Back-to-School Rules

K-Gr 2—Percy Isaac Gifford is headed back to school and wishes to offer fellow students advice on how to earn an A+. What follows is a seemingly endless string of "don'ts" written in labored verse: "An important rule to follow:/Don't forget to use your brain./That means leave your plans at home/That qualify as insane!" While some of the advice is practical, such as not being late and not teasing, some is just silly: "No hanging from the ceiling./No flying through the air./No swimming in the fish tank./No glitter in your hair." This intense barrage of negativity (one page uses the word "don't" a dozen times) is unlikely to allay or mitigate any concerns children dealing with back-to-school anxiety may have; it's more likely to leave them feeling there are so many pitfalls that they can't possibly avoid them all. The teacher has an expression of annoyance more often than not and seems to do nothing but give orders. The final piece of advice, "Don't forget to have lots of fun," strikes an odd note as no fun is ever described. Better books on this topic abound, including Dr. Seuss's Hooray for Diffendoofer Day (Knopf, 1998) and Kathryn Lasky's Lunch Bunnies (Little, Brown, 1996).—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
From "do NOT show up late" to "do NOT do unto others," Percy Isaac Gifford offers his rules for success in school. Unfortunately, all the rules are for what not to do, so when he lists the last one, "don't forget to have lots of fun," it's hard to imagine what he means. Playful illustrations enhance the levity in the occasionally uneven rhyming text.

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