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Monday, January 10, 2011

Kindergarten Diary, written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis. Harper, 2010. $13.99 ages 4 and up

"September 1 1/2

My mom says I have to
go to Big School.

So here is what I am
going to wear:
my rainbow bathing suit,
my ballet skirt,
my plaid shirt,
my cowboy boots,
and definitely no socks."

Ah, almost twenty years teaching kindergarten and those five year old imps still surprise me...especially Annalina. On the day before school starts, she hides herself inside an oversized hoodie and worries relentlessly about all the things that 'might' happen when school opens for the new year. The kids are big...are they mean? Why can't comfortable, familiar clothes be the order of the day? Will anyone cry when the parents leave (besides the parents, that is)?

In diary entries, typed onto notepaper backgrounds and illustrated with inventive mixed media images, we are privy to the many observations and concerns that a little girl might have when starting kindergarten. From the finger in the nose to the closely clutched teddy, from the wide-eyed innocence to the teary parents watching through the window, Antoinette Portis does what she does best. She creates an environment that will delight her young audience because they have been there!

What the imagination can conjure it will, when the experiences are minimal. So, the pencil-haired, chart-chewing teacher of that wild imagination is replaced by the sedate and prim Ms. Duffy of polka-dot fame. So funny! Each day brings new knowledge and an additional entry to the diary. Friends, recess, printing practice, skipping all find their way onto its pages, with remarkable clarity and clever comment. By the middle of the month, not much is frightening and tell, snails, homework...all are faced with newfound confidence and enthusiasm.

Birthdays, pets, monkey bar climbing...all are celebrated. Even the BIG first graders hold no terror any longer. After being in kindergarten for a month, there is not much left to cause worry. In fact, Anna (Annalina is too many letters for printing) is looking ahead to first grade when she will ALWAYS be good to the little kindergartners and never mean.

Kindergarten ROCKS!

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