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Joe and Sparky Go to School

Candlewick Press, June 2013
Hardcover ISBN 978-07636-6278-3
Paperback ISBN 978-07636-7181-5

The endearing and mismatched pals accidentally latch onto a big yellow bus and leave the cageless zoo for their first trip to school.

Sparky the turtle may be cautious, but when the strange vehicle full of noisy short people pulls away from Safari World, he finds himself stuck on the bus’s roof just the same. Luckily his giraffe friend, Joe, is adventurous enough to take a running jump, too! When they arrive at school, they discover that there’s a lot to learn, like the fact that the restroom is full of little magic "ponds," that you’re supposed to count the peas, not eat them, and that the goal of the day seems to be to get a star. But just when Joe fears that he may have to go home starless, Sparky reminds him of all the ways that his loyal friend already shines.

Readers will roll over laughing -- and find lots to relate to -- in this hilarious new adventure.


An Amazon Best Book of the Year
The Library of Congress/Center for the Book 52 Great Reads for Kids
A Cybils Finalist

★ "Full-color cartoon watercolor illustrations add levity to the text, especially in the third chapter, 'The Magic Pond.' It’s here that Joe and Sparky discover the toilet and make scarves out of toilet paper, with hilarious results. Written in four accessible chapters, this book is perfect for the newly independent reader and makes a fine bridge from Amelia Bedelia to Ramona. Limited but lively vocabulary, a large font, and carefully placed illustrations—all in a humorous, high-interest package—will make this a hit." —The Horn Book, starred review

"In the third chapter book to star this unlikely duo, Michalak will have readers giggling over the silly exchanges and comedic misunderstandings that follow as Sparky and Joe attempt to fit in at school. . . . The vibrant watercolor and colored pencil cartoons and well-targeted humor . . . will entertain growing readers." —Publishers Weekly

"This beginning chapter book is a lot of fun. . . . The cartoon illustrations in watercolor and Prismacolor pencils are full of action and humor. This is an engaging choice for students who are beyond the easy-to-reads and not quite ready for longer chapter books." —School Library Journal

"Colorful cartoonish pictures are on every page of this four-chapter book. Children will enjoy this silly story." —Children's Literature

"Fans of the earlier . . . series installments will be pleased to revisit its characters. Onward Joe and Sparky!" —Kirkus

"5 things I love about this easy reader:
1. It’s one of the freshest easy readers I’ve read lately.
2. The animals’ point of view is so much fun! “The noisy short people got on the bus.” That, of course, is a school bus.
3. Both main characters are so likable! Sparky, the cautious turtle, and Joe, the adventurous giraffe, are endearing and funny. I’d like them to live in my yard!
4. They end up at school, and kids will love seeing school through their eyes. My favorite part is the “magic pond” they discover, which repeatedly empties and refills. this is potty humor at its best!
5. The art is fabulous—bright and funny, with incredibly expressive animals."
Laurie Purdie Salas, author of Bookspeak! Poems about Books

"With a literalist sense of humor, Michalak introduces young readers to important school concepts like: Peas are for counting not eating, painting something you love does NOT mean actually painting on the thing you love, and restrooms are not a good place to get some rest. Whether children are going to school for the first time or returning for another new year, Joe and Sparky will help them see their classroom in a warm, wonderful and wacky way. This is a back to school story with lots of heart!"
Jennings Wire (review by Brian Rock)