Lyon, George Ella. 2010. The Pirate of Kindergarten. Ill. by Lynne Avril. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 978-1-4169-5024-0
Ginny is a Kindergartener who loves school. She enjoys reading and drawing. But Ginny has a problem. Her eyes like to play tricks on her. She has difficulty walking to Reading Circle because she sees double the amount of chairs. Reading is tricky because the words seem to move all over the page. And using scissors is even trickier; multiple images appear on the paper, and she's never sure which one to cut.
Everything changes for Ginny on Vision Screening Day. To Ginny's dismay, the nurse finds that she has double vision. This prompts a visit to Dr. Clare, who gives Ginny an eye patch to wear. This patch allows Ginny to see only one of everything. Now, she is a Kindergarten Pirate. She is able to read, cut, run, climb, and walk successfully. Ginny's problem has been solved, and she couldn't be happier.
The Pirate of Kindergarten is actually based on George Ella Lyon's own experiences as a child. She has written the story in a way that makes it easy for young children to comprehend Ginny's visual impairment. Ginny is a relatable character, in that she enjoys school and the many activities that happen there throughout the day. Her frustration over using the scissors and her anxiety over the vision screening are understandable. When Ginny is given the patch to wear, Lyon highlights all of its positive effects. This lets the reader know that wearing an eye patch is not weird or strange, but helpful and exciting. Should any young children encounter someone with an eye patch in the future, they will have a much better understanding of why the person is wearing it after reading this book.
Lynne Avril's vibrant illustrations realistically portray how Ginny's eyes work, both before and after the patch. When I read this story to my own children, ages 7 and 5, the illustrations really helped them understand what it would be like to have a visual impairment. The book prompted a discussion with my children about my own eye sight. I do not have double vision, but I have very poor eye sight and wear contact lessons. They both asked, "Is this what it is like for you when you don't have your contacts in?" I don't think they ever really understood what it meant to have a visual impairment until they read this book.
2011 Schneider Family Book Award Winner
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From SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL - "Lyon's short, descriptive sentences set up the situation deftly, and Avril's astute chalk, pencil, and acrylic drawings of "two of everything" provide a vivid window into Ginny's pre-treatment world. It is not until the end of the story that Ginny declares herself a pirate, but as a metaphor for confidence and competence, her patch effectively declares her to be captain of her own ship."
From BOOKLIST - "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."
From PUBLISHERS WEEKLY - "Without lecturing or making Ginny the object of pity, Lyon (Sleepsong) and Avril (Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse), who works in cheery but remarkably expressive pastels, show how disorientating and alienating it feels when something as fundamental as visual perception goes awry."
Have a discussion with your students about visual impairments. Do any of them have a visual impairment? Do they know someone with a visual impairment?
Invite the school nurse into your classroom. Have him/her administer a vision screening on each student, so they can experience it for themselves.
Read your students more books about characters with visual impairments. Here are some suggestions:
- Headley, Justina Chen. The Patch. ISBN 978-1580891707
- Shaw, Beth Kobliner. Jacob's Eye Patch. ISBN 978-1476737324
- Kostecki-Shaw, Jenny Sue. My Travelin' Eye. ISBN 978-0805081695
Ginny's eye patch is just one way she is unique. Have a discussion with your students about what makes each of them unique.
Share this book trailer with your students.