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Billy and the Big New School


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Reissue of a much-loved classic picture book

About the Author

Laurence Anholt has written over seventy books for children of all ages, many in collaboration with his wife, Catherine, including the well-loved 'Chimp and Zee' stories. They are both highly regarded in the UK and abroad as a successful author/illustrator team, and have had their books translated into many different languages. They met as undergraduates at Falmouth School of Art, and went on to achieve Master,s Degrees from the Royal Academy of Art and the Royal College respectively. Their books are based firmly within their own family,s experiences, and many of Catherine,s illustrations depict scenes which families will recognise. Catherine and Laurence Anholt live in Lyme Regis.


PreS-Gr 1-Nervous about starting school, Billy spends time talking to the birds that gather around the feeder in his yard. There he finds the "smallest, grubbiest, weediest, most dusty" sparrow and nurses it back to health. Before going to school, he releases it, saying, "You have to learn to take care of yourself-just like me." That day he makes a friend, tells his classmates about the bird, and ends up with the biggest smile around. The story finishes on an optimistic note for both the boy and the bird. The artwork is done in Catherine Anholt's familiar style-watercolor-and-ink cartoons featuring full, rounded, mostly smiling faces. The illustrations show Billy's drawings, school supplies, classroom surroundings, and finally, the boy's friends. This is a good book to dissipate children's fears about starting school and to show that the classroom can be just as enjoyable as home.-Shelley Woods, Boston Public Library, MA

The Anholts (The Big Book of Families) offer a poignant but reassuring treatment of the anxiety a child feels facing the first day at a new school. Billy confides his fears to the birds in his backyard; he's worried not just about getting lost, but also about the new shoes his mother has bought him, "with laces that were hard to tie." The day before the big start, Billy rescues a young sparrow that is not strong enough to fly. Using a characteristic mix of vignettes, spot art and large-scale illustrations, the Anholts affectionately juxtapose the drama of Billy's sheltering of the bird with the preparations made for school. While Billy makes the bird a nest in a shoebox, his mother is ironing and writing his name on his clothes. The parallel becomes explicit the next morning, when Billy and his mother release the recovered sparrow: "`You have to fly away,' he whispered. `You have to learn to take care of yourself‘like me.'" The drawings of the school (showing children romping on the playground, the kindly teacher, the toilets, the painting area and the computer) will kindle young children's interest, addressing both the strangeness of a new school as well as its possibilities for promoting friendships and positive experiences. As school-jitters stories go, this has an advantage apart from its gracefulness: because the Anholts never spell out Billy's exact situation, their book will be equally appropriate to children facing their first day of kindergarten or moving from one school to another. Ages 4-6. (Mar.)

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