- Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scanlon
ISBN 978-1-4847-5022-3 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 1-2
School takes an unsettling turn for our protagonist when one day she’s faced with a substitute teacher instead of her familiar Mrs. Giordano. In sixteen short entries in letter form, she addresses aspects of school ranging from attendance (“The substitute doesn’t know how to pronounce anything”) to her own tears (“Not here. Not now”); eventually, though, Miss Pelly wins the girl over with a storytime of funny poems, so the final entry is to Mrs. Giordano (“It’s okay if you’re not quite ready to come back tomorrow”). Scanlon and Vernick make witty and varied choices for the apostrophic address (“Dear Homework That I Stayed Up Late Doing” rubs shoulders with “Dear Class Rules” as well as “Dear Turtle,” to the class turtle), which is itself a clever way of identifying just how many things become out of kilter with an unfamiliar person at the helm. Raschka’s watercolors portray our narrator as a little girl with two perkily horizontal pigtails, while Miss Pelly is a trendy young woman whose green eyes behind red cat-eye glasses are initially forbidding. There’s a primary-grade sunniness to the mood (sometimes literally, as the sun shines on [End Page 446] the proceedings in a number of spreads) despite our narrator’s unease, cueing viewers from the start that things may not be as bad as she fears. Big print and simple vocabulary make this suitable for early reading as well as reading aloud, the concept will spur kids to create their own letters, and substitute teachers will embrace a book that finally celebrates their usually unsung labors.