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We Don't Eat Our Classmates

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
We Don't Eat Our Classmates Book Poster Image
Kid T-Rex learns the rules in fresh, funny school story.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Shows the routines of school, including listening to the teacher, doing art, sitting together at tables and on the rug, having lunch, playing on the playground, getting along.

Positive Messages

"You will never be eaten by a T. rex. They are extinct. I promise!" says Penelope on the title page. "Sometimes it's hard to make friends," says her dad. "Especially if you eat them." He adds that "children are the same as us on the inside. Just tastier." A strong message of empathy: "Once Penelope found out what it was like to be someone's snack, she lost her appetite for children." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Penelope wants to have a good first day of school but has a hard time controlling her impulses and following the rules. But she comes around, especially once she knows what it feels like to have someone around who wants to eat her -- Walter the goldfish, who bites her finger. Her teacher patiently tries to guide her. The classmates are diverse, including a girl who wears a head scarf and a boy at her table who wears a yarmulke, and they're tolerant of their T-Rex classmate, even after she eats an spits out several of them. Penelope's parents are kind, supportive, and try to lead her in the right direction. 

Violence & Scariness

In a cartoony moment, Penelope eats a bunch of her classmates (thought it's not shown, except for her having full, puffed-out cheeks) and then spits them out (not shown except for a bunch of kids on the rug left with saliva dripping off them). When Penelope tries to make friends with the classroom goldfish, Walter, and puts her finger in his bowl, Walter bites it and Penelope cries and her finger is bandaged.  

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that We Don't Eat Our Classmates, by author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins, is a fun and silly start-of-school story that through a cute little T-Rex named Penelope gets at the fear and anxiety of kids can feel in a new situation, wanting to make friends, gaining empathy, and learning how to stick to rules that keep everyone safe. It makes these points with humor and adorable cartoon characters. Penelope does eat some of her fellow students but quickly spits them out after her teacher insists, "We don't eat our classmates."

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What's the story?

It's Penelope's first day of school, and after she gobbles up some fellow students, her teacher tells her, WE DON'T EAT OUR CLASSMATES. She quickly spits them out, and they're fine, if wet from slobber. She goes home and tells her dad she's sad because she didn't make any friends. He tells her sometimes it's hard to make friends. "Especially if you eat them." The next day she tries and slips up, eating and spitting out a kid again. It's only after she gets chomped on the finger by the classroom goldfish that she realizes it's no fun to fear a classmate will devour you.

Is it any good?

This funny story about a T-Rex in a class full of human kids shows how tough it can be to fit in, behave well, and make friends at the start of school. We Don't Eat Our Classmates is cute and silly and engaging as it teaches important lessons about empathy, getting along, and following the rules.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how hard is it is for Penelope to resist eating the kids in We Don't Eat Our Classmates because, she says, "they're delicious." Have you ever had to resist eating something yummy? How did you do it? 

  • Have you had a first day of school? What do you remember about that day? 

  • Is it hard or easy for you to make friends in new situations? 

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