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The Picture Book Buzz

Play Day School Day - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

It's always tough to be the youngest, to watch siblings go to that mysterious place, "school," for the whole day. They want to do everything the older kids "get" to do. Even pretending to go to their own school - although I'm not sure how much fun sitting in the garage with a lunch box actually was. I was already at school.

Toni Yuly has created an amazing book to not only intrigue but allay the fears of younger siblings about to head to school. As well as remind everyone about the joy and possibilities of getting outside and exploring each day.

Play Day School Day

Author/Illustrator: Toni Yuly

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Ages: 4-8



Play, school, curiosity, and getting outside.


A younger sibling’s curiosity about school opens up a world of possibilities in this ode to the great outdoors. Tomorrow is the first day of the new school year, and big sister Mona can’t wait to go back. “What do you do at school?” asks little brother Milo. As he listens to Mona recount the many things she does during the school week — riding the bus, practicing spelling and reading, learning about science, playing with friends — Milo’s activities illustrate that with a little imagination, nature itself can be a classroom. With delightfully naive artwork and a spare text, Toni Yuly shows that learning is play and vice versa, offering a gentle introduction to school for children who are just starting and a warm celebration for those who are going back.

Opening Lines:

"Tomorrow is the first day of school,"

says Mona. "I can't wait to go back."

"What do you do at school?" asks Milo.

What I Loved about this book:

Using a simple white background, fun collage technique, with added line accents, and sparse text, Toni Yuly masterfully explores the ways that playing outside is similar to a day at school. As an added bonus, kids will enjoy watching the antics of a cat and a bluebird ithroughout the book.

Mona begins by explaining that riding a school bus is like riding in their wagon.

© Toni Yuly, 2020.

When Mona says they learn to read and write, Milo is seen weaving his name through a chain link fence with flowers. The next three spreads are amazing both in their simplicity and the connection of how play resembles school. "Learning about science . . .," - is accompanied by spread full of critters and their habitats (a brilliant way to open discussions of science), "math," - includes a spread of flowers, clouds, seedlings, and birds to count, and "art and music," - shows Mona dancing to the rhythm of the wind chimes and Milo beating sticks on a barrel.

Toni also subtly draws the connection between both school and nature having quiet and boisterous times.

© Toni Yuly, 2020.

The ending wraps it all up in a perfect "aww" moment. Overall, this is a wonderful book for those facing the start of school or missing older siblings. It also reminds us all that interacting with and watching nature is good for us and our mental health. It's even, perhaps, a reminder for teachers about the benefits of play and exploration in learning for all kids.


- how could outside play be like art in school? Mud painting, sidewalk chalk, etc.

- write a list or draw a picture of what you miss most when you're at school. How about when you're home over the weekend, during break, or now?

- what are your favorite games to play outside, by yourself or with friends (siblings)?

- what things in your yard or park can you use to make music?

- read Maple and Willow Apart by Lori Nichols for another look at how two siblings handled the older one going off to school. How are these two books similar? How are they different?

If you missed the interview of Toni Yuly on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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