In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

School as a place for connection

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Our discussion of picture books set in schools (here and here) has gotten me thinking about another kind of school story: the kind where the classroom is simply the backdrop for connection, either between friends or with a little romantic twist.

Two books pop to mind here:

Rosemary Wells has a lovely one called Timothy Goes to School.  (The version pictured here is clearly one which, like Noisy Nora, she's re-illustrated to get it back in print.  Not the cover I know.  And evidently it's also about to become a TV series.  Urgh.)

Timothy is a little raccoon-person, and he's very excited to go to school.  His excitement is dampened when he meets Claude, a boy in his class who is better than Timothy at everything, and makes fun of what Timothy is wearing each day.  There are very sweet scenes of Timothy coming home to his mother, ears drooping, unable to enjoy his after-school snack.  The happy ending comes in the form of Violet, a little rabbit-person he meets in the audience at the talent show.  She's just as annoyed by the excellence of another girl, Grace, as Timothy is by Claude.  As Claude and Grace perform, Timothy and Violet giggle, and start to have a lot of fun with each other.  They wind up happy -- not the most successful or talented kids in their class, but with a real friendship.  It's a nice small celebration of not overachieving.

Then there's Peter McCarty's Henry in Love.  I love McCarty's fine line drawings -- expressively shaded, simple, perfect work.  (I forgot to get the book out of the girls' room before bedtime, but when I do will scan a page or two.)

It's an even simpler story: Henry wakes up, gets ready for school, gets to school, and pays attention to Chloe, who can turn a perfect cartwheel.  He is seated next to her in class when the teacher changes their seats, and shares his snack.  It is a small and wonderful moment.  McCarty's animals have a lot of subtle personality -- you don't feel like you know what they're thinking, exactly, but the wheels are clearly turning.

He has other quite excellent books as well, but I'll save them for another post.

Love, Annie

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