About the Holiday
It’s the day you and your child have been looking forward to: Kindergarten and being a big kid! But starting school can also be a little intimidating. Today’s holiday gives kids and adults a chance to talk with their kids about starting school and the changes ahead. Sharing picture books that reflect a variety of views of this momentous occasion can help ease the transition. Today’s book is a great place to start!
By Mike Wohnoutka
With six words and cover-to-cover cuteness, Mike Wohnoutka takes kids on a journey from home to school, making stops along the way to experience many of the emotions of that very first day. Little Bear wakes up with a smile on his face. On the calendar hanging by his bed, the day is circled with a big red star, and this bear knows he’s not so little anymore. In fact he’s “so big.” How big? “So-o-o…big” that he can dress himself, reach the cereal box on the counter, and make his own breakfast.
He’s “So, so, big” that he can pack up his backpack, tie his shoes, and walk to the bus stop all by himself. He waits proudly next to a little elephant who looks a bit uncertain and a tiny squirrel who’s in awe of the much bigger Bear. But then the bus pulls up, and it is “SO big.” Now it’s Bear who looks a little uncertain as he climbs in and in awe of the much bigger elephants, rhino, and giraffe he sits near.
When the bus drops him in front of the school, Bear looks up and up at the enormous building. It’s “SO BIG!” While the little elephant he met at the bus stop heads through the open doors, Bear sits on the steps and sheds a few tears, feeling “not so big.” But then the squirrel approaches and looks up, up, up, up at the enormous building and bursts into a flood of tears at the “TOO big” school. Bear notices his distress and even though he’s a little intimidated himself, he reaches out his hand to Squirrel and they enter the school together.
The hallway seems okay—it’s “not so big…,” and when their teacher welcomes them to their room, they see that the desks and the other kids are “just right!”
Mike Wohnoutka’s bright, honest look at the first day of school through a child’s eyes and from their perspective is encouraging in every way. As Bear gets ready for his first day of school, his independence will spark confidence in readers. Squirrel’s reaction to meeting Bear and Elephant at the bus stop, and Bear’s feelings on seeing the bus and the school building encourage kids and adults to discuss the emotions involved in the first day of school and other new experiences. Bear’s kindness to Squirrel will help readers develop a sense of camaraderie between the themselves and their new classmates while also fostering an early appreciation for empathy and friendship during this transformative time.
Wohnoutka’s minimal text takes on various meanings with a touch of italics or the juxtaposition of Bear and Squirrel to their surroundings, allowing for further conversation about internal feelings and physical size. His clever uses of these simple phrases combined with illustrations that put the characters in proportional proximity to kitchen counters, a child’s backpack, the school bus, larger and smaller children, the school building, and more also provide adults with clear visual portrayals of relative size that can encourage math talk and exploration at home or in the classroom.
So Big!—a story that offers so much for kids just starting school or other activities—is highly recommended for children taking new forays into the world. The book makes for a sweet and satisfying go-to story for home, classroom, and public library collections.
Ages 3 – 6
Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1547600793
Discover more about Mike Wohnoutka, his books, and his art on his website.
Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity
Let’s Ride the Bus! Coloring Page
Riding the school bus is fun! With this coloring page you can fill the bus with your friends—and don’t forget to add yourself! Then grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and color it in!
Let’s Ride the Bus! Coloring Page
You can find So Big at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound
Picture Book Review