Review: The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (9781524740740)

So many picture books about starting kindergarten focus on the stress and worries of the child. Here is a picture book that looks at a confident child who manages to start his time at school without stressing out. The little boy at the center of this book thinks of himself as a king and using at confidence to face his first day at school. He gets dressed himself, eats a big breakfast, and takes his royal carriage (the bus) to school. Once he is there, he holds his head high and smiles at everyone, just like his Mommy told him. He introduces himself to his new teacher and to the other children at his table. He likes his teacher, plays with the other kids, and has a great time. At the end of the day, he can’t wait to tell his parents about what happened and looks forward to the next day of school too.

This book is entirely refreshing in its approach to the first day of school. Barnes doesn’t just feature a confident young man but he also shows that the parents have been instrumental is getting this child to feel empowered. There is a focus too on joining a community of learners and being a good friend. The book is written in second person, which clearly invites readers to feel this confident themselves.

The illustrations are colorful with deep and bright backgrounds that show the different scenes. The class is made up of diverse children and exudes a wonderful inclusive warmth on the page. There is a sense of discovery about the wonders of school as the book continues.

One of the most positive books about kindergarten I’ve ever read. This one is a must buy! Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten by Candice Ransom

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten by Candice Ransom

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten by Candice Ransom, illustrated by Christine Grove (9780399554551, Amazon)

Amanda knows just how she wants her first day of Kindergarten to go. She will print her name large on the blackboard, she will build the tallest tower, and she will run faster than everyone else. But when she gets to Kindergarten, it doesn’t go exactly as planned. Amanda’s favorite color is brown, but another girl dressed all in pink won’t leave Amanda alone. In fact, Bitsy is the one who gets to put her name in the middle of the blackboard. Amanda is scolded for building her tower too tall and she isn’t the fastest either. So she decides to head to her brother’s 2nd grade class and just skip Kindergarten entirely.

Ransom has depicted a certain type of child, one that is vastly confident about school and then realizes that what they have dreamed up is not actually reality. It’s a great variant on the typical Kindergarten picture book about the fear of starting school. It also shows that overconfidence can be just as difficult as being worried. Ransom tells an entire story in her picture book, allowing Amanda to feel big emotions and work through them in her own unique way.

Grove’s illustrations add a large amount of appeal to the book. Amanda remains appealing to the reader even though she is prickly, thanks in part to the way she is shown on the page. From her brown cardigan to her red high tops, she is a vibrant character on the page even as she makes plenty of mistakes.

A nice twist to the typical starting school books, this picture book shows everyone has a lot to learn in Kindergarten. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

The Class by Boni Ashburn

The Class by Boni Ashburn

The Class by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kimberly Gee (InfoSoup)

A group of twenty children prepare for their first day of Kindergarten in this witty and charming picture book. The book starts with the different ways the children wake up from those who are up early to the grumpy ones to those who want to sleep and sleep. Next comes putting on clothes, then brushing and combing hair, and putting on shoes. Breakfast is next with pancakes or cereal or juice. Backpacks are put on, children catch the bus, are driven to school or walk. Emotions run high. And then finally, all twenty are at school and ready to begin!

Ashburn beautifully combines the normal day routines of children filled with teeth brushing, bathroom and breakfast with the unique things about the first day of Kindergarten like backpacks and having to be ready at a certain time. She also intertwines the emotions of the day with some children unable to sleep, others grumpy throughout, and some tearing up on the way to school. This is a way to show all of the different reactions to school but to also assure children that they are more alike than they may think.

The illustrations by Gee are gentle and cheerful. They capture each child and fill the page with diversity. She is also great at showing the mixed emotions of the day and the variety of reactions that children have. The use of lots of white space allows children to see themselves on the page, talk about what they will have for breakfast, about their nerves and more.

A perfect book to share with children heading to their first day of preschool or Kindergarten whether you are a parent or a teacher. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.


