It is the first day of school in Chad, Africa. Children are filling the road."Will they give us a notebook?" Thomas asks.
K-Gr 3—"In the country of Chad, it is the first day of school. The dry dirt road is filling up with children. Big brothers and sisters are leading the way." Thomas and the other younger children follow behind their older siblings, bombarding them with eager questions. "Will they give us a notebook? Will they give us a pencil? Will I learn to read like you?" When the children arrive at the schoolyard, they find only their teacher. Working under her direction, they build a school, using a wood frame, a few bricks, and a thatch roof and walls. With that completed, they have their classes. Nine months go by and rain clouds begin to gather. School is over until next year. Along with the rain comes the wind, and over time, the building disappears—washed away. Come September, the process will begin again. The final illustration features a smiling confident Thomas at the forefront, with eager, younger children following behind. The yellow, brown, and burnt orange shades dominate each of the spreads, both as background color and as part the dry, sandy, and hot landscape. The message of the story is clear—while the school structure may be temporary, education is permanent. This book also gives young children a glimpse into the school life of children in another part of the world.—Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OHCopyright 2010 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
"While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, Rumford was a teacher in Chad, and the authentic details illuminate the spare text and beautiful artwork. On double-page spreads, the colored-pencil, ink, and pastel images echo the words' elemental rhythms as they contrast golden-hued portraits of the children happily learning with dark, rain-drenched scenes of the school disappearing. The building eventually vanishes, but "it doesn't matter. The letters have been learned and taken away by the children...".Without a heavy message, this spare and moving offering will leave kids thinking about the daily lives of other young people around the world."—Booklist, starred review
"The illustrations are dramatic and inviting, with the black linework strong yet casual and nimble in its delineation of the excited kids and their self-built surroundings; more immediately striking is the array of bright colors, in mottled, strongly resisting pigments that sometimes suggest fresco, sometimes crayon, against the richly textured sandy-gold walls of the mud school. The notion that school on the other side of the world is both different and similar will be interesting to schoolgoers and aspirants, and this could elicit discussion about other kinds of ways schools could and do work."—The Bulletin