ONCE UPON AN ORDINARY SCHOOL DAY

Colin McNaughton, Author, Satoshi Kitamura, Illustrator , illus. by Satoshi Kitamura. FSG $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-35634-7

On a dull day washed in creamy shades of gray, an "ordinary boy" goes to school. Repetitive language sets the routine as he has "an ordinary game of soccer with his ordinary friends until the ordinary school bell rang." But then, "something quite out of the ordinary happened." Into the classroom struts a skinny, balding teacher carrying a phonograph; his ochre yellow suit and the blue-green records under his arm break into the heretofore gray background. (Publishing insiders will smile at a record cover picturing a stern composer and labeled "Klaus Flugge." The U.K.'s Andersen Press, founded by Flugge, originally published this book.) The man exhorts the children to "close your eyes, open your ears, and listen" to the music, then asks them to write what the sound helps them imagine. In Kitamura's (Comic Adventures of Boots ) full-bleed spreads, the boy's suitcoat goes from charcoal to blue, and bland duotones yield to a rush of sunlit color as he gets "lost in the game—the storytelling game." He dives with dolphins in a midnight blue sea, soars with white birds above patchwork green fields, and dreams "extraordinary dreams." McNaughton (the Preston Pig books) describes a simple writing exercise, which doesn't work for all the students and begs the question of what constitutes creativity. The main attraction here is the Wizard of Oz shift from overcast hues to a lush palette: Kitamura's vibrant visuals transform what is, truth be told, an ordinary tale of inspiration. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
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