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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book or Bell? Written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ashley Spires. Bloomsbury, Raincoast, 2017. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"It was incredible.
Simply stupendous.
Who knew?
Whoever would have
Who -


Retirement has brought some remarkable changes in my life. The lack of the dreaded school bell being one of them. No more buzzers letting me know when the workday starts and ends, or when I can take a bathroom break. Since I live across the street from a K-8 school, I can still hear them ... if I really listen! Rarely does that happen anymore. The school bell no longer rules my week days!

Though he usually follows the rules, finding a perfect book changes Henry. He is so consumed by its story he can ignore the distractions (including the school bell) that are part of every school day.  Why?, you ask. It's because Henry is reading a book that allows him access to another place and time; nothing interrupts his escape from what is going on around him. When he 'stays put' at lunch time, at recess, during P.E, things at school go awry. No one else has ever done what Henry is doing.

The adults want to help. The teacher lets the principal know. The mayor makes the suggestion that a bigger bell is all that is needed. That bell affects everyone else - but it doesn't have any effect on Henry. As Henry reads, school life continues its downward spiral with Henry not taking his place in usual activities. In steps the governor, and even a visiting senator to offer solutions that do not work. What's the real solution?

Ashley Spires adds her signature humor in 'art created with watercolor, ink and - due to the interference of kitten paws - some digital adjustments' that will garner full attention for all that is happening on this book's pages. As it becomes sillier and sillier, laughs from readers will get louder. I love the chain reactions and they will, too.

Cheerful and engaging, this is a terrific read aloud.

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