A little girl decides kindergarten isn’t for her and decides to stay home and have her beloved yellow pup teach her instead.
Indeed, Stella Isabella Harden and her dog, Buster, are inseparable, but aside from leaving him behind, the girl doesn’t seem to have any specific worries about kindergarten. Dog school consists of playtime, snack time, nap time, and storytime, and it’s during this last that Buster slyly lets Stella Isabella know that she really must go to kindergarten, if only so she can learn to read—Buster must have a story every day. Crouse’s rhyming verses sometimes stumble, and the words and word order frequently suit the rhyme scheme and meter rather than the tale, leading to some difficult vocabulary (“contemplating,” “educator,” “proposing,” “proceeding,” “mandatory”) and some clunkers: “She figured they’d do playtime first. / She guessed that they’d be none the worse / if in the room for their first class / came with sunshine, air, and grass.” Pamintuan’s digital illustrations bring out the duo’s love and their exuberance, and he shows each sloppy kiss from Buster to his girl. Child and parents all have black hair and pale-brown skin. The kindergarten-ready checklist—supplies rather than skills—is inside the dust jacket and isn’t applicable to (or affordable for) all students: “big-kid backpack,” other supplies, “know your bus stop,” “snack or lunch.”
Dog owners who dread being apart during school hours will empathize with Stella Isabella. (Picture book. 5-8)