cover image Ready, Set, School!

Ready, Set, School!

Jacquelyn Mitchard, , illus. by Paul Rátz de Tagyos. . HarperCollins, $16.99 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-06-050766-4

Areticent raccoon named Rory overcomes his separation anxiety in Mitchard’s (Now You See Her ) somewhat protracted story. Rory is dreading an upcoming sleepover with his aunt and cousins while his parents attend a “gourmet garbage party.” He knows it will be good practice for his first night at the Remarkable Raccoon Suburban School, but he remains resistant. Mitchard encapsulates what many new students feel as the first school day approaches: “Rory knew he wasn’t a baby kit anymore. He just couldn’t admit he didn’t want to go! Still, he didn’t feel happy when his parents weren’t nearby.” Rátz de Tagyos’s (Rooster Can’t Cock-A-Doodle-Doo ) appealing illustrations depict the accoutrements of a comfortable raccoon existence (Rory sleeps in a trout-shaped sleeping bag and empty tuna cans and apple cores litter his floor), though much of the clever humor might be lost on youngsters unfamiliar with the nocturnal creatures. Comically stout raccoons appear in vignettes and half- and full-page bleeds, carrying on in an anthropomorphic manner—a preview scene of the gourmet garbage party shows several raccoons relishing their nighttime revels, log-rolling a trash can or toasting with wine glasses. Despite a slightly misleading title (well over half the book deals with Rory’s coming to terms with his sleepover, while only a couple of spreads focus on his preparations for school), readers won’t miss the overall message of confidence gained by trying new things. It’s Rory who has to reassure his weepy parents at the end that he’s ready for school. Ages 3-6. (July)