Teddy’s Best New Picture Books of 2018: #3 “We Don't Eat Our Classmates!” by Ryan T. Higgins
I’ll be counting down my favorite new picture books of 2018 all month. Number 3 is “We Don't Eat Our Classmates!” by Ryan T. Higgins.
First off, the title and cover of this book are great. Before reading a new book to students, I like to sometimes to “preview” the book by looking at the front page and reading the title and having the children guess what it will be about. Some books garner lukewarm responses, but here the children where enthralled and had a wide range of ideas of what would happen in the book.
While it’s not central to the plot, I love that Higgins choose to make Penelope (the dinosaur ) female. Even picture books with anthropomorphic animals as the protagonist too often are male.
The illustrations are great throughout and have little details that flesh out the character. When we see Penelope in her room at start, the nervousness on her face is clear, her little stuffed dinosaurs are sitting at a table looking like they are playing school and there is a stuffed unicorn in the other corner of the page which foreshadows a joke about unicorns on the next page. Young children can relate to the anxiety Penelope experiences on the next few pages as she approaches her new school and classroom for the first time. When Penelope opens the door to her class, we can’t see inside her class. When reading the book to children the first time, this is a good spot to pause and have them guess what Penelope’s classmates will be like. In my experience, children guessed the other students would be other kinds of dinosaurs (we had previously read Jane Yolen’s “How Do Dinosaurs Go To School” where all the students are dinosaurs) Here is where we get to the first twist, all the rest of the students are normal human children. The illustration of the classroom looks like many prek classes complete with cubbies, word wall, hanging art work, loft, and a diverse group of students. Since you know the title of the book, you can probably guess what happens next... I won’t spoil the rest of the book, but there are great lessons for children who have anxiety about school, for children who act overly aggressive and or bite their classmates, and lessons about how to make friends in general.