing with newcomers, or with a kindergarten class.

We used to do a gingerbread chase to help my new kindergarten kids find their way around the school and become familiar with their new environs. We would decorate a gingerbread man that my Mom made every year, and then let him rest while we read some variants of his story in the library. When we got back to the classroom, he was always gone; but, he left a note or footprints that led to the next place...gym, office, grade four class, music room, washrooms.
Everyone in the school was on board, and they would be adamant that they had, in fact, seen him but he had escaped. They would offer an idea about where to look next...and so on and so on...until we returned to the classroom to find him, exhausted and resting. The end result for the hard work of chasing him all over the school was a delicious piece of gingerbread. Mmmmm! We had a photographer with us as we searched, and someone scribing some of the fun of the chase as we went along. They provided our first class book, and it was shared often throughout the school year. Later, it was placed in the library. Those kids were still coming back in grade five to relive the action!

This book reminds me of that chase. As in Laura Ljungkvist's first book, we follow the line as it runs continually through the school. It leads us past many familiar items...scissors, crayons, notebooks and then in through the front doors. As we explore we make stops in a variety of rooms, noting signs, objects, posters and many other familiar scenes. Every spread offers a new room, and all that it holds. We move from the welcoming opening scene to the science corner, the library, the art room, and back to the classroom. Lunchtime means a trip to the cafeteria, and then out to the playground for some well-deserved play. Then, we're off to the math area, the music room and back to the classroom in time to go home.

There is much to see, and discuss...and questions to be answered. Each one helps with new discoveries about the place where many days will be spent. So much thinking, and so many opportunities for makes for a dynamic, fun-filled read.  There are always surprises to be discovered.

I found myself following that line with my finger from room to room, place to place and out the door at the end of that first day of school. It will evoke memories as you gaze at the collage art, the varying textures, the archival photographs and the many other reminders of your own school days. Every time I read it, I find make new discoveries. Imagine the fun for someone who is just waiting to make that first foray into formal education!

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