cover image SMARTYPANTS (Pete in School)

SMARTYPANTS (Pete in School)

Maira Kalman, . . Putnam, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23478-1

In this whimsical sequel to What Pete Ate, from A–Z, Pete the dog makes like Mary's little lamb and follows his owner to school. Poppy Wise, the girl who casually reports on Pete's antics, is in math class with "Mr. Grompi Spitzer, the gribbliest teacher on earth, [when] in ran Pete... and before you could say quadratic equation, he ate the blackboard, the fractions in a box marked fractions and Mr. Spitzer's pants." Poppy's apoplectic teachers, including a "boiling mad" science instructor, Miss Magma, are "agog at a dog running amok and causing havoc." They send the innocent-looking terrier to the principal's office, where he gobbles up a 26-volume encyclopedia. Pete experiences a transformation familiar to fans of Susan Meddaugh's Martha books: the encyclopedia enables him to speak eruditely on any subject. The next day, he recites a selection from Gertrude Stein to Poppy's English class, before digesting the books and losing the power of speech. Kalman's bubbly wordplay and choppy, conversational sentences convey the hilarity of Pete's unannounced visit, and her comical gouache portraits of the teachers make light of intellectual pretensions. Warmly lit classroom and living room settings, in tangy shades of sweet-potato orange, curry yellow and leafy green, recall Matisse's paintings of interiors in Southern France or Pierre Bonnard's luscious canvases. Although the plot twist comes as no surprise—surely Pete does more than just eat things—Kalman's inimitable verve comes through in the sly text and illustrations. Ages 5-up. (July)