Friday, September 6, 2019

September #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on The King of Kindergarten with Author Derrick Barnes

Today I'm shining the spotlight on Derrick Barnes,
author of #cbadspotlight pick The King of Kindergarten 
and also #classroombookaday favorite Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,
a Newbery Honor, Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Author & Illustrator Honor book

A confident little boy takes pride in his first day of kindergarten.
The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets.It sits and shines behind your head--like a crown. Mommy says that today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten!
Starting kindergarten is a big milestone--and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He's dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can't wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he's up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can't wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements--and then wake up to start another day.

Thank you, Derrick, for joining me for a #cbadspotlight interview today!

·  What was your inspiration for writing this book?
The story features my now eight-year-old, third grade son Nnamdi Thelonious. When he was four years old, heading to kindergarten, he asked why he hadn’t been on the cover of one of my books yet. The opportunity presented itself for me to tell the story of preparing one of my sons for kindergarten, and the rest is picture book history.
Nnamdi is the youngest of four boys and it was my way of detailing how we’ve prepared all of our boys the summer before their first year in school. My method was to fill them all with confidence by covering the material that they’d be going over in class, and answering any and all questions they might have about making friends, getting used to schedules, seating assignments, etc.

·  What message do you hope kids (of all ages) take away from this book?
Be confident in who you are, the family that you come from, and what you already know. Be curious. Be a leader and be kind to your classmates.

·  What was your writing & revision process like for this story?
I made a list of all of the steps that my four sons took to prepare for kindergarten and found a way to weave each one in. The revision process wasn’t too tedious. To be honest…I look forward to it. I always want to send the right message, provide a few laughs, and be very descriptive. Also, it is imperative to me that we get the story right, because each story can be told in a million ways. Write. Rewrite. Repeat. All in the name of crafting a great story.

·  Was there any part of the process where you and the illustrator worked together on the vision for this book?
Vanessa Brantley-Newton, the super talented illustrator of the book asked me before we started working if she could have photos of my youngest son Nnamdi, who is the protagonist, doing every day activities, inside and outside of the class. I took pictures of him playing at the park, preparing himself for school in the morning, and even shots of him inside of his kindergarten classroom.

·  What is your favorite part of making picture books? 
Two things: 1) being able to condense a lot of fun and emotions and hopefully an experience that resonates with children from a multitude of backgrounds. 2) My ultimate goal, with every book, is to create something that will last forever. I want to tell a story that kids want to hold on to so that they can hopefully share it with their children someday.

·  #cbadspotlight is putting the spotlight on inclusive #ownvoices books. What can you share with students about the connection you have to this book or the choices you made while writing/illustrating it to add diverse representation?
K of K is my second picture book. My first , CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut, featured my third son, Silas Nathaniel. Well, my youngest son, Nnamdi Thelonius begged me to put him on the cover of one of my subsequent books. The opportunity arose when I was asked to pen a tale about preparing one of my sons for kindergarten, Since I had experience with my three eldest boys, I considered myself an expert. I asked Nnamdi if he didn’t mind being the protagonist, and he was ecstatic. Then I thought about how many books had I actually seen based on a kid’s experience with heading to kindergarten that featured an African-American boy---there were none. I was definitely the man to tell the story.

·  #classroombookaday is a goal to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year to students at any grade. What would you like to say to the teachers who are taking on this challenge?
Big ups to those educators that are taking on this challenge. “Big ups” is a hip-hop phrase that’s just a way to show respect. I appreciate the gesture because I believe that picture books, out of any other format of children books are succinct, poetic and perfect gems that are applicable for any age group. They teach life lessons in a very memorable and impressionable ways---if done right. I hope I’m doing them right. I’ll keep working at it.

Be sure to check out all of the #cbadspotlight choices for this school year!
Visit for more information on #classroombookaday,
a goal to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year, at any grade,
inspired by Donalyn Miller's #bookaday.

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