Review: Maple & Willow Apart by Lori Nichols

Maple and Willow Apart by Lori Nichols

Maple & Willow Apart by Lori Nichols (InfoSoup)

Maple and Willow love playing together but what is going to happen when Maple goes off to kindergarten for the first time. On the first day, Maple came back from school and talked all about it. Willow had spent her day with a new friend, Pip, a friendly acorn she met. The next day Willow explored outside and Maple once again had lots of stories about her day when she returned home. Each day, Maple has stories about school but Willow also has stories about her day with Pip and all of the things they did together. Soon Maple is rather regretful about heading off to school, but the girls soon figure out a way that their days can still keep them in touch with one another.

This third book about Maple and her sister Willow delicately captures the experience of both the sister being left behind at home and the sister going off to school. There is the excitement of a new adventure for the older sister, the feeling of abandonment for the younger. There is the pull of wanting to be together for both of them, especially when the games at home seem so much fun. Nichols nicely figures out a way that works perfectly in the story for the girls to be connected and for their stories and experiences to continue on together in unison.

The art in all of the Maple and Willow books shines. Done in pencil on Mylar and digitally colored, the illustrations have a lightness that is captivating. The use of big colorful maple leaves is also very effective, and adds a distinct fall flavor to the entire read.

A great pick for families with children heading off to school for the first time and also for those left behind too. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Review: Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt

planet kindergarten

Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt, illustrated by Shane Prigmore

Told in the first person by a little boy, this picture book mixes science fiction, space exploration and Kindergarten into one awesome picture book.  The boy has been training for this day for some time.  He has gotten supplies, been checked by a doctor, and the countdown to lift off has begun.  He arrives at the Kindergarten door and his parents leave, returning to their own planet.  He joins a classroom filled with aliens from across the galaxies.  The commander gives them the day’s flight plan and then they start activities in the capsule, get to explore the planet’s surface for a bit, and even eat space food.  By the end of the day, it is Mission Accomplished!  And then time to get ready to do it all again.

Ganz-Schmitt nicely ties in science fiction touches throughout the book.  The boy’s parents say goodbye with a Vulcan salute!  She also focuses on NASA and space flight, pulling these two related but distinct subjects together seamlessly.  Children who are fans of either will be right at home here, giggling along with the puns and the idea of school being a space capsule.  Her humor is right on, offering just enough to be funny but not too much to lose the concept of it being a Kindergarten book.

Prigmore’s illustrations have a great zany quality that suits the subject matter.  I love the other little boy with the hood so that you only see his nose and mouth as well as the other children who look like aliens but you can also see the person in there too.  He plays along the line of making it about space but also allowing readers to see the human school underneath too.

Funny and filled with action and adventure, this book will get even the most nervous Kindergarten astronaut giggling about their new mission.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten by Hyewon Yum

mom its my first day

Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten by Hyewon Yum

A little boy is all set for the first day of Kindergarten, eager to start.  His mother, on the other hand, is not quite to eager to see her little boy start school.  The boy runs to school with his mother trailing behind, worried and blue.  His mother frets about how big the school is, that they don’t know anyone there, but the boy is set to head in.  Then in the hall, things change and suddenly it is the boy who is smaller and bluer and more concerned and his mother is glowing and ready for him to start.  This book perfectly captures the mixed emotions of the first day of school for children and parents alike. 

Yum manages in a just a few words to really show the eagerness the boy feels and the reticence of the mother.  The boy is thrilled to be a big boy and head off to school, the mother is obviously seeing him a completely different light.  The book really comes into its own when the change happens and suddenly the mother feels confident and the boy is unsure.  It is that switch, that change that makes the entire book really work well.

Yum’s art also helps capture the emotions of the day.  At first, the boy is much larger than his mother, bright colored and dashing.  The mother is blue, almost wizened and delicate, worn away with worry.  When the change of attitude happens, the mother grows steadily in size and gains color as the boy shrinks to normal size and becomes bluer.  It’s a delight to watch the change come full circle by the end of the book where the day has ended and they are both large and bright.

