First Grade Dropout

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
First Grade Dropout Book Poster Image
Boy burns with embarrassment in hilarious, relatable tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Strategies for dealing with embarrassment. How to react when others make mistakes.

Positive Messages

Everybody makes mistakes. Even after you embarrass yourself completely, you can recover. Friendship is a comfort. Laughing at yourself helps.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The boy is disarmingly human. He admits his embarrassment and talks about it. He tries to be empathetic when others make mistakes. Throughout, he maintains a sense of humor.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Audrey Vernick's First Grade Dropout is a funny first-person account of a boy who's humiliated himself in school by accidentally calling his teacher "Mommy." Kids will relate to both his embarrassment and his desperate plans to save face and will laugh at the fun, cartoon-like illustrations by Matthew Cordell. Since friendship saves the day, families can talk about mistakes, how to deal with them, and how to empathize with others. 

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What's the story?

In FIRST GRADE DROPOUT, a boy accidentally calls his teacher "Mommy," then wonders how he'll ever live down the embarrassment. He contemplates various outlandish plans, deciding to drop out of school. But when he walks to soccer, and his best friend suggests they can work on their "junk shots," all is defused. The friend looks sheepish at his own silly mistake, then bursts out laughing, and the two walk off arm in arm.

Is it any good?

In this funny, very human story, a boy wonders how to save face after humiliating himself: He called his teacher "Mommy," and everyone erupted into laughter, including his best friend. Burning with shame, the boy considers wild plans to undo the damage involving magic, time travel, and dropping out of school. But when he again runs into his best friend, the friend doesn't ridicule him and makes a slip of his own. Cordell's appealingly scribbly art, reminiscent of master cartoonists such as Jules Feiffer and Quentin Blake, slyly underscores the humor. One hilarious spread shows a marching band with all the marchers laughing, the word "Mommy" emblazoned across their band hats. Perfect for talking about mistakes and dealing with embarrassment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dealing with embarrassment. Which strategies do you think work? Which ones don't? How can you show empathy when others make mistakes?

  • What's funny about this book, in the story and in the art?

  • What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever done? How did you handle it? Did your embarrassment fade over time? Parents can share too.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love school stories

Themes & Topics

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