A first-grade love story with a woodchuck as a go-between. Really.
Other kids bring a ukulele, a sombrero, a feather, or a tadpole to show and tell. Not Chuck. He brings Woodchuck to class, and the guest rodent entertains everyone to such an extent that he becomes a permanent fixture in the classroom. Woodchuck is especially friendly to Caroline, the first-person narrator, a brunette who wears glasses. On a cold, windy day, Woodchuck delivers a hat for her to wear that looks suspiciously like Chuck’s. And when she drops her cupcake, Woodchuck is there with another: Chuck’s. The rodent-mediated sweetness continues throughout the school year, until Chuck finally works up the courage to ask her if he and Woodchuck might walk her home, the final spread showing the three of them holding hands, Woodchuck in the middle. While kids will undoubtedly find Woodchuck’s antics cool, this is otherwise a very odd picture book—a love story involving 6-year-olds. They don’t play together, and Chuck isn’t protecting his ladylove from bullies or standing up for her, making this story about as far from first-grade reality as it can get (besides the genius mammal). Bell’s ink-and-digital cartoon illustrations depict blocky characters with not much facial expression, excepting Woodchuck, who rather steals the show. Both main characters are white, though there is a bit of diversity in the school.
Skip—skinned knees should be the only elementary school drama. (Picture book. 5-7)