Penelope is really worried about her first day at school. Her parents try to reassure her; she gets a backpack with ponies on it, 300 sandwiches for lunch, and her dad walks her to school. But then she discovers that all of her new classmates are...
Children, in fact. It's a lovely classroom, with only 12 students (counting Penelope), racially diverse, with lots of science equipment, cozy reading spaces, and a cubby for everyone. But Penelope has some trouble fitting in, especially when she keeps, well, you know, they look so good, and they smell tasty too and.... yep, she keeps eating them. The drool-bespattered children are naturally reluctant to make friends with Penelope. Penelope is lonely, but then she gets some good advice from her dad: "children are the same as us on the inside. Just tastier." And she really tries! But they are so tasty...
It's not until the tables are turned on Penelope that she realizes what it's like to be eaten... and manages to curb her appetite.
Higgins' art is full of earth colors and lots of drool; Penelope's big, black eyes stare sorrowfully out at the reader, because she just can't understand why no one wants to be her friend! The bulgy-eyed goldfish, long-suffering teacher, and nervous children are all memorable and distinct characters. While the story points a lesson about friendship and fitting in, it's far from heavy-handed and the humor is definitely the main takeaway.
Verdict: Sure to be a favorite when reading back to school books, this one is a must-have for your school displays and it may even make a helpful reminder for younger students, in an updated version of the classic mantra, "Do unto others" remind your students, "Don't eat your friends!"
ISBN: 9781368003551; Published June 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; F&G provided by publisher; Purchased for the library