Mrs. Millie’s silliness with mixed-up words continues as her students plan a few birthday surprises, and this time, it is not just Mrs. Millie who gets her words wrong (Don't Be Silly, Mrs. Millie!, 2005, etc.).
The kids begin it by having their parents help them “decorate the classroom with colorful baboons. / Oh! We mean balloons.” They lay out treats, knowing that Mrs. Millie will call them “cubcakes” when she sees them, and lay in a good supply of “apple moose” to drink. Then it’s time for the party. They surprise Mrs. Millie and go through all the normal birthday rituals—presents, cake, blowing out the candle, making a wish and playing games. Every spread save one features some sort of word mix-up, whether based on rhymes (moose and juice) or just words that sound similar (camel and candle). Cox’s text leans heavily on Mathieu’s brightly colored pencil-and-watercolor illustrations for humor, and he definitely delivers. The zany mash-ups he creates are sure to elicit giggles in readers, though they may not last through repeated readings once they get over the novelty. His cast of characters includes a mix of skin colors, though it would have been nice if their facial expressions were just as varied.
While the schtick may be getting a little old for everyday readers, clever teachers could turn this into a creative writing/art lesson that works for multiple grade levels. (Picture book. 4-7)