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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Joe and Sparky Go to School, written by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2013. $18.00 ages 5 and up

"Joe watched Sparky grow smaller and smaller. He looked like a pea. "SLOW DOWN, BUS!" yelled Sparky the pea. "SAFETY FIRST!" "Do not worry, my small, green friend!" called Joe. "I will save you!" Joe was no slowpoke. He caught the bus. He held on tight. Joe and Sparky rode the bus out of the zoo."

Early readers are going to find this funny enough to read again! Safari Land is rife with 'noisy short people' when Joe the giraffe and Sparky the turtle look over the hedge one day. Those children quickly climb into a school bus and head straight toward the two animal friends. As they check out the bus and its occupants, Sparky inadvertently finds himself on its roof...and the bus is PULLING AWAY!

Joe is in shock but it doesn't keep him from chasing the bus, and grabbing hold of the back of it. He wants to save his friend. Soon, they leave the zoo. Little do they know that they are headed back to school with the children and their teacher. Nor do they know that the teacher will step on her glasses, breaking them and creating a source of ensuing hilarity for readers:

"She squinted at Joe. "Is that you, Timmy?" she asked. "I thought  you were absent today."
"That is not Timmy," said a boy. "That is a giraffe."

She thinks that Sparky is a 'funny green hat' on 'Timmy's' head, and goes on as if the children are trying to trick her when they go out of their way to set things straight for her. 

This is their third chapter book, and Joe and Sparky continue to entertain with silly dialogue and funny misinterpretations. The two remain polar opposites, but children will understand what makes their friendship work. Readers will giggle and then want to share it with others. I love it when the two discover the toilet which engages them in a number of flushes. They finally declare that school is wonderful because they have 'a magic pond'...too funny!

Watercolor and pencil crayon artwork add to the fun...with bright colors, expressive faces and lots of action. The illustrations also support early reading attempts with visual clues that keep the reader wanting to know more and able to read unfamiliar words.

Fans will be glad to welcome Joe and Sparky back! The author leaves us thinking that we are not through with them yet.

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