Review Blog

May 01 2019

Joseph was not going to school by Ellen Madden

cover image

Illus. by Annelies Billeter. Little Steps, 2019. ISBN: 9780648267492.
(Age: 4-5) Ellen Madden's debut picture book Joseph was not Going to School draws from her experiences preparing for her eldest child's first day. Joseph loves playing with his big sister Molly, who teaches him the alphabet and they build block towers. He's a tall boy, and can ride his bike without training wheels, but unfortunately he's just not big enough for school.
Mum helps Molly prepare for school. They enjoy purchasing new black shoes, a school bag and a pencil case 'bursting with new pencils and felt pens.' Joseph watches as his Molly thoroughly enjoys all of the preparation, but he's not sure about his feelings.
Mum tries to comfort offering plenty of activities at home; he won't have to watch princess movies anymore! When the special day arrives, everyone takes photos of Molly dressed in her new uniform and hat, while Joseph stands back and feels sad. How does Mum help him cope with his emotions and will she surprise him with something special?
Illustrator Annette Billeter's watercolours realistically portray Joseph and Molly's feelings. She uses closeups to show the new purchases and wonderfully constructs the excitement of the family's in the playground on the first morning. Ellen Madden's story is relatable to family's preparing for this time. Share Joseph was not going to school with a young family or a kindergarten class, then discuss the different points of view and emotions shown. Themes: First day of school, brothers and sisters, families.
Rhyllis Bignell

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