Kid's Stuff -- Books About School, Preschool & Kindergarten
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"My Day, Your Day"
Written by Robin Ballard
Illustrated by Robin Ballard
(Greenwillow, 2001)

Parents take their kids to school, and while they are there, the parents go to work. In a series of "split screen" two-page spreads, we see each child at school (on the left-hand side) and the parents at work (on the right)... Each parent-child duo can be identified by their matching clothes, and each child does something at school that mirrors their parent's profession (a girl whose dad works in construction likes to play with blocks, a boy whose mother is an agronomist enjoys a seed-planting project, etc.) This book is a little difficult for a number of reasons: it flips from character to character, and from locale to locale, which makes it extra work for readers, also, it's largely textless, so parents are put in the position of reinforcing the central message (which I find a little troubling) that kids grow up to be just like their parents. I'm sure kids are very influenced by what their parents do and what their interests are, but this book seems to project the message that this affinity and imitation are inevitable and universal, which I just don't think is true. Still, it's a good, positive representation of the school day, and a curiousity-satisfying glimpse into the adult world, for kids who wonder where mommy and daddy go after they drop them off in the morning. Worth a spin. (B-)


"Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!"
Written by Nancy Carlson
Illustrated by Ashey Wolff
(Puffin, 2001)

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"I Am Too Absolutely Small For School"
Written by Lauren Childs
Illustrated by Lauren Childs
(Candlewick, 2004)

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"Going To School!"
Written by Anne Civardi
Illustrated by Stephen Cartwright
(Usborne, 2005)

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"Slippers At School"
Written by Andrew Clements
Illustrated by Janie Bynum
(Dutton Books, 2004)

There's more action -- and more comedy -- as Slippers the puppy climbs into his owner's backpack and stows away to her first day at school. Slippers romps around from classroom to classroom, and even gets spotted by the principal, before sneaking back into the bag and making it back home. It's meant to be a rollicking good time, and probably is, for the right kids. We liked this book okay, though the characters aren't really strong enough to capture your imagination. Part of a very cutesy-wootsy series. (B-)


"One Smiling Sister"
Written by Lucy Coats
Illustrated by Emily Bolam
(Dorling Kindersley, 2002)

Mildly disappointing in that the title has very little to do with the theme of the book (I thought it would be a book about sibling relations, when in fact it's about a small child going off to nursery school. Even more confusing, the "smiling sister" is the one going to school, although the first page, in which she smiles, is the only one seen from the perspective of her infant sibling; the rest of the book is from her point of view. Editors? Hello?) Anyway, once you get past that, this is a decent book -- shows kids in a school environment smiling and engaged in a variety of happy events, and is also structured as a counting book ("one smiling sister... two twins in a rush..." etc.) Worth checking out.
(B-)


"Will I Have A Friend?"
Written by Miriam Cohen
Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
(Simon & Schuster, 1967)

A fine first-day-at-school book... While being dropped off at school, a boy named Jim asks his dad if he will have a friend there, and the dad assures him he will. Jim spends the whole day looking for this friend, while playing blocks, doing art, playing at recess and going through the usual set of playschool/kindergarten activities. Initially Jim finds it hard to fit himself in socially and in his anxiety to find "the" friend, Jim doesn't realize that he has made friends with all the children in his class. At the end of the day he finally connects with one boy in particular, and by the time his dad comes to pick him up, Jim is eager to return for day number two. Although the story focuses on anxieties, it does so with a light touch, and the presentation of new-school activities is captivating and friendly. Recommended! (B+)


"When Will I Read?"
Written by Miriam Cohen
Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
(Greenwillow, 1977)

Jim is a little boy in the first grade (or so) who has grown anxious about when he will be able to read -- some kids in his class already can, and a few even tease him a little because he can't. His teacher calmly assures him that he will be able to read, someday soon. Naturally, she's proven right, and all ends well. As a general rule, I'm not that into anxiety books, although this one does have a nice, gentle tone, and I like the cartoonish artwork... Worth checking out. (B-)


