Rosemary Wells is one of my favorite children’s authors. She writes and illustrates books that feature animal characters rather than humans. Recently, I went to the library with a mission: my granddaughter was not enjoying school and I wanted to find some books that dealt with this issue. The librarian suggested Emilys First 100 Days of School.
What a gem! Emily bunny goes off to the first day of school filled with excitement. Her teacher, Miss Cribbage (as a cribbage player, I got a chuckle out of this whimsical name), tells the class that each morning the students will make a new number friend and write it down in their books. When they reach one hundred, they’ll have a party.
Wells not only knows what kids like, she knows how to appeal to their parents and grandparents as well. In her note at the beginning of the book, she explains that when she was in elementary school, she didn’t like math because it wasn’t fun. “It was taught by rote, and it was impossible for me to see how I would use these lessons in real life.”
“Yet numbers are wonderful things,” she says. “They appear in all our games, in our poetry, and in songs. Numbers are a vital part of our culture.” Wells gives us adult readers a chance to teach another generation some of those numbers that come to mind the moment the number is mentioned and to bring some of the “shy ones out of their hiding places!” But most of all Wells provides an opportunity to make counting fun!
I loved reading this book to my granddaughter because almost every number lead to a little digression and story of my own.
- On day two, Miss Cribbage taught the class a song called “Tea for Two.” Well, of course I had to sing it and teach Juliet the words!
- On day four, the class learns about square dancing, which made me sing a few do-si-do’s as I explained square dancing.
- On day eight Emily teaches her little brother how to play Crazy Eights, which I haven’t played in years but promised to teach Juliet very soon.
- For day nine the students dress up as the nine planets, which include Pluto, bringing up the fact that Pluto is no longer considered a planet.
- On day 16 Emily and her grandparents sing “Sixteen Tons” and so do I. Wells includes the first three measures in case you’ve forgotten that classic.
- They play Twenty Questions on day 20, providing an opportunity to explain animal, mineral or vegetable.
- Day 28 made me laugh at the wacky drawing of green vegetable Jell-O with 28 peas in it!
- On Day 30 Miss Cribbage teaches the class to recite the classic poem for remembering how many days are in each month. I learned to sing it: “Thirty days has September, April, June, and November …”
This book is filled with little “in-jokes” for my generation: Aunt Min tells her nephew that she’s 39 and still a “spring chicken!” Try explaining that to a 7-year old! When Felix asks Granny why the sky is blue, she responds: “That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question!”
Juliet’s favorite page was #61 with a drawing of Dorothy’s Meals-on-High-Heels truck, driven by Miss Dorothy in her red high heels. She’s delivering 61 turkey sandwiches to the homeless people on Thanksgiving. We both had fun identifying all 62 of the little detailed drawings on Mama’s shopping list. After I finished singing “Seventy-six Trombones,” we counted the 77 stockings that the class was sending to 77 children in different countries for the UNICEF Christmas Crusade.
This book held my granddaughter’s attention for 78 minutes the first time I read it to her over the phone. She asked me to bring it on my next visit and we read it again from cover to cover. This book is truly a keeper!