13 Aug / Ally-Saurus & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey
The new school year has apparently already begun in certain parts of the country, including Hawai’i (which started in July!), parts of Alabama and Indiana, too. I’m sure other states, too, have begun to herd the masses back to classrooms, with the rest of the country following sooner than later.
Meet Ally-saurus, who’s about to embark on her first day. She puts her pants on backwards so her tail can stick out. She hopes she’ll find other dinosaurs among the new friends her mother promises she’ll make. She lets her teacher know that yes, her name is Ally, but she prefers Ally-saurus. She chomps through her snack, mistakes a cut-out spaceship for one of her own, and blurts out Dinosaur for the letter A because she “just like[s] dinosaurs.”
Being a roarer, Ally-saurus, alas, is not a favorite among the class princesses. Finding herself sitting solo at her own table during lunch, she thinks she might rather be at home with her real friends … until a dragon, a lion, and a boy named Walter help make her first day a menagerie she can’t wait to join again and again and again.
Creator Richard Torrey who clearly had quite an imaginative childhood – according to his back flap bio, he wanted to be a Viking, a cowboy, a fireman, and more! – did well to choose telling and drawing kids’ tales when he grew up. His story here is energetic and entertaining, but his art is where his ingenious creativity shines best: with a few colorful chalk-inspired swishes added on top of his more detailed illustrations, his is one of the most clever representations of the richness of young imaginations.
Ally is clearly a little girl here, but with few spikes and a tail, Torrey unmistakably turns her into a dinosaur. Transforming Cindy into a dragon merely requires some swirls (and a tail) in green; Jason needs just golden clustered spikes (and a tail) to make him into a lion. From orange pirates to blue astronauts to purple butterflies, Torrey brings young imaginations to vibrant life right there on the page. He even manages to playfully throw in a few autobiographical reminiscences, adding a subtle little hide-and-seek into the mix.
The best surprise, by the way, happens on the penultimate spread: an homage to the power of books – rendered with such brilliant simplicity! – that will surely have librarians and teachers doing the happy dance …