"First Day Jitters"
Written by Julie Dannenberg
Illustrated by Judity Dufor Love
(Charlesbridge, 2000)

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"Kindergarten Rocks!"
Written by Katie Davis
Illustrated by Katie Davis
(Harcourt, 2005)

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"Last Day Blues"
Written by Julie Dannenberg
Illustrated by Judity Dufor Love
(Charlesbridge, 2006)

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"The New Girl At School"
Written by Judy Delton
Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
(E. P. Dutton, 1979)

A young girl named Marcia is starting classes in a new school, and feels left out and insecure at every turn. Slowly, though, she starts finding friends, learning the ropes and fitting in... By the end of the story, she's one of the old-timers when a new new girl shows up and goes through the same fitting-in process. A simple, understated story with nice artwork that helps readers feel they are really there in the classroom seeing it all unfold. A good book for this subject... It also hints at being a book about moving to a new place, and possibly a single-parent book as well. (B+)


"Teacher's Pets"
Written by Dayle Ann Dodds
Illustrated by Marilyn Hafner
(Candlewick, 2006)

Another winner from Dayle Ann Dodds... This time it's about a grade school show-and-tell project that gets a little out of hand. The kids in Miss Fry's class all have cool pets -- goats, tarantulas, chickens and boa constrictors -- but for some reason their parents keep asking if it might be possible for, uh, the animals to, um, stay in the classroom for a while. Always affable and upbeat, Miss. Fry cheerfully says yes, and soon she has quite a menagerie at school. When the year comes to an end, however, she finally asks the kids to take their critters back home, and they all get taken -- all except for one, a little cricket named Moe, who apparently likes Miss Fry "best of all." So, she takes Moe home and gives him a spot in her garden, where he serenades her for years to come. A cute, lively story that gives a flavor of what grade school is like, but mostly it's about the animals and the kids... A nice fun read! (B+)


"Lottie's Princess Dress"
Written by Doris Dorrie
Illustrated by Julia Kaergel
(Penguin/Dial, 1999)

A lighthearted take on the whole tough-getting-kids-out-the-door dilemma... It's a school (and work) day and Lottie's harried mother grows increasingly exasperated while trying to hustle the dreamy-headed young'un out to greet the day. She wants Lottie to bundle up against the cold, but the girl insists on wearing her golden princess dress, and in the argument that follows, Mom briefly blows her stack and then apologizes. She eventually gives in and lets Lottie wear her dress-up clothes, and what's more, Lottie convinces Mom to wear her fancy evening dress, too, so that they'll be dressed up together. Lottie keeps insisting that they should dress fancy because it's a "special" day -- and when the do dress up, it becomes a special day, with strangers and teachers and co-workers smiling at a parent who's been drawn into the magical world of playtime. The book is bittersweet, touching both on conflict and playfulness. Since no daddy appears, it can also be taken as a single-parent book. Recommended! (B+)


"My First Day Of Nursery School"
Written by Becky Edwards
Illustrated by Anthony Flintoft
(Bloomsbury, 2002)

A great book about going to school for the first time... A little girl wakes up knowing she has to go to nursery school for the first time, and after she gets dropped off by her mother, she immediately cries out, "I WANT MY MOMMY!" But she also notices all the cool stuff there is to do at school -- painting, playing, dancing, meeting friends -- and each time her homesickness hits, it's a little less severe. By the time her mom comes to pick her up, she's having so much fun, she doesn't want to go home! I read this one to my girl when she was one-and-a-half and when we finished, she instantly said, "I wanna go nursery school!" Guess the authors must be on the right track. I really like the artwork, too.
(A)


"Ms. Bitsy Bat's Kindergarten"
Written by Pamela Duncan Edwards
Illustrated by Henry Cole
(Hyperion, 2005)

