Back in 2019, author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton worked together to bring us The King of Kindergarten, a great book to start the year for some of our youngest learners. Luckily for young readers everywhere, this year Barnes and Brantley-Newton joined forces again to bring us The Queen of Kindergarten. In this book, MJ is super excited about her first day of kindergarten, and has a tiara as part of her first-day outfit. Since she's wearing a crown, her mother gives her three pieces of advice to remember as she goes throughout her day.
I won't share all the advice, but my favorite was, "Second, us queens are caring and kind." MJ does have a pretty awesome memory, so she is able to implement her mother's queen rules throughout her day. Not only does Brantley-Newton do a wonderful job with the illustrations, as an educator I enjoyed the fact that the activities that Barnes has MJ experience are realistic school activities that your child may participate in. The Queen of Kindergarten is a great book for the start of the school year, but would be a good read anytime your child needs a reminder to straighten their crown.
For the child that has already been in school for a few years, and may be a fan of graphic novels (who isn't?), they may enjoy Twins by Varian Johnson and illustrated by Shannon Wright. In this novel, Maureen and Francine Carter are starting sixth grade, and unsurprisingly, they have had similar interests for forever...except this year. Francine has some new friends and new interests, including running for class president, and actually doesn't want Maureen to participate in the same activities. This results in some hurt feelings, yelling, arguing and even some tears, and I'm sure most kids can identify with at least one of those emotions.
Thankfully, Johnson gives us a happy ending for Maureen and Francine as they learn how to create individual identities and keep their sisterhood intact. Even if you don't have twins, this story is a great one for kiddos who may be experiencing difficult times with close friends they've had for years. I would recommend this book for kids beginning in at least fourth grade.
For many kids, the beginning of the school year also means new shoes. Award-winning poet and now author Van G. Garrett knows exactly what it feels like to have a new pair of shoes, specifically sneakers, and wrote a whole picture book about it, titled Kicks. Since he is a poet, Kicks has a beautiful rhythm to it when read, and along with Reggie Brown's illustrations, the book can get any child excited about not only opening the box of a new pair of shoes, but also the joy of wearing them to school. Kicks, released earlier this year, is a book that would be a great read for a sneakerhead of any age.
Reading any (or all) of these books to or with your kids can be a great way to start the school year off on a positive note.