Thursday, September 9, 2021

BECOMING VANESSA by Vanessa Brantley Newton - a book about starting school and being yourself

 

Black girl looking up at butterfly on a branch with book title above

It’s great to see a book that shows kids the way they are, with the things they notice and the way they actually talk! I especially loved the scenes with her family and how they quietly supported her. Another great back-to-school story that is also good for a preschool or kindergarten classroom book collection. 

 



Summary from the publisher

On Vanessa’s first day of school, her parents tell her it will be easy to make friends. Vanessa isn’t so sure. She wears her fanciest outfit so her new classmates will notice her right away. They notice, but the attention isn’t what she’d hoped for. As the day goes on, she feels more self-conscious. Her clothes are too bright, her feather boa has way too many feathers, and even her name is too hard to write.

The next day, she picks out a plain outfit, and tells her mom that her name is too long. She just wants to blend in, with a simple name like the other girls–why couldn’t her parents have named her Megan or Bella? But when her mother tells her the meaning behind her name, it gives her the confidence she needs to introduce her classmates to the real Vanessa. 
 

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley Newton was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2021. 

 

My thoughts as a creator:

This is a great mentor text for writers and illustrators! This book gave me insights into creating voice and creating believable side characters. I especially liked how the other kids in the class were curious and blunt, but didn’t come across as mean. Vanessa Brantley Newton is a master at using details to add personality and interest to her stories and to her illustrations. 


My thoughts as an educator:

 I liked this different take on a back-to-school story. I’m looking forward to sharing this with my kindergarten students and discussing how the main character’s clothes expressed her personality and feelings. Vanessa solves her problem in her own way, even though her family is there to support her.  

Ages: 3-7

Grades: preschool – grade 2

Themes: starting school, feelings, being yourself

 Activities:

Family connections: Ask you parents what your name means or why they gave you your name. How do you feel about that?

Writing: What is your favorite thing to wear? How do you feel when you are wearing it? Draw a picture of yourself in your favorite outfit.

Math Connections: How many butterflies are in this book? Count them! Draw a picture of your own with lots of butterflies (or caterpillars) to count.

Social-Emotional Learning: What do you do when you don’t feel like talking about something yet? Discuss. 

 

Additional Resources for Educators:

 On KidLit TV, Vanessa Brantley Newton discusses her life and her art style:



Here she teaches us how to make collage art!




 


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