As if starting school weren’t worry enough, new students need to fret about classmates who bring their oversized reptilian pets along.
“The rules of the playground are hard for a beast. / He’ll break the first one as soon as released.” This proves to be the case. A yellow one bumps into the principal in his haste to get outside. A green one’s forelegs are too short for the monkey bars, so she pitches a fit until she realizes she can use her tail instead…and bends the whole structure. A long, thin, blue dragon pushes the merry-go-round. “He’ll start out slow but soon he will run. / Then the ride becomes more scary than fun.” (The illustration for this is particularly amusing.) A final, purple dragon is very well-behaved, but excitement brings out the flames. Still, the child who brought the yellow one makes a case that the dragon is smart and can learn and listen, and the principal, a woman of color, says that he’s welcome, a message that few, if any, books in this vein echo. Gassman’s rhythms and rhymes are sometimes rough and don’t always scan well. Many of the figures have white rather than black outlines, giving them the appearance of cutouts laid on top of the background in the brightly colored, Saturday morning–cartoonish illustrations. The racially diverse students and teachers include a child with glasses, one with an arm in a sling, and one in a wheelchair.
Despite the mildly unusual twist, it treads familiar territory and not particularly well. (Picture book. 4-8)