Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Royal Outlook

There are books you read filled with so much joy it cloaks you in an invisible shield for days.  Wherever you go and whatever you do, the fire started inside you by that book's jubilation is with you.  You cannot help but glow on the inside and on the outside.  It gives you positive power.

When you have this kind of positive power born of pure bliss, it radiates from you to others.  It changes perspectives.  The King of Kindergarten (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, July 2, 2019) written by Derrick Barnes with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a book filled with this kind of joy.  You want to laugh and dance and sing.  You send a wish out into the universe for every child to know this happiness.

THE MORNING SUN blares through
your window like a million brass

It crowns you with its rays of warmth.  This is as it should be because your mother tells you, on this first day of school, you are certain to be

the King of Kindergarten!

Everything you do reminds you of your royalness; the color of your toothbrush, the symbol on your washcloth and the brand of your clothing.  Sharing breakfast with your parents, you gleefully devour a stack of pancakes.  When your height is measured by your father, you remind him you'll be taller than he is before he knows it.

Joining others on the grand yellow transport is the best way to arrive at the stronghold of wisdom.  Remembering your mother's words, this kindergarten student walks tall with a face wreathed in smiles for all your classmates.  Greeted by your teacher, you proudly state your name.

As the King of Kindergarten, you merrily greet all your fellow students and embrace all the new learning experiences during the morning.  During recess an opportunity for bravery is met with success.  An observation at lunchtime allows compassionate concern to provide for a friend.

No day in kindergarten is complete without a bit of a rest.  Then you are ready for a memorable musical afternoon.  At the close of the day, your teacher sends you back home with a hope.  It is there, in your room, you realize every day will be as wonderful as this first day because you are royalty.

Those first three sentences on the first page by author Derrick Barnes are an irresistible invitation to continue reading.  Word selections throughout the story refer to royalty; family crest, reign, fortress, majestic and round table, to name a few.  The inclusion of dialogue adds the perfect personal touch.  Readers can't help but feel as if they are royalty, too.  Here is a passage.

You'll dress yourself neatly in
handpicked garments from the
far-off villages of Osh and Kosh.
B-gosh! You'll be ready to reign!

How can you not smile at the grinning boy on the front (and the back) of the matching dust jacket and book case?  His air of confidence, his let's-go attitude, asks you to join him.  His hands grasping his backpack as he leans forward, looking right at readers, tells a marvelous story without a single word.  You want to know this child.  You want to know this King of Kindergarten.

The varied shades of green for the background on the front and back of the open jacket and case highlight the child and the other elements in the visuals.  Some of the letters and numbers within the frame on the front surround the boy resting his elbows on a stack of books on the back.  The opening and closing endpapers are covered in a "chalkboard" green.  Crowns in bright white are placed in loose rows over chalky, childlike drawings of letters, numbers, shapes and a stick-figure person wearing a crown.

On the title page the boy stands ready to greet the day holding a book in one hand and a ruler in the other.  The ruler is his scepter.  He is wearing the outline of a crown.  On the verso and dedication pages swirls of purple, the color of royalty, supply a canvas for the text.

The illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton,

hand drawn and then colored using Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter

are a beautiful blend of bright, cheerful and pleasant pastel colors.  Layers of details and patterns fill every page.  On the opening two-page picture trumpets are also rays of the sun.  A patchwork quilt on the boy's bed showcases a stuffed toy lion proudly seated. Scattered toys and books on the floor along with drawings on the wall indicate an active life.  There are crowns on the boy's purple pajamas. He has lion fuzzy slippers.

Each two-page image or single-page picture flows flawlessly accentuating the text.  When we read about the smile on the teacher's face and her lively greeting this is emphasized by her bright green shoes and her shirt patterned in leaves similar to the leaves on a bulletin board. The sun is incorporated into several other visuals throughout the book.

One of my many, many favorite pictures spans two pages.  A marbleized teal is the canvas.  On the floor on the left, the King of Kindergarten is seated with his classmates listening to their teacher.  She is seated in a chair on the right, her hands and arms open, one foot in the air, as she smiles and speaks.  On the floor near the children, above them and crossing the gutter are items discussed in the text; letters, numbers, shapes and trucks, trains and tractors.  Out of an open book next to the teacher a tractor pulling a wagon, swirls of numbers, letters, smiling faces, a large pencil and a train tracks are shown. (There might also be a small book with the picture of a royal being on the cover.)

I can't imagine a first day of school being started without reading The King of Kindergarten written by Derrick Barnes with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.  The marvelous mix of words and artwork are sure to inspire readers of all ages.  You have the power to uplift all those around you with your unbridled joy.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  You can also see more of Vanessa Brantley-Newton's work at Painted Words.  Derrick Barnes has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Vanessa Brantley-Newton has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  You can view an interior image from the book at the publisher's website.

UPDATE:  Thanks to a tweet sent out by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, on Sunday, July 21, 2019 here is a video you will enjoy.

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