Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: HARRY VS. THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF SCHOOL by Emily Jenkins
Introduction by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Lisa Levin.
HARRY VS. THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF SCHOOL is one of the more simple chapter books on the Mock Newbery list, relatable to young children, teachers and librarians as a fabulous read-aloud. Author Emily Jenkins writes authentically about what it is like to be a 6-year-old starting first grade. So much so that, as a reader, this book brings you back to your childhood with lots of funny and endearing moments.
The characters are authentic and the language is precious. It is just like being in a classroom with first graders each day, using children’s daily conversations. Jenkins uses a diary format with 100 chapters using fabulous colorful and relatable illustrations by Pete Oswald (Bad Seed, Good Egg, and Couch Potato). Each chapter is short, full of great information and dialogue of daily life in first grade. We begin on the first day of school, September. 5, with the story ending on February 12 (the 100th day of school). (These dates are based on the school calendar of the 2018-2019 year, written in the author’s notes at the back of the book.)
Several themes are predominant in this book, such as families, communities, friendship, and empathy. This story includes various iterations of the types of families that exist today. Another theme is the social-emotional piece of communities and working together. The author creates a relatable story for children using smartboards in the classroom, tablets, and games, celebrating certain school holidays during the first 100 days of school such as Rosh Hashanah, Halloween, Indigenous People’s Day, and deals with the gratefulness piece of Thanksgiving instead of the story behind Thanksgiving and, lastly celebrating Martin Luther King. I love the author’s use of popular, real picture books relatable to curriculum themes. She references each title in the back of the book with her author’s note.
Reading HARRY is like going back to our childhood and remembering what it was like to go to school. Who isn’t nervous when starting school at any age? The anticipation of a new teacher, making friends, where you sit in class, whether you will be liked, the bathroom location, will the teacher yell, and so much more. These thoughts go through Harry’s mind on his first day of first grade. Walking to school with his big sister, Charlotte, and their mother not far behind, Harry deals with everyday anxieties about what school will be like. Will Harry be able to sit in class? Will he be a super listener? Emily Jenkins, through Harry’s character, shows the natural innocence of young children. Most important in this story is learning to count to 100 and celebrating the 100th day of school by bringing 100 objects and having a big celebration, a major unit in first grade.
Anyone who is a teacher will relate to this book. It is super sweet, endearing, and a joy to read.
Heavy Medal Award Committee members and others are now invited to discuss this book further in the Comments section below. Please start with positive observations first; stick to positives until at least three comments have been posted or we reach 1:00 pm EST. Let the Mock Newbery discussion begin!
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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