A by-the-rules teacher and a tall-tale–telling student don’t see eye to eye on the first day of school in Yankovic’s rhyming salute to the power of the imagination.
Observant readers will notice right away that Mr. Booth is an uptight kind of guy: The rules everywhere are a big clue. Sure enough, the teacher singles out narrator Billy immediately, asking why he is so filthy. The answer? Billy was digging to China and unearthed a dinosaur skull. When Mr. Booth calls him on his bluff, Billy goes on to relate more stories, each more elaborate and far-fetched than the last. But in the end, Mr. Booth gets some proof that maybe Billy isn’t telling such tall tales after all, proof that he hangs on the wall as a reminder. While kids will certainly get into the spirit and fun of the book, Billy gets a bit preachy, though nonetheless inspirational, toward the end: “I’ll bet every great thinker and leader we’ve got / Could see all kinds of things other people could not! / So then why get upset if somebody like me / Tries to look at the world just a bit differently?” The ending is just open-ended enough to make readers wonder about the veracity of Billy’s tales. Hargis’ watercolor, pencil and digital acrylic illustrations are brightly colored and full of tiny details for readers to pore over.
Sure to feed imaginations. (Picture book. 4-8)