cover image Dear Substitute

Dear Substitute

Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illus. by Chris Raschka. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-148475022-3

In a witty epistolary narrative, Scanlon and Vernick (coauthors of Bob, Not Bob!) tackle the sometimes-unwelcome arrival of substitute teachers. “Dear Substitute,” the first letter starts, “Where’s Mrs. Giordano, and why didn’t she warn us?” The substitute, Miss Pelly, can’t pronounce her students’ names correctly (“Poor Charvi and Betje. Poor Eliandra”). She doesn’t clean the turtle tank even though it’s Tank Tuesday, and she’s casual about the rules (“Dear Class Rules, We have you for a reason”). Still, she somehow spots the narrator trading food at lunchtime (“Dear Miss Pelly, Now you care about rules?”). It’s a tense moment (“Dear Tears. Not here. Not now”). Yet Miss Pelly has some tricks (and great readalouds) up her sleeve (“It turns out that I really like poetry. Especially funny poetry”). The turnaround is as swift as it is warmhearted. Caldecott Medalist Raschka paints dreamy watercolor scenes with feeling and whimsy, imagining the class turtle looking exasperated and Miss Pelly with eyes in the back of her head. Each shift in the narrator’s emotions—from suspicion to anger to intrigue—rings true in this perceptive, probing series of observations from a child’s viewpoint. Ages 4–8. [em]Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (June) [/em]