A rough day with a sub slowly improves as the child narrator gets to know her and is introduced to new things.
Each double-page spread is a letter addressed to some aspect of the day: “Dear Substitute, / Wow. This is a surprise. / What are you doing here? / Where’s Mrs. Giordano, / and why didn’t she warn us?” Opposite, Raschka’s watercolor-and-gouache portrait is appropriately grim and forbidding. Other addressees include “attendance” (the sub can’t pronounce some of the names), the homework the narrator labored over (a waste), and the class turtle (it’s “Tank Tuesday,” but it won’t get cleaned today). But after admonishing the narrator for lunch-trading (an allergy risk), the sub gives the class extra storytime, only with “strange little poems” instead of their chapter book. It turns out the narrator loves them, even making one (with the sub’s help) about the turtle, and just like that, the day is turned around. The narrator, depicted as a pale-skinned child with brown pigtails, has a new outlook on subs (and maybe new experiences): “Sometimes you’ve got to / mix things up a little.” Raschka’s characteristically splashy, modern-ish illustrations, while expressive and with colors that match the changing moods, are casually childlike and sometimes hard to decode.
Substitute teachers are a rite of passage for students; this narrator’s change of heart provides a good example of handling it with aplomb. (Picture book. 5-7)