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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My New Teacher and Me! Written by Al Yankovic with illustrations by Wes Hargis. Harper, 2013. $19.99 ages 4 and up

 the truth can seem crazy -
like that day in June
When my father famously
walked on the moon,
And he played ukulele
while flying a kite:
It was in all the papers -
you've heard of it, right?"

What happens when an indestructible force meets an immovable object? Al Yankovic takes on just such a premise in his book about teachers and students. It is a lesson in imagination and understanding.  While it does give the reader pause, it will also make you laugh to read the antics of one young boy who is 'different'. I think it's an important story to tell, and I would bet that Dr. Ken Robinson might agree. If you haven't heard any of his TED talks, be sure to check them out.

When Billy arrives at school on the first day of a new school year, he is a bit anxious wondering about his new teacher, as I am sure his teacher is also feeling as he wonders about his new class. It doesn't take long for them to discover their differences. It's pretty easy to see on the first double page spread what the teacher is about....rules. They are posted on every desk, on the walls and even on the door as students enter.

It doesn't take long for Mr. Booth to notice Billy:

"He said, "You! Young man! Why's that filth on your shirt?
You can't come in my classroom all covered with dirt!"

Little does he know that Billy will have a story about that dirt...a story that is pretty unbelievable, and not pleasing to his teacher's ears. When faced with Mr. Booth's disbelief, Billy just goes on inventing new parts to his tale:

"For instance, this friend of my third cousin Ned's
Got a farm where the dairy cows each have two heads!
That's so 'highly unlikely' the tourists all stop
Just to take their own pictures, at three bucks a pop!"

The whole thing is sure to please listeners with the tall tales of a young boy with a fabulous imagination. Mr. Booth is his opposite, longing for order and simplicity in his dealings with his students. It takes a while, but there comes a time when Mr. Booth makes a bit of a startling discovery about Billy. He accepts his gift with decorum, and some incredulity.

I think it's going to be a good year...start to finish!

The illustrations created by Wes Hargis expand on the text in just the right way. Using watercolor, pencil and digital acrylic, he fills his pages with appealing characters, an imaginative setting and many details that need to be mentioned as the book is shared.

Let the imagination soar! .

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