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Monday, August 15, 2011

Louise the Big Cheese and the Back-to-School Smarty-Pants, written by Elise Primavera and illustrated by Diane Goode. Simon & Schuster, 2011. $19.99 ages 7 and up

"Louise imagined that Mrs. Pearl had pearly white teeth, blond hair the color of pearls, and that Mrs. Pearl wore lots of pearls.
With a teacher like that, getting straight As would be a cinch, Louise decided."

You may have met Louise in earlier books. If not, you are about to be charmed. First, you have to get past the endpapers. What absolute fun they are! There are some 'big cheeses' there...Marie Curie, Louisa May Alcott, Hillary Clinton, who did get straight As. There are some 'little cheeses' who did, too. You may not know them!

This is a perfect book to read at the beginning of another school year. Louise dreams of being a big cheese. On the night before school starts, she talks with her sister who makes the announcement that she is already studying for a year of straight As.  Louise (and her dog) have a comment:

"To get straight As you have to be real smart, like Albert I Spy.
I think it's Albert Einstein. (this from the dog!)
I Spy, Einstein - he's smart, right?'

Not to be outdone by her older sister, Louise vows to get straight As this year, too. She thinks seriously about the many things that will happen when she does. Friends, grade skipping, promotion to college...the possibilities are endless.

She knows who her teacher is going to be and she imagines just how glorious she will look, how thrilled she will be to have Louise in her classroom and that learning with Mrs. Pearl is likely to lead to those coveted As she so desperately wants. Turns out that Mrs. Pearl is not quite what Louise has imagined, and 'she never gives As'.

Mrs. Pearl has high expectations for her students and Louise does not quite measure up. She tries hard, but is met with a 'you can do better, Miss Cheese' after each assignment. Some people get As...not Louise. It doesn't take long for Louise to be less enamored of her teacher. Her unease about the upcoming report card leads to a sleepless night.

Imagine her surprise when Mrs. Pearl is nowhere to be seen, and a substitute takes her place. No report card...Louise is very pleased. As luck would have it, Louise gets her first A under Miss Sprinkles' tutelage. Drat! So did everyone else! Hmmm... By the end of the day, Louise finds herself missing her teacher, and even worrying about her. She is thankful to find Mrs. Pearl in her rightful place the following morning. And, she is quite pleased with her report card, too. Is Louise worthy of being a big cheese? I think so!

Diane Goode's sassy artwork matches Louise's personality. It is full of expression, character and adds a generous dose of humor. Readers' attention will be focused on her vivid imagination, her conversations with her canine companion and her concerns as her hope fades about second grade being the year of straight As.

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