There’s a quiet to Kate Berube’s books that holds young listeners in a state of wonder. Mae is not going to school today, no matter what her mother, father, or other parents on the playground say to persuade her. But when she scurries into a tree to hide from the opening bell, she learns that she’s not the only one afraid of the first day of school.
I’d keep this in my teacher bag as a mentor text to help readers study how-
- Punctuation influences tone of voice as Mae changes from “I’m not going.” to “I’m not going!” to “I’M. NOT. GOING.”
- Mae changes throughout the story and what lesson she learned. I’d challenge second graders to ponder the sentence, “I’m not the only one” and how this relates to the central message of the story.
Writers could use this as a mentor text to study how…
- Repeated phrases create transitions like Berube does when she repeats and expands, “Today is Mae’s first day of school.” throughout the story.
- Writers can add small details to make their characters come alive. The illustrations and character wonderings show us that Mae is a dinosaur lover, Ruby loves her dad, and Ms. Pearl is a cat-lover.
I read this to kindergarten, first, and second graders last year as the school year began and found it to be a hit with each age. The sparse language and musical phrasing make it a joy to read aloud. Children listen with intensity as Berube explains Mae’s worries about school and giggle with delight when her teacher shows the same worries.
Kids adored the small details in the illustrations – finding Mae’s feet as she hides behind the curtain or flees up the tree. They make predictions about who Ms. Pearl is and then laugh when they find out she is the teacher.
“This is a great book for kids who are afraid of school. If they’re afraid to go, they will know it’s going to be okay because if they do something wrong, everyone does something wrong, and it’s okay. School is for learning.”
– 2nd Grader
Add Mae’s First Day of School to your list of back-to-school read alouds and see if it strikes a note with your young readers as well!