Review posted August 10, 2012.
Frances Foster Books (Farrar Straus Giroux), New York, 2012. 36 pages.
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Picture Books
I would have never checked out this book. I mean, come on, how many books do we need about getting ready for Kindergarten? When I did read it because it is being considered for the Capitol Choices list, I became convinced that we don't need any of the other books. We need this one!
This is a book about the feelings of a kid and his Mom when the child is starting Kindergarten. Those feelings are beautifully expressed by size and color. I especially love the way the sizes and colors change from page to page, because feelings on such a momentous day are volatile. Feelings change.
At the start, the big boy is excitedly waking up his little, blue mother, because he's ready to start school.
Mom makes my lunch and she starts to worry. "Do they have snacks in kindergarten? What if you don't have time to finish your sandwich at lunch? You'll be so hungry."
"I can eat fast, Mom."
The picture on that page clearly demonstrates the big, confident boy wolfing down his breakfast in an Enormous Mouthful. All Mom's other worries, he can handle. And he's consistently pictured as large and confident, while Mom is much smaller and completely shaded in blue.
They rush to school, with the big, happy, confident boy pulling along his tiny Mom. The reversal of the usual tropes continues, and the big boy mounts the steps to the big school.
Mom doesn't look happy.
"We don't know anyone here. I miss your old teachers and your friends."
"I like to make new friends, Mom, and you'll make new friends in no time."
I say hi to the girl with a pink ribbon.
She says hi.
And her mom says hi to my mom.
My mom smiles back.
On that page, color beautifully dawns on Mom's face and body. She smiles with pink cheeks, and the pink and yellow radiate into her blouse. The top of her head and her legs are still blue, but you can see that she's warming up.
And then, on the next page, they're back to life size. The boy is tinged with blue as he faces the open classroom door. Mom's bigger now, and colorful, and she provides a stable place for him to hug. (There's some blue at her waist where he's hugging her.)
The teacher comes out to greet them, and the boy gets his confidence back. And his large size. There's a wonderful picture on the page when the teacher says it's time for the parents to leave. "Mom hugs me, and kisses me, and hugs me, and kisses me." The boy is about to pop from the force of the hugs, and Mom's face is blue again, but she's smiling.
Then we get to work.
Kindergarten is awesome.
There's a truly wonderful double page spread at the end of the day when the Kindergartners are lined up, ready to go home. They are all huge and confident, completely filling the page and smiling. "When we line up, I feel so much bigger." He looks bigger, too.
Mom, waiting out in the school yard, is back to blue. But when they have a big hug, she's back to normal color and size.
Until the boy has his final question:
"Mom, can I take the school bus tomorrow, please?"
This book is perfect in so many ways. It so wonderfully shows the feelings taking place here, using the art to say so much more than words can. Then there's humor in the Mom's worries, and the confident, reassuring child. But I love that even he has moments of being blue, because that's the way it really happens.
If you know of a child getting ready to start Kindergarten, I can't think of a better choice than this book!