4 out of 4 stars
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Children experience many milestone moments throughout their educational journeys, and new faces and places often trigger a whole host of scary emotions. Anticipatory anxiety is common in young kids, and most children will likely wonder whether anyone will genuinely like them on their first day of school. Today Cara Goes to Kindergarten is a children’s book written by Joan Ruddiman, EdD, and since the character of Cara is based on (and portrayed by) one of the author’s granddaughters, it is a meaningfully sentimental story, too!
As Cara starts getting ready for her first day of kindergarten, readers get a glimpse into her home life, and they get to hear some of her genuinely voiced worries and concerns. As the story progresses, Cara exhibits a varied range of smiles, frowns, and tears, but her mother calmly assures her that sudden tummy aches and feelings of nervous trepidation are normal in such situations. Cara asks how she should face such a big day of unknown stressors, and her mother tells her that it’s important to be friendly to others to gain friends in return, so Cara sets out to make a charismatic first impression on her classmates and discovers that she actually does have the confidence to reassuringly succeed. Will she be able to find someone new to eat lunch with each day? Readers will have to flip the pages to find out.
I like how a varied blend of different-colored fonts are used to emphasize certain statements, and all of Cara’s spoken dialogue appears italicized, so little readers are easily able to identify when the main character of the story is speaking. The illustrations in this book are also very unique. They are digital photo collages that have been superimposed onto illustrated backgrounds. They feature actual photographs of Cara that have been creatively blended with some original artwork by Jo Ann Kairys. There are colorful depictions of castles, princesses, stuffed animals, and pink bedspreads, and there’s even a framed family photo sitting on Cara’s dresser. The kitchen table displays a delicious plate of pancakes, and readers will spot new school supplies, personalized classroom cubbies, lunchboxes, and backpacks.
This story is 13 pages long, and I only encountered one grammatical issue with a missing comma while reading. There is absolutely nothing I disliked about the book, and I feel that this storyline would be appropriate for kids who are just about to start school themselves. Since complex emotions are universally experienced, children of either gender will love having this book read aloud to them by a parent, guardian, or even an older sibling. This story helps young readers realize that all children worry, and they’ll likely be able to relate to the concern of hopefully being liked by their peers.
I enthusiastically award this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. With 30 years of personal education experience, this author is uniquely qualified to write school-related stories. She shares some details from a professional teaching perspective, but as a proud grandmother, she’s equally capable of weaving in relevant characteristics from a familial viewpoint, too. This whimsically engaging book is perfect for all young children starting school, and Dr. Ruddiman offers one sage piece of helpful advice: “Just be yourself, kind and friendly and fun!”
Today Cara Goes to Kindergarten
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