Written by: Derrick Barnes
Illustrated by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton
For ages: 4-6 years
Topics Covered: School, Social-Emotional Learning, New Places, POC-Centric Narratives, Friendship, Kindness, Own Voices.
Summary: This book is the cutest! It is adorable, upbeat, and makes a first day at school seem like no big deal. Speaking about the daily routine at school in an embellished and royal way is reminiscent of I Will Be Fierce! which turns the ordinary and potentially scary into a fun adventure.
Our main character wakes up excited to tackle the first day, assured by his family that he will be the king of kindergarten. After brushing his royal teeth, our king begins the journey to school and meets the kingdom, have important discussions, and play outside. This book is precious in it’s character’s self-assuredness that school is a place for him, he will be seen, heard, and respected.
This is especially important given that he is a young boy of color, where in the “real world” there are disproportionate statistics of these young children being suspended and expelled. Every classroom is obligated to not only ensure the social-emotional learning to tackle new and potentially anxiety-inducing situations, but to also actively work against these myths that young boys of color are somehow more out of control and/or deserving of punishment than any other child in the classroom.
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Derrick D. Barnes is from Kansas City, MO. He is a graduate of Jackson State University with a BA degree in Marketing. He is the author of the critically acclaimed picture book CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut (Denene Millner Books/Agate Bolden) which recently won the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Award. It was also a HUGE winner at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, taking home FOUR Honor awards: the Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Newberry Honor, and the Caldecott Honor. His first two books were published by Scholastic; Stop Drop and Chill, and The Low Down Bad Day Blues. His first YA novel, The Making of Dr. Truelove was published by Simon Pulse which was recognized by the American Library Association as a Quick Pick For Reluctant Readers. He is also the author of the best selling chapter book series entitled Ruby and the Booker Boys (Scholastic). His 2011 middle grade hardcover classic We Could Be Brothers was rereleased in paperback in 2017 by Just Us Books. Prior to becoming a published author, Derrick wrote best-selling copy for various Hallmark Card lines and was the first African American male staff writer for the company. He is the owner of a creative copy writing company, Say Word Creative Communications. He is also the creator of the popular blog Raising The Mighty, where he ‘chronicles the experience of bringing up four beautiful Black boys in America’. His next book, entitled The King of Kindergarten, will be published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Derrick resides in Charlotte, NC with his enchanting wife, Dr. Tinka Barnes and their four sons, Ezra, Solomon, Silas, and Nnamdi (Nom-dee).
Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.
Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.
Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.
The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.