Starting Playschool — Mini-Pals go, too [sic] presents readers with a solution for a classic trauma of childhood: the agony of leaving Mom behind when a child begins preschool.
While the young child at the center of this story loves the idea of playschool with its happy promise of new friendships, exciting games and loving teachers, he becomes anxious and fussy whenever his mother tries to leave him behind at the school. Happily, George’s inventive and creative grandmother makes a “Mini-Mom” for the boy. Whenever he feels lonely or afraid, he simply reaches into his pocket for his comfort toy and is reminded that his Mom loves him. Soon all the children at playschool have comfort toys and everyone is feeling much better.
The gentle watercolor drawings that illustrate this book have a folk art-like charm. Hancock’s warm pastel-hued palette is both endearing and engaging. Unfortunately, the poetry presented here isn’t as thoughtful as the art. While the story Hancock tells is appealing, her poetry is uneven both in its rhythm and in the quality of its rhymes. For example, these two lines demonstrate the often-awkward rhythm, which makes the book difficult to read aloud in spots: “The children enjoyed their sand-play, digging with a spoon,/ Then Mum said ‘I’ll be back for you, very soon,…”
Additionally, errors of punctuation, syntax and grammar appear throughout the book, making the story difficult to follow at times, even for adult readers, let alone very young children.
Starting Playschool’s central premise – that homemade objects signifying love can comfort young children in times of profound stress – is strong and appealing. Sadly, Hancock’s poetry (that most difficult and treacherous of art forms) doesn’t help the concept sing.