Listen to this article

It’s back-to-school time! Not only are the children heading back into the classrooms, but in these two new picture books, their pets and other animals are as well.

As we begin “Take Your Pet to School Day” (2019, Random House, written by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, ages 4-8), we read a note written to the students of Maple View School. Although, we are told, there is a rule that pets are not allowed at school, “ — for just one special day — we’ve decided it’s okay.”

So on that Friday, the students file in, “with books and bags and pets in tow, above, ahead, beside, below.” But as the pets howl, bleat, shriek and squeak along with the morning song, Mr. Paul shouts “Enough!” “Now why would someone change this rule? Pets do NOT belong in school!”

And when the librarian begins to read a story and the pets interrupt with barks and quacks, her complaints echo the same refrain, “Pets do NOT belong in school!”

The bright illustrations, against a white background, show a diverse, happy group of children, with many fun details to pay attention to.

Art class goes no better. “The pets aren’t neat. They do not share. Paint is splattered everywhere.” At snack time, the pets grunt and gobble.

Finally the principal appears, saying, “‘That’s enough!’ She looks around. “It’s very clear —these animals should not be here. Now WHY would someone change the rule? Who said these pets could come to school?”

Nobody knows. Who has written the note? “Speak up. Right now,” the principal demands. Then, with a page turn we read, “All is quiet. Then …Meeoowww.” We see a small kitten holding a note in its mouth.

The note reads, “We do not like your ‘No Pets’ rule. We miss our kids when they’re at school. We thought that it would be okay to come to school — it’s just one day. — Pets”

Silence ensues, as the principal thinks. Finally, she says, “Alright. But ONLY if you clean this mess — AND behave your very best.” The pets agree — and follow the rules so well that in a note at the end of the story we read, “But your friends have been so good, we’ve decided that you should”… come each and EVERY day!”

This book is charming, both linguistically and visually, and with its clever storyline it is sure to please.

For younger readers, “If Animals Went to School” (2019, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, written by Ann Whitford Paul, illustrated by David Walker, ages 3-6) introduces them in an entertaining way to what they can expect at school.

If animals went to school, “Beaver’s papa would tug him, ‘You’re moving too slow.’ “But he’d shuf-shuffle-shuffle ‘I don’t want to go.’”

While their teacher, Ms. Cheetah starts with a song, Dingo howls and Owl hooty-hoots. They’d write their letters, “Panda a P, Cobra a C, Tortoise a T.” Elephant would pile cardboard bricks and Beaver would count sticks.

At storytime, “Fox would rush to the story nook, and bark-bark, ‘Goat! Stop eating that book!’” When they play outside, Lemur will leap limb to limb on the tree jungle gym and “Goose will glide, wheeeeeee! down Giraffe’s neck slide.”

Colorful, joyful watercolors amp up the playfulness until finally the school day is over. Beaver, slapping his tail in dismay, whines to his Papa, “I don’t want to go. And he’d shuf-shuffle, shuffle, shuf-shuffle home slooooo-ooooow.”

If you like this book, you can check out other books in this series, including “If Animals Kissed Good Night” and “If Animals Said I Love You.”

Alice B. McGinty ( is the award-winning author of almost 50 books for children and runs a summer writing camp for teens called Words on Fire. She just celebrated the release of two books, “The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney” (Schwartz and Wade Books) and “Pancakes to Parathas: Breakfast Around the World” (Little Bee Books).”