An introductory going-to-school book with many grievous flaws, primarily its negative tone and haphazard narrative structure. The story hinges on a kindergarten class that's getting a new, substitute teacher -- the kids (various animals) are sure the new teacher will be a dud. The brainy kid worries she won't know how smart he is; the teacher's pet thinks she won't get to do classroom chores; worst of all, another child moans that their old teacher gave them chocolate chip cookies for snacks, and he's sure that now they'll only get "yucky carrot sticks." The new teacher turns out to be a bat -- there's a six-page detour where the kids work through their feelings about bats and whether or not they can teach school during the daytime -- and then there's a lame sequence in which all the kids sit at the wrong desks (including the fat, snack-obsessed Groundhog, who can't squeeze into one of the smaller chairs...) Ms. Bat proves herself to be a perfect teacher, getting each kid placed in just the right seat (including Groundhog, who she sits right next to the snack supply) and gives them all things to do that suit their needs and skills. And then -- oh, no! -- a bee flies in the window! and has to be shooed out by the super-flying Ms. Bat (and then it gets let in again, mysteriously, for storytime...) BUT WHAT ABOUT SNACKTIME?? you all cry. Don't worry: Ms. Bat boldly announces, "I don't like carrot sticks either," (whew!) and has Groundhog hand out the (yay!!!) chocolate chip cookies. Whoo-hoo!! Honestly, I thought this book was terrible. I didn't see the point, hated the tone, hated the messages about food, thought it was poorly organized and dramatically flat. I'd have to put this close to the bottom of the list for going-to-school books... Oh, well. (D)


"What Did You Do Today? The First Day Of School"
Written by Toby Forward
Illustrated by Carol Thompson
(Houghton Mifflin/Clarion, 2004)

A going-to-school book with a split-screen narrative structure: on the left-hand side we see the boy at school, while on the right we see his mother at her office job. Their activities though the day roughly parallel one another -- work, writing, snacktime, etc. -- which, actually is kind of a depressing concept, if you stop to think of it. I'm not a big fan of dual-narrative picturebooks, and didn't think this one really rose above the problems inherent to the format. It was okay, but there are better books with similar themes out there. I'm a bit of a fan of Carol Thompson's artwork, but it didn't really click for me here. Oh, well. Reissued in paperback as The First Day Of School. (C)


"I Am Not Going To School Today"
Written by Robie H. Harris
Illustrated by Jan Ormerod
(Margaret K. McElderry, 2003)

Although he goes to sleep excited by the prospects of his first day in school, a young boy starts to worry in the night: how will he find his cubby, or know where all the crayons and toys are, or when it's time for recess or snacks? He wakes up the next morning and announces to his parents that he plans to skip the first day of school, but will go the second day, because that's when kids know all the new things. His parents patiently get him fed and dressed and talk him through it, and after they finally get the boy to school, then the fun begins. He takes his stuffed animal, Hank, to school, and later tells his folks how much fun Hank had meeting the new kids, etc. Although the beginning of the book focuses on (some might say "models") negative behavior and attitudes towards school, there are more positive messages embedded throughout the story, and the narrative is richer and stronger than many books with similar themes. Nice artwork, good presentation of schooltime activities, and a full exploration of the anxieties and pushback many children express when first going to school. (I was actually too chicken to read this to my kid, but I still liked what it said and how it said it...) (B+)


"100 Days Of School"
Written by Trudy Harris
Illustrated by Trudy Harris
(Millbrook, 2000)

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"Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush"
Written by Will Hillenbrand
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
(Harcourt/Gulliver, 2003)

A problematic going-to-school book, built around a disasterously adaptation of the children's rhyme, "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush." The narrator is a kid going to his first day of school, and the (slightly mangled) verses harp on and on about his fears and anxieties about what will happen at Mulberry School and how much he wishes he didn't have to be there. While this is going on, the kids are all dancing round and round the mulberry bush, and when our hero ducks inside the branches, in order to hide, another kid ducks in there as well, and -- hallelujah! -- he makes a friend, and starts to feel better about the hellhole that is his cutesy-wootsy preschool. I dunno: maybe a book like this that addresses school anxiety head-on is useful, but I thought the overall tone of this book was pretty negative. I wouldn't recommended it. (C-)


