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Starting School

Jane Godwin, illus Anna Walker

Penguin, $24.95

There’s no getting around it, the first day of school is a biggy. One minute you’re busily searching for that missing puzzle piece, or putting a Band Aid on Ted’s wonky arm, the next you’re road testing a back pack and writing your name on a brightly coloured piece of plastic that Mum calls a ‘lunch box’.

Polly, Sunita, Tim, Hannah and Joe know exactly how you feel. In Starting School, readers follow this mildly nervous bunch as they take their first steps inside the classroom.  Hannah is feeling excited, but Tim’s not quite ready to say goodbye to Mum. Polly is doing her best to be brave, while Tim finds distraction in a book about dinosaurs.

It’s a day full of firsts, but their teacher Miss Quick is never far away and does her best to make everyone feel welcome. First up is a tour of the school, and before you can say monkey bars, Hannah and Sunita are good friends and Tim and Joe have found a ladybird. Back in the classroom, Miss Quick runs through the rules (put your hand up when you want to say something), and makes sure everyone knows where the toilets are. Before you know it, the bell has rung and the playground is full of parents waiting to hear about The Big First Day.

Anna Walker’s illustrations are a delight; she manages to capture each personality and reveal the unspoken in the tilt of a head, stripy tights, or little, nervous hands. The colours are muted and soothing and the book is brimming with her own particular eye for detail.

One of best aspects of the book is that it acknowledges a few of the worries some children might have about starting school – practical things like queuing up at the tuck-shop, getting lost, or finding the toilets. Jane Godwin’s text is playful, but it is also direct and reassuring, and may go some way to help children feel a little less nervous about that first day.

This is the fourth (hopefully not the last) collaboration for Godwin and Walker (Cat and the Big Red Bus, Today We Have No Plans, All Through the Year) and once again they’ve managed to create a beautiful picture book for young readers.

*this book was kindly sent for review.

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