Rex offers a different perspective on the first day of school: that of the newly constructed school building itself.
Robinson’s illustrations of Frederick Douglass Elementary are anthropomorphized only from the front and side views (two doors with a window “eye” in each, the two handles making a nose, and mouthlike stairs). Throughout the book, though, the text relays the conversations the school has with Janitor as well as its often funny thoughts and feelings. The brand-new school isn’t so sure that he will enjoy having children inside its walls learning and playing. Once they are there, the school is shocked by a few of the older kids who remark “This place stinks,” and “I hate school.” And when one little freckled girl has to be carried in by her mother, he thinks, “I must be awful.” He’s embarrassed by his fire alarm and doesn’t like having milk snorted on him. But he enjoys learning about shapes with the kindergarten kids, and he likes the change he sees coming over the freckled girl. In fact, he has so much fun on the first day that he asks Janitor to invite all the kids back again tomorrow. “I’ll see what I can do,” says the laconic black man. Using his signature, simple style, Robinson alternates scenes of the building and its interiors with shots that show the boisterously diverse kids’ first day.
A unique point of view makes this school book stand out. (Picture book. 4-8)