Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: The Pirate of Kindergarten

The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon
Illustrated by Lynne Avril

This is the story of Ginny, a kindergartener who sees everything in twos. She sees two chairs when there is only one. This makes reading very hard for her because she sees two of each word. When she closes one eye or puts her nose right next to the page, she can read fine, but her teacher, Ms. Cleo, always tells her "that's not how we read, Ginny!" When the class goes to get their eyes tested in the gym, Ginny finds out that she has double vision. That means that she sees two of everything. Luckily double vision can be fixed and thus Ginny becomes the pirate of kindergarten with her eye patch.

On the back flap of the book, the author, George Ella Lyon says that The Pirate of Kindergarten is based on her own experiences. In fifth grade, she discovered that she read everything twice because she had double vision like her father. Unlike Ginny though, she had to have surgery to correct her double vision. I think it was probably better that the author chose not to make Ginny have surgery to correct her disability because that might scare children that have this problem and if they're already upset about having double vision then you don't want to make them even more afraid. I know that would stress me out even more to have the idea in the back of my mind that I might need surgery. For instance, two years ago before I got my wisdom teeth taken out I watched YouTube videos to see what happened during the surgery. Way more stress that it was worth, that's for sure! (I'll spare you all by not sharing videos of that!)

This book won the 2010 Schneider Family Book Award, the award that goes to "an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences."

While I was reading the book I was thinking about how the teacher was correcting everything that Ginny did to make it easier for her to read. Ms. Cleo didn't try to figure out why Ginny was closing one eye or why she put her face directly on the page to read. She also didn't question why Ginny repeated sentences while she was reading aloud from her books. I was surprised that she didn't even attempt to figure that out. But I was also thinking about how it might be difficult for me, as a future teacher, to determine which students have a disability like that, especially since she didn't know she was different so she couldn't express that it was an issue to anyone.

A male nurse as depicted in Meet the Parents.
I was impressed that in this book, the nurse who did the eye exam at the school was a male. I thought it was important not to stereotype the nursing profession as only female. While thinking about this, I looked up online what the percentage of nurses that are male is and reported that only 5.8% are male. I'm surprised it's that low, but it's still important for students to see that not all nurses are female.

The illustrations in this book were done by Lynne Avril with chalk pastels mixed with acrylic medium, and prismacolor pencils. The illustrations are often bright and colorful pictures that go from edge to edge on the page. Avril effectively illustrates what Ginny's view would be with her double vision by drawing two of everything and having them overlap. Even for someone who sees only one, she doesn't make one chair look like the correct one and one like it is the wrong one. This emphasizes how difficult doing everyday things are for Ginny. On the back flap of the book, the author says that she also has to wear glasses everyday but that sometimes it's easier for her to draw with her nose on the paper like Ginny did. She says she has illustrated over sixty books like that! Check out some of her other books at her website!

I think this is a great book for students who have double vision. The whole book is about being different and in the end, Ginny embraces her differences by becoming the pirate of kindergarten with her eye patch. But this book would also be effective for students with other disabilities because they could relate to the fact that they are different from everyone else and sometimes they feel alienated too.

Since the book has kindergarten in the name, I think students older than that would feel the book was too young for them, but I think this book would be effective for any student in elementary school.


  1. Kristine--

    Noah and I just read your review of Pirate of the Kindergarten and hope to be able to read this whole book soon!!

  2. Noah and Jeff,

    I hope you are able to read it soon too! It's a very cute story and I think anyone who sees things a little differently... get it?? :) ...will be able to relate to it!