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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School, written and illustrated by David Mackintosh. Harper, 2011. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"Marshall Armstrong can't participate in our Sports Day. His doctor say that he should just sit with the medicine balls and read his book."

It's obvious from the get-go (the title page) that someone is going to be a standout at school this year. Did you see that red bicycle? So, turn the page and let us at this new tale from David Mackintosh.

Ah, it's Marshall Armstrong! Ah, our narrator knows from day one: 'he looks different to me.' Different, he is. He has glasses, wears a blazer, tie, a flat-topped hat and carries a briefcase. Even his school supplies are different.

Thus begins the litany of 'things' that make Marshall Armstrong odd...a double page spread with telescopic miniatures runs the gamut of all those peculiarities. His arm has red spots, his watch doesn't have hands. You must be getting the picture by now. In the cafeteria, on the playground, in the gym, Marshall's differences are obvious. He has no TV and reads the newspaper. Is there anything about him that fits?

When everyone at school is invited to Marshall's birthday party, our narrator is disgruntled at his mother's insistence that he attend and take a present. He is sure it will be an ordeal:

"AND we'll all have to be careful
not to get too hot and bothered...

AND he'll make us read the
newspaper with his dad...


It's just too much!

You may have guessed, as many listeners will have, that things are about to change. The birthday party is a blast! There's a train set, a pinata, an obstacle course, monkey name it, Marshall's got it. Plus, his mom makes time for a power nap; then, the fun continues. Even a party bag for every attendee os proferred!

Quelle surpris! It is obvious to the reader and to our narrator that 'you can't judge a book by its cover' and it leads to a little lesson:

"Elizabeth Bell is new to our school.
I tell Miss Wright that she should sit at the front
with me and Marshall for the first few days,
until she settles in."

Wonderful!  A keeper, that's for sure...and a '10' in my books!

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