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The Picture Book Buzz

The King of Kindergarten - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Are you ready for a sneak peek? Have I got a doozy for you this Friday.

Okay, now I know school is out, but you can never be too early to lay the foundation for a child to have a great experience on his/her first day in school. I found a delightful new book on making friends and being kind. A book about empowering a child's self-esteem. You don't want to miss this new book by two powerhouse creatives. It releases next Tuesday - July 2nd.

The King of Kindergarten

Author: Derrick Barnes

Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (2019)

Ages: 3-6



Starting Kindergarten, friends, confidence, and kindness.


A confident little boy takes pride in his first day of kindergarten, by the Newbery Honor-winning author of Crown. 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.

Opening Lines:

The morning sun blares through your windowlike a million brass trumpets.

It sit and shines behind your head -

like a crown.

Mommy says that today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten.

What I LOVED about this book:

The first day of school can be intimidating. But the text and illustrations of this gorgeous and thoughtful book are so empowering and uplifting, it will have kids excited to go. I totally fell in love with it.

It begins in a quintessential child's room, full of books and toys, including the King of the Beasts.

Text © Derrick Barnes, 2019. Image © Vanessa Brantley-Newton, 2019.

Written in second person, the reader follows this beaming boy as he prepares for school as the King of Kindergarten. With deft skill and a bit of humor ("garments from the far-off villages of Osh and Kosh"), Derrick weaves this royal theme through the story. As a "big yellow carriage" takes him to "a grand fortress" with "towering doors," where he heads to a "royal seat" at his "round table." There's even a battle with a dragon.

Text © Derrick Barnes, 2019. Image © Vanessa Brantley-Newton, 2019.

In a great example of the collaboration between the author and the illustrator, Vanessa translates Derrick's text into a child's joyful "modern" experience of the first day of school. As you examine the gorgeous, textured illustrations, be sure to note how she plays with the royal theme by "hiding" crowns throughout the book, for instance on the boy's pajamas, on a block castle, the dining chair, the growth chart, and many more. Kids will enjoy looking through Vanessa's bright, cheery illustrations to find the crowns.

Text © Derrick Barnes, 2019. Image © Vanessa Brantley-Newton, 2019.

This is an uplifting, exuberant book about making friends, playing together, sharing, and loving school. Perfect for summer reading before starting school or with children nervous about making new friends. It is also a great book for expanding a child's vocabulary. I was thrilled to see Derrick infused the story with words like garments, majestic, delighted, arise, and magnificent. Overall, a book that should be in every library.


- story maps and lessons for level 1 to 4 (;

- do you remember starting kindergarten? What did you like the best? What worried you the most? Can you draw a picture or write a story about your first day of school? or

- read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg compare these first days of school.

If you missed Vanessa Brantley-Newton's interview on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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