The Wacky Substitute

Sally Derby, Author, Jennifer Herbert, Illustrator , illus. by Jennifer Herbert. Cavendish $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7614-5219-5

While the teacher's away, the students will play—as long as Mr. Hiram Wuerst is their substitute. The guest teacher's poor eyesight and glasses mishap (they fell into a frying pan and broke before breakfast) result in a series of harmless slapstick situations. When the phone rings, Mr. Wuerst holds a banana to his ear, for instance, and he gives his pup a catnip mouse and his cat a bone. His Mr. Magoo–like antics (e.g., mistaking a mop for the principal, handing out the wrong snack) continue throughout the school day, much to the delight of his wide-eyed pupils. The rosy-cheeked and freckle-face kindergarteners are an accepting audience for their teacher's madcap mix-ups—as will be the young readers of Derby's (Hannah's Bookmobile Christmas ) amusing tale. (Not old enough to take advantage, the pupils' most mischievous deed is letting out the 12 gerbils at rest time.) Herbert's (What Will We Do With the Baby-O? ) boldly hued cartoon illustrations, featuring her trademark round- and large-headed characters, boost the comical tone. The fumbling and bumbling main character resembles a kindly grandpa with his striped trousers, orange bowtie and tufts of white hair on either side of his bald head. The off-the-wall scenarios will have readers wishing for a substitute who snores at rest time or dismisses them onto a fire truck instead of the bus. Ages 4-7. (July)