Inspiring Young Readers
Lulu’s First Day by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
I am always very excited to see a new book in the Lulu series because this charming little girl now feels like part of my extended picture book family. She is up there with other memorable characters like Alfie, created by Shirley Hughes and Lily and Blue Kangaroo, created by Emma Chichester Clark, to name but a few. Despite the passing of real time, Lulu always stays about the same age of three and a half. When I asked the author, Anna McQuinn about this she explained that:
‘Books about children of that kind of age are also helpful for parents to be less worried about common problems like coping with a new baby, getting them to sleep etc. I think that story books can be so much more helpful than the traditional ‘parenting advice’ books as they can give the message that life with children is to be enjoyed’!
This is her sixth adventure so far and is one that will be familiar to many three year olds and their parents. She is about to leave her safe and cosy home to venture into the world of pre-school. This is a significant rite of passage that usually goes very smoothly, especially if children are well prepared by enthusiastic parents. Any new experience is potentially daunting, but the initial anxiety needs to be soon left behind so that the many exciting opportunities can be relished.
One of the reasons that I like Lulu is that she seems to be a very sensitive and thoughtful little girl. The gentle illustrations make me think that she is a quiet and good tempered child who likes time and space to get things done. She has obviously been thinking about the momentous day for some time and has been to visit with her mother and baby brother. She prepares her new bag very carefully and selects a suitable outfit the night beforehand with some advice from Mummy, placing her outfit on the chair next to her bed watched by her curious cat who we already know from LULU GETS A CAT. This is evidently a calm and well organised house where people get up in plenty of time the next morning to eat breakfast and get dressed to allow time for a photo to mark the important event.
Once she arrives at pre – school we see Lulu confidently taking control of the situation and approaching her teacher while her mother sits in the background with other grown-ups for a while. The message is all about her making her own choices from the wide range of activities on offer. We are given a glimpse of a painting easel and a sandbox but, as a renowned book lover, it is no surprise to see that she goes straight to the cosy looking reading tent to join another little girl. Inspired by the theme of the book she reads, she and her new friend leave the tent and run outside to dress up as superheroes. More smiling children are shown with no adults in sight, (we don’t need to know that they are there watching). When Mummy eventually goes, Lulu is first shown alone hugging her toy cat, obviously needing a bit of comfort. But then she soon gets on with joining in with the busy snack routine and then building a huge castle with her many new friends. On both these pages, the teacher is shown in the background in case we are fretting about lack of supervision. Time flies and she enjoys joining in with circle time at the end of the busy day where the children sing songs that are already familiar to her.
The final page shows a sleeping but smiling Lulu back at home:
‘Pre – school is fun … but exhausting’.
These picture books are distinctive because the author and illustrator both understand the intensity of life for under- fives. Not much happens in terms of ‘plot’ but every moment is treated with tremendous care because each one is special and so worthy of the reader’s attention. That is surely why Lulu is so pleasantly tired at the end of the first day. I am pretty sure that she will be very happy to go back to pre-school again because it has been such a positive experience. Strongly recommended to reassure any child and their parents who are about to embark on the adventure of starting pre-school/ kindergarten/ nursery.
I will definitely be giving a copy to my grandson who is feeling a bit tentative about his own first day.