This morning I was so reminded of my first-grade class that I all but lined up in the hallway for lunch. Fried baloney, anyone? What? That's no longer a staple of elementary-school cafeterias? And it never was, outside the South? Time flies.
Actually I was in a first-grade classroom so the deja vu shouldn't have surprised me. Once a week I read with some first-graders at the Maple Street School*, in a nearby town. Today two of my six-year-old friends and I played Clifford ABC Bingo and looked at a few pages of Alphabet Explosion: Search and Count from Alien to Zebra, by John Nickle; Random House had sent me a copy of that newest work by the Ant Bully author. Our family has played the bingo game a million times, so I thought the kids would like it, and being Clifford fans and knowing their letters upside down and all around, they did. (No link, alas. The game must be out of print.)
Like my son Junior, the children also thought Alphabet Explosion was a hoot. With its brightly colored, surreal illustrations, Nickle's wordless picture book is a hipster's ABC guide, meant to entertain the adults reading along, too. Take I, for example. The 17 I words (that readers have to guess) include inches, ironing, iguana (who's doing the ironing), impala (impatiently waiting for the iguana to finish), iris, igloo, ivy, and icicles; luckily, there's an answer key in the back for those of us who might not recognize an impala right off the bat. Initially I worried that some of the irony would surely go over the heads of younger readers, but the first-graders had fun applying their knowledge of letter sounds. A great morning for me, and to top it off, I got to practice my Ds when I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts for a coffee afterward.
*The school is real, but I changed the name, mostly because I love maple trees.