I love reading picture books to every grade at the elementary school where I am the librarian, but I have to confess that the kindergarteners are my favorites to read to. And Just Itzy by Lana Krumwiede with perfect illustrations by Greg Pizzoli is my new absolute favorite book to read to them. I love it when I read a book that gets my listeners to think even before I have read the first page and with Just Itzy there are all sorts of connections to make. When I hold up the book and they hear the title and get a look at the spider on the cover, I see the lightbulbs go on. Next, I start making the spider-up-the-spout movements with my hands and they all start singing. And that's just the beginning!
Just Itzy begins with little Itzy headed off to his first day of "spindergarten," a little embarrassed because his mom has to pack him a lunch. Even though peanut butter and honeybee sounds delicious, Itzy would rather be catching his own lunch in a web he spun by himself, just like his big brother Gutzy. And, despite his mother's warnings of wet weather ahead, he refuses to take his raincoat with him.
The siblings head off to school where Itzy in is for a busy day. Mr. Webster tells the class to "keep you eye on the fly," but Itzy still has a hard time spinning his first web. As he struggles to keep up, Krumwiede has Itzy wander through a few familiar nursery rhymes and songs. The first fly he chases leads him to build a web near some "stinky old curds and whey." When Itzy frightens Miss Muffet away, the fly zips off with her an Itzy finds himself in another tricky situation.
Next, Itzy's makes the mistake of spinning his web near an old woman and he soon finds himself insider her stomach with a farmyard full of animals. It's tempting to stop at this point in Just Itzy and have a sing along, but it's hard not to want to know how Itzy's day ends.
Krumwiede brings Just Itzy home with a story thread that picks up on the titular song. Itzy makes yet another web at the bottom of a waterspout and, when he hears a scared, small voice coming down the spout, he begins to make his way up. The water does wash him out, but he gets back up again and even manages to get Gutzy out of a tight spot! Pizzoli's cheerful, multi-media illustrations are bold and a bit simple, which is perfect for the text, which is a bit longer than most picture books these days. Pizzoli's illustrations keep the story moving and the reader's attention and Itzy, in his red baseball cap, is always the center of attention.
Source: Review Copy