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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back to School: Every Cowgirl Goes to School by Rebecca Janni


IT'S A BRAND-NEW CLASS AND A BRAND-NEW DAY.
AND I HAD IT ALL PLANNED!

Cowgirl Nellie Sue is eager to ride the range at school. She's got her ten-gallon pink cowgirl hat, her cowboy boots, and her Five Things About Me Bag loaded just like her new teacher Mrs. Clark's welcome-back letter said. Inside her special bag is her #1 Goat Wrangler Award Blue Ribbon Award ready for show-and-tell. She's got her best friend Anna to ride the bus with. What could go wrong?

But the best-laid plans of even cowgirls can go wrong. Mama informs Nellie that hats are not allowed by school rules. When Nellie Sue boards the school bus, Anna is already seated next to a girly-looking new girl, and Nellie has to plop down next to--a grown-up, riding shotgun.

"LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE GOT A FRONT-ROW SEAT" SAID DRIVIN' IVAN FROM BEHIND THE WHEEL.

Anna and the new girl named Maya chatter and giggle all the way to school. Then, when Mrs. Clark pulls out her seating chart, Anna is seated next to the new girl and Nellie Sue is sent to sit between the rowdy J-Twins, Jacob and Joshua. When the twins and Nellie get to lead the morning song, Mrs. Clark bulldogs her air-guitar accompaniment with pursed lips, folded arms, and the teacher hairy eyeball.

In P.E. Nellie Sue has to exchange her signature pink cowboy boots for sneakers. At recess a loose shoelace sends her sprawling in the sand, and when she tries to spit out the gritty stuff in her mouth, it lands on--what else--Maya's pristine new shoes.

"THIS BRAND-NEW DAY IS NOT GOING MY WAY!"

And then, back in the classroom, Maya puts a full-page drawing of Nellie Sue as a cow wearing a cowgirl hat and boots, and a caption which says, "You make such a pretty cow." The J-Twins snort and start a chorus of MOOs which the whole class takes up.

Cowgirls don't cry, but Nellie Sue finds that this cow-girl does. She runs down the hall and sits on the curb sobbing.

Then Anna leads Maya outside. Maya has something to say.

"I THOUGHT COWGIRLS LOVED COWS! PLEASE COME BACK NELLIE SUE! I WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND."

And when it's time for show-and-tell, from her Five Things About Me Bag Nelly Sue pulls out her #1 Goat Wrangler Ribbon and Maya's Cow-Girl Poster, in Rebecca Janni's fourth Every Cowgirl picture book, Every Cowgirl Goes to School (Dial Books, 2013), again augmented with Lynne Avril's charming and upbeat illustrations.  Dealing with first-day social shifts can be a real trial for students, and Nellie Sue's successful negotiation of that brand-new day may give kids the optimism to take on their own first-day situations with some new insights. Janni's other books in this series--Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots, Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse, Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo, and her beginning reader, Nellie Sue, Happy Camper: An Every Cowgirl Book (Penguin Young Readers, L2),  deal humorously but sensitively with the social situations of riding the range in a suburban setting.

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