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Ms. Rapscott's Girls written and illustrated by Elise Primavera, 262 pp, RL: 4

Ms. Rapscott's Girls is the newest novel from Elise Primavera, author of one of my favorite books, Libby of High Hopes and I love it to bits! Ms. Rapscott's Girls, both the book and the titular character, call to mind classics from my childhood like Mary Poppins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and my absolute favorite, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Set firmly in the real world, there are generous dabs of magic with a dash of the fantastical, all swirling around the wonderfully, purposefully direct, loving but firm Ms. Rapscott, owner and headmistress of the Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents. And, while there is the unspoken sadness that the busy parents of these girls do not have time to celebrate their birthdays, teach them to write thank you notes or even properly pull off the "kwik-close tape to secure the E-Z shut flaps" on the boxes that the girls are mailed to the Great Rapscott School in, the character of Ms. Rapscott fills that emptiness with her boundless personality and uncommon curriculum.

The opening pages of Ms. Rapscott's Girls reminded me very much of the cinematic opening pages of Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret. After illustrations of Lewis and Clark, Ms. Rapscott's corgi assistants, the school crest, a school advertisement and letter of acceptance to the parents of Beatrice Chissel (Primavera comes up with brilliantly Dickensian names for her characters) we are treated to a sixteen page illustration spread that beings with a sweeping view of the lighthouse where the school is located on a dark and blustery night. Next we see Lewis and Clark and Ms. Rapscott, binoculars in hand, peering out from the top of the lighthouse as five flying cardboard boxes approach. Inside these boxes are Beatrice Chissel, Fay Mandrake, Mildred A'Lamode, Annabelle Merriweather and the empty - save for the stuffed woolly lamb - box of Dahlia Thistle. The things that keep the parents of these girls busy are absurdly funny, imaginatively preposterous and just the tiniest bit sardonic. Dahlia Thistle's family is the busiest of the five girls, with her mother writing a very popular mommy blog about "the trials and tribulations of being a mom," and her father working as a professional comment writer on the Internet.

Of course the girls are disgruntled, disturbed and anxious at first, but once they are settled in their circular room complete with canopied beds and served birthday cake with a lit candle, ice cream and hot chocolate for breakfast, they begin to warm up to Ms. Rapscott and the summer ahead of them. Always on the lookout for Dahlia Thistle, the teacher and students get lost on purpose and look for the Less Traveled Road, seek refuge in the Bumbershoot Tree and make use of the Thank You notes in their specially packed backpacks. They work to exemplify Rapscottian qualities like being self-reliant, enthusiastic, a good sport, being thoughtful and being fair be Head Girl for the week, earning them a spot on the top tier of the Birthday Cake because "life is like trying to bake your own birthday cake without a recipe." The girls are also borne along by the Skysweeper Winds and the Seaskimmers and the make a visit to the Alps, and amazing ice cream store inside a freezing, cavernous building with its own weather system going full force underneath an "impossibly far away" ceiling shaped like the swirls of a soft serve cone.

Ms. Rapscott's Girls ends with one of my favorite parts of the book - the revelation of an amazing wish Ms. Rapscott made on a wishbone and the poignant awarding of honors to each girl as she prepares to return home. Ms. Rapscott's Girls concludes the way it began - with a sixteen page spread that finds Ms. Rapscott, Lewis and Clark on the top of the lighthouse, this time watching as their students fly off into the stormy night in their official, school issued boxes with the kwik-close tape and E-Z shut flaps. I can't WAIT to read what happens to the girls in the next semester of school at the Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents!

Very cool boxes used to ship Ms. Rapscott's Girls to booksellers!

Picture books by Elise Primavera:

Soon to be the movie Auntie Claus!

Auntie Claus Teaser Trailer

Novels by Elise Primavera:

                  Libby of High Hopes

Picture books written by Elise Primavera:

Source: Review Copy


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