School is less than a month away for some of my readers while others still have a while before the alarm clocks get set, lunches get packed and they get on the school bus. These books are all about going to school and are a great way to ease the transition from summer to school year with young kids. Some are about preschool, some are about that big first day at kindergarten and some are more general. Many handle the topic of school anxiety and I think those are the great tools for kids that are not eager to separate or are natural worriers.
I Don’t Want to Go To School! by Stephanie Blake is a funny little book that deals with the big issue of not wanting to go to school. The little bunny Simon in this book doesn’t want to go even though his parents are supportive and try to make him feel confident about going. I loved that when he got to school the first thing he did was cry and the author was so matter of fact about it. That lets kids know that there is no shame in expressing emotion and even after they cry things will probably get better, it did for Simon. My son loved that all Simon ever said was “No way!” and quickly took over every one of Simon’s lines. It was a big hit, got lots of giggles and had a great message.
Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experiences Book by Lucy Cousins is not groundbreaking , it’s text is very formulaic but that doesn’t matter to most young readers who are being introduced to preschool for the first time. My daughter loved this book and my son loved helping me read it to her. It was sweet to see my son tell his little sister all about what she will do at preschool between reading. The book covers all the basics and one thing that really stood out was the page showing Maisy and other students in the potty. The reason I liked this was that for many children a big step at the same time as starting preschool is potty training. The bright colors absolutely thrilled my toddler.
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg has a special spot in my heart. It’s a book about not wanting to go to a new school, the first day is always the hardest and it’s easier to just stay in bed! The beauty of this book isn’t just the recognition of the anxiety about the first day but in the end the twist is that it’s the teacher who has the jitters not a student. I love this book and the power it has to help anxious kids, I have read it more than once to a jittery child and see how it can help first hand.
First Year Letters by Julie Danneberg is a really great book about a new , eager teacher and her loyal class. My son loved this book because it was filled with funny mishaps during a teacher’s first year of teaching. The mishaps include runaway pets, falling buffalo, visits from the fire department not once but twice, and more every day things like barf. If you have a child like mine that thinks barf is funny, they will love it. I love the premise, letters written by students much like journal entries with coordinating illustrations. It made me want to get back to teaching and my son asked me if he’d get to have a teacher like that some day. I hope he does!
Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis was just an okay book for me but my son really really liked it, and since he is the one heading off to kindergarten in the fall I think his opinion should be the most important one on this review. The book is about a little boy heading off to kindergarten with a big sister who is there to answer his questions and remind him that kindergarten rocks. It addresses many of the worries that kids have and one page has a bunch written out in the illustrations. This was my favorite part of the book because my son related to these worries and it gave us a chance to talk about them.
Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by James Dean is a special school book for our family. At my son’s kindergarten orientation the teacher read this to her class and the prospective students and it’s been a favorite ever since. The book follows Pete who is a cool cat with rockin’ shoes. He heads to school and while he isn’t exactly sure of how things works he doesn’t worry, he just goes with the flow. There is no way you will be able to red this book without smiling, it’s so chill and relaxed and plain fun. Both my kids love it and I love the repetitive questions about Pete and his reactions to new situations and answer each one every time we read it. Not many of these books are must buy , but I would add this to your shopping list it’s that good!
Miss Mingo and the First Day of School by Jamie Harper is a delightful book. Miss Mingo is a flamingo and teacher who wants to know about her students on the first day of school. She starts the exercise by sharing some fun facts about being a flamingo , like why she is pink, and before you know it the whole class of different animals are sharing. This book not only shows kids that it’s okay to share about themselves but it is full of fun facts about animals in the fine print. I learned something I never knew about a Narwhal! It is a bit long for a toddler but each page highlights new animals and it’s easy to skip a few for those that aren’t ready for a book of this length. This is going on my buy list!
Kindergarten Countdownby Anna Jane Hays is a cute book about a little girl who is crazy excited about the first day of kindergarten. The rhyming text is silly but it still manages to address some of the issues that all kids face wen transitioning to something new. On each page there are items to count along with the countdown of days leading up to the first day of school and I like that interactive element. It’s also a useful book to talk about the days of the week as well.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes This book is about a little mouse who is about as anxious as possible. She worries about everything, and it makes her family worried too. This is a fantastic book to read before starting anything new! I read it for the children’s time at my church right before school started in the fall. It was a great opener for a talk about anxiety. We all have worries and even though we may not worry as often or as fiercely as Wemberly this book makes it seem okay and normal to feel those feelings. The way the author illustrates both through words and pictures the intensity of her feelings really creates compassion in the reader for this little mouse. And that ability to understand what another is feeling is something that I desperately want to instill in my son.
Russell’s Secret by Johanna Hurwitz made me laugh and although my son liked it as well I think I liked it more. It’s a story about a little boy who doesn’t want to go to school he wants to stay at home like his baby sister. So his mom treats him like a baby until he can’t take it anymore. She is never mean, she is never belittling just frank and firm. I liked that she waited for him to come to the conclusion that being a baby is not the best when you are already a big boy.
