Review of Harry Versus the First 100 Days of School

Harry Versus the First 100 Days of School
by Emily Jenkins; illus. by Pete Oswald
Primary    Schwartz & Wade/Random    240 pp.    g
6/21    978-0-525-64471-2    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-525-64472-9    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-525-64473-6    $10.99

Harry Bergen-Murphy is worried about a lot of things on the night before starting first grade — getting lost, mean kids, and “scary classroom guinea pigs,” among others. Fortunately, he has a deft teacher in Ms. Peek-Schnitzel, who assigns him the task of sharpening pencils as the other children arrive — the activity and knowing that “he is the special person who gets to do the pencils” ease his worries. Jenkins structures the book using the first hundred days of school; by day four, Harry, now the confident one, can distract his friend Mason when he’s upset. The entire book is solidly grounded in the slice-of-life details of first grade, with the wall of sight words and “sparkly words,” the science unit on apples, and activities like making family circle charts (instead of family trees). Jenkins shows everything through Harry’s perspective, as when he names the other children at his table: “Wyatt, a boy with a loud voice. Abigail from kindergarten, who looks down at her hands a lot. Kimani, a girl who prints very neatly. And Diamond, a girl with a big laugh.” Harry is believably imperfect in a Ramona-like way, as he squabbles with other kids, gets mad at his teacher, and gradually begins to better understand people and their feelings. Though long for an early chapter book, the book’s large print, plentiful white space, short sentences with simple words, and very engaging characters will make new readers want to tackle it. Oswald’s lively color pictures sprinkled throughout the book also add to its ­accessibility and show a diverse group of kids. It’s funny, authentic, and insightful, with an appended author’s note providing details about some of the many children’s book references Jenkins has worked in.

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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