In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided a copy of the book to review. I received no compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.
Little Miss heads to kindergarten in less than two weeks. I'm lucky. She loves school. And people. And she sooooo wants to be like her big brother, so she's looking forward to the her first day.
I know not all kids are like that, but even those who appear to be ready still sometimes want a bit of reassurance. A new picture book Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Daniel Jennewein.
The book just cracks me up. It is a great tongue in cheek look at some of the fears and worries that new students may have. It talks about how it can be hard and worrisome and how to overcome it without anyone realizing that the story is giving pointers to the very children who may be facing those same fears.
When the book arrived, Little Miss immediately grabbed it from me and plopped on the couch. I think I read it three times through before I was allowed a break. We continue to read it regularly, and I've found her paging through it on her own.
It isn't just the fun story that makes this such a great book, but the illustrations are a hoot, too. The buffalo is as huge and out of place as you'd expect, yet you can see his personality shining through regardless. The same goes for the other students in the classroom. Each is an individual, and you can really see how they're interacting with the buffalo as the story goes on. Daniel has done a great job adding to the book outside of just the words on the page.
I also had the opportunity to interview Daniel Jennewein - the illustrator of this book - as part of my review.
This is your first book; how did you become an illustrator? Do you have any more coming soon?
I studied Graphic Design and worked as an Art Director for many years before I got into illustration. To have a design background helps my work, I think. There is a sequel featuring the Buffalo coming out next summer. It is so much fun to work on picture books that I hope I will have the opportunity in the future to do more.
What advice would you give to a new kindergartener?
Try out new things. Don’t worry if you can do it or not. Do collaborative drawings. It’s fun to see how others approach the same topic in different ways.
How did you feel going into kindergarten?
My mother sent me to 2 different kindergartens: One was an outdoor hiking kindergarten, the other a kindergarten with a focus on music and drawing. The outdoor hiking kindergarten was great. We went out hiking in the forest, even when it was raining and learned about different plants and animals. The other kindergarten was not that enjoyable to me. At that time I was really into skulls and hooks and I drew them obsessively. The kindergarten teacher was not pleased and told me she’d rather I draw pleasant things such as flowers, happy stick figures etc. That was my first experience with censorship.
What is outdoor hiking kindergarten?
The outdoor Hiking Kindergarten took place twice a week. Our kindergarten group went for hikes in the forest in any weather: rain, snow or hail. That really toughened our immune systems and it was great fun to play outdoors and learn about nature.
What is your favorite memory from kindergarten?
Playing catch in the forest.
How did you get connected with Audrey Vernick to illustrate this book?
The publisher is at the center of the process. The bought Audrey’s manuscript and looked for an illustrator that fit the style of her words. They found me and asked me to illustrate. I never even met Audrey until long after I finished the book.
You live in Germany. How do you work with a writer an ocean away? It's taking the virtual office to a new level!
As I mentioned before, I never worked directly with the author. Thanks to the web, the process of working with the publisher went very smoothly. Still I am glad that I was able to meet up with my fabulous editor and art director in person several times. Even though I never worked with Audrey directly on the book itself, I was glad we finally got to meet. We have several joint signing dates in September on the East Coast and I am looking forward to hanging out with her. She has so much energy and creativity.
How do you figure out what you're going to draw on each page?
After I read the manuscript for the first time, I started to develop the characters. Then I did rough sketches of scenes I thought might fit, integrating the best ones into a storyboard. For the next step I defined the line breaks and printed out pages with only the text. I mounted these pages together to form a book dummy into which I sketched directly. In that way I could tell how the drawings actually worked in sequence.
A few of the pages have the book illustrated *in* the book. How on earth do you do that?
Actually the reduced cover on the last page was put in by the publisher ;-)
You have some great kindergarten characters drawn who reappear throughout the illustrations but are never mentioned in the book. How do you decide who to include, what personalities, etc?
I was interested in putting together a diverse classroom of kids, so first I just sketched out some ideas. For fun, I modeled some of the characters on people I know, and some of these made it into the final book. For example, the pigtailed girl, the proud guide of the Buffalo, reminds me of the daughter of my host parents during my high school exchange year in Los Angeles. She is supportive and confident in the buffalo’s abilities. There is also one boy who sort of torments the buffalo a bit in the beginning (stealing the building blocks from him) but who soon becomes his dear friend.
Needless to say, this is one of our new favorite books. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I'll be reading this for my Mystery Reader book for Little Miss's kindergarten class. Fingers crossed I can get signed up for an early session!
If this looks like something you're interested in, you can use the reader's guide to get more out of it. There's also a coloring page that you can download here.
So what do you have to do?
First of all, let me stress that you must follow all the rules. If you do not follow the rules, your entry will not count!
This contest is open until Friday August 27 at 7pm CST. I must have a valid way to reach you, so leave me your email address in your comment or be sure your profile has your email address visible. No duplicate comments will count. This giveaway is open to US residents age 18 and older. Winners will be selected via random.org and must respond within 48 hours of being notified by me or I will select a new winner.
Mandatory Entry: Simply tell me your favorite memory from kindergarten.
Bonus Entries (leave a comment for each entry - if you put it all in one comment, I'll count it as one entry):
1) Earn one additional entry for following me on Twitter and tweeting this contest (leave a link to your tweet as your comment).
2) Earn one additional entry by following this review blog publicly via Google Friend Connect.
3) Earn one additional entry by following my “regular” blog Honest & Truly! publicly via Google Friend Connect.
4) For each person you refer to this contest, you will earn an extra entry. Make sure they leave a separate comment saying who referred them for you to get credit!
In addition to the giveaway that I'm hosting, there is a grand prize, too! Each blog winner is eligible for the grand prize, along with the blog owner. Each blog (and winner) gets one entry just for participating. Extra entries are given for getting over 50 verified entrants (+1) and over 100 verified entrants (+2).
The winning team (blogger and blogger contest winner) each get to choose a personalized pose for the buffalo which Daniel will illustrate and then print onto a book bag for each. How cool is that? SO. Don't just enter; find everyone you know to enter to increase your odds of winning the grand prize, too!