cover image Gracie Graves and the Kids from Room 402

Gracie Graves and the Kids from Room 402

Betty Paraskevas, Michael Paraskevas. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200321-0

The mother-and-son co-creators of Junior Kroll profile 29 characters in this exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) portrait of an elementary school class. ``Gracie Graves had little silver curls,/ Fourteen boys and fourteen girls,'' begins the text, while a wayward drawing features a prim schoolteacher seated at a large wooden desk. Individual rhymes about Gracie's 28 pupils follow, and here the Paraskevases round up familiar targets for jokes-a kid who vomits after eating 16 Twinkies at the Halloween party; a boy who brings odiferous lunches; the girl who is a ``chubby-plus''; the math whiz whose clothes don't fit. Many poems seem like aborted starts to larger stories; almost every stanza has at least one awkward rhyme (``regret'' with ``something I et'' and ``bubble gum'' with ``gymnasium''); and classroom decorations or reading lists often advertise the Paraskevas' other titles. It's not high art, but the Paraskevases have a handle on grade-school grotesquerie. Perusing their volume is like reading some kooky stranger's yearbook. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)