Review of The King of Kindergarten

The King of Kindergarten
by Derrick Barnes; illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Preschool    Paulsen/Penguin    32 pp.    g
7/19    978-1-5247-4074-0    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-4075-7    $10.99

In a series of vignettes, Barnes (Crown, rev. 11/17) follows a boy on his first day of big-kid school. Dubbed the “King of Kindergarten” by his mother, the child, all smiles, wakes up with the sun, brushes his teeth (a.k.a. “Ye Royal Chiclets”), has breakfast with his proud parents, rides the school bus (a “big yellow carriage”), and has a totally awesome first day. He’s supported throughout by a caring teacher and friendly classmates who are eager to engage in imaginary play, music-making, and other joys of early childhood learning. Barnes’s direct-address text is lighthearted and reassuring, with its offstage narrator speaking directly to this imaginary-crown-wearing child — and to all rising kindergartners, first-day jitters or no (“Piece. Of. Cake”). Brantley-Newton’s cartoony mixed-media illustrations, hand-drawn and digitally colored, are bursting with color, pattern, and texture, with the brown-skinned protagonist surrounded by warmth (a smiley-faced sun that watches over him) and comfort (a cozy-looking patchwork quilt, stuffies, and finger-painted pictures in his bedroom; a school population of cheerful, bright-eyed children of various ethnicities — and even the class fish is smiling!).

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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