Book: First Grade, Here I Come!
Author: D. J. Steinberg
Illustrator: Tracy Bishop
Age Range: 5-7
First Grade, Here I Come! by D. J. Steinberg is a book of poems dedicated to experiences that kids are likely to have as they begin first grade, like visiting the library, waiting for snack time, going on a field trip, having pajama day, etc. I found the details early in the book to be fairly accurate regarding the difference that we're expecting as my daughter goes from kindergarten to first grade, like:
"Big-time backpacks on our backs,
skinny pencils, books in stacks,
desks to call our very own,
recess in the big-kid zone..."
Some of the other ideas could have been equally applicable to kindergarten or to higher grades, but of course there's going to be a range of experiences in every classroom.
Steinberg includes nice touches of realistic humor throughout the book. For instance, the solution to a math problem of adding up different color candies is "ZERO, 'cause I ate all EIGHT!". A girl wears pajamas to school a week early for pajama day, to much embarrassment. The kids have their best field trip ever when the bus breaks down, and they end up hanging around and then getting ice cream at a mall. There's a poem about a kid who makes armpit noises. It's all quite kid-friendly.
I thought that Tracy Bishop's illustrations, full of multi-cultural kids with huge, cartoonish smiles, were a bit cute for my own taste. But they certainly serve the book's purpose of making first grade activities seem accessible and non-threatening to younger kids. My favorite set of illustrations are the vignettes that illustrate the poem BFF (one picture per couplet):
"Monday, Kim's my BFF.
Tuesday, I'm through with her.
Wednesday, we'll never be friends again ever,
and sorry we ever were!
Thursday, we kind of forget why we're mad
and how we started this war.
Friday, Kim's my BFF--
my best friend forever once more."
The girls' varying moods are conveyed through posture and facial expressions, and they aren't (for once) smiling in every image.
First Grade, Here I Come! is a solid addition to the ranks of books about starting school. I like that it covers activities throughout the year, rather than being only about overcoming fears on the first day (as are many in this niche). I also like the use of poetry to explore first grade events and activities, the kid-friendly humor, and the range of racial backgrounds conveyed by the illustrations. Libraries serving rising first graders will want to give this one a look.
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (@PenguinKids)
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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