The first day of school is a momentous event, one often anticipated with a mix of worry and excitement. School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is one of our recent favorites and received a starred review in the March/April 2016 Magazine. The following picture books, recommended in the spring and fall 2016 issues of The Horn Book Guide, are also great choices to prepare kids for the Big Day. For more, check your inboxes or hbook.com for our August 2016 “What Makes a Good School Story?” e-newsletter.
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide
Brown, Marc Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten
32 pp. Knopf 2015 ISBN 978-0-553-49658-1
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-553-49659-8
e-book ISBN 978-0-553-49660-4
PS With a long list of “What ifs?” concerning everything from making friends to learning the alphabet to finding the bathroom, Monkey feels uneasy about starting kindergarten. His family, however, rallies to soothe his worries. Handwritten text and colorful illustrations emphasize the child-centered psyche at work while providing a calming model for addressing children’s anxieties.
Chapman, Jared Steve, Raised by Wolves
40 pp. Little, Brown 2015 ISBN 978-0-316-23590-1
Gr. K–3 Steve was raised by wolves and enjoys howling, wrestling, and pouncing — all things that don’t go over too well when you begin school. Despite a rough start, Steve learns how to use his wolfish traits to help his classmates and be part of the “pack at school.” Chapman’s bold illustrations and understated text will have readers giggling at Steve and his humorous missteps. A fresh twist on the new-to-school book.
Katz, Karen Rosie Goes to Preschool
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2015 ISBN 978-0-385-37917-5
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-385-37918-2
e-book ISBN 978-0-385-37919-9
PS Lively patterns, vibrant colors, and an adorable tour guide make for a warm introduction to preschool. Rosie brings readers along as she stows her belongings in her cubby, says goodbye to Daddy, joins circle time (sitting crisscross applesauce, of course), and so forth. “Rosie Tips” sidebars offer extra tidbits: “When everybody works together, cleanup goes faster.” A solid choice for easing first-day jitters.
Parr, Todd Teachers Rock!
32 pp. Little Brown/Tingley 2016 ISBN 978-0-316-26512-6
e-book ISBN 978-0-316-26511-9
PS “I love my teachers because…” Twenty solid reasons follow, from “Teachers encourage you to be creative” to “Teachers read to you” to “Teachers have lots of celebrations.” In his trademark bold-hued, cartoony art, Parr’s cast of characters features kids and adults with skin colors well off the human spectrum.
Rabe, Tish On the First Day of Kindergarten
32 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2016 ISBN 978-0-06-234834-0
PS Illustrated by Laura Hughes. This “Twelve Days of Christmas” takeoff details a kindergartner’s first days in her diversely populated class. The cumulative verses (sans cardinal numbers: “On the first day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / riding the bus to my school!”) don’t scan exactly like the original’s, but this gleefully illustrated intro to school-day activities should make a rollicking read-aloud.
Staub, Leslie Time for (Earth) School, Dewey Dew
32 pp. Boyds 2016 ISBN 978-1-59078-958-2
Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Jeff Mack. One-eyed extraterrestrial Dewey dreads starting school — especially on Earth. He feels out of place (“there were lots of kids in lots of different colors but none of them were…blue”) until an Earth friend makes everything “ootay.” This new-to-school story explores diversity and inclusion through a kid-friendly space-alien lens. Mack’s expressive illustrations help translate Dewey’s alien-speak (e.g., green tears fall as “he dorfled”).
Wohnoutka, Mike Dad’s First Day
32 pp. Bloomsbury 2015 ISBN 978-1-61963-473-2
e-book ISBN 978-1-61963-745-0
Gr. K–3 Summer is over and it’s time for Oliver to start school, but there’s a problem: his dad isn’t ready (“It’s okay, Daddy, you’re just a little nervous”). Happily, the book’s wink to adult readers (yes, sometimes it’s hard to let go) won’t impede young readers’ pleasure in the story, derived largely from Wohnoutka’s comical art, in which Daddy acts like a big baby.
Yoon, Salina Bear’s Big Day
40 pp. Bloomsbury 2016 ISBN 978-0-8027-3832-5
e-book ISBN 978-0-8027-3834-9
PS In Bear and Floppy’s latest (Found; Stormy Night), Bear tells his stuffed bunny, “You need to stay home…Big bears go to school.” But when Bear gets to school, he misses Floppy. This sweetly instructive story, featuring right-for-the-job, clean Photoshop illustrations, has Bear modeling problem-solving (he devises a solution) and asking for help (he and his teacher craft a Floppy-size pocket for Bear’s backpack).
From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.