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School Books

Children’s book reviews by Tacoma writer Rebecca Young appear monthly on the Families page.

“Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Henkes - Families who haven’t discovered Henkes (“Chrysanthemum,” “Owen”) are missing a great deal. Without fail, his picture books are true, funny and charmingly illustrated - and bound to become favorites.

This enchanting new offering stars Lily, previously seen in “Julius, The Baby of the World” and “Chester’s Way.” Lily loves everything about school, especially her teacher, Mr. Singer, who wears artistic shirts, sandals and has a mind that’s as sharp as a tack.

Mr. Singer can do no wrong in Lily’s eyes, until the day she brings her purple purse filled with exciting stuff to school. She’s so excited and so disruptive all morning that Mr. Singer decides to keep her purse in his desk until the end of the day. Lily is crushed and furious, but because Mr. Singer is truly a wonderful teacher, he helps her work through her feelings.

Lily gets to show off her purse during show-and-tell the next day. She also learns a bit about relationships. (Greenwillow, ages 4-8, 32 pgs., $15.)

“Froggy Goes to School” by Jonathan London - I know a child like Froggy. Never sits still. When he’s scared, he’s terrified. When he’s happy, he’s exuberant. Sometimes he makes his parents very tired. But he also makes them smile a lot.

“Froggy Learns to Swim” introduced this delightful character. In that book, Froggy experienced a universal childhood passage. Here’s another one: the first day of kindergarten.

After waking from a standard nightmare (going to school in only underwear) Froggy leaps into the day. He’s so excited that he is able to read the word on his desk - “Froggy.” Never mind that it’s the only word he can read. He reads it repeatedly, and louder each time until his teacher runs out of patience. It’s hard to sit still, and keep quiet, but he only falls out of his chair once. A moment of triumph comes in circle time when he tells about learning to swim. The principal walks in just in time to get a swim lesson.

A frog is the perfect animal to portray this bouncy kid, and Frank Remkiewicz’s pictures are full of color and life, just like the story. (Viking, ages 2-6, 32 pgs., $13.99.)

“Did You See What I Saw? Poems About School” by Kay Winters - This just-right collection of short poems will be right at home in primary school classrooms this fall. Winters remembers what it was like to be in grade school, and puts it down on paper in lively, lovely verse. About the school bus, she writes: “Our bus is a BIG, Bright, Loud, bumpy, STOP and start, fast and s l o w, On and off, Open - shut, Yellow box on wheels. Stuffed with kids!”

There are also poems about circle time, crayons, waiting in line, chicken pox and holidays, all nicely illustrated by Martha Weston. (Viking, ages 4-8, 32 pgs., $13.99.)

“Boomer Goes to School” by Constance W. McGeorge - Now it’s time for school from a golden retriever’s perspective. Boomer is confused when his owner takes him on the school bus one morning. The school building is big and noisy. In the classroom, there is lots to do. But Boomer is not a successful student. He knocks over the paint tin and puts big doggy footprints across several paintings. He grabs the soccer ball at recess, raids the lunches, and barks during circle time. Finally he discovers the reason he’s at school when his owner gets up for show and tell.

In the telling, this story lacks the verve of some of the others described here. But most children love dog stories, and the illustrations by Mary Whyte are attractive and realistic. For those reasons, kids will like this book. (Chronicle Books, ages 4-8, 32 pgs., $13.95.)

“Arthur’s Back to School Day” by Lilian Hoban - There are two high-quality and popular series with an animal named Arthur as the main character. Hoban’s Arthur is a monkey; the other is Marc Brown’s aardvark. In his 10th “I Can Read” adventure, Arthur the monkey and his sister, Violet, head back to school. Much happens on the first day. A lunch spills on the bus. Snacks get mixed up. Baseball cards are traded. Small events are portrayed with humor and a good feel for what interests children. (HarperCollins, ages 4-8, 48 pgs., $14.95.)

“Minerva Louise at School” by Janet Morgan Stoeke - Get ready for a chicken’s-eye-view of school. Minerva Louise, the plucky, clucky star of two highly regarded books, is back for a third humorous adventure.

Up earlier than the rest of the coop, Minerva wanders to the local elementary school. The door is open so she goes inside a kindergarten class. She finds a “pen for the pig” (children’s block construction) and “nesting boxes” (the children’s cubbies). In one of the cubbies is a “nest with an egg” (baseball mitt and glove). But there’s no mother to keep the “egg” warm so Minerva covers it with “hay” (pencils). When she heads back home she tries out some of her new ideas in her own nesting box.

Funny situations and bright illustrations make this a great choice for a preschool-kindergarten read-aloud. (Dutton, ages 2-6, 32 pgs., $13.99.)

“Ms. MacDonald has a Class” by Jan Ormerod - This wonderful author-illustrator has great fun with a favorite old song.

The plot details are simple. Ms. MacDonald’s visits a farm, then gets ready for a school performance about farm animals.

With the rewritten lyrics as narration, the rehearsing, costume-making, set-creating and performance are portrayed with detailed illustrations that readers will pore over. “Ms. MacDonald has a class, E-I-E-I-O, And in that class they take a bow, E-I-E-I-O, With a clap clap here and a clap clap there, Here a clap, there a clap, everywhere a ‘Hooray!”’ (Clarion Books, 32 pgs., ages 4-8, $15.95.)