The First Week of School

Young readers who happen to spot this book's dedication--"For Nobody"--will have a head start on understanding that The First Week of School is a different kind of picture book. Drew Beckmeyer (I Am a Tornado) manages two feats at once: his book is a comical sci-fi romp as well as a reassuring hand-holder for readers all a-jitter about the new elementary-school year.

At first, things seem normal. "Monday" tops one page, followed by pages headed with descriptions of the day's activities: "This is Show and Tell." "This is Recess." "This is Outer Space"--wait. What? As the days of the school week and their corresponding activities play out, side plots are devoted to students' insecurities and competitive natures--typical school stuff. Meanwhile, only the class pet, bearded dragon Pat, notices when a spacecraft hovers over the school, and only she understands that what the teacher calls "our new student" is a bona fide space alien. Yep, typical school stuff.

Despite its abiding humor and speculative aspect, The First Week of School is a warm and disarming account of the elementary-school experience. (The book should also hold plenty of sympathy-arousing amusement for the adult set, as when the teacher, who forgets her lunch one day, winds up eating some old cereal she finds in a cabinet.) To render all the book's plot strands and sight gags, Beckmeyer works assiduously in a naïve style using that quintessential elementary-school medium, crayon, albeit in a range of colors out-pizzazzing the traditional art-class assortment. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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