Justin Case

School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters

Justin Case Series (Volume 1)

Rachel Vail; Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Square Fish

It’s the start of the school year, and nothing feels right to Justin. He didn’t get the teacher he wanted, he’s not in the same class as his best friend, and his little sister, Elizabeth, is starting kindergarten at his school. Elizabeth doesn’t seem nervous at all. Justin is very nervous about third grade. And to top it off, he’s lost his favorite stuffed animal, but he can’t tell anyone, because technically he’s too old to still have stuffed animals. Right?
Here is third grade in all its complicated glory—the friendships, the fears, and the advanced math. Acclaimed author Rachel Vail captures third grade with a perfect pitch, and Matthew Cordell’s line art is both humorous and touching. As Justin bravely tries to step out of his shell, he will step into readers’ hearts.
Justin Case is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.


Read an Excerpt

September 1, Tuesday
     Okay, yes. I’m worried.
     I can’t help it. September 2, Wednesday
     Seven days to go until the start of third grade. I can’t sleep. I’m not getting onto a good schedule. I’m still on a summer schedule. But worse.
     Everybody else is asleep. Mom, Dad, Elizabeth—they’re all snoring, and I’m still up. Listening. To the silence.
     It’s very loud, the silence


Praise for Justin Case

“This honest and heartfelt look at elementary school is illustrated with occasional doodles that perfectly suit the book and audience.” Kidsville News

"Justin Case, the new novel by Rachel Vail, might well be subtitled the wit and wisdom of a third-grade worrywart.  By turns droll, sardonic, ironic, and even sophisticated, it chronicles the daily tribulations of life in the third-grade as told by its eponymous hero, who in the course of his school year discovers there is no heroism unless there is fear.  And fear Justin has a-plenty, be it of his new dog Qwerty, his new teacher, sports, math, friends, jiggly Jell-O—or what ever—a lot comes his way, real and imagined.  The writing is sharp, unpredictably clever, and establishes third-grade as a mine-field of the absurd--which is to say, real life."—Avi, Newbery Medalist

"Vail employs easy, direct language in a rhythm and syntax that captures the essence of a charming, lovable and very believable boy. Readers transitioning to longer fiction will groan, sympathize and laugh out loud in delight. Absolutely marvelous. " Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

In the Press

JUSTIN CASE by Rachel Vail, Matthew Cordell | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of JUSTIN CASE School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters. Third grader Justin Case gets this nickname thanks to his amazing ability to worry about everything.
- Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Rachel Vail; Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

  • Rachel Vail is the author of children’s books including Sometimes I’m Bombaloo and Righty and Lefty, in which she also collaborated with artist Matthew Cordell. She is also the author of several books for teens and middle grade readers, including If We Kiss, You Maybe, Gorgeous, Wonder, and Never Mind, which she wrote with Avi. Vail attended Georgetown University, where she earned her B.A. in English and Theater. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons. Matthew Cordell is author and illustrator of Trouble Gum. He has also illustrated books including Mighty Casey by James Preller and Toby and the Snowflakes, written by his wife, Julie Halpern. He lives outside of Chicago.
  • Rachel Vail
    Rachel Vail
  • Matthew Cordell



Discussion Guide


Available Formats and Book Details

Justin Case

School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters

Justin Case Series

Rachel Vail; Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens, Tennessee Intermediate Volunteer State Book Award Master Lis, South Carolina Children's Book Award Master List, Kentucky Blue Grass Award Master List, Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year


Square Fish