Elizabeti’s School

by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Illustrated by Christy Hale

  • publisher and date: Lee & Low Books, 2002
  • genre: realistic fiction
  • age/grade:ages 5-8

Synopsis (from www.bn.com)
In this third book in the Elizabeti series, the young Tanzanian girl discovers the joy of learning at school and finds a pleasant surprise at home. It’s the first day of school, and Elizabeti is so excited she can hardly sit still long enough for Mama to braid her hair. When she arrives at school, she feels shy and wishes she had stayed home instead. While the teacher talks, Elizabeti wonders if her family misses her. She’s happy when she leaves for the day, but in the evening she plays a game she learned at school and discovers she can use her new math skills to count her new kittens!

Author’s Perspective: (from:www.answers.com) Stuve-Bodeen went to Tanzania as a Peace Corps volunteer after graduating from the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. Her experiences in Africa inspired the setting and characters for her first picture book, Elizabeti’s Doll, as well as a series of other books that follow Stuve-Bodeen’s likeable young protagonist: Mama Elizabeti and Elizabeti’s School.

Literary Elements:

Character – In this third story in the Elizabeti series, the young girl is starting school. She is alternately both excited and nervous about this new experience. New cloths, new friends, and new learning are all experienced in the story.

Theme – Siblings, family traditions, responsibility, growing up, starting school. All children will be able to relate to Elizabeti’s experiences on her first day of school. although the setting is different from here in America, the feelings are the same: unsure of how to meet new people, nervous that she won’t understand the work, missing her family.

Illustrations – From Children’s Literature review – Christy Hale’s illustrations, full of expressive faces, perfectly convey the spirit of Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen’s gently humorous text.

Curriculum Connections:

Web Resources:


School Library Journal (from www.bn.com)

K-Gr 2-Elizabeti is excited about her first day of school and her new clothes, but when faced with the noisy, busy schoolyard, she becomes reticent. A friend leads her into a game similar to jacks, and she is eager to try it. In the classroom, she has difficulty concentrating because of her homesickness. At recess, with the encouragement of an older girl, she enjoys dancing, and, back in the classroom, she easily masters the counting lesson. However, once she is home, she’s convinced that she doesn’t want to return to class. During the evening, Elizabeti so impresses her family with the knowledge and skills she’s learned that she decides that although home is best, she will “-give school another try.” This is the perfect story for sharing with young children, most of whom will understand the girl’s bittersweet feelings. Her pride and sense of accomplishment in learning are a good lead-in for discussing the joy and purpose of school. As in the other stories about Elizabeti, her family life is rich in love and warmth, although it is apparent that the family is very poor. The predominantly watercolor and mixed-media illustrations help convey all the texture of family life in a Tanzanian village, just as they did in Elizabeti’s Doll (1998) and Mama Elizabeti (2000, both Lee & Low).-Lynda Ritterman, Atco Elementary School, Waterford, NJ

Kirkus Reviews (from www.bn.com)

In the beginning there was Elizabeti’s Doll (1998), then, Mama Elizabeti (2000). Now, Stuve-Bodeen and Hale team up for the third installment in the series set in Tanzania. In this addition, Elizabeti is excited to start school. Hale’s mixed-media illustrations picture the preparation: in the opening spread, Mama braids Elizabeti’s hair; a trio of vignettes shows the girl as she tests out her new uniform, twirling her skirt and touching her shoes (“No more bare feet! Elizabeti smiled. School must be a very special place”). But excitement soon leads to anxiety—and back again—as Elizabeti enters the schoolyard. At first Elizabeti pulls away from the action, relying on big sister Pendo for safe keeping; an invitation to a join a game of machaura—American children will recognize the game as a variation of jacks—increases her comfort level. When Elizabeti goes home, however, her enthusiasm wanes. After all, her own shoes are much more comfortable than school shoes, her dress is softer and Obedi the cat has given birth to kittens right under Elizabeti’s bed. It is this event that signals Elizabeti’s change of heart, for she has learned in school how to count to five and uses her newfound skill to count the kittens. Soon, she shows off her knowledge of the alphabet and challenges her mother to a game of machaura. It’s enough to make her realize school might not be so bad after all. Throughout, Stuve-Bodeen distills the essence of the school experience, perfectly capturing a child’s emotional state and confirming the universality of first-day jitters. Accented with lively African-inspired paper Hale’s illustrations contain the texture of Tanzania. Together, the talented team offers up anotherwinning peek at a life that’s different but the same. (Picture book. 4-7)


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