Tony Baloney: School Rules
By Pam Muñoz-Ryan
Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Scholastic Press • 2013 • 40 pages
In Pam Muñoz-Ryan’s enthralling and imaginative new book for early readers, Tony Baloney: School Rules, we are treated to more adventures of the Baloney family of Macaroni penguins, whom we first met in the author’s 2010 picture book, Tony Baloney. Tony is a boy penguin with three sisters and a penchant for getting himself in trouble. This time, the mischievous “middle child” penguin is embarking on his first day of school. His nerves are ripe with worry about what may lay ahead for him, and this sets up a witty, purposeful narrative about the universal anxiety every child feels as the school year approaches. In School Rules, Tony’s knack for mischief-making ironically earns him an award in his new classroom.
San Diego based Muñoz-Ryan writes with whimsy and creativity as she creates relatable characters with just enough silliness and absurdity for little kids to fall in love with. The author of more than 30 books for young readers and the winner of numerous writing awards, including the prestigious Pura Belpré Award for Latino/Latina writers, Mexican-American Muñoz-Ryan is an expert at delivering the type of humor kids appreciate and adore.
As she describes Tony in the first book, how can any young reader not be enamored with him? “He [Tony] loves fish tacos with parmesan cheese, Little Green Walrus Guys, his stuffed animal buddy, Dandelion, and anything with wheels.”
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In Tony Baloney: School Rules, back are Tony’s siblings, “Bossy Big Sister Baloney” and his two younger sisters, the “Bothersome Babies Baloney.” Also back is his stuffed animal buddy, Dandelion, who has a much larger role in this latest book.
Tony’s anxieties about the first day of school are filtered through Dandelion, who asks Tony, “What if I get lost on the way to the bathroom? What if I don’t find a place to sit at lunchtime? What if I can’t follow the rules?” Tony reassures his friend, and while doing so, starts to overcome his own doubts about what his first day of school will bring.
As the first day of school arrives, Tony lovingly packs his favorite things “Parmesan cheese, Little Green Walrus Guys, and his very best stuffed animal buddy, Dandelion.” After his teacher explains the rules (a great list most adults would do right to follow), Tony somehow manages to break two of them before lunchtime. This leads to a pep talk from Dandelion and a renewed sense of vigor by Tony to do the right thing. And that he does, which leads him to be crowned ‘Friendship Ambassador’ by his teacher, in front of a roomful of his cheering penguin peers.
Tony being Tony, his actions leading to the award were unconventional but creative. Readers come to learn that having a big heart and an even bigger imagination—and following both of them—can sometimes be just as important as following the rules to the letter.
With illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham that colorfully capture the essence of Tony’s spirit, we predict that young readers—and their parents—will want to come back to this book again and again while they eagerly await more adventures of Tony Baloney and his penguin family.
Until then, whether you’re a child, parent, or teacher, Tony’s latest tale will help everyone look forward to the first day of school with a little less anxiety and a little more excitement.