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Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan, illus. by Grace Zong. Peachtree, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56145-944-5

When Mrs. McBee tells her students that she won’t be back next year, a “great sigh from Room 3 echoed down the halls.” Mrs. McBee understands that this is a bittersweet moment—a concept she compares to “swirly ice cream with sad and happy twisted together.” She also knows that activity can be a tonic and enlists the children’s help getting the room ready for the new teacher. “I need construction experts, librarians, packers, spellers, movers, and animal experts too,” she says briskly; the students—eager to embrace their distinctive competencies and do Mrs. McBee one last favor—get to work. Even William, who initially seems too sad to be of any help, makes an important contribution. It’s an earnest, unflashy story that has all the earmarks of becoming a staple for schools and students facing similar transitions. McClellan, a former elementary reading specialist making her debut, writes in straightforward, empathic prose that demonstrates notable emotional restraint. Zong’s (Our Food) rounded, button-nosed characters and affectionately rendered settings take the sting out of the premise without mitigating its importance. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)