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Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten!

mom, it's my first day of kindergarten!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?


Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Robin Smith says:

    I think it has a chance–and you put your finger on EXACTLY what makes this book remarkable: using color, line and size to show emotion.

    Also, older kids like this one, laughing at the mother’s emotions, knowing that the boy will adjust well in the end. It might be a great book to give to parents who are having trouble sending their kids to college.

  2. Susan Dailey says:

    I like the uncluttered pages–lots of white space, just enough detail to let you know where the characters are. The page where the boy is at the top of the steps is shown from an interesting and effective perspective. Cool endpapers, too. I’m not sure why the hand with the lunch box evokes the emotion it does though. Any ideas? As I mentioned in an early post, I’m not fond of advertisements for other books on the back and, unfortunately, this book has some. I hope this isn’t a pet peeve of the committee members because this book should be a contender.

  3. I am struggling a bit with this book, and it may be because I am using an adult perspective and not a child’s. I would love to hear from some people who have shared this book with preschoolers/kindergartners/early elementary kids. Robin, did you share this book with your class?

    To start, I think the endpapers are ingenious and ring so true. Without a word, Yum perfectly expresses the dynamics of a child dressing himself. The boy’s facial expressions & body language tell the whole story. I interpret the boy’s shock at receiving the lunchbox as a surprise that there is something else he needs, especially since he has an expression of fierce determination and independence when he stands, facing the audience, with his backpack on. He seems to be saying, I have conquered the clothing … and then the lunchbox appears! This is a boy who does not need anyone’s help to get ready … but then he does!

    I love the fact that this book features a confident child, ready for the first day of school. The bright colors, rosy cheeks, and sheer size of the boy convey that confidence completely. In some of the illustrations, he is proudly marching off the page! However, I find the mother’s “blueness” and “smallness” too extreme. It doesn’t ring completely emotionally true to me. Yes, parents worry when their kids go to school, but would a mother be this nervous with such a confident child? Their feelings are so extremely opposed that I find myself unsettled rather than nodding knowingly with the mother (or laughing). I almost wish the mom’s thoughts were inside her head, rather than being said aloud. I think what is vexing to me is the extreme mismatch between the parent and child’s size and color.

    I find the page where the mom turns rainbow colored as she talks to another mother very effective. Wow! That use of color is so powerful. Also, the next page where the boy has a small nervous moment and he takes on a slight blue twinge while mom smiles reassuringly. The size difference change and perspective is minimal, and I find it conveys the emotional heart of the moment with a lot of truth.

    At the end of the day, Mom is full grown and full color as she greets her son. She sees that he is okay…so I am left wondering why she turns blue and small again at the thought of the bus. I know she’s nervous, but wouldn’t she have gained some confidence after seeing how well her son did on his first day?

    I appreciate the uncluttered look, the space, and the motion that are conveyed. I am wondering if anyone else had a similar reaction, or if I am too sensitive and it’s clouding my vision (as a mom who recently sent her daughter to kindergarten and then cried in the parking lot!).

  4. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Cheryl –

    Thanks for pointing out more worthy details. Yes, the endpapers are lots of fun and that last scene with the lunchbox is a great example of Yum never being predictable.

    The extreme difference between mother and child seems appropriate. I read this book as fairly broad comedy, so the exaggeration works for me. I also think it’s meant to be read two ways. Literally, of course, with the mother being more afraid. But also as topsy-turvy humor because kids KNOW that they are (or were) nervous about their first day. They like seeing the tables turned in a subversive way. I’d love to see this book paired with Lynne Jonell and Petra Mathers’s Mommy Go Away.

  5. Lolly –

    Thank you for your reply. I am going to read this book aloud with my daughter and see how I feel … if the comedy expresses itself in the sharing and viewing together.

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