It's the beginning of a new school year. Ms. Wurtz has put a blank notebook in the writing center of the classroom, but she hasn't told any of the students about it. Inside she's written a note telling the kids that the notebook is for them to write in, if they want, during Center Time. They can write about whatever they wish, and they should leave it for other kids to write in, too. She wants them to "talk" to each other in the pages - and they won't be graded on what they write.
There are only two rules:
1. Have fun.
2. Sign your name, so everyone knows who you are.
The first student to find the book is Lizzy. She's very excited and says she hopes that only the girls find it. Her entry is decorated with sweet drawings of hearts and clouds. Her best friend Yoshiko discovers the book next (after a hint about the notebook from Lizzy), and she is excited too, and illustrates her entry with a cute self-portrait.
Then things get interesting. A boy named Luke discovers the notebook and writes: Howdy, My name is Luke. It rhymes with puke. Accompanying this text is a graphic cartoon drawing of a boy throwing up. Lizzy retorts in the following entry: Luke, this is supposed to be a nice book. Nobody wants to see pictures of you barfing in it.
The situation escalates, with Luke writing hilarious - but insulting - stories about the girls, the other boys laughing and egging him on, and the girls retaliating in their own "sweet" way. Ms. Wurtz finally says she'll take the notebook away if they can't figure out a way to get along. The notebook has become a fun, creative outlet for all of them, but when each child in the class has a different idea of how the book should be used - and writes up different sets of rules, it looks like finding a way to get along will be an impossible task.
I enjoyed the humorous interplay among the students in the class, the whimsical illustrations and the creative way in which the children manage to approach their problem. While the kids are a bit stereotypical (there is the brainy boy who sticks to the facts and draws pictures of Mars rovers, the horse-crazy girl, etc.), they represent an interesting cross-section of the class, and their differences make the story interesting. This book would be especially appealing to kids who tend to be intimidated by longer books with small print uninterrupted blocks of text. Each child's entry is in a different font style, and there are very funny illustrations on every page. After just a few pages it is easy to tell which character is writing, both by the font style and the unique voice.
I bought this book for my seven-year-old during spring break, and she enjoyed it very much. I'm also going to recommend it to my nine-year-old - she loves this kind of humor, too. This book is a recommended summer reading pick at my library - and also counts as book 4 of ten in Molly's Personal Reading Challenge.
Please Write in This Book by Mary Amato; illustrated by Eric Brace (Holiday House, 2006)