Off To Kindergarten by Tony Johnston is a book about a little boy who is cool about going to Kindergarten as long as he can take everything but the kitchen sink with him. I liked that this story deals with uncertainty and the unknown in such a gentle way. I like the rhymes and some of the words used were uncommon to see in a children’s book and I appreciate that immensely. I wouldn’t run out to buy this one but if I saw it at the library I would definitely pop it in my bag.
On the Way to Kindergarten by Virgina Kroll was so much better than I would have judged by the cover. It’s a cute look back at how children grow and develop ( well the character is a bear but you know what I mean), and how with each year of age they can do more. I love the focus on getting to go to kindergarten instead of having to go to kindergarten , with the emphasis on the positive the book really gets readers pumped to get on that bus! My son loved it and liked pointing out when he could or could not do something at the same age as the bear in the book. So as a secondary lesson we talked about how everyone does things at their own pace.
Follow the Line to School by Laura Ljungkvist is a really neat book and I hope I can explain it well because I really think it’s cool. Think of this book as a tour through an elementary school and on each page there are things for the readers to find. My son and I cuddled up and explored this book and discovered that there is so much on each page even beyond the three things you are prompted to find. The graphic design of this whole book is simply amazing. My son thought it was cool but I was telling him not to turn the page yet because I was trying to take it all in. The beauty of the book is great but it’s also so useful for a curious kid who gets reassured by knowing as much as they can about the unknown. This book covers so many things about a school and how you send your day when you go to one. I am eager to read the author/illustrator’s other works.
The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon is a really cute book. This is the story of Ginny who doesn’t know that the way she things is a little different than the other kids in her class. She is teased, her teacher reprimands her for squinting but it’s not until she has an eye screening that the nurse figures out she has double vision. I like this book because it really allows children to experience what Ginny goes through , how being different but not knowing it can be fixed feels. Ginny is given a patch and that too could be a source of humiliation but she is proud to be a pirate! Great and unexpectedly tender look at being different at school.
Little School by Beth Norling makes me miss teaching. It’s a simply written but detailed look at preschool and all the things waiting to explore in the classroom. Readers follow a class of four year olds as they navigate their day learning, playing, creating and some crying. I like this book because like I mentioned above this can be used as a tool to compare to your child’s own experience. My son immediately looked for dress up clothes, and a fire truck ( which he found ) in the illustrations because those are his favorite things at his preschool. After reading it he wanted to look at it alone and examine each page’s detailed pictures carefully.
The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn is an absolute favorite . Chester is a raccoon who like most of us doesn’t like change. In his case it’s starting school. He wants to stay home with his mama and play with the friends he already has instead of going to school away from her and his friends. So his mama explains to him the magic of the kissing hand . The real magic is the message that we have to do things that scare us sometimes but that the love of our family is always with us to help us through. Go get this book.
Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis is a cute look at the first month of kindergarten and how quickly something potentially scary and unknown becomes comfortable and familiar. I love the mix of funny and touching and how friendships get closer , and the challenges like crossing the monkey bars get easier as the month moves along. The illustrations are hilariously cute and it was such an enjoyable book to read and talk about with my son.
Zip, Zip…Homework by Nancy Poydar is a book about telling the truth at home and school. Violet is so eager to get homework because it makes her feel big and important, she even gets a special new bag for it. Things go haywire when she can’t remember which pocket she put her homework in, and she lies about having finished it. I don’t know about you but as my son nears 4 years old telling the difference between the truth and lies become an important subject that is often discussed. This book is another good tool to help keep that topic going .
My Preschool by Anne Rockwell is another spot on book by an author we love. Simple and to the point but somehow the author manages to hit all the most important parts of preschool like separation anxiety, conflict resolution and taking turns. I loved that the author included a child making a painting and saying that his mom would love it. I love seeing that sort of pride in creating . My son related well to this book and was quite vocal about the little boy who knocked down another students blocks, which gave me a chance to talk about behavior like that.
Welcome to Kindergarten by Anne Rockwell is a great book for kids that have never been to school before and are heading to kindergarten. The book does a great job of explaining all the things learning centers , routines and basic activities that are common in a kindergarten class through the eyes of a little boy attending a kindergarten orientation. He goes from being unsure to much more at ease in his future environment. The reason I said I thought it would be a good book for kids unfamiliar with preschool is that while reading this to my son he said ” I already know all this !” a handful of times before asking to grab another from our pile of books.
Helping Hand Books: Emily’s First Day of School by Sarah Duchess of York is a a timely book for the coming months when many children of varying ages will be entering school for the first time . Although the book doesn’t specifically tell us Emily’s age she seems to be entering kindergarten since there are older children at her school , but this book will work with any child entering school or even going to a new school. I liked the story but it wasn’t anything spectacular, it was very predictable and I was hoping it would be a fresh take on this theme. My son liked it but of the 4 books it’s the only one I have read only twice. My main issues with the book is that while Emily seems to be entering kindergarten the daily activities seem more like preschool. The tips at the back of the book are great , I especially like the one that suggests parents practice routines like independently going to the bathroom, washing hands , putting on their coat etc… However the story doesn’t reflect these practical and useful suggestions, and I wish it did.
