cover image First Grade Dropout

First Grade Dropout

Audrey Vernick, illus. by Matthew Cordell. Clarion, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-544-12985-6

After Vernick’s young narrator accidentally calls his teacher “Mommy,” he believes that the only reasonable response to this humiliation (after casting aside ideas that involve magic and time machines) is to drop out of Lakeview Elementary School. (The boy takes little comfort when his teacher says, “Don’t worry. It happens every year,” all too aware that everyone—even his best friend—laughed at him.) Vernick’s tousled-haired hero may feel miserable, but he has the self-awareness, timing, and raconteurship of a master monologist; readers will be won over from his intriguing opening line (“I’ve been lots of things”) and quickly assured that this, too, shall pass. So effective is Vernick (Bogart and Vinnie) in conjuring the boy’s blush-inducing, sweat-triggering embarrassment, readers young and old will probably find themselves flashing back to their own not-quite-forgotten moments of humiliation. Likewise, Cordell’s (Special Delivery) sketchlike illustrations, composed of frenetic ink lines and punctuated with washes of bright color, are almost Feifferesque in their sense of emotional spontaneity and comic angst. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (July)