Worth the Space by Michael M. Guevara
In just a few short weeks, five-year-olds across the country will face one of life’s most iconic and scariest rites of passage—the first day of kindergarten.
Moms and dads delicately dance between the euphoria of shopping for back-to-school supplies and the trauma of sending their babies out into the cold, cruel world of cubbies, centers, and lunch at 10:45 in the morning. It’s a dance my wife has borne witness to 17 times, three as a mother and the rest as a kindergarten teacher.
And this year, when moms are wiping away tears and dads are pretending not to have any, when little hands grip tightly to larger ones, my wife will assuage big and little fears with a delightful new book called Planet Kindergarten written by Sue Gantz-Schmitt and illustrated by Shane Prigmore.
Set with a motif of a young space explorer blasting off on an adventure to Planet Kindergarten, the story gives voice to the fears these neophyte students may not be able to articulate for:
Today is liftoff. I suit up. Dad helps me with my gear.
“What if I am not ready? What if we crash into a comet, or get sucked into a black hole, or even worse . . . my lunch floats away?!”
“You are well prepared,” says Dad.
Into the rocket ship . . . the boosters fire . . .
Reading through this brief introduction, I can help but think of the critical thinking and experiential questions we can ask students as we read, “What do you think this author means when he writes “Dad helps me with my gear”? “Do you think the narrator is really afraid about of comets or black holes?” “Tell me about your thinking on that.” “Sometimes people get afraid when they have to try new things. Have you ever been afraid of trying something new?”
Think of the connection we can make early with students through inquiry. “Who has heard of a black hole before?” “Can anyone tell us something you know about black holes?” As the dad of three boys who have spent their lives obsessed with Star Wars, Star Trek, Jimmy Neutron, super heroes, and all manner of aliens and space phenomena, chances are likely someone in class is going to relish the opportunity to show off some prior knowledge.
But even more than the benefit of this picture book to introduce children to the awesomeness of kindergarten and as a perfect vehicle for introducing young students to close reading and think-alouds, this is just a fun book.
Prigmore’s illustrations leap off the page in a colorful linear explosion that is reminiscent of something between The Jetsons and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends Some of the pages in the book are pops of color set against solid black backgrounds that advance the space motif, while the colorful images set against white pages help bring the story back to earth.
Ganz-Schmitt’s story is a charmingly sweet homage to the wonder that is kindergarten. It is a story that offers comfort and reassurance to parents and children while cleverly extending a metaphor. Whether you are a teacher preparing to welcome a new crew of space cadets (even if you don’t teach kindergarten you can still use this book because everybody loves kindergarten) or a parent getting ready to ship off your own child to the final frontier, Planet Kindergarten is an out of this world fun read.
Michael M. Guevara is a former English and journalism teacher. He is working on his first novel and conducts professional development workshops for English/language arts teachers. Married to a kindergarten teacher and the father of three sons, Michael spends most of the money he makes as a consultant for The Texas Association of School Boards on books, tuition, and Diet Coke. You can find out more about Michael at wonk-ink.com