From School Library Journal
Grade 1–3—Mrs. Miller's 23 incoming first graders—plus the principal, bus driver, and the teacher herself—tell readers what they look forward to on the first day of school. The animal characters have snapshots taken, enjoy riding the bus and having new school supplies, can't wait to play sports, and are encouraged by grandparents, parents, and older siblings. Only two youngsters are fearful or worried about what the day will bring. The adults are upbeat and express their hopes for a great new school year. The quirky watercolor cartoons are humorous and expressive, differentiating the characters and adding fun details. The alphabetic sequence of animals calls to mind Joseph Slate's Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
(Dutton, 1996), but Off to First Grade
lets the characters offer much more detailed ruminations about their first-day expectations.—Lynne Mattern, Robert Seaman School, Jericho, NY
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In this cheerful collection of poems, a group of young animal characters prepare for their first day in first grade at Elm School Elementary. On each spread, different speakers describe their morning preparations: Claire, a floppy-eared dog, smiles excitedly while her dad takes a picture; Polly, a striped tabby, receives a good-luck penny from her mom; Henry, a fuzzy bear, can’t wait to use the new art supplies in his classroom. Not every student is excited. Yoshi, a long-eared rabbit, says, “I wish I was going / back to kindergarten.” And new immigrant Ignacio, a lion cub, holds his father’s hand and anxiously practices his English. Each poem’s lines are short and direct and have a conversational meter that will read aloud well, and Rankin’s expressive paint-and-pencil illustrations expertly amplify the emotions, from shy apprehension to eager anticipation. Young students will recognize both the range of feelings and the diversity of families represented in this warm offering that concludes with cheerleading from the principal: “We’re all ready to begin / the best school year ever.” Preschool-Grade 1. --Gillian Engberg