The Last Day of School
Louise Borden. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86869-6
Borden and Gustavson, who have collaborated on several school-themed books, including Good Luck, Mrs. K.!, join forces again to capture the mixed feelings surrounding the last day of school. The story focuses on third grader Matthew Perez (a Cubs fan and the ""Official Timekeeper of Room 6"") and the gift he almost doesn't get to give his beloved teacher, Mrs. Mallory, who ""knew her students like a mother hen knows her chicks."" A thorough cataloguing of the final day's bittersweet busyness and the casual mention of several other teachers' and students' names all build a sharp image of the schoolday experience. But at times the drawn-out descriptions ramble and seem superfluous to the central characters (e.g., ""The first graders made Last Day hats and wore them in a spur-of-the-moment parade.... The last day was an ending and a beginning all mixed up together, a day when most of the Chapman teachers looked a bit frazzled""). The oil paintings convey the students' activity and emotions, and Gustavson's use of light and shadow and varied perspectives add to the book's realism. The final four spreads rush readers headlong to the finish, as Matthew races to find his teacher to give her his gift during an emotional goodbye. While the long-windedness of this tale can be a distraction, Borden succeeds in making readers feel a part of the proceedings as the year comes to a close. Ages 7-10.
Reviewed on: 03/06/2006