School Days: Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish by Kate Messner
"WE'RE GETTING A NEW STUDENT IN MY CLASS," SEA MONSTER TOLD HIS MOM. "I'LL BET HE'LL BE NERVOUS LIKE I WAS."
"BE A FRIEND AND SHOW HIM AROUND," MOM SUGGESTED.
That's usually good advice, But when Sea Monster gives the new kid the grand tour, it soon becomes obvious that this newbie is anything but shy and reserved and he's clearly not impressed with Sea Monster's school. Everything about his old school was bigger and better.
At the music room, when the primary choir belts out "The Eels on the Bus," for the new kid, he's clearly underwhelmed:
"WE SANG COOLER SONGS AT MY OLD SCHOOL.
I'M AWESOME AT PLAYING THE DRUMS," HE BRAGS.
At P.E. he gets to choose a team and he gives his picks embarrassing nicknames--Smelly Smelt, Lurch-the-Perch, Big Mouth Bass, and Earnest-O-Saurus Rex for Sea Monster, and when Sea Monster gives him a lift to score a basket, he declares himself the "slam-dunk king." Back in the classroom he hogs the blocks and the costumes in the dress up box while the others stand around nervously for fear of being given an even worse nickname:
"I'M A NINJA-COWBOY-DINOSAUR-WIZARD," HE BOASTS.
But things get even worse after school. The new kid organizes the Fresh Fish Club, for only the "coolest kids," with himself as president, and the chosen get their own set of shades to show off. Sea Monster has always wanted to be in a club, and at first he is proud of his cool sunglasses and goes along with the new guy's "anything for a laugh" style. But then he notices that most of the class aren't sporting shades and are looking left out.
"SUDDENLY MY COOL SHADES FELT HEAVY ON MY SNOUT."
It's time for a more inclusive, alternative style of leadership in Kate Messner's latest, Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish (Chronicle Books, 2013), as Earnest manages to include everyone in his new Friend Fish Club and to co-opt the bossy bully by forming a seafloor band with the new kid on drums. Verbal bullying is more complex than the physical type of intimidation to deal with, and Messner lays out one possible remedy clearly in her text. Meanwhile, artist Alex Rash has an under-the-sea blast with his comic characters, having especial fun with the book titles on the display shelf in the underwater school library--Gar in a Car, Make Way for Minnows, The World According to Carp, Where the Wild Fish Are, and that Seuss classic above and below the water line, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
For a couple of fish tales that won't leave returning students with the all-wet, back-to-school blues, pair this one with Messner's earlier Sea Monster's First Day (read my 2011 review here).