Mr. Wolf's Class by Aron Nels Steinke, 160 pp, RL 3

Mr. Wolf's Class by Aron Nels Steinke
Purchased at Barnes & Noble
Story: Mr. Wolf arrives at Hazelwood Elementary to prepare for his new teaching job to find his fourth grade classroom is a mess, as well as some well-dressed rats scampering about. Panels show all seventeen students tucked in bed the night before the first day of school. Over the course of the first day of school, we learn a little bit about most of the students and Mr. Wolf (although the rats remain a mystery...) Margot is new to town, Oscar, who loves palindromes, draws a Taco Cat, Aziza's, who is a little prickly, name IS a palindrome, Penny is dead tired because her baby brother cried all night and Randy gets easily distracted. A student almost has a bathroom accident, a couple of students get in trouble and owe Mr. Wolf a minute at recess, a student goes missing and a lunch goes missing when it is carried off by the rats. And, in what is a very sweet ending, Margot and Sampson discover they both love to collect seashells.

Pictures: Steinke's illustrations are crisp, bright and cartoony. Filled with expression and movement, they are also funny. And, while the characters are all animals, there is also diversity among them. Aziza wears a hijab and the colors of the animals don't always correspond with nature. There is a magnificent attention to detail and young readers, or readers who work at a school, are sure to pick up on all the subtleties.
Why Read? Why Buy?: AUTHENTICITY! As I read through Steinke's book, I thought to myself, "This guy has worked in a school before. He knows how things in a school work, and what makes kids tick." Sure enough, Aron Nels Steinke is a fifth grade teacher in Portland, OR! Steinke graduated from Vancouver Film School with a specialization in hand-drawn animation. In Mr. Wolf's Class, he perfectly captures the curiosities of a classroom full of kids. During a math assessment, Aziza knows how to do multiplication but is not showing her work on the paper. Brilliantly, Steinke shows readers how the work is done in her thought bubble. She just can't get it on the paper! And Penny, the sleepy student, is so familiar to me. Someone is always falling asleep during story time. Speaking of the library, there is a great spread with the librarian, Ms. Bird, where Mr. Wolf's class is sitting and listening to her, shelf markers (long, plastic sticks kids stick in the stacks when they pull a book off the shelf so they can remember where to put it back) on the tables in front of them. Another moment I loved - and related to - comes when the missing student shows up at the tail end of recess and asks if she missed all of recess. Relieved she has been found, Mr. Wolf gives the class an extra five minute on the playground. I LOVE this book and can't wait to share it with my students. I just hope it comes in library binding...

 Coming in 2019!!!!

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