"Little Rabbit Goes To School"
Written by Harry Horse
Illustrated by Harry Horse
(Peach Tree Press, 2004)

Another fine book book in this notworthy series... This time around, Little Rabbit is going to his first day of school, and decides to take his toy wooden horse, Charlie, along as well. Through Charlie, Little Rabbit is mischieveous and disruptive, although the school's kind, patient teacher handles the trouble well, letting Charlie "rest" on her desk, and take a time-out in the corner. Little Rabbit gets lost during a field trip (after "following" Charlie) but quickly finds his way back, after which he learns to listen more closely when adults tell him that maybe school isn't the best place for toys from home. The book also explores friendship and sharing -- the other kids are naturally interested in the charismatic horse, but Little won't share his toy with them, at least not until two of the nicest kids share with him after he loses his lunch... Although this book shows misbehavior and a slightly scary situation with Charlie and Little getting lost in the woods, the overall tone is affectionate and forgiving; Little is shown more as self-centered and forgetful than "bad," and he learns from his mistakes and becomes nicer and more self-aware. As with the other books in this series, this has gorgeous, delightfully detailed artwork... Lots of fun to look at, and a perfect compliment to the equally engaging text. Recommended! (A-)


"When You Go To Kindergarten"
Written by James Howe
Illustrated by Betty Imershein
(Harper, 1986/1995)

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"What Happens On Wednesdays"
Written by Emily Jenkins
Illustrated by Lauren Castillo
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007)

An immensely charming book about everyday routines, especially nice for single children and families that live in urban environs... A young girl walks us through her day, starting with a pre-dawn wake-up and storytime with Mom, then a to-school walk with Dad that takes us on a tour of her New York neighborhood. After lunch, Mom picks her up, they go home, have a nap, then go out for a dip at the pool and trip to the library, then back again for dinner, bath and bedtime. Sounds simple, but the richness of detail (both in the text and the marvelous drawings) makes this one a real winner. The young urban family feels familiar and real -- fans of Mo Willems Knuffle Bunny will recognize the Brooklyn landscape, and expatriate New Yorkers will yearn for a bite of their bagels. This book perfectly captures the ebb and flow of a preschool-kindergarten student's life, and will ring a bell for many readers, big and small. Recommended! (A)


"Froggy Goes To School"
Written by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
(Penguin/Viking, 1996)

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"First Day"
Written by Dandi Daley Mackall
Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
(Harcourt, 2003)

One of the simplest, best books about starting out school/preschool... Our hero here is a little girl who expresses the usual anxieties about how big the other kids look and how she wants her mom and dad to stay with her... Over the course of the day she has lots of fun, doing art, playing with toys, listening to stories, etc. and a careful reading will show that the same little boy with a stripey red shirt plays with her and helps her out all day long. By the end of the book, she's ready for Day Two, which is sure to be just as action-packed. The rhyming text is okay -- not great, but nice enough -- while the blocky, colorful watercolor art grabs the eye and really draws you in. Easy for the littlest readers to understand, and pleasantly positive, without being icky sweet. Nice!
(B+)


"Emily's First Day Of School"
Written by Claire Masurel
Illustrated by Susan Calitri
(Penguin/Puffin, 2000)

The start of a cute, simple series starring a cartoonish, preschool-age bunny named Emily... Here, she gets dropped off at preschool, along with her friends Charlie and Hillary, meets the teacher, finds her cubby, does some art, plays and has lunch, makes some music and then goes home. It's all very visually appealing and happily idealistic, with big flaps to lift that bring your kid in on the adventure. A fine going-off-to-school picturebook!
(B)


"Countdown To Kindergarten"
Written by Alison McGhee
Illustrated by Harry Bliss
(Silver Whistle, 2002)

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"Ten Rosy Roses"
Written by Eve Merriam
Illustrated by Julia Gorton
(Harper Collins, 1999)