Frankie Stein Starts Schoolby Lola M. Schaefer is a Halloween themed look at school and being different . Frankie Stein is the son of Frankenstein and unlike all the other kids at his ( night) school he isn’t scary at all. They tease him and he stands up for himself but then he just goes about trying to fit in by being just like the other kids and not like himself. I was hoping for a story where his differences were celebrated instead Frankie shows the other kids who are downright mean to him that he can earn their friendship by acting just like them which disappointed me. Cute concept but the story didn’t do much for me.
David Goes To School by David Shannon is always a hit with kids. David is again up to no good even if his heart is in the right place. This time David is making poor choices at school from cutting in the cafeteria line to writing on a desk. David books are usually loved or hated and I am in the love camp because they are such awesome tools to use examples of bad behavior to talk about and teach good behavior. Kids love to live vicariously through naughty characters and David is also really funny so get ready for some giggles too.
I Love School! by Philemon Sturges is a great simple book. I am a fan of this author and his basic books that kids love. He manages to cover all the things that happen at school from the start to the end of the day in an easy rhyming text. What makes this book stand out for me is that the boys and girls were both playing with dolls, something that you see in classrooms every day but rarely in books, it was a nice touch.
Elizabeti’s Schoolby Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen is a wonderful book for elementary aged kids . The story is about a little girl in Africa who is excited about getting ready to go to school for the first time. What I adore about this book is that it teaches children that school may be seen as a burden to children in wealthy nations it’s a privilege to many in poorer places. Children are lucky to get a chance to go to school and without being preachy at all this book gets that message through to readers. The other thing that it gets through so beautifully is that while school systems are obviously different that family life and people are not all that different even on a far away continent. Both my son and I liked this book.
The Teacher from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler is the original book in the very popular Black Lagoon series. The imaginative story is all about a boy’s worries that his teacher is going to be a terrible child eating monster. My son giggled through the whole book and loved the gore and dark humor. I do not suggest reading this to very sensitive kids or ones that really are very nervous about school. It’s humor may not be reassuring, but kids comfortable with school will find it hilarious.
Mr. President Goes to School by Rick Walton is such a cute book that we really enjoyed. The book is not so much about school as it is about how complicated adult problems can get and you can imagine how big they get for the President of The United States. First of all I have to say I loved that when we started reading it my son said ” The President should be African American .” I love that my son has no idea that there was a time when people didn’t think that could or should happen. Ok proud moment aside the story follows Mr. President as he escapes his duties trying to make peces between to Eastern European leaders and heads back to his old kindergarten class to remember what it’s all about. Of course he ends up going back and using all the things he learned in kindergarten to make peace between the two leaders , I mean who can start a war with someone they’ve done the hokey pokey with? I like the message and the book is cute and can be a great tool to show kids how lucky they are they get to go to kindergarten , even the President wishes he could go back!
I Hate School by Jeanne Willis is a gross scary book that made me gasp more than a few times and my son loved it. The story is about Honor Brown who hates school and all her reasons for hating it which include such gross things as kids getting their heads cut off for speaking in class, getting thrown out the windows, and teachers going beserk pulling kids hair. Okay so obviously this is all in her imagination and kids like my son who can differentiate that think it’ just a character’s exaggerated imagination but for some this could be very terrifying. I know as a small child I would have been absolutely frightened by it and it would have made my school anxiety worse. So pre read this if you find it and decide if your child will laugh and know it’s not literal or if they will end up having nightmares.
It’s Time for School with Tallulah by Nancy Wolff is a bright and funny book that goes through a whole school day in detail. My almost 4 year old was interested but the book was quite long he was teetering near the end ( this was book #6 during quiet time though) . The illustrations are whimsical and we both loved them, and the humor was awesome too. There are a lot of asides in this book and reading them all is what made this book borderline too long for my son. If you skip these extras it will be fine. The problem is the asides are hilarious and even include things like a song, recipe and other tips. I still recommend this book, just read the asides first if your child is not eager to sit for too long.
Jake Starts Schoolby Micheal Wright is such a great book that has just the right amount of sarcasm for the adults reading it and a great message and humor for the kids too. Jake is a little scared about his first day at school so he decides to hold on to his parents and not let go. The day wears on and his parents patience is wearing thin as they do everything stuck together including recess… but a great teacher finally gets Jake to connect with a book and become her helper and finally he lets go of him poor aching parents. I really enjoy this author/illustrator because I relate so well to his characters, Jake who is anxious and his parents that love him and will support him but aren’t necessarily thrilled to be sitting at his desk in his kindergarten class. I thought it was touching and my son thought it was funny so it was a win win for us.
How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen is a book about how children and dinosaurs should behave at school . This is part of the author’s wildly popular series that are cute and kids enjoy them but are very repetitive for parents. If you have read one in the series you can imagine what this one is like. That said kids love repetition, they love being able to predict what’s coming next so this book is worth a look especially if children are eager to figure out what they can and can’t do at school.