A solid but ultimately unexciting entry in the who’s-the-beast genre.

ALMA AND THE BEAST

A beast-girl and a girl-beast become friends in a hairy landscape.

“Alma’s day began like any other.” The big-eyed galumph covered in flowing gray fur picks “one butter breakfast tulip” and tends to her trees that are in need of braiding, the grass that needs combing, and the roof that needs a pat. Alma is sitting in her garden, a white “plumpooshkie butterfly” perched on her head, when a “little beast” comes to disturb her. Readers will quickly realize that the “beast” is a child like themselves, a very prim white girl in a yellow dress, but “Alma was frightened. She had never seen a hairless, button-nose beast before!” The girl, Mala, shouts that she is “TERRIBLY, TREMENDOUSLY, STUPENDOUSLY LOST,” and after some hesitation, Alma decides to help. The two become friends (Alma confused about the hairlessness of the girl’s environment), and “Mala’s day ended like any other.” Busy, lush paintings illustrate the strangeness of Alma’s thoroughly furred world, contrasting with the slightly long but well-paced and neatly structured story. While the overarching conceit—getting children to question their definition of “beast”—is clever, the meat of the story is somewhat lacking; tepid prose and weak characterization mean that most of the story is carried by the rich illustrations and the assumptions about beasts and not-beasts.

A solid but ultimately unexciting entry in the who’s-the-beast genre. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6396-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere.

THE QUEEN OF KINDERGARTEN

Barnes and Brantley-Newton team up for a follow-up to The King of Kindergarten (2019).

From the very first page, it’s clear that young MJ Malone is ready to face the world—and school. Once Mom bestows her with a glittery tiara and dubs her the queen of kindergarten, MJ is determined to fulfill her duties—brighten up every room she enters, treat others with kindness, and offer a helping hand. Barnes infuses each page with humor and a sense of grace as the immensely likable MJ makes the most of her first day. Barnes’ prose is entertaining and heartwarming, while Brantley-Newton’s vivid and playful artwork will be easily recognizable for anyone who’s seen her work (Grandma’s Purse, 2018; Becoming Vanessa, 2021). The illustrator adds verve to the bold young heroine’s character—from the colorful barrettes to the textured appearance of her adorable denim jumper, the girl has style and substance. MJ Malone embodies the can-do spirit every parent hopes to spark in their own children, though even shy kindergarteners will gladly find a friend in her. MJ and her family are Black; her classroom is diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-11142-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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