It's September again. Summer is over, and around the country kids are returning to school. And what better way to brighten those early days of a new routine than with a story about a crazy dog running amok in class? Maira Kalman's Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey was a top picture book of 2002 and a story recommended to help children cope with the events of September 11. Now, in a follow-up to the previous What Pete Ate from A-Z, Kalman offers yet another light-hearted story about the incorrigible dog named Pete and his owner, a girl called Poppywise.

With school back in session, Poppywise, like many kids, has mixed feelings. On the one hand, "You never know when you will be stupid in front of the whole class." On the other, something wonderful might happen, like "you win the punchball game or you understand long division." Speaking of math, Poppywise is calmly minding her own business, studying infinity in Mr. Spitzer's class, when Pete bursts in and proceeds to eat everything in sight: the blackboard, fractions out of a box and the teacher's pants. And that's not all. He rushes to the science lab, where he devours funnels and test tubes. Before you can say "back to school," Pete has created havoc in one classroom after another. And everyone knows the consequences: Pete is sent to the principal's office.

But, as Poppywise soon discovers, Pete has indeed "digested" quite a bit of knowledge during his sojourn at school, as the fact-filled finale goes on to show. Kids will devour this colorful, clever tale. With hand-lettered text and bright colors, it's full of humorous details (check out those cafeteria workers!), and it even includes a pop quiz at the end. So, if you know of any little ones who might be experiencing back-to-school jitters, be sure and introduce them to Smartypants. Deborah Hopkinson's most recent book for children, Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings, received a 2003 Parents' Choice Gold Award.

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