A pretty cool counting book, in which a patch of ten red roses is whittled down to zero, as ten young children each pick one. (At the book's end, they present all ten flowers to their new teacher, Ms. Jones, giving the book a nice, storylike twist...) When we first saw this book, I was a little leery of the highly stylized, cartoonlike artwork (similar to Daniel Kirk or Dan Yaccarino's work), but my daughter instantly responded to it, memorizing the names of each of the kids in the book and -- more importantly -- learning how to country backwards from ten. Helped by the book's simple yet effective rhymes (which always rhymes the first line with one of the numbers at the end of the second) she went from being pretty fuzzy about what comes after "four" to confidently rattling off the numbers in downward succession... (PS -- hey, if NASA is looking for a new announcer for their launches, I have someone in mind...) Anyway, this seems to have been pretty effective as a learning tool, at least in our neck of the woods... So I'd recommend it on that basis, for sure! (A-)


"Don't Forget I Love You"
Written by Miriam Moss
Illustrated by Anna Currey
(Dial Books, 2004)

Another bear book. This one explores emotional transitions and daily rituals: a mama bear gets her daydreaming little boy ready for school, but when they start to run late, she drops him off quickly, accidentally forgetting to leave his favorite toy Rabbit, and also forgets to tell Billy she loves him and will pick him up later. Billy cries, because he expects the ritual goodbye, and also because and he feels bad that his dawdling made them late. Mama Bear, realizing her mistake, comes back and makes Billy feel better. A sweet book with good humor and a happy ending, and lovely artwork. The emotional life of Billy is quickly and deftly drawn, and given the respect is deserves, while also showing how exasperating it can be to herd little children around... A compassionate sketch of the emotional relationships between small children and their caregivers... Recommended!
(A)


"Otto Goes To School"
Written by Todd Parr
Illustrated by Todd Parr
(Megan Tingley, 2005)

One of about a half-dozen or so books in the "Otto" series... Kinda brainless, but a little fun. Otto is a cheerful young dog, and when he goes off to school, it is doggy school that he's attending. There he learns to do things like not chase cats and share his toys. It's a very Maisy-esque, unchallenging story, full of bright colors and mild jokes. It's okay, but not really that great. (C)


"Busy Bea"
Written by Nancy Poydar
Illustrated by Nancy Poydar
(Margaret K. McElderry, 1994)

A forgetful little girl named Bea leaves her lunchbox, her sweater, etc. at school... and doesn't realize there's a lost-and-found room until she's lost practically everything she's brought! Then, of course, she recovers all her missing stuff and all ends well. A nice, simple story about a common problem, and a common solution. Nice artwork, and a friendly, sympathetic character. Cute. (B)


"First Day, Hooray!"
Written by Nancy Poydar
Illustrated by Nancy Poydar
(Holiday House, 1999)

A going-to-school story with admirable intentions, but a painfully cluttered narrative. Ivy Green (all the characters have pun-laden names) is a little girl getting ready for her first day of kindergarten, and while buying new shoes and school supplies, she frets about what will happen if she misses the bus, or loses her lunch, or can't find her classroom. Correspondingly, we see the school staff -- the bus driver, the custodian, the principal and Ivy's new teacher -- going through their preparations, then setting their alarm clocks and going to sleep the night before. The idea is show us that teachers are people, too, and that they share some of our anxieties, even while they are taking steps to ensure that things will go well. The trouble is there's just too much going on here: the characters are named, but their roles aren't explained (parents may flounder while trying to guess who Mr. Masters and Ms. Bell are...) and trying to follow them all through their night-before jitters is asking a lot of one's readers. The narrative just isn't as smooth and readily apparent as it should be... Maybe some brainiac readers will fall into the right wavelength to appreciate this one, but I found it an unusually difficult story to get through. (C+)


"Welcome To Kindergarten"
Written by Anne Rockwell
Illustrated by Anne Rockwell
(Walker Books, 2004)

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"Tiptoe Into Kindergarten"
Written by Jacqueline Rogers
Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
(Scholastic/Cartwheel, 2003)

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"The Twelve Days Of Kindergarten"
Written by Deborah Lee Rose
Illustrated by Carey Armstrong-Ellis
(Harry N. Abrams, 2003)

