A redheaded boy imagines the fun he will have in first grade if he just has five friends to share it with.
Johnston’s rhyming salute to a young boy’s imagination includes some activities that children may do in first grade—snack time, reading, math at the board, parading with cardboard drums, making paper chains, recess, being in a play, visiting the nurse—but the kids seem to spend more time playing than most first graders. Many of the verses force the rhymes, either by choosing words and making them fit (when pretending to be “big” astronauts—“space guys”—they have a “pig” mascot) or by relying on nonsense words or onomatopoeia: “I’ll need at least five friends to play / the Rubber Family. / We’ll stretch our faces and ourselves / like pretzels. Tee-hee-hee!” And why five friends? It’s never really clear why he needs exactly that many, and in the end, even he decides that he’d “rather be / good friends with—EVERYONE!” Walker’s artwork does a nice job of capturing the exuberance and activity of a group of first graders (though they don’t have the individual personalities of the kids in Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ illustrations for The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), written by Deborah Lee Rose), and the boy’s five friends are relatively diverse—one Asian child, two black children, two girls.
Skip. (Picture book. 4-6)