Review Blog

Jan 17 2016

My first day at school by Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley

cover image

Scholastic, 2016. ISBN 9781743622964
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. School, Starting school, Animals, Procedures. The first page of this lovely book opens with a duck, a dog and a bird above the title, reprising the front cover, encouraging the young reader to follow the adventures of these three friends as they go to school for the first time. Each double page which follows has the sequence of events which take place before school, leading into what will happen at school. Dressing, eating breakfast, then when at school meeting new friends, doing some finger painting, counting to ten, then finding it is time for lunch. After lunch playing with friends then settling down to hear some stories, before going home, the first day at school is over.
Each image created by Whatley parallels and enhances the spare words, entreating the reader to take in what will happen at school, to allay any fears, to calm any nervousness. The closeness of the friends, shown happily playing together to experience new things further enhances the event for the reader. Touches of humour too will support the reader, and the last page showing the duck going home with its parent is a delightful and comforting image to remain with the child as the book is closed.
Whatley's clear bold images of the animals on each page are a treat for young and old: his caterpillar with its range of socks, the octopus doing finger painting, the mix of animals reflecting the variety of people to be met at school, all encourage the reader to see themselves in that situation. Counting is included in the book, with images which will encourage the reader to count all the things on each page, while small things represent what going to school means for the child.
Each animal has a back pack showing the young reader what they will need to take to school, examples of school activities are depicted, warm friendly associations between the animals are drawn. Each positioning, each event, each object is there for a reason and will be picked up by the reader as they move their way through the book, taking in what school will mean to them and encouraging them to see the positives that school will give them.
Several others with the same theme include Hugless Douglas goes to little school (David Melling, Hodder, 2015) Jessica's box (Peter Carnavas, New Frontier, 2014) Just Jack (Puffin, Jane Tanner, 2012) and the Little Lunch series (Danny Katz, black dog books).
Fran Knight

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