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"I Love You All Day Long"
Written by Francesca Rusackas
Illustrated by Pricisilla Burris
(Harper, 2004)

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"Time To Wake Up!"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1994)

A very cute book wherein Sam and his mother play a teasing wake-up game when he tries to stay cuddled under the covers and she tries to get him up and ready for school. A good-humored portrait of a tender, loving mother-son relationship, with little shared jokes and friendly, genuine warmth between then two. Appealling, cartoonish pictures and funny back-and-forth dialogue which will draw in young readers and weary parents alike. (This could also be interpreted as a single-parenting book, since no Daddy is in sight...) Recommended! (A-)


"I Don't Want To Go Back To School"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1994)

A little boy named Ben doesn't want to go to school because of first-day jitters... We haven't read this one yet, because it's not an issue with us, and I don't want to introduce the idea that school is something to be avoided. (-)


"Annabelle Swift, Kindergartener"
Written by Amy Schwartz
Illustrated by Amy Schwartz
(Scholastic, 1991)

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"Blue Goes To School"
Written by Angela C. Santomero
Illustrated by David B. Levy
(Simon & Schuster, 2000)

Our kid doesn't watch TV (yet), so we haven't been sucked into the Blue's Clues vortex... Nevertheless, this was a very good, very useful little book about starting out going to school, with several examples of common situations that kids might encounter, and healthy, assertive ways to solve problems. Should you clean up when you make a mess? Yell at other kids when they get in your way? Give up when something goes wrong? Blue nobly helps us through these rocky waters... All kidding aside, though, this is a great book. The artwork and storytelling are very simple, and the messages come through loud and clear, but in a nice, un-scoldy way. (B+)


"Mommy In My Pocket"
Written by Carol Hunt Senderak
Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
(Hyperion, 2006)

A sweet going-to-school book about a little girl bunny who wishes she could shrink her mother down to doll size and take her with her to school. (The sight of the mama bunny's ears sticking out of the girl's pocket is delightful... Love Nakata's artwork!) The text is a little choppy, but the sentiments are wonderful, and may inspire similar solutions for parents whose children are going to school... Perhaps sending them off with a photo or keepsake of some sort to help remind them who's waiting for them at home... ? A lovely book for parents and children... and people who like bunny rabbits! (B)


"The Bus Stop"
Written by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Illustrated by Janet Morgan Stoeke
(Dutton, 2007)

A good first-day, going-to-school book, with minimal text and bright, cheerful artwork that is easy to understand and has a nice retro, Lois Lenski-ish feel. Most of the action centers around a big yellow school bus, as three children get ready to ride to school for the first time. They are a little anxious, but have fun once they ride, and have a great day at school as well. (There's actually only one panel of the kids at school -- also very good -- and then the bus comes back to pick them up.) There's not a lot of depth to this book, but the rhyming text and the full-of-smiley-faces artwork are both very reassuring and clear about the message. If riding a bus to school is a particular issue, I'd definitely recommend this book -- it may be a little too optimistic and suburban for many readers, but it's still nice to put a positive spin on things. (B)


"Make New Friends"
Written by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Rosemary Wells
(Hyperion, 2003)

A new girl, Juanita, comes to Yoko's school and Ms. Jenkins asks Yoko to help her fit in... Yoko is an exemplary pal, making sure Juanita knows how to sing the little songs the class sings for snacktime, etc. and that she isn't alone or left out of any activities. She even stays after school while Juanita waits for her mother to pick her up... Nice role modeling of positive social behavior and solicitousness... Another nice entry in the Hilltop School series! (B)


"Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready For Kindergarten"
Written by Joseph Slate
Illustrated by Ashey Wolff
(Dutton, 1996)

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"Miss Bindergarten Celebrates The 100th Day Of Kindergarten"
Written by Joseph Slate
Illustrated by Ashey Wolff
(Puffin, 2002)

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"On My First Day Of School I Met..."
Written by Norman Stiles
Illustrated by Bill Mater
(Milk & Cookies Press, 2005)

