Substitute teachers are a rite of passage for students; this narrator’s change of heart provides a good example of handling...

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DEAR SUBSTITUTE

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)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-5022-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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A strong, accessible diary story for readers seeking an adorable animal tale.

PUG'S SNOW DAY

From the Diary of a Pug series , Vol. 2

Bub the anxious pug tackles snow days and new neighbors in his second outing.

Bub, acclaimed by some as “the cutest pug on the planet,” at first shares the enthusiasm owner Bella expresses about snow days even though he doesn’t know what they are. Then Duchess the cat (mildly antagonistic, in typical feline fashion) rains on Bub’s parade by pointing out that snow is water—and Bub’s no fan of rain or baths. After a comedic and disastrous first attempt, Bub learns how to properly dress for snow and enjoy it. The outdoor fun’s cut short by mysterious noises coming from the new neighbor, which frighten Bella into thinking there’s a monster. Bub puts on a Sherlock Holmes get-up to investigate but becomes afraid himself of the new neighbor’s large dog. Finally, Bella meets Jack, who’s been working on a tree fort, and his dog, Luna, who is enthusiastically friendly. The story ends on a positive note, as they all happily work together on the fort. The full-color cartoon illustrations, especially of Bub, are adorably expressive and certain to please the age group. The generous font and format—short, diary-entry paragraphs and speech-bubble conversations—create a quick pace. Bub’s stylized emoji bubbles return and are most hilarious when used to express his nervous flatulence. Bella and Jack both present white.

A strong, accessible diary story for readers seeking an adorable animal tale. (Fantasy. 5-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-53006-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Purposeful, but saved from didacticism by the sheer exuberance of the illustrations; the accessible text introduces the idea...

SAME, SAME BUT DIFFERENT

Although today’s kids usually communicate through texting or email, Elliot from the United States and Kailash from India use pictures and a few simple sentences to exchange information about their lives. 

Their teachers facilitate the snail mailing of pictorial letters, just as the author-illustrator did when she visited Nepal, which provided the inspiration for this book. The title, also used as a refrain throughout the book, is a popular saying in India and Nepal, heard by Kostecki-Shaw when she traveled there. Elliot and Kailash explore their similarities and differences, concluding that their lives are “Different, different but the SAME!” The engaging childlike acrylic paintings with crayon, pencil, tissue paper and other collage elements show the busy crowded American streets of Elliot’s city, the traditional buildings of Kailash’s riverside village, the taxis and buses in the States and the taxis and camel-pulled carts in India. The English alphabet is reproduced on wide-ruled notebook paper and the Hindi alphabet (unfortunately unidentified) on a small slate, and both typical American pets (dog and fish) and a whole farmyard of Indian animals appear. Both kids live unusually low-tech lives (no computers or cell phones in sight), but they each enjoy learning about their pen pal’s world.

Purposeful, but saved from didacticism by the sheer exuberance of the illustrations; the accessible text introduces the idea of traditional two-way communication and demonstrates just how small our world can be. (Picture book. 5-7) 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8946-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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