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*Let's Take Over the Kindergarten* by Richard Hamilton, illustrated by Sue Heap
Let's Take Over the Kindergarten
by Richard Hamilton, illustrated by Sue Heap
Ages 4-8 32 pages Bloomsbury USA July 2007 Hardcover    

Kindergarten teacher Miss Tuck cannot teach class right now. She’s had a bit of bad luck this morning in her classroom: she’s stuck in the indoor jungle gym!

With their teacher confined to a tiny area inside the jungle gym, the students self-indulge. As they make new rules, they lose sight of the old ones. The activity area around the kiddy pool is turning into a wet mess. Some children are in the pool with their clothes on. Two are standing barefoot in the pool puddles forming on the classroom floor, and one boy is watering the frog.

In another corner of the room, a trio of crafty students is going haywire with the glue. Poor crab! But it’s the paint that colors everything - literally. There is no staying in the lines for these kids. All Miss Tuck can do is watch (and duck). On the bright side, Miss Tuck now knows what the children like most for lunch, and that the toy oven is sturdy enough to survive a ride down the slide. There are a few children who are trying to incorporate some learning into the day. They say their ABCs and 1-2-3s, and they practice their singing and dancing. But when “Pip tripped Kip, who hurt his lip,” a ball starts rolling that only Miss Tuck can stop. With a group effort tug-of-war maneuver, Miss Tuck is able to restore smiles and be with her students again.

Rhyming text makes this a fun read-aloud. Even the student’s names have rhyming partners. Children who read this book will enjoy watching the chaos unfold in this familiar, normally-full-of-rules setting. As the children (and the classroom) become increasingly disheveled in appearance, Miss Tuck becomes more dazed in appearance. Sue Heap’s acrylic paint illustrations start off with neat-haired and tidy-clothed children. The dress-up fairy wings are properly aligned in a flying position on one little girl, ribbons are tied, and all the toys are spotless. But soon children have the Lone Ranger look, tinted cheeks, and dirty (yet more colorful) clothes.

Heap finds humorous ways to illustrate the mess that accumulates in Miss Tuck’s classroom. Glue causes things to stick to unusual places, and many pages are splattered from top to bottom with paint smudges. (It actually looks like a child has painted over Heap’s illustrations). Her color choices are multiple and colorful, and her backgrounds are bold and contrasting. The children who appear in this story are racially diverse and very innocent-looking. One wears a security blanket as a cape, one has come to school in a costume, and the identical twins are wearing the same outfit and the same glasses. I have to confess, my favorite child is the one carrying a book.

Richard Hamilton has written many books for children, including Polly’s Picnic. Sue Heap is the illustrator of Cowboy Baby. Both Hamilton and Heap live in England, and they have succeeded in capturing the energy of kindergarteners. Their book brings together a madcap adventure with a much-needed teacher.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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