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More of Robin Smith’s Favorite School Stories

Marianthe’s Story: Painted Words / Spoken Memories
written and illustrated by Aliki
64 pp. Greenwillow Review 9/98
The story of a young immigrant girl from an unnamed country is told in a pair of back-to-back picture books. The first describes Marianthe’s adjustment to her American school; the second (arrived at by flipping the book over) allows the girl to tell her own story of why she and her mother came to this country. Aliki’s drawings are warm and expansive, giving heart to the somewhat purposive text. Grade level: K–3.

Ramona the Pest
written by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Lois Darling
192 pp. Morrow Review 8/68
Eight- or nine-year-olds who can look back upon their kindergarten days will smile knowingly at Ramona’s first encounters with school life. Ramona does not submit to the process of education without a struggle, and the skirmishes, vividly described, will remind the young reader of the child he once was (or wished he had dared to be!). The author has a sure instinct for the thought and expression of five-year-olds. Grade level: K–3.

First Day Jitters
by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love
32 pp. Charlesbridge Review 10/00
In spite of Mr. Hartwell’s entreaties, Sarah Jane Hartwell does not want to start her first day in a new school. Like all newcomers, she worries about having to begin again and wonders if there will be nice children in her class. But the ending reveals that Sarah is not a new student — she’s the teacher! Lively line and watercolor illustrations bring Sarah’s plight to life. Grade level: K–3.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
32 pp. Greenwillow Review 9/96
Enchanted with school, Lilly wants to be a teacher until one fateful Monday when she gets in trouble. She plots her revenge until her teacher’s final gesture, a thoughtful note and a packet of tasty snacks, makes her feel miserably small. With help, Lilly puts her world to rights in a sensitively crafted, dazzlingly logical conclusion. A skilled caricaturist, Henkes conveys variations in mood with economy and charm. Grade level: K–3.

written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
32 pp. Greenwillow Review 9/91
Young mouse Chrysanthemum loves her name — until she starts school and finds the teasing of her peers unbearable. Then the beloved music teacher, Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle, announces that she plans to name her baby Chrysanthemum, and suddenly everyone wants to be named after a flower. Another very engaging female protagonist from Henkes. Grade level: K–3.

Starting School
written by Johanna Hurwitz, illustrated by Karen Dugan
102 pp. Morrow Review 9/98
The twin brothers of Lucas Cott (of the Class Clown series) are put in separate kindergartens in the same school. Marcus and Marius decide to switch places to settle an argument about who has the better teacher, but on the same day, their teachers decide to switch places to settle their own argument. This is irony at its humorous best for young readers, who will delight in anticipating the inevitable chaos. Grade level: K–3.

Running the Road to ABC
by Denize Lauture, illustrated by Reynold Ruffins
32 pp. Simon Review 5/96
Six children run “on the Road to ABC” to beat the rising sun to their school. Though there is little story, the rich lyrical language used by Lauture, a Haitian poet, creates a strong sense of place, while imagery and patterns of text build tension. Warmly detailed gouache paintings propel the reader to the next page in this optimistic glimpse of Haitian children working for a brighter future. Grade level: K–3.

Once upon an Ordinary School Day
by Colin McNaughton, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
32 pp. Farrar Review 3/05
In this parable of the awakening imagination, an “ordinary boy woke from his ordinary dreams . . . had an ordinary pee . . . and ate his ordinary breakfast.” At school a colorful new teacher demands that the class listen to music and record what they imagine. While the art bursts into joyful color, the boy begins to write; “and he was lost, lost in . . . the storytelling game. And it was extraordinary.” Grade level: K–3.

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity
written and illustrated by Mo Willems
48 pp. Hyperion Review 11/07
When Trixie (older and more verbal than in Knuffle Bunny) spots preschool classmate Sonja with a Knuffle Bunny look-alike, the girls fight, and the bunnies are confiscated. Their teacher reunites each girl with her toy . . . or so it seems. Cartoon-style characters are set against black-and-white photographs of an urban neighborhood. Willems’s page design and animation-inspired panel illustrations are visually dynamic. Grade level: Preschool.

Robin Smith on school stories.

Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.

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  1. […] More of Robin Smith’s favorite school stories /* Filed Under: Horn Book Magazine, Recommended Books, School Tagged With: classic HB, HBM Sept2008, Horn Book Magazine, school stories, Teaching About Robin SmithRobin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees. […]

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