When school begins at the end of August, the third graders in Mrs. Tovani's class are excited: this is the year they are going to learn to write in cursive. Well, most of them are--Sean McFerrin thinks school is difficult enough without having to learn a new way of writing, and he is afraid that third grade will require him to think more than second grade did. Throughout the first month, Sean enjoys learning about the many fascinating things Mrs. Tovani introduces to the class, reading books on his favorite subjects, and enthusiastically waiting for his week to care for Matisse, the class mouse.
Then, one day, Mrs. Tovani makes the announcement the class has been waiting to hear: they are going to learn cursive. Almost all of the kids are thrilled. "But there was a flutter in Sean's stomach. What if he couldn't learn this new style of handwriting? Sean looked at the table near his desk and saw Matisse taking a nap in his cage. Mice never had to worry about writing in cursive." But the teacher adds something interesting: all the students who learn to write their names will become members of the John Hancock Club. As the weeks pass, the children work hard on their new skill, learn who John Hancock was, and are visited by the principal wearing a tricorner hat. Finally the big day arrives, and Sean and his classmates line up to sign their names on the club roster with a quill pen. After the ceremony, they receive a fitting treat (Sean's idea) to commemorate the momentous occasion.
Mrs. Tovani's third-grade classroom comes to life under the able pen of Louise Borden, the author of The Last Day of School, The Day Eddie Met the Author, and other winning titles. The reader has a "kid's-eye view" of the anticipation and uncertainties accompanying the learning of a new skill, and can feel the atmosphere in the room. Special added touches are samples of cursive writing at appropriate places in the text, excerpts of the children's reports about John Hancock, and the Declaration of Independence on the jacket. Adam Gustavson's illustrations capture the emotions and body language of Sean and his classmates. This is a perfect book for any child feeling insecure about mastering anything new or beginning a new grade. Sean's experience will resonate with many readers. Ages 6-9
Recommended by Barbara Karp, Librarian.