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"I Love School!"
Written by Philemon Sturges
Illustrated by Shari Halpern
(Harper Collins, 2004)

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"Mouse's First Day Of School"
Written by Lauren Thompson
Illustrated by Buket Erdogan
(Simon & Schuster, 2003)

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"Will You Come Back For Me?"
Written by Ann Tompert
Illustrated by Robin Kramer
(Whitman, 1989)

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"Suki's Kimono"
Written by Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Stphane Jorisch
(Kids Can Press, 2003)

A young Japanese-American girl (well, Japanese-Canadian, actually...) wants to go to the first day of school wearing a formal, traditional kimono that her grandmother bought her. Her sisters mock Suki and warn her that the other kids will tease her and think she's weird. Suki wears the kimono anyway, and though a lot of kids do make fun of her, the children in her homeroom class are won over when Suki explains why the kimono means so much to her and shows them a Japanese folk dance that she learned at a summertime cultural festival. This book wears its multi-cultural message on its sleeve, but the obviousness of it doesn't make a dent in the sweet, charming story (which is buoyed by gorgeous, captivating artwork)... All the messages here -- embracing one's cultural roots, willing to not be "cool", and following your own individual interests and a reverence for things that are old or old-fashioned -- all ring true for me. Maybe for you as well? At any rate, Suki can hang out at our house any time... I like that kid! (A)


"My Somebody Special"
Written by Sarah Weeks
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
(Harcourt/Gulliver, 2002)

School is over, and the parents are coming to pick up their kids. One by one, the children leave, until one little puppy is left, sad because his mommy is late. A good book for preschool-age readers... The text is so-so and a little sappy, but there's a lot to talk about in the artwork: you can match up the parent walking through the door with the child they're about to pick up ("who is the daddy fox going to pick up?") and discuss the kinds of things that go on at school ("look, now they're having story time...!") Nice book to ease anxieties or open discussions about what school will be like, and a nice reassurance of parental love. (B-)


"Emily's First 100 Days Of School"
Written by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Rosemary Wells
(Hyperion, 2000)

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"My Kindergarten"
Written by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Rosemary Wells
(Hyperion, 2004)

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"Tom Goes To Kindergarten"
Written by Margaret Wild
Illustrated by David Legge
(Whitman, 2000)

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"The Night Before Kindergarten"
Written by Natasha Wing
Illustrated by Julie Durrell
(Grosset & Dunlap, 2001)

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"Don't Go!"
Written by Jane Breskin Zalben
Illustrated by Jane Breskin Zalben
(Clarion, 2001)

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"Schools Have Learn"
Written by Harriet Ziefert
Illustrated by Amanda Haley
(Blue Apple Books, 2004)

Call me a fusty old killjoy (Alright: "You're a fusty old killjoy!") but I just have a problem with children's books that intentionally use bad grammar. I don't like 'em. I don't see the point. I also don't think that kids are that "dumb," or that they need to be talked down to. Ms. Ziefert has more than a few fine children's books under her belt but she also has a penchant for "cute," humorous linguistic lapses -- she followed this book with the similarly irritating Families Have Together, which also has her wobbling back and forth between good and bad grammar. It's disheartening. I mean, really, what is the point of writing stanzas like "Kids have sing/school bells have ring/lines have push/monitors have shush" or "Schools have learn/books have return"? Ziefert seems to think that kids will latch onto her sense of humor, and that the book's message -- showing the daily routines of grade school -- will penetrate minds that otherwise might not pay attention. I'm not so sure. And even if she's right, what's the advantage to sugar-coating knowledge under a veneer of willful ignorance and demi-literacy? It seems to me entirely the wrong message to send young readers. Also, with this particular book, the problem is compounded by grotty artwork, cartoonish drawings reminiscent of David Shannon's work that show kids as gangly, gap-toothed munchkins -- Haley's illustrations convey emotion and humor,but I still find them unaesthetic and unappealing. Other folks might enjoy this formula, but it was a wash for me. (D)




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