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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

School's First Day of School, written by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2016. $24.99 ages 5 and up

"The school creaked. "Children?" "All kinds of children. They'll come to play games and to learn." "Oh," said the school, "will you be here?" "You'll see me after the school day is over," said Janitor. "Don't worry - you'll like the children." But the school thought that Janitor was probably wrong about that. Then they came, the children did and there were more of them ... "

There are such amazing artists out there working to bring outstanding stories to our children. I constantly wonder about their thought process and the ideas that become the books they write. You may have; but I have never read a book from the perspective of a brand new school as it enjoys the fruits of Janitor's labor. Everything is so clean and quiet. Janitor knows that things will soon change. School is uneasy.

As the children arrive, Frederick Douglass Elementary School voices its concerns and observations. It hears what some children are saying about being at school, watches as a young girl is carried through its doors kicking up a stink, notes the behavior of bullies on the playground and pales at the cafeteria mayhem. Then, there are the more positive goings-on: learning about shapes in the kindergarten, noting that the wailing girl is almost smiling, the joy of playground play.

We, as the audience, are privy to all of the feelings felt as the day goes on. In the end, the good outweighs the bad and the Janitor is asked to invite all of the children to return tomorrow.  He says he will see what he can do about that. Together at the end of the day, the school now understands his role and he tells Janitor:

"I thought I was your house."
"Nope," said Janitor.
"I ... suppose some other place gets
to be your house," the school added.
Janitor nodded. "That's true. But you
get to be a school. That's lucky."

Lucky, indeed.

You know I love Christian Robinson's work! He just amps up my admiration with his school scenes, both interior and exterior. He uses white backdrops to bring attention to the families, the children, the fun and the chaos of the first day. Kids starting back to school will be familiar with so much of what he presents in each and every spread. What a masterful way of looking at the start of the school year from an entirely unique and captivating perspective!                                                                       

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