September 20, 2018

The Reptile Club

Written by Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Elina Ellis
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
September 2018 

There are a lot of clubs at Rory's school including glee, ballet, knitting, karate, theater, astronauts, prancing unicorn (!), extra math homework and cooking, but none speak to his passion so he starts his own reptile club. But who shows up to see his plastic reptile collection and eat his lizard-shaped cookies? Reptiles! After all, it is the Reptile Club.
From The Reptile Club by Maureen Fergus, illus. by Elina Ellis
There's Raoul the massive crocodile, Miriam the anaconda and Pierre the gecko, and they all introduce themselves as does Rory with interesting tidbits about themselves before the meeting transitions into discussion, play and food.

Once the other kids see what the Reptile Club is all about, they want to join too, and Rory has to convince the reptiles that "it wasn't nice to be prejudiced against others just because they had hair and could regulate their body temperature." (pg. 21) The Reptile Club flourishes with new members and activities like the game "Guess What I Just Ate?" until weeks later when the reptile members announce that they must say goodbye as winter is coming. But what of the Reptile Club?
From The Reptile Club by Maureen Fergus, illus. by Elina Ellis
Time and time again, author Maureen Fergus has shown her prowess at word play and seeing stories from unusual perspectives. Her picture book The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten (Kids Can Press, 2013) has a kindergartner affectionately chastizing her mother for her inappropriate behaviour at school. The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold (Tundra, 2016) twists the idea of children questioning the existence of the jolly old man to Santa wondering whether a particular child is real. In The Reptile Club, Maureen Fergus does the same, presenting a club that draws its members from the Class Reptilia not just those who are passionate about them. It makes for a funny story. But the story isn't just a clever take on school clubs. It's about honouring your passions, making friends and accepting others, regardless of their differences. When the reptiles are reluctant to let the other human kids into the club, Rory has to help them see that the differences aren't that big a deal since they already accept him, a lowly mammal. And if the humour throughout the book doesn't tickle a child's funny bone–I wonder if reptiles have funny bones?–then the illustrations of the UK's Elina Ellis with their youthful lightness in colours and shape, perfect for a school setting filled with children and animals, definitely will.
From The Reptile Club by Maureen Fergus, illus. by Elina Ellis
While I won't give away Maureen Fergus's surprise ending that will definitely get readers smiling, I can say that school clubs have never been so much fun and engaging and The Reptile Club is one to join for a chance at learning, laughing and literacy. 


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