Here’s another book that Robin reviewed for the Magazine but I jumped in and claimed it for the blog.
Trust Hyewon Yum (The Twins’ Blanket) to come up with a new approach the tried-and-true First Day of School Book. All the usual elements are there: worries about being too little, getting lost, not making friends. The twist is that it’s Mom who is nervous while her son the narrator is confident that all will be well.
That twist is a nice touch, but what makes this book stand out for me as a Caldecott contender is Yum’s visual representation of emotions. The nervous mother is wan, literally blue, and tiny next to the son who towers over her in exuberant full color. This amount of visual exaggeration runs the risk of being confusing, but I think the humor is right on target for the specific age it’s aimed at. Is Yum really saying that the boy is complacent while his mother is a bundle of nerves? Or is this a topsy-turvey joke? I think it’s a little of both, and plays into the reality that parents and children BOTH go through nervous moments before and during that big first day.
In the end, the day goes well — as it must in a book of this sort. When Mom regains her confidence, she gains color and grows to a normal size, just as her son has a momentary flash of blue-faced, shrunken panic. Yum takes the imperative to “show, don’t tell” to new levels and readers will quickly pick up on nuances of emotion in secondary characters, too.
I’m glad that Yum now lives in the U.S., making this book eligible for this award. What do you think? Does it have a chance?