Because You Are My Teacher is the latest book from Sherry North and Marcellus Hall, the team that wrote and illustrated Because You Are My Baby and Because I Am Your Daddy. It's a book that I think is better than the title promises. Really, I almost didn't even open this one, because I thought that it would just be a sentimental book written to please teachers, rather than a book to please kids. While I adore and admire teachers, the picture books that I'm looking for are the ones that will keep kids turning the pages. But I have to say that this book is more kid-friendly than the title would suggest.
Each page spread features a teacher and her four students visiting a different part of the world (or, in one case, outer space). Each two-line couplet manages to get in a fact or two about the location, while also introducing a different mode of transportation. Like this:
"If we had a schooner, we would have our class at sea
And study the Atlantic, where the great blue whales roam free."
"If we had a river raft, we would tour the Amazon
And listen as the howler monkeys growl their spooky song."
There's no narrative arc. Just a series of these visits. But some of the scenarios are quite kid-friendly, as when they use hang gliders to get "a bird's-eye view" of a giant kangaroo. Then the book ends with:
"Our classroom is our vessel,
always headed someplace new.
Because you are our teacher,
We'll explore the world with you."
I can't say I was wowed by the ending. But I did very much like Marcellus Hall's watercolor illustrations. The teacher (of some brown-skinned, black-haired ethnicity) is smiling and intrepid. The four children are wide-eyed and interested in everything. The various animals that they encounter are slightly cartoonized (in a good way), with big eyes and expressive faces. I especially liked the alligators from the Everglades and the elephants from Africa. Each page has its own color palette, reflecting the landscape. There's also a lot of action conveyed in the pictures (see the page where the class goes kayaking in the Grand Canyon, for example). They are pictures that I would be happy to visit again and again.
So, while I think that the storyline is a bit contrived (perhaps designed to fit in with the rest of the series), I still found Because You Are My Teacher to be a kid-friendly book. There's plenty of action, all of it in interesting settings. There's a fair bit to be learned from the book, without it feeling dry or didactic. And the illustrations are eye-catching and full of likeable characters. This would certainly make a good gift book for a beloved teacher. But I hope that it also finds its way into the hands of kids. Because You Are My Teacher is a fun ride.
Publisher: Abrams (@ABRAMSbooks)
Publication Date: August 1, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).