From School Library Journal
Grade 1–3—Most of the children in Sean's class have been looking forward to third grade and learning cursive writing. Sean, however, is worried that third grade is "going to take a lot more thinking than second grade had." Nevertheless, he soon becomes excited about his classroom activities. His teacher tells the children about John Hancock and explains that they will be invited to join "The John Hancock Club" when they have mastered cursive. The text is written in short segments and bursts of dialogue to engage reluctant and transitional readers. One quibble: the Caucasian principal and teacher are called Mr. Meeker and Mrs. Tovani, while the African-American cook is simply Rose to both students and teachers. Gustavson's vibrant watercolor illustrations depict a multiethnic group of students and pleasant school scenes. Mr. Meeker is shown getting into the Hancock spirit with his tricorn hat and American-flag tie. Real examples of cursive are incorporated into the page design. The back jacket helpfully features a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence. Borden provides gentle lessons about how new skills take practice to master and how worrying about something can be worse than actually doing it. Many children will relate to Sean's experience.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
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From Good Luck, Mrs. K!
(1999) to Last Day of School
(2006), Borden and Gustavson have depicted life in third-grade classrooms with verve and sensitivity. Their latest picture book focuses on a topic that incoming third-graders view with excitement and dread: cursive. When the school year begins, Sean worries about learning a new way of writing, but he soon feels comfortable in Mrs. Tovani's class. One day, she announces she will begin teaching cursive in hopes that she can induct them all into the John Hancock Club. As the year goes on, the students learn about Hancock and the American Revolution as well as handwriting, and finally they all join the club by signing their names in cursive. Borden recognizes students' nervousness about mastering this skill and gives it the respect it deserves while keeping the book's tone light and the treatment supportive. Gustavson's expressive paintings underscore the individuality of the characters and create a realistic school setting for the story. A fine picture book on a childhood rite of passage. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved