Saturday, May 28, 2011

STOP! Look No Further...

....I have found your first day of school read aloud! I know it's a little early; school isn't even out yet here in VA and other states on the east coast. However, now that I've found your first day of school read aloud, then you can cross that off of your summer to-do list!

The title is Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want To Survive the School Bus, written by John Grandits, illustrated by Michael Allen Austin, published by Houghton Mifflin and available around July 4th.

Kyle (age and grade unknown) is dreading his first trip aboard the school bus. Luckily, his big brother, James, is a school bus expert. James gives Kyle ten rules for riding the bus that he absolutely, positively must obey if he wants to avoid getting laughed at or yelled at, pushed around, or even pounded. During his fateful ride, Kyle grapples with each unbreakable rule. Along the way, he discovers that the school bus isn’t so bad, and he may even have a thing or two to teach his brother.

Did you ride a school bus? I did and reading this book brought back a lot of memories. As each rule was revealed, I thought "Yep, absolutely!" For example, Rule One is: Never sit in the first row. I use to be the last kid picked up by the bus on the route to school. There were NEVER any seats left toward the back and I always had to sit in the front where the only person I had to look at was the bus driver. Remember that big wide mirror in front of the driver that allowed him or her to look all the way back to the end of the bus? I do and sitting in the front seat, I could see the bus driver snarling at the other kids as they laughed and stood up in their seats on the way to school.

I'll bet that if you rode the school bus as a kid, you could finish the list of rules. And in this way, teachers of early and intermediate grade children can have a great time with this book. The layout provides the opportunity to use prediction throughout. Children can predict the next rule as the story unfolds. This is a great way to get kids actively involved on the first day of school and set the tone for how they will interact with books and learning throughout the year. 

The book also revolves around bullying. The reason James gives the list of ten rules to Kyle is so that he will not be bullied on the bus: "James had told me all about riding the bus. He said if you weren't careful, you could get laughed at or yelled at. You could get pushed around or even pounded. Big kids would steal your lunch and your money and even your football card collection!" So, in addition to enjoying an engaging and funny book together on the first day of school, it can serve as a great way to start a discussion about bullying and to creating classroom rules so that everyone treats each other with respect. (For other books on bullying, see this article by Lester Laminack)

John Grandits is an award-winning book and magazine designer and the author of "Beatrice Black Bear," a monthly cartoon for Click Magazine. He lives in Red Bank, N.J., with his wife, Joanne, a children's librarian, and Gilbert, an evil cat. His first book of concrete poetry, Technically, It's Not My Fault, followed the adventures of a boy named Robert, who was often in conflict with his older sister, Jessie. Blue Lipstick gives Jessie a chance to tell her side of the story.

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