March 10 – National Pack Your Lunch Day

Lunch Money and Other Poems About School by Carol Diggory Shields and Paul Meisel picture book review

About the Holiday

When you pack your own lunch, you can’t wait for the clock to strike lunchtime! Today is a day to celebrate the joy of a midday meal featuring your favorite foods and snacks. So if you usually just eat what the cafeteria offers, think outside the tray and create a lunch that’s delicious, nutritious, and even fun!

Lunch Money and Other Poems About School

Written by Carol Diggory Shields | Illustrated by Paul Meisel


Ask a kid what their favorite part of school is and they’re likely to say, “Lunch!” So it’s appropriate that this poetry collection about the fun and foibles of school contains several poems scrutinizing that special half hour out of the classroom. In “Decisions” a boy contemplates the school menu stuck to the refrigerator. Tacos, pizza, burger, nachos? Buy it! Beef stew, baked beans, tuna-cabbage crunch, mushroom-chicken bake? Bag it!

“Lunch Money” finds a boy asking first Dad, then Grandma, and finally Mom for cash. But who can he rely on? Only his own piggy bank. “Swap” is a rollicking round robin rhyme of traded sandwiches, swapped fruit, bought and sold drinks, bartered cookies, exchanged bagels, and great deals made. But does the result on the plate look oddly familiar?

Lunch isn’t the only subject in this delightful collection, though. In “Eight-Oh-Three” a boy “Legs pumping, heart thumping, / Running down the drive,” and late for the bus—“A moaning-growning, blinking-winking / Yellow dinosaur”—asks the ironic question: “How come I have to run so fast / To catch a bus so slow?”

“Code” is medical code for “cold” in a short poem about the linguistic acrobatics of a stuffy nose. “And the Answer Is…?” offers an impassioned debate between one student who likes to answer the teacher’s questions and another who just wants to hide under the table. And “Whew!” is a delight in which a student who isn’t prepared for the day finds a substitute standing at the front of the class. Other topics that make an appearance are the school mischief maker, the class pet, recess rules, homework, recess, and the inevitable school nightmare that follows you into adulthood.

Carol Diggory Shields understands school—the moments of camaraderie, embarrassment, mayhem, wishful thinking, and more—that make up each day. Her flowing, easy-to-read rhythms and humorous twists makes this poetry collection enchanting and an excellent addition to any home library.

Paul Meisel’s illustrations are populated with all kinds of kids you’d want to meet. With curly hair or straight, pony tails or bows, wearing stripes or polka dots, shorts or pants, each child is given his or her own personality as they romp through the scenario of their accompanying poem. Whether the kids are in a classroom or at home or on the playground, the details of their environment are richly drawn. The counters are lined with science projects, the clock moves so slowly a spider has spun a web on its hands, and the kindergarten play as well as the lunch room are humorously chaotic. There is so much to see on each page that kids will recognize, but experience anew.

Ages 4 – 8

Puffin Books, 1998 | ISBN 978-0140558906

National Pack Your Lunch Day Activity

CPB - Bento Box (2)

Decorated Sandwich or Snack Container


Who says your snack or sandwich container has to be boring? Take your lunch to school in a container you decorate yourself! It’s easy with a few colored markers and your imagination!


  • Disposable plastic food containers with lids
  • Colorful markers


  1. Decorate sandwich or snack size containers with your favorite designs or characters

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