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.

The Longest Strongest Thread / King of the Classroom

The Longest Strongest Thread
Inbal Leitner
Scallywag Press

Looking for ways to keep in touch with those of your loved ones who are far away? Inbal Leitner’s young girl narrator of this lovely story might give you some ideas as she visits her beloved Grandma to say goodbye before the family moves to their new home far away from Grandma’s sewing studio.

Once there she sets to work drawing a map to enable Gran to find her, as well as creating the means by which she can carry out the long journey.

Meanwhile her grandmother is also hard at work fashioning a very special warm garment to give to her granddaughter as a parting gift.

The farewell is a poignant one tenderly portrayed in Inbal Leitner’s spare first person narrative and her affecting illustrations rendered in a limited colour palette that is particularly effective in conveying the feelings of the two characters.

Her story, despite the parting, ends on an upbeat note of hope and looking forward.

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

Starting nursery is a big step and for some a scary one.

For the little boy in this book though, his parents are doing their utmost to boost his morale. His mum has dubbed him ‘King of the Classroom’ at the start of his right royal day.

So named, the boy with a huge smile washes, brushes his teeth and dresses in his chosen gear ready for breakfast with his enormously proud parents before riding aboard ‘a big yellow carriage’ to ‘a grand fortress.’
Once at nursery, he receives a warm welcome from his caring teacher and enthusiastic friendly classmates, before everyone gathers to share ‘important matters’.

Then it’s time to play, begin to form friendships and to imagine. There are opportunities to show special kindness,

to rest and to let rip with music and dancing.

This joyful day is portrayed through Derrick Barnes’ upbeat text and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s energetic, vibrant illustrations bursting with bright hues, textures and patterns.

An unusual starting nursery story that will surely go a long way towards allaying any first day nerves little ones might have in the run up to their important milestone.

Love You Always / Mama’s Work Shoes

Love You Always
Frances Stickley and Migy Blanco
Nosy Crow

There’s a definite autumnal feel to this book portraying the loving bond between a mother hedgehog and her son Hoglet but despite the little hedgehog’s occasional shivers as the two creatures wander home through the woods, this is a warm-hearted tale.

Hoglet notices the season changing and his mother explains that … change makes nature lovlier with every passing day.’ Hoglet then asks, “Mummy … / would you love me more…if I changed?”

As they encounter other mother-child animals – dashing squirrels, fluttering dragonflies, bouncing frogs, fluffy rabbits,

Hoglet asks his question again and on each occasion gets the same response ’I couldn’t love you more’.

Just before they reach home, Hoglet raises the all important “But, Mummy… will love always last forever, / even if I change just like the seasons or the weather?” And as little humans will be eagerly anticipating, her “Always” promise of unchanging love acts as sufficient reassurance to allow her offspring to curl up and having repeated her final ‘Always’ to fall fast asleep.

With its combination of Frances Stickley’s soft-spoken, pleasingly constructed rhyming narrative that mostly works, and Migy Blanco’s richly hued scenes of the autumnal countryside, this is a lovely bedtime story for parent humans and their little ones to snuggle up together with and share just before bedtime.

Mama’s Work Shoes
Caron Lewis and Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Little Perry’s mum has a plethora of shoes, a pair for every occasion and Perry knows them well: the ‘swish-swush’ ones for indoors, the ‘zip-zup’ ones for running and skipping, ‘flip-flop’ ones for sunny days and those that go ‘pat put’ in puddles.

One morning Mum puts on a new pair of shoes that go ‘click-clack, click-clack’. They sound interesting but what could they be for, wonders Perry.
When she discovers they signal the start of a new routine that means she and her Mum are to spend time away from one another, Perry is not happy.

Left with her Nan, the child lets her feelings out with a tantrum.

Eventually of course, Mum comes to collect her and back home they go where eventually Mum’s explanation finally reassures her little one that yes those clickity-clack shoe sounds will take her to work but they’ll always bring her back as fast as ever she can.

With Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s bright mixed media illustrations capturing Perry’s changing emotions, Caron Levis’ story will reassure the very young who like little Perry are faced with a parent returning to work.