Let's Go to Playgroup!
written by Caryl Hart; illustrated by Lauren Tobia
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Billy is munchy-crumbly-crunchy,
Grabs his spotty cup.
Buttery fingers slip and slide,
Milky cup tips up!
Bee and Billy arrive with their moms for playgroup time. Taking off to pretend to deliver the mail, Bee consoles a nervous Billy. She invites him to a farm disguised as two big buckets with wheels. They wave stuffed farm animals and make noises as they sink into the buckets. But not all is always well in the playgroup. Sometimes a conflict arises over a toy. In this case, it's a red tractor. Baby and Bee both want it and it takes a wise Billy to deliver a solution in the form of a train given to Baby. Adults may think of these problems as minor, but to the participants they are big deal. I like that all is not sweetness and light. That will allow preschool readers to better connect to this book. There is spilled milk, tumbling blocks, and a raucous dance party at the end. Again, when it's time to leave, there's some conflict. Bee stamps her feet because she doesn't want to stop playing and Billy can't find his socks. This is a more realistic ending then if they went quietly away. As a parent, I remember not being able to find articles of clothing and having to pull my daughters away from playtime.
I think a playgroup is an underused topic for picture books. There are so many beginning readers who experience this so it's nice that they have a book where they can use background knowledge at such an early age. Preschoolers will make many connections. You can ask them, "Does this happen in your playgroup or preschool?" I'm also a big fan of Lauren Tobia's artwork having seen it with the Anna Hibiscus series. I love the diversity of characters in this book. The opening spread shows a world of different people gathering their children for the universal activity of play. Let's Go to Playgroup! also will make for a great bedtime read because it will set you up for the next day's events. It's a welcome addition to preK book collections.