Bea and Mr. Jones Before Breakfast

h1 July 28th, 2022 by jules

“‘I’ve had it with kindergarten!’ Bea Jones said to her father
as he was sitting down to breakfast. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


Here’s a post to celebrate 40 years of the work of author-illustrator Amy Schwartz by way of taking a look at her debut picture book, which has been reissued in a new edition by Penguin Random House. Bea and Mr. Jones arrived on shelves in 1982, and this new anniversary edition has what the publisher calls “gentle updates to the design,” which includes a larger trim size and a new dust jacket illustration.

Named a New York Times Best Children’s Book of the Year back in the day, the book tells the story of young Bea, who (as you can see above) declares that she has had it with kindergarten and everything about it. Her father understands. “Do you think I like my job?” he asks her in all sincerity. Then, his epiphany: “WHAT IF we trade places today?”

And they do.

The story, featuring Schwartz’s remarkably textured, monochrome pencil illustrations, entertains in many directions. The child becomes an ad executive for a day. The father becomes a kindergarten student. And each excels at what they do, managing to find joy in their daily lives once again. There’s a lot of humor here, much of it in the details: Bea’s oversized work clothes; the way Mr. Jones immediately turns a cartwheel as soon as he realizes he’ll be going to kindergarten; Bea laughing with her boss in the boardroom over one of his jokes; Mr. Jones as the milk and cookie monitor at snacktime; and Bea’s new jingle for the Crumbly Crackers ad campaign. Children will be enthralled (and have been for 40 years now).

My second favorite detail is the utterly delightful and earnest-without-being-drippy title page illustration, which I wish I could show you (though you can see it here via this IMBD Reading Rainbow entry, circa 1983). And my favorite detail is that no one in the story, least of all Bea’s father, doubts that a kindergarten-aged child can handle a day job in the office.

And the ending may not be what some readers expect.

Here are some spreads so that they can do the talking. So pleased to see this reissue. …


“‘Beatrice,’ he said, ‘WHAT IF we trade places today?'”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“Well, Mr. Jones loved being in kindergarten.
He was a whiz at the colored lollipop game. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“That afternoon, Bea was offered a promotion.”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“When Mr. Jones came to pick Bea up at the train station,
they were both very tired, but very happy. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“So, the next day Mr. Jones went to kindergarten and
Bea went to the office once again. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

BEA AND MR. JONES. Copyright © 1982 by Amy Schwartz. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Rise X Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

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