Henry, the dapper lad in the black suit with the unruly hair, makes another appearance in Cali and Chaud’s (A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum…, 2017, etc.) latest collaboration, this time showing a new student the highlights of their titular school.
While the new girl seems rather unimpressed, readers may raise an eyebrow or two at the class pet (a ginormous jellyfish), the music teacher—a Las Vegas–era Elvis look-alike with an electric guitar—or the tentacles escaping from behind a hallway door, two students and a dog caught in their grasp. Surely, though, they will thrill at the “shortcut” to recess and its attendant delights, which include swings, a slide, a Ferris wheel, treehouses, and a roller coaster, all up high in the branches of a single tree. In nods to The Wizard of Oz film and Harry Potter, the janitor sits behind a curtain watching and controlling everything, and the office of the magical principal is reached by rowboat that plies a basement river beyond a sleeping dragon. The ending scene explains the new girl’s blasé attitude, but once read, the surprise is gone. Chaud’s delicate lines and muted colors give the illustrations a bit of a Victorian Gothic feel, and the antics of Henry’s dog are amusing. The students and teachers are diverse, though both Henry and the new girl are white.
Readers may wish their own schools looked more like this one, maybe minus the swimming instructor and the mashed-potato machine…. (Picture book. 5-8)