Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Review: Yellowbelly and Plum Go to School by Nathan Hale

Book: Yellowbelly and Plum Go to School
Author: Nathan Hale
Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published: 2007

Yellowbelly is starting school, and so is his best buddy Plum. After all, they do everything together. Plum is a little shy at first (well, he is a teddy bear) but when he disappears to play with some other kids, it's Yellowbelly who has the meltdown. Can this first day of school be saved?

The story itself is a very familiar one to anyone who's ever had a child (or been the child) who brings his best stuffed buddy to school with him. There's a kooky edge even in the writing--their favorite games include envelope (stuffing themselves into the mailbox) and meteor shower (dumping the contents of a trash can over each others' heads).

What makes this book truly delightful is the cast of characters. Without making a big deal of it in the narration, Nathan Hale creates a world with all sorts of critters (monsters doesn't seem to be the right word when they're so friendly) that coexist happily with humans. Detail-loving kids will pore over the spreads, especially one of the schoolyard with hundreds of first-grade critters playing together, including a shark in a tutu, a giant bumblebee, and a number of dinosaurs. Talk about everyday diversity.

Exuberant Yellowbelly and deadpan Plum balance each other perfectly, and there's no preachy lesson about letting go of your toys as you grow up. Great for any age, but especially for new kindergartners or preschoolers anxious about what's to come.

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