It’s not Mary’s little lamb, but Joe the giraffe and Sparky the turtle who go to school one day in this third installment of Michalak and Remkiewicz’s early-reader series.
When Joe and Sparky spy a field trip at Safari Land, “the famous cageless zoo,” Joe can’t resist getting a closer look at the school bus, which is big, yellow and loud, just like him. With Sparky perched atop his head, Joe sidles up to the bus, and the turtle inadvertently ends up speeding away on the bus’ roof. Ever loyal, Joe leaps onto the back of the bus to save his friend. In the second chapter, they arrive at the school, where the teacher, Miss Hootie, steps on her glasses. Her sight compromised, she mistakes Joe and Sparky for a student (presumably one that’s wearing a hat), much to her real students’ delight and amusement. Try as they might, the animals can’t quite master the class routines, and Joe is woefully disappointed, as he wants to earn a star from Miss Hootie. Happily, Sparky finds ways to affirm his friend, and they end up back in Safari Land by book’s end. While the story feels rather forced and reliant on slapstick, and the pictures not always great at providing context cues for new readers, fans of the earlier, stronger series installments will be pleased to revisit its characters.
Onward Joe and Sparky! (Early reader. 6-8)