• It’s a big day for author/illustrator birthdays! Birthday greetings to Jack Prelutsky, the first U.S. Children's Poet Laureate and author of The New Kid on the Block, It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, and many other books of poetry. Best birthday wishes to Jon Scieszka, the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (named by the Library of Congress in 2008), author of The Stinky Cheese Man, Time Warp Trio series, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and the autobiographical Knucklehead. Also, happy birthday to Byron Barton (Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, Machines At Work), Jeanie Adams (Pigs and Honey), and illustrator Michael Hague (A Child’s Book of Prayers, The Teddy Bears’ Picnic).
  • Richard Drew invents Scotch tape in 1930.
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is published in 1952.
  • The television show Star Trek premieres on NBC in 1966.
  • It’s International Literacy Day, highlighting efforts to provide the opportunity for all people, all over the world, to learn to read. Read Booktalking Around the World: Great Global Reads for Ages 9–14 by Sonja Cole.
  • It’s Pardon Day—a time for seeking forgiveness (because we all make mistakes) and remembering to say "Excuse me!" Read Excuse Me, But That Is My Book by Lauren Child.

Over the last two months, we’ve been looking at some optimistic books about a child going back to school. Whether it is The Magic School Bus or Kindergarten Diary, these books end happily with their protagonists very satisfied to be in school.

But for some children, school may be a bit more of a challenge. For teachers, these children can often prove trying. Later this month we will look at Jack Gantos’s Joey Pigza series. Today I’m going to focus on a character created by David Shannon, his alter ego, in David Goes to School.

We first meet young David in an earlier book, No, David! David Shannon actually wrote the first draft of this book when he was a child. His mother saved it and sent it to him years later. After looking at it, David decided that with a little alteration it would make a very good picture book. He writes “The text consisted entirely of the words no and David—they were the only words I knew how to spell—and it was illustrated with drawings of David doing all sorts of things he wasn’t supposed to do.”

In David Goes to School our hero, or anti-hero, finds himself in trouble again. Only this time the teacher tells him no—no yelling, no pushing, and no running in the halls. As she gives David a new set of commands (sit down, don’t chew gum, raise your hand, and pay attention), she spells out how to keep the classroom community in order. But David, unwilling and unable to obey the rules, acts out continually. When David has been told to pay attention, for instance, the illustration shows him gazing at the sky, where a large cloud shaped like a dinosaur lurks. In the end our bad boy has to stay after school and clean the desks. But the final lines give the reader—if not young David—some hope. “Good job, David! Yes, David….You can go home now.”

While adult readers might find themselves exhausted, feeling sorry for this poor teacher, children will see a bit of themselves—or at least enjoy watching a book character do what they might like to do. Grown-up David Shannon has executed the book with humor and an amazing memory of childhood. With fanglike teeth and a smile as wide as his face, David wins over all his readers in the end. And the book functions as a way to introduce basic school rules. For this very reason many teachers love to open the school year with it because the ending makes quite clear that although bad behavior will be scolded, good behavior will be praised.

Both in No, David! and David Goes to School, David Shannon has executed picture books that keep readers laughing from the first page to the last. He has clearly never forgotten what it feels like to be a child on those first days of school.

Here’s a page from David Goes to School:


Originally posted September 8, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Humor, School
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for David Goes to School


  1. Mrs. D. says:

    My 4 year old who is getting ready to start preschool loves this book. It was also a favorite of my first grade class when I was teaching first grade….I actually think I had several “David’s” in that group. It is a fun story, the illustrations create interest, and the text is simple enough to engage prereaders, and emergent readers.

  2. Mrs. O says:

    I think almost anyone who teaches the younger set will run across at least 1 David in their careers ! This year I am teaching pre-kinder (ages 4 & 5) and I have TWIN Davids ! LOL

  3. Kathryn says:

    I’ve been looking forward to the review of this book–it’s one of my favorites.

  4. G.Perry says:

    I find it interesting that a children’s book describes the exact opposite of any child I was in school with. I was a quite child, but it would never have occurred to me to be fearless enough to act out in class in any way. It would have scared me witless to even consider acting up in the classroom.

    Perhaps children forced to resort to dissociation as a remedy for stress and trauma created outside of school wouldn’t be as aware of something like this, as most children might be. At any rate, I can’t wait to read about David. Then, I plan to pretend I’m David’s age all over again, and make up for lost time. (In a fun way, in my imagination of course.)

  5. McCourt says:

    We love David!! We read them over and over at my house. My 4-year-old boy belly laughs at David’s antics and I love to hear him chuckle. All the David books are such a treat – wish there were even more!!!

  6. Anita says:

    You use the phrase that people often do to describe children’s reactions to these books “belly laugh.” We need more books that do that!

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