Antoinette Portis is a genius. Even though we all know this, I feel it must be remarked upon. First, you have the stunning classic Not a Box. Then the remarkable sequel, Not a Stick. Then, in a complete departure, the artistic magic of A Penguin Story.
And she's done it again. A completely new style and medium (I am just saying what it looks like to me, not an art critic here folks!) a completely new plot and storyline. "Not another first day at school book" you groan. Ah, but this one is different, for the following reasons.
It's written and drawn on handwriting practice paper - you know the kind with the dotted lines? So cool. It's a fascinated collage of textures and art. It's written in diary format. It covers the first month of kindergarten. It's completely, completely from a child's perspective. Annalina is scared of silly things - like her teacher being a monster - and real things, like the bigger kids being bullies. Some of the thing's she's scared about don't happen. Some of them do. This is REAL first time at school folks, not the sappy sweetness that drips out of most new school books.
Annalina enjoys some things about school and she hates other things. She likes her teacher most of the time, but Ms. Duffy isn't an angel from heaven with unending patience, surrounded by adoring children. Annalina makes growing up decisions, like shortening her name to Anna. She makes not-so-grown up decisions when she cuts her hair. She gets teased by the first graders. She makes friends. Some friends don't last very long!
Verdict: This book is REAL. Funny, contemporary, exuberant, scary, it encompasses all the first school experiences in a way that's both reassuring and honest. Every kindergartener should read this book before the big day! Don't forget to show it to preschoolers who want to know what kindergarten will be like, and to your 1st and 2nd graders to remind them how they felt when they were starting school!
ISBN: 9780061456916; Published June 2010 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library