cover image Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster

Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster

Debra Frasier. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202163-4

Frasier (On the Day You Were Born) goes back to school for this labored picture book about a girl's classroom gaffe. When Forest (""Forest is not a thicket of trees. Forest is a boy. A sick boy"") coughs and sneezes ""all over her desk and pencils,"" fifth-grader Sage catches a cold and must stay home from Webster School, missing Vocabulary Day. She phones her best friend to procure the week's word list, but misunderstands the last entry: she jots down ""Miss Alaineus"" instead of ""miscellaneous."" The error causes Sage big embarrassment when she returns to class, but her understanding mother helps her find the ""gold"" in her mistake. Frasier sticks closely to her theme, penning a wordy text riddled with vocabulary definitions (""I was devastated: wasted, ravaged""). This may amuse teachers but will likely wear thin on youngsters. And though the author believably captures Sages's feelings, a meandering story line slows the proceedings. The book's unusual design features purposely childlike but unappealing cut-paper collages composed of lined notebook paper colored with markers. A border on each page contains one hand-lettered line of Sage's extra-credit assignment, and an endnote scrapbook section offers suggestions for a school Vocabulary Parade. All ages. (Aug.)