Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

School People

School People

Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrator:  Ellen Shi 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Wordsong, 2018   ISBN: 978-1629797038

People often think that schools are merely institutions, that they are cold and impersonal. In reality, many schools are very vibrant places, and they are full of colorful characters who have a big impact on the students who spend so many hours there.

In this wonderful poetry picture book we meet just some of these characters, and we begin with the school building itself. The school has a voice that needs to be heard, it is “full of soul and heart” and all the things that make a school a place of learning and exploration. Here students will find fossils, calendars, and nooks. Here they will hear drum beats, whispers, the “swishing of brooms,” and “the clicking of locks.” The school wants children to know that it is waiting, with its doors open wide in welcome.

We go on to hear about many other people who work in the school or who are associated with it. There is the bus driver who greets her passengers with a “good-morning smile,” and the crossing guard who stands at the ready to help the children, “like hatchlings,” cross the road.

Naturally we also hear about the teachers who, each in their own way, help their students to make their “world much wider.” In her domain the art teacher shows children how to turn a lump of clay into a dinosaur, and with her help crayons produce jungles, and pieces of paper become an origami crane.

The music teacher encourages her students to “Sing, my angels, sing!?” Which they do, loudly and with hearts full. With the help of the theatre teacher students “adventure, / examine, / explore.” They fill countless roles and they can be anything that they want to be. They discover that journeys into the imagination on a stage help them to become “free!”

Other people readers will meet on these pages include the custodian, the lunch lady, the principal, the nurse, and the school librarian.

This marvelous collection of poems beautifully captures the essence of school life. J. Patrick Lewis, Charles Ghinga, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and many other wonderful poets give young readers the opportunity to see a school and its people in a fresh way, and we discover that they are all heroes, in their own way.