Terse rhyme introduces children to 18th-century schooling.
Kay personalizes the experience by focusing on two brothers and their school year. They dilly-dally on their walk to school, compete and have their squabbles. But in the end, a little sibling love goes a long way in helping John Paul learn to read and write. From carrying wood and stoking the fire to recess games and outhouse use, children will delight in finding things that are similar to and different from their own school experiences, and indeed, this is one of the text’s biggest strengths. A 1700s school day also began with a bell, but the schoolmaster rang it himself. The subjects children studied were similar, though their books, paper and pens were quite different. And children who pay frequent visits to the principal will be truly thankful they did not go to school in the 18th century. Throughout, the rhythms and rhyme never fail: “Feather pen nib, / Sharpen tip. / Paper curling, / Ink pen, dip.” Schindler’s richly detailed watercolor-and-gouache illustrations depict lively scenes of ordinary kids attending school—playing pranks, daydreaming, feeling both frustration and elation. The children exude personality and life, while their clothing, mannerisms and surroundings exemplify life in 18th-century America.
Whether studying colonial life or comparison/contrast, teachers will surely reach for this. (Picture book. 4-8)