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The A+ Custodian

Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

About The Book

"Mr. Carillo is our A+ Custodian!"
John Carillo, Dublin Elementary School's custodian, has a big job. He mops and sweeps, polishes and scrubs, changes lightbulbs, washes windows, fixes pipes, moves furniture, and more! The teachers, students, parents, and principal all count on Mr. Carillo, and he never lets them down.
Now his early-bird helpers, Gracie and Zach, want to do something to show Mr. Carillo how important he is to them.
But showing him how much they appreciate everything he does will take lots of planning, some hard work, and the help of everyone in the whole school!
In her classic style Louise Borden brings to vivid focus one elementary school, the students and faculty who bring it to life, and the clever way they show Mr. Carillo he's their A+ custodian!

Reading Group Guide


By Louise Borden
Through their early morning contact with the school custodian, Zack and Gracie learn of his commitment to his job and their school. Together they devise a plan to recognize his hard work.
Work ethic; Craftsmanship; Careers; Recognition of work; Awards
- What job skills does a custodian need?
- What are the responsibilities of a custodian?
- What does the word custodian mean?
- Why did Gracie and Zack follow Mr. Carillo around the school?
- Why did Dublin School decide to honor Mr. Carillo?
- Ask a custodian or custodial supervisor to talk with students about job requirements for a custodian. Discuss workload, hours, safety issues, areas of expertise, level of education, and additional training required.
- Initiate a discussion with students about respect for work done in various other departments of the school (food service, transportation, office staff, health services, as well as custodial).
- Utilize another title from the list below and compare/contrast the point of view of the main character(s) to Zack and Gracie in The A+ Custodian. Repeat the compare/contrast activity for the value placed on the work done by custodial staff.
Custodians by Debbie Yanuck
Custodian from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler
The Janitor's Boy by Andrew Clements
Feet in the Gym by Teri Daniels

Allow students to plan and execute a recognition day for custodial and/or other support staff.
Please visit for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.
This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Pansy Fryman
© William Allen White Children's Book Award

About The Author

Photograph by Robert Flischel

Louise Borden graduated from Denison University with a degree in history. She taught first graders and preschoolers and later was a part-owner of a bookstore in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to writing children’s books, she also speaks regularly to young students about the writing process. Her books include Good Luck, Mrs. K!, which won the Christopher Medal, and The A+ Custodian. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and you can visit her at

About The Illustrator

Adam Gustavson is a graduate of Rowan University and the Master of Fine Arts Illustration program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. In addition to illustrating picture books, he currently teaches at Passaic County Community College and Seton Hall University. He lives and paints in West Orange, New Jersey, with his wife, their children, several guitars, and a ferret named Gracie.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (July 1, 2004)
  • Length: 40 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780689849954
  • Grades: 2 - 5
  • Ages: 7 - 10

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Awards and Honors

  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Starred Intermediate Title
  • William Allen White Children's Book Award Reading List (KS)

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Louise Borden

More books from this illustrator: Adam Gustavson