Illustration from the book "My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.)" by Peter Brown. (Peter Brown)

Here’s the perfect back-to-school choice, though maybe not for kindergarteners or other first-timers who are up to their eyeballs in anxiety. Seasoned first- and second-graders swaggering back into familiar halls and classrooms will gleefully recognize the universal monsterhood of teachers everywhere, while seasoned teachers, equally gleefully, will recognize that awkward moment when a student discovers them doing something all-too-ordinary outside the classroom. What an appalling thought: Teachers are humans, too! Young Bobby, whose hair looks like he’s got one finger perpetually stuck in a light socket, sees scaly green skin, sharp claws and a mouthful of fangs when he looks at Ms. Kirby. Worst of all, when one of his best creations lands at her feet, she unfairly declares, “No recess for children who throw paper airplanes in class.” It’s not until he encounters his nemesis in the park one day that he discovers what lurks beneath her reptilian exterior. There’s a certain poetic justice when Ms. Kirby’s favorite hat is caught by a gust of wind and sails away. “Oh, Bobby, you are my hero!” she declares when her ever-eager pupil levitates to the rescue. Oddly enough, her skin seems to have gone from green to beige, her fingertips have rounded, and there are far fewer teeth in evidence. The transformation takes place without comment, except from a Greek chorus of ducks paddling back and forth in the foreground. Will this delicate détente last? Only the final pages will tell. Kids, after all, are kids. And teachers, well, they’ll probably be too busy reading this book to all those wiggling, giggling first-grade classes to worry about minor details such as whether their fangs are showing.

Kristi Elle Jemtegaard


By Peter Brown

Little, Brown. $18. Ages 5-7