Reviews for Back to Front and Upside Down!

Booklist Reviews 2012 August #1
Floundering students will recognize themselves as they follow the frustrations of Stan the puppy. Stan is in Miss Catnip's reading circle when Mr. Slippers, the principal-hound, invites them all to his birthday party. Miss Catnip suggests drawing cards that say Happy Birthday. But Stan has trouble copying the words Miss Catnip puts on the board--they come out backward, upside down, and some don't even resemble letters at all. Alexander's watercolors progress from soft tints to darker ones, until a completely black two-page spread shows tiny Stan sitting despondently far off to the side. The breakthrough comes when Stan confesses that he can't form letters and begins to get extra assistance. The book emphasizes that getting it right takes lots . . . and lots . . . and LOTS of practice, but, more importantly, Stan learns to ask for help when he needs it. Students with dyslexia will especially benefit from this book, but its gentle encouragement will also help tamp the shame of any struggling student. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2012 August
Taking the first brave step

Each child, whether confident or nervous, stands on the edge of the great unknown when a new school year begins. These dandy books will help the youngest students face this big step toward independence.

In Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! we find out that two people are anxious about the first day: mom and son. At first, the oversized boy bounces out of bed while the nervous mom (small and washed in anxious blue) drags her feet. Using color, size and varying perspectives to show the emotions of both generations of kindergartners, Hyewon Yum captures the nerves, bravado and excitement of the first day.

In Marco Goes to School, a chuckle-worthy and encouraging sequel to Too Busy Marco, a little red bird has a big dream. Marco wants to go to the moon. After he exhausts the opportunities for entertainment around the house, his mom suggests he attend school. Though teacher Mrs. Peachtree has fun floral pants, she talks a lot, which allows Marco’s mind to wander to the class library, where a toy astronaut is perched alluringly. Marco knows what he wants: to go to the moon. Roz Chast’s love of this distracted student are almost enough to get him there, but he does find a friend willing to push him very high . . . in a swing.

For read-aloud hilarity, Ollie’s School Day: A Yes-and No Book, written by Stephanie Calmenson and illustrated by Abby Carter, is the perfect choice. Written as a series of questions, this read-aloud gem allows even the youngest child to learn about the social and behavioral expectations of school. The reader asks questions about Ollie’s day (What will Ollie eat? Wear? Say? Ride? How will he ask a question? Do at story time?). Three silly follow-up questions allow the reader to call out, “NO!” before the turn of the page allows the satisfying “YES.” Calmenson’s wit and Carter’s light, cartoony watercolors are the perfect vehicles for imparting important social expectations to newbies.

Stan is worried that all the other children know how to write, but his words are coming out in a muddle. In Back to Front and Upside Down! Claire Alexander has created a comfortin[Wed Aug 27 17:02:29 2014] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. g book for little learners. Instead of asking for help with the principal’s birthday card, Stan struggles by himself. He hides his writing failure from his friends until the pressure is too much. Then he finds out that everyone needs help sometimes, and writing becomes easier once he shares his struggle with the engaging Miss Catnip. Stan’s story can serve as a springboard to discussions about learning and getting help when needed.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
While the animals in Miss Catnip's class are making birthday cards for the principal, dog Stan notes that "his letters came out back to front and upside down." There's canned coping-manual plotting (after Stan admits to his problem, he gets help from Miss Catnip), but there's also assiduous art, in which weather and background color help articulate Stan's fraught feelings.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 July #1
A little dog who has trouble with the mechanics of writing musters up the courage to ask his teacher for help. Stan is excited about the birthday cards his class is making for the principal…until Miss Catnip tells them the cards have to include words. He tries his hardest, tongue sticking out the side of his mouth, to copy the words, but they come out "back to front and upside down, and some didn't look like letters at all!" Within the multispecies classroom, Stan sits with a huge clock looming behind him, while a page turn places Stan against a completely black background, beautifully conveying Stan's emotional turmoil and isolation. A friend convinces him to ask Miss Catnip for help, despite his fear that everyone will laugh at him. And when he does, not only does no one laugh, but Mimi turns out to need help as well. After Miss Catnip shows them how to form their letters, one afternoon of practice allows Stan to improve enough to proudly present Mr. Slippers with his birthday card that same school day. The rough "handwritten" type reflects the topic, but it may make it difficult for beginners to read, and certainly should not be emulated by those learning to write--the "r" looks like a "v," and there are some letters that appear to be capitals when the context calls for lowercase. While Stan's improvement is a little too good to be true, Alexander's message is clear: "We all have to ask for help sometimes." (Picture book. 4-7) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 June #4

The principal of Stan's school is having a birthday, and Miss Catnip, Stan's teacher, has a great thought: everyone is going to make a birthday card for Mr. Slippers. Stan, an adorable brown puppy with floppy ears and an expressive snout, immediately starts drawing an impressive picture--until he learns that Miss Catnip expects everyone to write a greeting as well. Writing is definitely not Stan's strong suit: "is letters came out back to front and upside down, and some didn't look like letters at all! I can't do this! Stan thought." When Stan hits rock bottom--"Even his name was coming out in a muddle"--he becomes a tiny, disconsolate figure at his desk (his legs don't even touch the ground), marooned in a black sea of despair. But good advice from his friend Jack ("We all have to ask for help sometimes") and compassionate help ride to the rescue. It's not a new idea, but Alexander (Small Florence, Piggy Pop Star) is such a caring and visually sumptuous storyteller that readers will happily travel down this road with her. Ages 4-7. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 September

PreS-Gr 1--Stan, a small anthropomorphic puppy, faces a big problem-his class is making birthday cards for the principal, but he just can't get the hang of writing. He is despondent until a friend suggests that he approach their teacher for help. Gathering up some courage, Stan approaches Miss Catnip and discovers that he's not the only one having trouble. After "lots and lots and lots of practice," Stan's writing improves and he not only creates a great card, but learns that he should always ask for help when he is struggling. Alexander's mostly full-page illustrations of Stan and his animal friends are bright and cheerful. Though cartoonish, they expressively depict the change in Stan's emotions-from isolation and sadness to accomplishment and happiness. The story is a tad didactic, but it teaches a good lesson. Students should have no trouble sympathizing with Stan's learning difficulties and cheer for his success.--Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

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