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Back-to-school silliness

School is in session. Here are some new picture books that play up the silliness for students and teachers — including one most ridiculous substitute. For more, look to our Back-to-School Horn Book Herald and What Makes a Good School Story? newsletters.

The mischievous feline star of Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood is persuaded to substitute-teach. From leading a music class that’s a bit too rock-and-roll to teaching the kittens to channel their inner Pollock (on the classroom walls), Cat does things Cat’s way. Underwood’s clever use of page-turns and comedic timing, in addition to the series’s trademark placards that nonverbal Cat uses to communicate, help deliver a droll story about the joys and challenges of teaching. The kittens almost steal the show in Claudia Rueda’s humorous ink and colored-pencil illustrations. (Dial, 4–7 years)

In Cynthia Leonor Garza’s Lucía the Luchadora, the boys on the playground claim that girls can’t be superheroes, making Lucía mad. Her abuela gives her a luchadora costume, which emboldens Lucía. Hidden behind the mask, she soars through the playground better than all the other children; after rescuing a puppy, Lucía reveals her identity. Energetic watercolors by Alyssa Bermudez illuminate a diverse crowd of children led by a strong, dynamic personality unabashedly proud to be a girl. (Pow!, 4–7 years)

7 Ate 9: The Untold Story by Tara Lazar is narrated by a gumshoe named “Private I.” A panicked 6 pays a visit to I’s office after hearing that 7 ate 9. “Now he’s after me,” says 6. The number jokes and puns are chased relentlessly through the story, aided by pictures by Ross MacDonald that place the outsized numerals and letters, each personified via a little face and limbs, in the not-too-mean streets of an old-time big city. The running joke is just stupid enough and sophisticated enough for the newly numerate to find the goings-on hilarious. (Disney-Hyperion, 4–7 years)

In First Grade Dropout, the young narrator made a harrowing social blunder at school (“I. Called. My. Teacher. MOMMY!!!”). This sequel, Second Grade Holdout, finds the narrator and his best buddy getting assigned to different classrooms, so the narrator makes a decision: he will stay in first grade. Author Audrey Vernick introduces a familiar problem and allows readers to recognize, and maybe even laugh at, themselves. Matthew Cordell’s relaxed pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings honor the narrator’s active imagination. (Clarion, 5–8 years)

From the September 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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