Written and Illustrated by Amy Schwartz
Harcourt, Inc., 1982
“I’ve had it with kindergarten!” Bea Jones said to her father as he was sitting down to breakfast.
The plot in a nutshell: A girl and her father trade places
Bea is sick of kindergarten and wants to do something new. Her father tells her that he understands because he’s sick of his job. Since they each think the other’s routine doesn’t sound that bad, they decide to switch places for the day. So Bea dresses in her father’s clothes and boards the train to the city. One of her father’s co-workers sends a memo out letting everyone know that Bea will be taking his place. At school, Mr. Jones gives the teacher a note that he will be replacing Bea. He does well at games and excels as milk and cookie monitor. At the office, Bea laughs at the boss’s jokes and comes up with a new ad slogan for Crumbly Crackers. She is offered a promotion. She and her father have such successful days that they go back the next day, and for many days after that. So if you see a tall guy paying child prices for movie tickets or a short executive at a business lunch, it’s probably Bea and Mr. Jones.
Author/illustrator Amy Schwartz made her picture book debut with this story, which was chosen to appear on Reading Rainbow the year after its publication. She has written more than a dozen books since this debut book and illustrated another 20 or so from other authors. This book’s illustrations are monochromatic pencil drawings that show the Joneses interacting in their new environments.
I was completely expecting the predictable ending, in which Bea and her father feel totally out of their element and, realizing how good they had it before, eagerly go back to their old routine. So I was happily surprised when this book took the opposite approach and had the characters not only thrive in their new situations, but continue on in them. This fresh and unexpected turn gave the book a whole new meaning for me, underlining the importance of finding that place in the world where you truly belong.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that when you stray from the expected path, you often find yourself right where you need to be.