Queen of the Classroom

Queen of the Classroom
Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Scallywag Press

In a similar manner to their King of the Classroom author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton follow a young child through the first day of school. Now though it’s an endearing little girl, MJ and for sure, thanks to her mum placing a crown on MJ’s head, and priming her on the appropriate behaviour of a classroom queen, as well as her father’s supportive hand holding all the way to the school door, together with his farewell hug, she’s ready to face the world of school.
Her teacher too is warm and friendly, initiating each newcomer into classroom life and allocating them a role apiece. That given to MJ ensures that she fulfils one of those queenly duties her mother spoke of. An opportunity to demonstrate another – “Queens are caring and kind” – is presented by Rayna who is sitting beside MJ, looking very miserable and saying that she wants to go home.

Straightway MJ takes Rayna’s hands and gives them a friendly, empathetic squeeze – helping hands indeed. Chances to show helpfulness crop up several times during the day and always MJ steps up to the royal mark.

It’s a tired but very happy MJ and her fellow classmates who finish their perfect first day with some ‘wind-down” music that Miss Lovingood plays on her stereo before home-time. However, MJ’s true queenliness continues at home when she presents little brother Samson with the picture of him she created in the school art room,

as well as at bedtime when she recounts her day to Mama.

In his entertaining, wonderfully heartwarming prose, Derrick Barnes creates a delightful, can-do protagonist with nurturing parents (if only every child had the same). His text is perfectly complemented by Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s vivid, energetic, gently humorous illustrations of one stylish child and the diverse supporting cast.

A book that’s empowering and full of softly spoken lessons for all young children whether or not they are experiencing their first day at school.