Can I Join Your Club?
written by John Kelly; illustrated by Steph Laberis
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
"Application DENIED!" said Snake. You're not really what we're looking for in Snake Club."
All Duck wanted to do was make a few friends. First, he approaches Lion about joining his club. Wearing a wig as a mane, Duck has the look, but can he roar like a Lion? Well, not exactly. It is a ferocious quack, but not a roar. Lion dismisses him with an "Application Denied!" If you use picture books to teach spotting patterns, hold onto that phrase. Next, Duck tries to join the Snake Club. Wearing cool shades like the leader of the club, Duck is trying to fit in. Having legs and wings is a negative, but if he can hiss like Snake, he's probably going to gain membership. Instead of a hiss, Duck spits (literally) out a quack which prompts Snake to give the same phrase as Lion before. Maybe the third try will be the charm. Once again, Duck wears something (glasses and a bow tie) to appease the club leader which is Elephant. Like before, it's not quite enough. Duck will have to possess an exceptional memory to join this club. Lacking that, a good trumpeting will suffice. Unfortunately for Duck, what comes out is the sound you would get if you handed a trumpet to a middle school student for the first time. Application Denied! Here's where you might expect Duck to shuffle off by himself and be offered membership by a kind animal like a rabbit and we have one big trite happy ending. A big thank you to the author, John Kelly, for not going down that road. Instead, Duck doesn't feel sorry for himself but instead starts his own club and puts his own positive spin on the "Application Denied!" phrase. Soon, everyone, including members of other clubs (hint, hint), wants to join this club. The last spread in the book is classic with a reference to a beloved 70's rock band.
Fitting in is a huge deal in any level of school. Nobody wants to see a kid that sits by themselves at lunch or has nobody to play with at recess. As a teacher, you need to build a strong classroom community where everyone feels included. Books like Can I Join Your Club? will help you create such an environment. Additional teaching points could include spotting patterns. Poor Duck goes through a Groundhog Day like gauntlet in trying to join a club. I also really like how he tries to solve his problem instead of giving up. There's a lesson on independence lurking there. PreK-2nd grade readers will gladly sign up for this club.