Ham and Pickles: First Day of School

Nicole Rubel, Author, Nicole Rubel, Illustrator . Harcourt $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-15-205039-9

Two wide-eyed hamster siblings star in Rubel's (the Rotten Ralph series) offbeat story about first-day-of-school angst. Pickles voices her every worry to her older brother, Ham. The ever-cool Ham comes back with a wacky solution for each of her concerns. When she asks, "What do I do when I have to go to the bathroom?" he replies, "Jump like a kangaroo, leap like a frog, or hop like a grasshopper, and the teacher will excuse you." When Pickles feels nervous about making friends, Ham offers, "Tell them 'I'm so glad you don't have fleas!' " (The subsequent spread reveals that this line does not make for the most endearing icebreaker.) Rubel's mixed-media illustrations complement the book's off-the-wall flavor, each a riot of colors and shapes. Collage art incorporates photos of flowers and kitschy ceramic knick-knacks, among other items. The abundance of detail, from checkered curtains and pansy wallpaper to the 10 alarm clocks in the heroine's room will keep readers' eyes busy, if not dizzy. When Pickles finally realizes her brother's suggestions aren't of much use and she forgets her lunch, Ham's generosity smoothes things over. While sibling harmony and helpfulness win out, this book's somewhat mean-spirited humor will more likely appeal to older readers rather than their younger, more literal-minded counterparts. Ages 3-7. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/12/2006
Release date: 07/01/2006
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