Monday, April 18, 2011
Review: Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?
Parents might ask, as a new school year approaches: "Is my child ready for kindergarten?" Meanwhile, their children might be asking, "Is my buffalo ready for kindergarten?" This hilarious book by Audrey Vernick, ill. by Daniel Jenneweln, (Balzer + Bray, 2010) reassures kids (and their buffalos) that kindergarten is a benign--and fun--place.
And it's part of our benign and fun contest: Save the Laughing Children! (and the Picture Book,) the contest that lets kids be the book reviewers. If you scroll down, you'll see a cute review of this book by a St. Peter's 4th grade student.
I read this to my 5-year-old, who observed the pictures with a knowing smile. (Oh, he's well-aware of what goes on in kindergarten. He is, in fact, a kindergartener.) At the beginning of the book, I asked him if he thought the buffalo was ready for kindergarten. He said that based on his size, he should be in high school by now.
But as the story unfolded, it was clear that kindergarten was the right place for the buffalo. I was surprised that this was Daniel Jennewein's first children's book. He knocked the buffalo illustrations out of the park. Just look at the buffalo's eyes on the cover. Do they not say "brand new kindergartener"? He's so excited, so optimistic, yet he also might turn around and sprint home at any moment.
What I love most about this book is the kindergarten catch phrases that Vernick sprinkles in. When the buffalo is unable to use scissors, yet shows the children that he's on an old nickel, the narrator observes: "Everyone's special in his or her own way." This is both funny and reassuring, which, to me, is the best kind of humor. (Being funny while being nice has a higher degree of difficulty. 6.7, I think.)
This book achieved a major award in our house. The "Can I read it to you now?" Award. This is where a child--who is not yet reading or is just starting to read--asks to read the book back to the adult. I think this a great achievement for a picture book because it shows that the pictures are so integrated into the story that, by looking at them, the child can retell the story. It also shows that the child loves the story so much that he wants to be the one telling it.
Coming this summer, is the sequel! Teach Your Buffalo to Play the Drums! And speaking of knocking things out of the park, Vernick also has a nonfiction book out this year, She Loved Baseball: the Effa Manley Story, which will be one of our June Save America's Favorite Pastime! books.
Fun fact: to pluralize buffalo, add an "es," "s," or nothing. (As in "deer" is the plural of "deer.") Also, one who pluralizes things is "a pluralizer."