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Cover image for A play's the thing
A play's the thing
Other title(s):
Play is the thing

1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, ©2005.
Physical Description:
32 pages : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Miss Brilliant's class puts on a performance of "Mary had a little lamb."
Reading Level:
Elementary Grade.

120 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader 2.0.

Reading Counts! 1.8.


Call Number

On Order



Miss Brilliant is full of ideas. With her students she celebrates everything: teeth, corn, mummies, spiders -- and plays! Only Jose isn't interested in "Mary Had a Little Lamb," or being a Brilliant Player, or even his surprise role. But as Jose learns about drama and tension and working with his classmates, he finds that he, too, has his own special place in Miss Brilliant's class and in her heart. Aliki has created a memorable teacher and a class full of personalities that all readers will want to join.

Author Notes

Aliki was born Aliki was born on September 3, 1929 in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She graduated from the Philadelphia Museum College of Art in 1951. After college, she worked in the display department at J. C. Penney Co. in New York for a year and then as a free-lance artist and art teacher in Philadelphia. In 1956 she spent several months traveling, painting, and sketching in Europe.

In 1957, Aliki married Franz Brandenberg, also a writer, and they settled in Switzerland, where she worked as a free-lance artist. In 1960 the Brandenbergs moved to New York City. Aliki continued to write and illustrate children's books, both fiction and nonfiction. As well as illustrating her own works, she has also illustrated over fifty books for others, including those of her husband Franz, Joanna Cole and Paul Showers.

Aliki and her family moved to England in 1977 where she continues to write and illustrate. She has been the recipient of many honours including the New York Academy of Sciences Children's Book Award and the Prix du Livre pour Enfants (Geneva). She received the New Jersey Institute of Technology Award for The Listening Walk in 1961 and for Bees and Beelines in 1964, the Boys Club of America Junior Book Award for Three Gold Pieces: A Greek Folk Tale in 1968, and the Children's Book Showcase for At Mary Bloom's in 1977. She also won the New York Academy of Sciences (younger) Award for Corn Is Maize: The Gift of the Indians in 1977 and the Garden State Children's Book Award (younger nonfiction) for Mummies Made In Egypt in 1982.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-3-Aliki's latest production explores how an experienced teacher uses a student-led performance of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to help one of the children deal with his bullying behavior. When Miss Brilliant's class decides to put on a fractured version of the story poem, Jos? must learn to work with his classmates and overcome his antisocial tendencies. Children will readily identify with the variety of characters and dynamics that populate this class. The students represent a smorgasbord of nationalities and often make references to their cultural heritages. The format of the book resembles comic strips with blocked pictures in various sizes used to contain the action and conversation bubbles. An independent narrative runs beneath these boxes. This text needs the dialogue to flesh out the plot. It is in the conversation bubbles that Jos?'s defiant attitude and self-awareness are evident. Using the book with a group may prove difficult because children will not be able to appreciate the nuances of the boy's expressions and his deliberately unkind actions. This is, however, the type of work that children will be drawn to again and again because they recognize their world so aptly captured in both word and art. Each time they revisit, they will find something new in the colorful cartoon illustrations that prove that Aliki knows her audience.-Maura Bresnahan, High Plain Elementary School, Andover, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Aliki's buoyant and insightful school tale stars Miss Brilliant-a creative teacher who "celebrates everything"-and her multicultural class. When the teacher suggests they celebrate finishing a test by putting on a play, all of the kids react enthusiastically except scowling Jose, who mutters, "I don't want to be in it." A snappy text delivered mainly in cartoon-like balloons and Aliki's signature bright and bustling paneled art chronicle the class's preparation for staging "Mary Had a Little Lamb." When Miss Brilliant announces the cast, a mild-mannered student gets the role of bully and Jose the part of teacher ("I don't want to be the teacher!" he yells). Despite the boy's disruptive behavior and negative attitude, his teacher remains supportive and encouraging. After the curtain rises, "teacher" Jose looks disapprovingly as the bully acts out, and, when a classmate parades by with a banner stating, "Treat others as you would like to be treated," Jose declares, "Bullies of the world, remember that!" In the book's satisfying final act, Miss Brilliant asks a suddenly reformed Jose to fill in as teacher for her while she attends a meeting. Aliki's applause-worthy cast delivers with flair a flurry of messages about kindness and cooperation, with a spoonful of sugar. Ages 5-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Primary) The aptly named Miss Brilliant inspires her class with her infectious enthusiasm for every activity. When she announces a class play, everyone gets caught up in the excitement. Well, almost everyone. Jos+ is disruptive, uncooperative, and angry -- even his hair looks angry. He is not buying what Miss Brilliant is selling. While it is not immediately clear to readers what his problem is, the other children seem to be used to Jos+'s outbursts. Miss Brilliant makes two surprising choices for the cast: Jos+ will play the teacher, while shy Cameron will be the bully -- a real stretch for each actor, but clever role assignments by the master teacher. Told mostly through speech bubbles and tidy panel watercolor illustrations, Aliki's tale perfectly captures the tone, energy, and dynamics of an elementary school classroom. And in the end, when we're given a subtle (easily missed) hint about what may be making Jos+ anxious, we find that the play really is the thing -- to bring a group together. Bravo! (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Gr. 2-4. A graphic novel of sorts for primary-graders. Miss Brilliant, the lively teacher of a multiethnic class, likes to celebrate everything. After a test, she wants to celebrate with a play. The responses range from A play! to Jose's Not another play! In fact, Mary Had a Little Lamb doesn't seem promising, since, as one student notes, there are only two characters. But part of the fun is spinning ideas off in different directions, so when the play is mounted there are enough characters, costumes, audience members, and refreshments to give everyone a good time. Unfolding in comic-book panels and boxes, the story is full of sprightly energy. Each of the 13 kids in the class is pretty well defined, especially the brooding Jose, who melts when his mother makes it to the play. This isn't for reading aloud as there are too many voices, but children will enjoy it more than once; with so much going on, they'll find something new each time. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2005 Booklist