Substitute Creacher
Substitute Creacher
Chris Gall
ISBN 9780316089159
Little, Brown, 2011.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: chris-gall halloween school substitute-creacher substitute-teachers

Substitute Creacher
by Chris Gall

What could be more fun than a substitute teacher? A green, one-eyed, seven-tentacled substitute Creacher in a brown cardigan and bow tie. Chris Gall's (Dinotrux) exuberant illustrations capture the children's penchant for high jinks. As redheaded Peyton stands on a desk and announces, "Substitute teacher today!," a bespectacled boy balances a teetering tower of books on one hand. Meanwhile, a green limb snakes through the door. "Good morning to all!/ My name's Mr. Creacher./ Ms. Jenkins has asked me/ to step in as teacher." The sub's rhyming speech balloons glow with green slime. As the kids pull pranks, he warns, "Please don't even try;/ in the back of my head, you'll find more than one eye!" How can he anticipate their every move? He's been observing kids' antics for 49 years. "I've collected some tales/ whose lessons are grave/ about boys and girls/ who didn't behave."

Each "case file" unfolds in pixilated panel images that recall Sunday comics. Mr. Creacher tells of Keith, "a hungry young lad" who snacks on glue: "Soon no one could find the boy underneath/ all of the objects that stuck to poor Keith." Sara (case #724C) piles so much in her desk that it blows itself into bits (like Peyton's overstuffed backpack). But the worst fate befalls a boy who steals candy from a "magical gnome." Who might that be? With that story, Mr. Creacher finally gets through to the students, and the ending will stir up much discussion. Doubling as an ideal back-to-school and Halloween tale, Mr. Creacher's story delivers both humor and wisdom.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

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