Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mule School

Rawlinson, Julia. 2008. Mule School. Illustrated by Lynne Chapman.

Mules are known for stubbornness. Right? Wrong! Meet Stomper, a mule that might just flunk out of mule school because he just can't be stubborn enough like all his peers. You see Stomper likes to be polite, friendly, helpful. He likes to think for himself. He may want to do what others tell him to do. Why should he be restricted to saying "no" and "never" and "won't"?

I love the illustrations by Lynne Chapman. And I confess they probably steal the show away from the text. The attention to detail is humorous. And it's often these hidden little gems that are good for a quick laugh. I think I caught something new each time I read it through.

Here is how Mule School begins,
Stomper did not like Mule School. He liked the other mules. He liked lunchtime and playtime. But he did not like Stubbornness Practice. Every day his schedule was the same:

9 o'clock Stubbornness
11 o'clock Kicking
12 o'clock Lunch
1 o'clock Stubbornness
3 o'clock Kicking
4 o'clock Home

Day after day the mules recited, "Won't, won't, won't" and "Never, never, never." They shook their heads and stamped their feet.
As you might be able to predict, Stomper will have some influence--though it won't come easily and without some cost--on his peers and his teacher. While the message that it's good "that not everyone is exactly the same" has been done before (a recurring theme in picture books when it comes down to it), I must admit that I enjoyed Mule School. I would be interested to see what a classroom of kids thought of it as well. If you've read this one to kids, feel free to leave a comment. Was it a big hit or a dud? Is it a book that adults think kids will really like...or is it actually genuinely kid-friendly?

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

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