If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't!

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! Book Poster Image
Girl brings alligator for show-and-tell in funny romp.

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

Educational Value

Shows classroom setting, school routines, and show-and-tell. A few facts about alligators amid all the humor and silliness. Mentions and shows origami.

Positive Messages

"Alligators are trouble," says the teacher, and she's right. Don't take an alligator to school because it might get you into trouble. If you get into trouble, there are consequences -- you may have to stay in during recess and/or go to the principal's office.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Magnolia wants to bring something "from nature" for show-and-tell, so she brings the alligator and tries her best to keep him quiet during class, but he cracks her up and gets her into trouble. She also tries to keep the alligator from eating anyone. The teacher looks irritated, then mad when Magnolia and her alligator are causing trouble, but she's only establishing consequences for misbehavior, and she looks sweet and kind when she's helping a student in math class. The alligator is a troublemaker, but he just wants to have fun. 

Violence & Scariness

On one page, the alligator opens his giant jaws and looks as if he's about to eat a student, but Magnolia yells and saves the day.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Elise Parsley's If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! is a silly picture book that offers readers a warning directly from its young narrator, Magnolia, not to make the mistake she did, which landed her in the principal's office. The art is hilarious and captures not only the mayhem the alligator causes when Magnolia brings him in for show-and-tell but also the changing emotions on the faces of the teachers, students, and toothy green beast as the day goes on. It's a rollicking read-aloud that's accessible for preschoolers, but kindergartners and grade-schoolers will more easily relate to the classroom setting and threat of being sent to the principal's office.

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What's the story?

Magnolia's teacher tells her students to bring in "something from nature" for show-and-tell. She doesn't want you to bring an alligator because, she says, "alligators are trouble!" Magnolia brings one anyway, promising to keep him under control, but he causes all sorts of disruptions, including flying a paper airplane into the teacher's head, tangling up students in chewing-gum strings, and almost eating a classmate. Because she's responsible for all this mayhem, Magnolia has to stay in at recess and later go to the principal's office.

Is it any good?

This funny picture book is a delightfully offbeat cautionary tale narrated by main character Magnolia and written in the second person. She speaks directly to the reader, telling "you" what not to do -- or else you'll get in trouble and could be sent to the principal's office.

The premise of IF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING AN ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON'T! is simple and silly, but the real draw is the expressive art. The teacher's look of irritation when she gets hit in the head with a paper airplane; Magnolia's gleeful (disruptive) reaction to the alligator's funny drawing passed to her in spelling class; her terrified, wide-mouthed expression when she notices the alligator's jaws hovering over an oblivious classmate's head -- these moments will provoke giggles if not guffaws in young readers. It's loads of fun and tailor-made for reading aloud.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about show-and-tell. Do you have that at your school? What might you bring in? Would it cause trouble? 

  • What are the funniest pages in the book? How does the art help tell the story? 

  • What would you warn kids not to do at school?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love school stories

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