Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Children's Book Review, My First Day at School

Children's Book Review, My First Day at School

by Susan Stephenson,

Here’s an unusual and beautifully designed children’s picture book! My First Day at School was written by Meredith Costain, illustrated by Michelle Mackintosh and published by Windy Hollow Books (2013.) I believe it’s unusual because it works well for different age groups.

For a start, My First Day at School is a wonderful book to share with pre-school children who might be a little apprehensive about their foray into big school. It’s reassuring to read about other kids who don’t understand the rules, so you know you’re not alone! Costain shows snippets of that first day from the perspectives of four different characters. We see Amira who can’t find a partner, Zoe with her magical fast feet, Zach who is not fond of holding Kevin’s clammy hand, and Ari who’s starving. Four typical kids who face their challenges and end up having a great first day. Costain obviously knows kids - when the teacher draws a picture of herself, Zach suggests she adds a bottom, and all the kids think that's a rude word. (I well remember a little Kinder person telling me her friend had sworn - "She said...underwear!")

From the publisher: My First Day at School is designed to help reassure and prepare school-age children for that magical first day in an unfamiliar environment. It follows the experiences and emotions of four very different children from their first teary farewells to their parents through to the joy of making new friends and the discovery that school can be an exciting and enjoyable place, however challenging.

I really like the way Mackintosh worked with Costain to add humour to the story. For instance, when Ari is as hungry as a lion, we see him with a child’s crayon-scrawled mane around his face. The setting is semi-realistically portrayed - we see labels on things, and kids in uniforms. But then a childish perspective comes in and we see the children’s arms elongate as they spin around in a dance. I hope to see more of Mackintosh’s lovely art work.

My First Day at School would also make an excellent resource for those first weeks AT “big school.” There are so many excellent discussion points in the story that will give kids a focus and perhaps help bring to light enduring concerns. And for older children? Costain has written this story as a collection of poems, almost like a little verse novel. My First Day at School would be an interesting choice to add to a school’s poetry resources. Students could discuss their memories of first days and go on to create their own resources to help ease other young students into school. There are Teacher Notes to accompany the book. Parents will find them useful too.

Check out what Teacher Librarian Ian McLean and some students created on PhotoPeach inspired by My First Day at School - embedded below.

Robbie Rules: My first day at school on PhotoPeach

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