Saturday, October 3, 2009

School's in session

by Alison McGhee, Alison, illustrations by Harry Bliss
Harcourt
2002

Our nameless heroine with wide Orphan Annie eyes has 10 days until the start of kindergarten and she is terrified that she will not be able to tie her shoes without help. The pictures are in bright, saturated watercolor and black ink. The narrative, all told from the five-year-old girl’s point of view is fairly simple and straightforward, conveying a mounting panic as the first day of kindergarten draws ever nearer. The illustrations abound with hilarious in-jokes for adults and children. The book slyly includes quite a bit of counting backwards as well. The tongue-in-cheek humor of the story highlights how silly her fears really are. After hiding her shoe, the girl’s mother finds them in a haystack and declares, “Looky here – the missing shoes and that needle I’ve been searching for!” The young girl also frequently imagines an army of adults (school officials chief amongst them) repeating, “You can’t ask us for help. Ever.” Many hand lettered comic book style speech balloons are incorporated throughout the text. Those nervous about getting ready for kindergarten will find this story very reassuring. The girl in the story never does figure out how to tie her shoes by the end of the story, but she is reassured that she doesn’t need to be perfect, especially on the first day of school. Kindergarten teachers might enjoy this as a first day read-aloud in order to dispel fears of what is expected at school.

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