Just in time for the start of the new school year, I bring you Polka-dot Fixes Kindergarten by Catherine Urdahl. Polka-dot (apparently) lives with her Grandpa, who always fixes everything for her. Today, however, Polka-dot is starting kindergarten. Grandpa won't be there to fix things for her. But she does have her polka-dotted dress and her fix-it kit, containing duct tape, runny soap, and dotted bandages.
In kindergarten, Polka-dot discovers a teacher with way too many rules about things, and a mean girl named Liz who makes fun of Polka-dot. After several setbacks, however, Polka-dot discovers that understanding, and a bit of duct tape, can go a long way towards fixing things.
It's clear to the reader that both Polka-dot and Liz are struggling with not being the center of the universe in kindergarten, the way they are at home. They're adjusting to different rules, and being around new people. I think that Urdahl's depiction of this is clear without being heavy-handed. Polka-dot Fixes Kindergarten is probably best suited to kids who didn't attend preschool, and are encountering a classroom for the first time. Though really, any young reader can probably appreciate the horror of a ripped dress, the embarrassment of spilling paint on the floor, or the frustration of dealing with someone who is mean for no reason.
I love Mai Kemble's watercolor, colored pencil, and graphite illustrations. Polka-dot is pink-cheeked and stylish in her dotted dress. The students represent a range of colors of clothing, hair, and skin. The page in which all of the kids are sitting around in a circle, learning about the rules of kindergarten, most looking shy or apprehensive, is a perfect picture of five-year-olds in a new place. Teacher Mrs. Jackson is firm about the rules, the pictures show her to be kind, and to have a nurturing classroom. And the watercolor illustrations are the perfect medium for showing Polka-dot's spilled paint.
I like that Polka-dot Fixes Kindergarten shows, without comment, a grandfather in the role of primary caregiver. I like that Polka-dot and Liz work out their issues on their own, without direct interference from any adults. And I love that the solution to their problems involves the use of duct tape.
Polka-dot Fixes Kindergarten is a welcome addition to the canon of first day of kindergarten books. Polka-dot is a strong, relatable character, Urdahl's illustrations are warm and friendly, and the book's messages (about adjusting to new environments and making friends) are conveyed with a light touch. Recommended for girls and boys about to start kindergarten or preschool.
Publisher: Charlesbridge (@Charlesbridge)
Publication Date: July 1, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.