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Library : Book Reviews > Russell's Secret

Russell's Secret
By Johanna Hurwitz

Review by: Lori Plach

     Four year old Russell has a secret. There is absolutely no way that he will tell his nursery school class what he was doing that morning when arrives at school late one particular morning. Russell had been having one of those difficult mornings. When
Russell decides that he would rather stay home than go to school, his mother has some surprises for him. Since he refuses to go to school like a big boy, he must be a baby. So if he wants to be a baby that is exactly how he should be treated.
     He is very unhappy when he sees his breakfast. He is given the
same meal as his baby sister, Elisa. The cereal is sticky and tasteless
but the alternative is hot oatmeal which he doesn't like either. His
mother spoons some of it into his mouth and he manages to swallow it, but only one mouthful is enough. She puts him in the playpen with his sister to keep "babies out of mischief." A surprised Elisa thinks it is a joke. It is fun only for a little while. Besides being cramped in the small
playpen he grows bored with playing with her baby toys.  
     He climbs out and asks for a snack. She says that she is not surprised that he is hungry since he did not eat his breakfast. Russell believes he now has the upper hand. However, his mother hands him a baby bottle with warm milk inside of it. Yuck! The nipple on the bottle restricts the flow of the liquid and it tastes awful. The mother is quick to answer and explains that it is just like hot cocoa only it does not have the chocolate flavoring. He likes chocolate, but is told that babies can not have chocolate. 
      Russell gets even more disgusted when he finds out that he is not
allowed to play with his Legos. Although, he has played with them many
times before, he is now told that the pieces are much too small and
babies would put them in their mouths. He questions his mom what is next, but he is sorry that he asked. Naptime is declared! Russell is far from sleepy and has just gotten up, but his sister always takes a morning nap.
     He asks what happens next, his mother informs him that lunchtime
is after Elisa wakes up. Good thing because by this time, Russell is very
hungry. The only problem is that lunch on this particular day would
consist of mashed carrots and mashed peas with mashed bananas as dessert.
     Finally after having his fill of being a baby he declares "It's a terrible thing being a baby. I don't like being a baby at all." His mother is relieved to hear that Russell would like to go to school. He hurries to get dressed and his mother gets him a snack of raisins and oatmeal cookies. His mother and baby sister walk him to the Sunshine Nursery School to finish out his day. Children have been known to feign sickness to avoid going to school. This innovative mother shows her son that what he misses at home while he is in school is not nearly as much fun as he has in school.
      Johanna Hurwitz's text will gently yet effectively show children it is
better to be a big kid and go to school than be a baby and stay at home.
Heather Maione's illustrations are full of expression and are entertaining. "Russell's Secret" is geared to children ages 4-8.

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