#185 – Back to Front and Upside Down by Claire Alexander


5 Stars
Back to Front and Upside Down!
Claire Alexander
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
No. Pages: 26       Ages: 4 to 7
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From front jacket flap:  It’s the principal’s birthday, and the class is busy writing cards for the special occasion. But Stan’s letters tumble out in a muddle. With a friend’s help, Stan finds the courage to voice his fears. And after lots and lots of practice, Stan’s letters come out the right way round and the right way up.

Principal Slippers entered Miss Catnip’s classroom to announce it was his birthday. That afternoon he was having a party and all the kids were invited. Yeah! Miss Catnip wanted everyone to make Mr. Slippers a birthday card. Stan was excited to be able to draw a card, until . . .

“You’re cards need to say Happy Birthday,” said Miss Catnip

Stan was a good drawer but writing wasn’t as easy. His letters jumbled up and some didn’t look at all like letters. Stan was sure he couldn’t write. He watched other classmates writing away. Stan was so discouraged and worried that his tummy became as jumbled as his letters. At recess he told a friend why he was crying. Jack said,

“Have you asked Miss Catnip for help?”

“I can’t! Everyone will laugh at me.”

“No, they won’t. We all have to ask for help sometimes.”

This is a cute picture book with adorable characters. Stan is a young puppy, Jack a piglet and Miss Catnip, well, she’s a cat. There is even the proverbial set of dressed-alike twins.  I barely remember learning how to write, but I do have Dr. Seuss books I wrote my name in when I was about Stan’s age. The letters are different sizes and run up hill. Not quite the upside down and inside out letters Stan writes. Still, it reminds me how hard it was to learn to write the alphabet and even harder to put those letters together to write words. Don’t even get me started on sentences and paragraphs!

Back to Front and Upside Down! is another wonderful picture book where the author is also the illustrator. The illustrations are adorable and instantly will remind you of primary school. There are little desks, too high coat hooks, picture books lined up along a wall, and a big round rug for story time. The expressions and emotions of the characters are easy to see, a major plus for younger children who look for visual clues.

The only negative I have is with the font used. Ms. Alexander wrote, “After recess, Stan felt braver,” but the word braver looks more like “bvavev” thanks to a font with an “r” that looks very nearly like a “v.” Kids might have difficulty with this, especially those just learning to read. This is less noticeable as the font gets larger.

Kids will identify with Stan’s plight. It may not be about writing, but it will be about something. Not being able to do something and making mistakes, in addition to the anxiety these can bring about, is something every child has gone through. School is tough. Getting kids to understand it is good to ask questions and okay to ask for help, may be two of the hardest things parents and teachers need to do.

Back to Front and Upside Down! is a great story for teachers in the lower grades. Children will be able to identify with Stan’s fear that his classmates will laugh at him. Some will also identify with Stan’s difficulty writing letters correctly. Reading this book at one of the first story hours of the year is a great way of getting the kids to talk about asking for help. Teachers can quickly pick up on which students will easily ask and which ones may fear doing so. I imagine the discussion, after the reading of this book, will be lively and animated, as young children can easily be.

I like Back to Front and Upside Down! because it deals with two problems, the difficulty in learning how to write, and the difficulty in learning to ask for help. Both can become life-long problems. I hope Stan learned it was okay to ask for help. Other students may need help too, but are also afraid to ask. This fear of asking for help is one that can last a lifetime. But Jack is right,

“We all have to ask for help sometime.”

Reading Back to Front and Upside Down! to your child before the school year starts and again throughout the year, may help your child to fear not, and ask for help when needed. I’d put this book in every pre-kindergarten to second grade classroom. School is the one place where asking for help should be a no brainer, yet it is the one place where peer pressure and group ridicule is the strongest. Stories like Back to Front and Upside Down! can open up discussions, which can make learning easier.

Sorry, no samples of the illustrations.

Back to Front and Upside Down

Author/Illustrator: Claire Alexander    website
Publisher: Eerdmans Book for Young Readers   website
Release Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5414-8
Number of Pages: 26
Ages: 4 to   7
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3 thoughts on “#185 – Back to Front and Upside Down by Claire Alexander

  1. Pingback: Learning How To Write | Pre School Learning to Write

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