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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dear Substitute, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Disney/Hyperion, 2018. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"Dear Line, 

Yes, I know I'm supposed
to be line leader this week.

Especially since I was chair
stacker last week.

I'm sorry that You-Know-Who
doesn't know how we do things
in Room 102."

Poor substitutes! It's not an easy pursuit. In the early grades, little ones miss their teacher. Then, they miss routines that make their days easier and more familiar. In older grades, students often do their best to give the 'sub' a go! This would be a perfect book for a substitute teacher to carry in a bookbag to be read at the beginning of every new assignment.

The first letter is directed at the person who replaces Mrs. Giordano.

"Dear Substitute,

Wow. This is a surprise.
What are you doing here?
Where's Mrs. Giordano,
and why didn't she warn us?"

There are sixteen short letters her; the first to the substitute herself and the final one to Mrs. Giordano. The rest are written to the varied events that take place during the school day, including a library visit, the school pet, lunch, and story time. Each is written to show readers how much things are disrupted with someone new is in charge of a classroom. The day certainly seems catawuimpus.

As he does, Chris Raschka uses watercolor and gouache to create his colorful, detailed artwork. His borders and humorous images add charm and interest, and are sure to hold attention. Poor turtle waiting for a clean tank! Lovely world of poetry and imagination! And, I love the spread that shows Miss Pelly with her special powers.

"Dear Miss Pelly, 

Now you care about rules?
How did you even see us swapping?
I think you have what my mom has:
back-of-the-head eyes.
I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking about
people being allergic to things.
I was just thinking about Connor's yummy chips."

Using humor and understanding, the authors pen a story that might just help little ones understand that changes can be welcome, if we look with a new perspective.

For those who spend their days being the 'chaos' in classrooms, you might add the following books to your repertoire (along with a book of fun poetry). Good luck and happy days!

Miss Nelson is Missing (Allard, 2003), and Here Comes Teacher Cat (Underwood, 2017).

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