Quick review: Back to Front and Upside Down by Claire Alexander

Back to Front cover and catalog link

One of the most frustrating things about kindergarten, for me, was trying to tie the teacher’s shoe. If we could do that, we got a pair of bright orange shoelaces. I and another kid couldn’t and didn’t, despite our best efforts. Orange wasn’t my color, so I didn’t mind the laces, but it was awkward not doing what everyone else was right then. So, when I read Back to Front and Upside Down, I could empathize.

In Sam’s case, he has a heck of a time with printing—the letters don’t come out right, even in his own name. When he has to write “Happy Birthday” on the principal’s birthday card, he’s afraid the other kids will laugh at him. But when he gets up the courage to ask for help, he learns he’s not alone–sometimes all it takes is somebody to be the first to say.

The animal characters are large, pastel and round, and the print-scribble font is nonthreatening. Sam’s anxiety is totally relatable; he feels like a spoon is stirring his stomach. The teacher’s reassurance is matter-of-fact. It’s not stated whether Sam’s difficulty results from dysgraphia or dyslexia or vision problems, but his story could reassure kids with and without those conditions that everybody needs help with something, and it’s okay to take a little longer. Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award.

Related reading:

The Pirate of Kindergarten

Muggie Maggie (slightly older age level, cursive)

My Shoelaces Are Hard to Tie

About Amy

Children's librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
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