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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Second Grade Holdout, written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast, 2017. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Tyler's sisters say second grade is really hard. And Mr. Glazer's class is hardest of all. You have to learn the presidents by heart. Forward AND backward. Ready for the kind of spelling words he gives? Platypus. Rendezvous. Discombobulated!"

Our poor narrator!  Despite all the good things that happened in first grade, he is once again apprehensive about a brand new school year. All of his anxieties resurface, and he shares them with his parents.

"We probably won't get fun jobs to do every day. "Your job is to be a good student," Dad says. That's just one example of why second grade is not for me. Also, Tyler's going to be in Mrs. Herman's class. And I'll be in Mr. Glazer's class."

His parents are unwilling to consider any of his solutions to the problem. Going back to first grade would be so easy! No minds are changed. Tyler's sisters don't help in any way, gleefully filling his head with images of how tough Mr. Glazer is. Even the playground is different this year!

When the girls admit they have been playing with his head, they turn to their own brother, regaling him with problems in Mrs. Herman's class. It takes no time for the boys to catch on to the tricks being played on them - after all, they are second graders!

Matthew Cordell's cartoon-like pen and ink and watercolor images are perfectly matched to the story's nervous narrator. Readers can see how apprehensive he is about a new school year (as are so many other children) in expressive variety on every page. The spot illustrations, and word bubbles, 
add warmth and humor. Every emotion is faced and shared.

As I have said before, the anticipation is often worse than the reality. Tell that to the kids who are NOT so eagerly anticipating school starting today! Change can be sooo tough. Hopefully, reading this book to your class (or your own kids) will help make the transition a bit easier.

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