cover image Book or Bell?

Book or Bell?

Chris Barton, illus. by Ashley Spires. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-68119-729-6

School bells keep things running smoothly, as any student or administrator knows, but a boy named Henry is tired of them interrupting his reading. When Henry refuses to leave his seat, the finely tuned machine of his school breaks down: because he isn’t in the cafeteria line, “the food that would have gone on Henry’s tray went—SPLOT!—onto the floor.” And “with the best player missing from PE, lots of balls rolled out of the gym... and into the street.” The mayor, governor, and a senator are called in, but their solution—louder and louder bells—only make things worse. Barton alludes to but doesn’t entirely explore the ideas of appropriate reading times and the pitfalls of life ruled by the clock. His exaggerated descriptions of the klaxons are sure to get big laughs, though: one “blasted like a ton of air horns getting smashed by a freight train.” Spires has as much fun drawing the chaos caused by the booming bells, which blow the ink off whiteboard and send clothes and backpacks flying. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Claire Easton, Painted Words. (Oct.)