Last year Kyle's Mom walked him to school and his brother rode the school bus. This year after a move their modes of transportation are reversed. Being a caring, older brother (note the sarcasm), James has given Kyle Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the School Bus.
John Grandits spins a tale much like the wheels on a bus; round and round.
It begins with the first day of school as James is walking Kyle to the bus stop. Having never rode the bus to school before, Kyle is naturally apprehensive especially after James' warnings along the way; stay off people's grass, don't get there too early or too late, be careful or people will laugh at you, push you, yell at you, pound on you, steal your lunch or your money or even more precious treasures and by all means, watch out for the dog behind the fence at the bus stop.
"Better stay back," said James. "That dog sounds nuts."
"No lie," a big kid said to my brother. "I heard he ate a first-grader last year."
Everyone moved as far away from the fence as possible-even the grownups.
Kyle is acutely aware that to live through this day he must follow each of the ten rules. By the time he has made his way through the gauntlet of the aisle to a seat, he has already broken two rules in order to not break rule one: never sit in the first row. When the bus arrives at school to his dismay he has broken another five rules. The morning is looking decidedly grim.
His day though is not so bad; in fact at recess the girl he spoke with on the bus (rule seven: Never talk to girls.) talks nonstop but he doesn't care. She's pretty interesting. Before he knows it the final bell has rung but where is the bus? As he takes a seat he realizes that in less than thirty seconds five rules have been broken.
Will Kyle break rule ten? With a confidence boosting conclusion readers along with Kyle will realize that some (or maybe all) rules are meant to be broken and maybe, new ones can be created along the way.
John Grandits has written a first day of school adventure a la bus ride that is bursting with bust-out-loud-laughing humor. Liberal use of similes and overly dramatic imaginings by Kyle elevate the fun factor for readers. Grandits' uncanny knack of knowing the subtle shifts in daily school environments and the interplay of siblings gives this title its edge into perfection.
Visuals created in acrylic paint by artist Michael Allen Austin nearly breath they are so realistic. Prior to any narration his illustrations on the title and dedication pages tell a story of their own. Kyle, backpack at the ready, is sitting on the floor watching a nature show about a rhinoceros being reminded of the time as a school bus makes its way through the hazy morning mist in the neighborhood with houses tilting and trees looking a tad spooky. Even the squirrel making an appearance repeatedly has eyes like Kyle's; fearful and skittish.
Using a variety of page layouts, double, single sometimes with definite borders and at times bleeding off the page, Austin easily conveys the numeration of the rules as the day's events unfold. He deftly captures the mood of Grandits' text with exaggerated depictions all around.
Just one example is: Suddenly there it was: the school bus, charging right at me like a giant yellow rhinoceros! Austin extends Kyle's thoughts by picturing a misshapen bus raring to go complete with ears and horns. And after school in search of his bus, all the buses look like a herd gathering for a charge. Simply flawless.
For anyone of any age who has ever ridden a school bus, it doesn't get any better than this.