Gaiman continues his sneeze pun in this look at a worried panda cub’s first day of school.
Chu’s expressed school worries are limited to “What will happen?” “Will they be nice?” and “Will they like me?” though the new student’s concerns (and his posture and facial expressions) will be familiar to any child facing school for the first time. Chu’s new teacher has a “friendly face,” and his animal classmates—ranging from a rhino and a giraffe down to a crab, a snake and a snail—all seem nice. The first activity the class does is to sit in a circle and tell their new friends their names and what they love to do best; the teacher writes their names on the chalkboard. (Fans of Chu’s Day will see the punch line coming.) Their talents and things they love are wide-ranging—climbing trees, singing, reading books—but none is as unusual as Chu’s. After two wordless double-page spreads depicting both the post-sneeze surprise and destruction and subsequent recovery and delight, Chu drolly says, “That’s what I do.” Rex’s oil-and–mixed-media illustrations capture the complex feelings that accompany the first day of school, and Chu is believable when he tells his parents, “I’m not worried anymore.”
Overlooking (again) the association of Chinese names with a tired joke, this may put a few first-day fears to rest, and it will probably also cause some tension-relieving laughter. (Picture book. 4-7)