Back to School: Chu's First Day of School by Neil Gaiman
CHU WAS WORRIED.
HE HAD NEVER BEEN TO SCHOOL BEFORE.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
All first-timers are at least a little leery of leaving the home setting and moving into the world of SCHOOL! Chu voices his fears to his parents, who blithely assure him that his teachers and classmates are sure to like him.
But Chu is worried. You see...
THERE IS THIS THING THAT CHU COULD DO.
Youngsters fortunate enough to have read Neil Gaiman's first Chu story will know why Chu is worried. Those who haven't will get a clue from the book's title page and frontispiece. Chu is first shown sitting amid a field of daisies, looking warily across the street at the waiting Big School. A page turn shows the tall grass flattened where he was sitting and bits of daisies and grass floating down through the air as Chu hustles off, page right.
At school the teacher and students do seem nice. Teacher kicks the day off with a getting-to-know you exercise in which students are to introduce themselves and tell the others something special they can do.
Jengo the Giraffe says that she likes to get things down from high shelves. Pancho the Capuchin says he likes to climb trees if they aren't too tall, and Robin says she likes to sing.
When it is his turn, Chu takes a pass.
The others all take their turns, happy to tell about the cool things they do, as Teacher chalks their names carefully on the blackboard. At last everyone looks at Chu.
And as the chalk dust tickles his nose, they find out the special thing Chu could do:
"AHH... AAAAH... AAAAAH....
Papers fly from Teacher's desk, books fly, too, as bookcases, desks, and stools overturn. Everyone is dazed, surprised, and overwhelmed. Teacher picks herself up, but everyone else lies there, speechless.
"THAT'S WHAT I DO," SAID CHU.
Neil Gaiman's latest Chu story, Chu's First Day of School (HarperCollins, 2014), shows his sneezy protagonist as he blows the first-day blues away. Chu's impromptu ah-choo is certainly an icebreaker for his class, and by the time he gets home, he announces that he's not worried anymore.
Notable artist Adam Rex does the illustrative honors, with the most engaging little panda ever front and center, mixing full-bleed colored pages with bright white backgrounds where his adorable little Chu is highlighted in all his innocent charm. Of all the first-day-of-school stories out there, this one is truly unique.
Newbery author Gaiman's first Chu book is Chu's Day, and you can read my 2013 review here.