The Night Before First Grade

written by Natasha Wing
illustrated by Deborah Zemke

from The Night Before First Grade, facing pages, images cropped, text repositioned

Natasha Wing's The Night Before First Grade
illustrated by Deborah Zemke

Book review by Dimitrios Sokolakis

Ages 5-7

Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

If your child (and you) faced down all those beginning-of-school fears in kindergarten, then first grade should be easy, right? Well, think again.

Review The Night Before First Grade

As soon as you (your child) find yourself enjoying kindergarten, making friends, playing a lot and actually having a good time, first grade comes along and everything seems ruined.

More responsibilities, more reading, and friends dropping off the radar. It’s the end of one era and the beginning of a new (and seemingly depressing) one, so why is it that Penny seems to be doing fine?

Review: The Night Before First Grade

Penny is one of those classic nerdy, fully organized, 6 year old kiddos that I always envied when I was that sensitive age (my 6 year old daughter embodies Penny; you can probably figure out that she didn’t get it from me).

The night before first grade she’s fully prepared. She puts her markers and pens into her school bag, she pre-selects her outfit (which matches Jenny's, her best friend), she prepares her own lunchbox, and she tells everyone how much she's looking forward to big day, imagining herself in a desk next to Jenny.

The next morning comes, and Jenny has saved a seat on the bus for Penny. Moods are upbeat until the school bell rings. Then, a surprise: Penny and Jenny are in different classrooms. They both try to be brave and say, “see you later,” waving sadly goodbye.

In the classroom, Penny appears fine. She meets her new teacher, Mr. Barr, who seems really funny; she wins Twenty Questions; and she even makes a new friend named Nina. Penny and Nina have a lot in common; Penny can’t wait for Jenny to meet her.

At lunch, Penny finds Jenny and, well, there's a new surprise! I won’t spoil the ending, but here's a hint: First grade will be twice as much fun for both Penny and Jenny!

The book's text (and rhyme scheme) is of course inspired by Clement Moore's classic 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. (And, admittedly, not Casablanca. Author Wing does a nice job with it.

The Night before First Grade

The book addresses potential first grade fears and dispenses with them in a fashion former kindergarteners should provide comforting.

Room for improvement:

I can't really say that the artwork blew me away.


The Night Before First Grade

: First day of 1st grade jitters? Read the book, problem solved!

Webmaster's note: Natasha Wing is the author of any number of Night Before books, including:

  • Preschool
  • Kindergarten
  • Summer Vacation
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Valentine's Day
  • Easter
  • the Tooth Fairy
  • the New Baby

Natasha Wing's Night Before books at Amazon.

Read more of Dimitrios's reviews.

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