From School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-In keeping with the rhyme, "First grade babies! Second grade cats! Third grade angels! Fourth grade rats!," Suds Morton's new teacher considers each of her students an angel. She has high expectations, and the prize-spending a week as boss angel while wearing a cardboard halo-has Suds and his classmates falling over one another to prove just how angelic they are. Everyone wants to earn the first halo of the year-especially Suds. He picks up trash, holds the door for others, and even treats his little sister kindly. Will Mrs. Simms notice his hard work? This beginning chapter book moves at an enjoyably brisk pace; readers will appreciate the familiar school and home settings, and they'll look forward to meeting the characters again in a forthcoming book. A story kids will relate to, with valuable, down-to-earth messages about character and motives.-Amanda Struckmeyer, Middleton Public Library, Madison, WIα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reflecting on a school-yard rhyme, “First grade babies! / Second grade cats! / Third grade angels! / Fourth grade rats!,” Suds happily leaves babies and cats behind to start third grade as an angel. His cheerful teacher explains that her third-graders can earn their halos by doing good deeds. Suds is determined to be the first to win his halo, but the competition is fierce and his anxiety level rises. Just when the outcome seems clear, surprises come from both his classmates and his teacher. Spinelli works in some interesting concepts, such as levels of niceness (positive actions versus cessation of negative actions) and the questionable value of goal-oriented goodness. A prequel to Spinelli’s Fourth Grade Rats (1991), this accessible chapter book features a simply written, first-person narrative and believable, true-to-third-grade characters. Illustrations include plenty of black-and-white pictures (most not seen in final form) and a clever, eye-catching image on the jacket. For discussion, pair this with Claudia Mills’ Perfectly Chelsea (2004), featuring a child who strives for goodness in a religious context. Grades 3-4. --Carolyn Phelan