Lyon, George Ella. 2010. The Pirate of Kindergarten. Ill. by Lynne Avril. New York: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books. ISBN-10: 1416950249
2. PLOT SUMMARY
Ginny is a kindergartner who loves books and story time. The only problem is that she sees two of everything; the chairs in the reading circle, the words on the pages, and everything else. Ginny is not sure which chairs are real and which ones are not, so she sometimes runs into them. She sees all of the words written on the page twice, and even though her teacher tells her to just read them once, Ginny reads them twice just to be sure. When the vision screening is conducted for the school year, the school nurse discovers that Ginny has double vision. Ginny’s mother took her to the eye doctor, who prescribed glasses, exercises and a special patch to wear to fix her double vision. Thus, Ginny becomes the “pirate of kindergarten” with her eye patch. Now Ginny sees one of everything just like the other kids, and she can “read, read, read.”
3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
George Ella Lyon used the format of a picture book to create this fictional story about a little girl with vision problems. In a way which kindergartners will be able to understand, he explained the difficulties that Ginny had and explored her feelings about being different from the other kids. Lyon has created a character who enjoys school, “Ginny loved Reading Circle” but is frustrated by seeing two of everything, “She knew only half of them were real, but which ones?” The character of Ginny is easy for children to relate to, because she loves some aspects of school and is frustrated by other parts. The book is set in the kindergarten classroom, which is a familiar environment for young children. Children who might be afraid to say that they weren’t able to see clearly or don’t know how to describe what they are seeing will be encouraged by this book. Cultural authenticity is maintained in this story by the representation of characters from a variety of ethnicities with varying skin tones and hair color. The illustrations also show a male nurse which is not a stereotypical gender role. Another cultural marker is the way the student with a visual disability is portrayed; not as someone who is to be pitied, or is not as smart as the rest of the class, but as someone who is just as good as everyone else, but with a problem which needs special assistance. Lynne Avril’s colorful mixed media illustrations allow the reader to see the world through Ginny’s eyes. The illustrations add to the words of the text and bring it to life. The pictures show a brightly colored and lively classroom, while the text tells the story in short sentences which are easy for a young child to follow along with, making this an excellent book for a read-aloud.
Children who might be afraid of going to the eye doctor and having their eyes checked, or of getting glasses will be reassured when they read about Ginny getting her eyes checked and see the equipment the eye doctor uses. Ginny’s relief at being able to see just one of everything and her new ability to do the things all the other kids can do will also be encouraging. The kindergartners through 2nd graders for whom this book is recommended will enjoy reading or listening to this story.
4. REVIEW EXCERPTS
School Library Journal Review: “Kindergarten-Grade 2—Ginny suffers from undiagnosed double vision, and seeing two of everything is causing her difficulties in school. On vision screening day, a nurse discovers the problem, and the prescribed eye patch gives Ginny a new identity—the pirate of kindergarten.”
Booklist Review: “Created with pastels, acrylics, and colored pencils, Avril’s bold and wonderfully vivid mixed-media illustrations sometimes portray the classroom through Ginny’s eyes, with overlapping images of chairs, books, and people, though they usually present an outside perspective. Based on Lyon’s own experience, the sensitively written story radiates empathy and good humor. Even children who have not experienced Ginny’s problem will understand her occasional frustration and find it intriguing that one person can literally see the world differently from another.”
Other books about children with visual problems:
Kostecki-Shaw, Jenny Sue. My Travelin’ Eye. ISBN-10: 0805081690Shaw, Beth Kobliner. Jascob’s Eye Patch. ISBN-10: 1476737320
Other books by George Ella Lyon:
Lyon, George Ella. All the Water in the World. ISBN-10: 1416971300
Lyon, George Ella. Trucks Roll. ISBN-10: 1416924353
Lyon, George Ella. Which Side Are You On?: The Story of a Song. ISBN-10: 1933693967