Tuesday, August 26, 2008

School Days: Brand-New Pencils, Brand-New Books by Diane deGroat

It's the night before the first day of first grade, and conscientious Gilbert is anxiously checking his backpack to make sure he's ready, all the while reassuring little sister Lola that preschool with Mrs. Duck is going to be a lot of fun. But thinking about it on the way to school with his friend Patti, his first day begins to look pretty scary. What if their teacher Mrs. Byrd in not nice like Mrs. Duck? What if she sends them to the principal, who definitely looks mean? Patti doesn't share his worries. She's too busy chatting and laughing with a strange girl named Margaret.

In the morning circle, one student named Philip waves a big thick book and brags, "I know how to read!" Gilbert squirms as he realizes he can't read a big fat book like that. Gilbert's heart begins to sink as he notices that Patti is the only one in the class he knows. Figuring he'd better stick with her, he plops down in the desk beside her and Margaret, only to be accosted by a really big kid.

"Can't you read?" He pointed to the name taped to the front of the desk.

"It says L-E-W-I-S! That spells LEWIS!"

Nervously Gilbert looks around until he spots a desk with the sign G-I-L-B-E-R-T. Unfortunately, there's a kid already sitting there. Gilbert hesitantly points to the sign, and the kid hurriedly moves to the seat which says F-R-A-N-K, just in time for Mrs. Byrd to pass out thick reading and spelling books and write a lot of rules on the board. First grade looks likes it's going to be hard and lonely.

At lunch in the strange cafeteria, Gilbert sees that Patti is already paired with the ever-present Margaret again and sadly takes a seat all alone. Just as he's opening his lunchbox, Mrs. Byrd brings another nervous-looking student by.

"Oh, here's a seat," she said to the boy named Frank.

Frank sat down right next to Gilbert, and Gilbert saw that he had the exact same Martian Space Pilot lunchbox.

Things begin to look up from that point on, as Gilbert gets to know his fellow students and realizes that all of the new first graders have their strengths and weaknesses. Philip may be a great reader, but Gilbert realizes that he's a better climber. By the end of the day, Gilbert has gotten to know Lewis and Frank, and Philip has helped him read two new books in the library corner.

"I made a new friend," says Gilbert to Patti's mom, "and so did Patti."

"No, I didn't," said Patti. "Margaret is my friend from dance class. She's an old friend, just like you are, Gilbert." Gilbert breathes a sigh of relief. He has a new friend and an old friend. Maybe first grade is going to be all right.

Diane Degroat's Brand-new Pencils, Brand-new Books a prequel to the popular "Gilbert and Friends" series, provides a bit of the backstory of the familiar classmates who feature in such holiday staples as Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo (Gilbert and Friends) and Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink.



Post a Comment

<< Home