A perfect pick for families facing their first day of Kindergarten this fall, this book will make a great jumping off place for discussions about the mixed emotions that everyone is sure to be feeling on the big day.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.

Pirate of Kindergarten


The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Lynne Avril

Ginny could see two of everything.  She loved Reading Circle at school, but it was hard to get there because she saw double the number of chairs, so she always ran into some of them.  To read her own book, Ginny had to put her nose down close to the pages and even then she saw two of each of the words.  She could tighten her brain to remember to read each word only once, but even then she quietly said them a second time to herself.  Squinting at the pages helped, but her teacher asked her not to.  She had trouble cutting with scissors and ended up with a rabbit with three ears.  Everything changed the day that vision screening happened at school.  When it was Ginny’s turn to read from the chart, she read each letter twice.  The nurse there told her that she had to go to a doctor to see what could be done for her double vision.  And that’s how with an eye patch, Ginny became a pirate at Kindergarten. 

Lyon’s writing has a natural ease about it combined with a skillful pacing.  Readers are shown the way that Ginny sees the world through tangible examples that young children will understand and relate to easily.  The amount of text per page is just right for sharing with preschoolers and Kindergarteners.  Avril’s illustrations are bright and vibrant.  The pages filled with double vision allow readers to see through Ginny’s eyes.  The confusion of the jumble of chairs, the struggle with lines and scissors, and the doubling of words when she reads.  These are all demonstrated directly on the page. 

A cheery view of a child who sees the world differently than most, this book is appropriate for ages 4-6. 

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

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Kindergarten Cat

Kindergarten Cat by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Ailie Busby

When a kitten is found outside by the jungle gym, she is taken into the Kindergarten classroom.  They name her Tinker Toy and welcome her to the class.  She joins right in with the Kindergarten activities.  She even answers questions with a loud Me-ow.  When the children head out for recess, she makes a nice napping spot in the paintbrush drawer.  And when they go home in the afternoon, she stays in the classroom, tries to tidy up the markers, and then falls asleep on the capital C on a carpet square.  The entire book is a very friendly and charming way to show children what happens in a Kindergarten classroom.

This book is such an appeal package.  Lewis’ verse is kept very simple, making it ideal for sharing with young children.  The rhymes and rhythm keep the book moving along at a brisk pace that will keep young ears listening. 

Busby’s bright illustrations are equally engaging with their sunny palette.  The illustrations are done in collage allowing for interesting textures and patterns that add depth.  The round-faced people are from a variety of races, making for a modern classroom feel.

Although some will quibble about a pet being allowed in a school, the device really works well here.  Get this in the hands of hesitant Kindergarteners and Kindergarten teachers too.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.

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Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?

Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

If your buffalo has a backpack, then he is certainly ready for Kindergarten!  This book takes a silly look at first-day Kindergarten jitters through the eyes of a student who is sure to be unique.  Buffalos may have trouble with certain rules, like No Grazing at recess, but your buffalo will also be great at hide-and-seek and serve as a comfy place to snuggle in to listen to stories.  He will also learn about sharing with others and not losing his temper and butting them with his head.  There’s a lot to learn in Kindergarten, especially if you are a buffalo!

This is a hilarious look at Kindergarten that is sure to have children giggling.  Ideal to share with Kindergarteners on that first day, or with your preschooler who is headed to Kindergarten.  Vernick has written the book with an eye towards laughter, but also shows the daily routines of Kindergarten and the various issues that can arise.  It is a very balanced look at Kindergarten done with a lot of humor.  Jennewein’s illustrations are comic and wonderful.  He captures the pure silliness of the huge buffalo at school using simple lines and nice strong colors.  The illustrations will work well with a group.

Highly recommended for all Kindergarteners and their parents, this is a great book to read in August to get your buffalo ready for school.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

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