cover image The Queen of Kindergarten

The Queen of Kindergarten

Derrick Barnes, illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-5931-1142-0

In this companion to the collaborators’ The King of Kindergarten, a Black girl named MJ Malone is given a tiara by her Momma and instructed in the ways of kindergarten sovereignty: “First, us queens brighten up every room we enter. Second, us queens are caring and kind. And third, the good ones are always helpful to others,” Barnes writes. A quick study, MJ takes on the “brightening” role of window monitor (“It’ll be my job to open up the blinds and let the sunlight in”), comforts a homesick classmate, and helps another put away blocks. Brantley-Newton embellishes inclusive classroom scenes with swirls and bubbles of cheery color, limning kindergarten as a happy, busy place from day one, with plenty of opportunities to shine (“Did I tell you how good I am at soccer? Don’t let the tiara fool ya”). Making MJ the narrator underscores her confidence, maturity, and sense of belonging, helping the protagonist—and readers—feel that she’s got this. Ages 3–5. (May)