Monday, July 29, 2019

Review - The King of Kindergarten

The King of Kindergarten
by Derrick Barnes
illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Date: 2019
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

A confident little boy takes pride in his first day of kindergarten.

The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets. It sits and shines behind your head--like a crown. Mommy says that today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten!

Starting kindergarten is a big milestone--and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He's dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can't wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he's up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can't wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements--and then wake up to start another day.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I thought I would enjoy this one more than I actually did. Don't get me wrong; it's a cute book. But the whole "royal" gimmick seems kind of unnecessary (and aimed more at adults than kids), and with a child who has a different understanding of what being king means, the premise could be potentially problematic.

The narration is a bit odd, to begin with. It almost sounds like it's one of the parents talking to the child, but both parents are referred to in the third person, so it's obviously somebody else. (Who? I have no idea.) The boy wakes up and goes about getting ready for school. This part of the book makes references to Chiclets and Osh Kosh (as if all 4- and 5-years olds are going to understand what those signify). Then the boy is off to school.

The problem I see with telling a child that they're the King of Kindergarten is that, if they have an idea of a king as someone who issues orders and expects to be obeyed, they're going to be in for a rough first day. In the case of this book, being king refers more to mastery than it does ruling... but I don't know if children this young are going to have such a nuanced view of royalty. The boy in the story is kind, polite, generous, and thoughtful, which are all great things to model. But it makes me wonder if the whole king thing is even necessary, since it might add a bit of confusion to what is, otherwise, a sweet story about the first day of school. (Making him a knight rather than a king might have made more sense in this context.)

I might have some problems with the text, but I don't really have any issues with the illustrations. They're absolutely adorable! The boy and his classmates are all portrayed with bright, colourful diversity. This is the third book I've read that was illustrated by Brantley-Newton, and I think I like the illustrations here the best.

Overall, I think whether this book works for kids will depend on their concept of what a king is. For those who think it's all about power, it might not work. But for those who have an expanded concept of what it means to be a king, this could be a winner.

Quotable moment:

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 5/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

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