Bean, Jonathan This Is My Home, This Is My School
48 pp. Farrar 2015. ISBN 978-0-374-38020-5
The boy from Building Our House welcomes readers back into his home — and school. Our narrator — the author/illustrator’s stand-in — gives a whirlwind tour of homeschooling life, and the warmhearted, cheerfully cluttered illustrations show how home and school alternate and merge. Text and illustrations play off each other to develop meaning and humor. An appended note includes family photographs and further entertaining details about Bean’s own homeschooling experience.
Subjects: Picture Books; Family; Schools—Homeschooling
Bell, Cece Chuck and Woodchuck
32 pp. Candlewick 2016. ISBN 978-0-7636-7524-0
A woodchuck at school for show-and-tell brings together a shy first grader named Chuck and his classmate Caroline. Caroline describes the ways Woodchuck goes out of his way to get her attention on Chuck’s behalf. Chuck eventually finds his voice, in a sweet and satisfying way, and a three-way friendship is formed. Clear, unfussy ink and digital pictures illustrate the humorously fantastical story.
Subjects: Picture Books; Animals—Woodchucks; Friendship; Show-and-tell; Schools—Elementary schools; Behavior—Bashfulness
Bottner, Barbara Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t)
32 pp. Knopf 2010. ISBN 978-0-375-84682-3 LE ISBN 978-0-375-94682-0
Illustrated by Michael Emberley. A first grader finds her school librarian’s passion for books “vexing,” to say the least. She also dismisses her classmates’ book choices: “Too flowery”; “Too clickety.” But when her mother brings out Shrek! she finally meets a book she can love. In Emberley’s ebullient pencil and watercolor pictures, the little girl’s stubbornness is reflected in her wearing the same outfit day after day.
Subjects: Picture Books; Schools—Elementary schools; Libraries; Books and reading; Behavior—Stubbornness; Behavior—Individuality
Holub, Joan Little Red Writing
32 pp. Chronicle 2013. ISBN 978-0-8118-7869-2
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. In Pencilvania School, Ms. 2 (looking very much like a Ticonderoga yellow pencil) sets out to teach her sharp students — pencils all, including Little Red — a thing or 2 about writing. Using every available inch of the book, including cover, endpapers, and title page, this energetic volume is full of fun and information. Teachers and aspiring young writers will embrace this lively story.
Subjects: Picture Books; Pencils; Authors; Writing; Humorous stories; Creativity
Kay, Verla Hornbooks and Inkwells
32 pp. Putnam 2011. ISBN 978-0-399-23870-3
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler. A portrait of a mid-eighteenth-century one-room school is animated by the ongoing feud between brothers Peter and John Paul. Kay’s text is minimal, consisting of staccato quatrains: “Girls’ side, boys’ side, / John in front. / Peter snickers, / ‘Yer a runt!'” Schindler’s well-composed scenes evoke the period through the characters’ dress, the school’s minimal appurtenances, and students helping one another learn.
Subjects: Picture Books; Schools; Education; History, American—Frontier and pioneer life; Stories in rhyme
McNamara, Margaret The Apple Orchard Riddle
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2013. ISBN 978-0-375-84744-8 LE ISBN 978-0-375-95744-4
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Mr. Tiffin’s class (How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?) takes a field trip to the apple orchard. The story focuses on Tara, whose daydreaming causes her to lag behind the group but helps her solve Mr. Tiffin’s apple-themed riddle. Gouache, acrylic, and pencil illustrations combine crisp lines and hazy colors to call forth a perfect apple-picking day. Summarizing apple orchard facts are appended.
Subjects: Picture Books; School field trips; Trees; Fruits and vegetables—Apples; Riddles; Seasons—Autumn
Miller, Pat Zietlow Sophie’s Squash Go to School
32 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2016. ISBN 978-0-553-50944-1 LE ISBN 978-0-553-50945-8 Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-50946-5
Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. Unhappy about starting school, Sophie (Sophie’s Squash) insists her squash Bonnie and Baxter are “all the friends I need.” Over time, cracks appear in Sophie’s resolve to keep all nonsquash at arm’s length, to the benefit of tenacious Steven Green. The text and loose-lined watercolor and ink illustrations treat quirky-kid behavior respectfully, rooting the story firmly in a child’s world.
Subjects: Picture Books; Behavior—Bashfulness; Fruits and vegetables—Squash; Friendship; Seeds; Schools
Murray, Laura The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School
32 pp. Putnam 2011. ISBN 978-0-399-25052-1
Illustrated by Mike Lowery. Elementary schoolers stir up ingredients and bake. Gingerbread Man springs out…into an empty classroom. The cookie then embarks on a voyage to find the kids (they’re at recess). Murray’s rhyming text features some great cookie-centric lines, and the refrain offers enough variation to keep readers on their toes. Lowery’s cartoon-panel illustrations imbue the highly sympathetic cookie with an abundance of personality.
Subjects: Picture Books; Schools—Elementary schools; Stories in rhyme; Humorous stories; Bakers and baking
Perkins, Lynne Rae Frank and Lucky Get Schooled
32 pp. Greenwillow 2016. ISBN 978-0-06-237345-8
Frank is having a terrible, horrible, etc. day, but then he gets pooch Lucky, who becomes Frank’s faithful companion in learning about the world. How Perkins manages to include so many actual, useful facts in the story is an education in itself, especially in the way text and pictures so thoroughly trust the obligation of one to complete the other. Who needs the Core Standards?
Subjects: Picture Books; Animals—Dogs; Pets; Humorous stories; Education
Rex, Adam School’s First Day of School
40 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2016. ISBN 978-1-59643-964-1
Illustrated by Christian Robinson. We’ve had many books about kids getting ready for school, but now we have another perspective: the school’s itself. Frederick Douglass Elementary is worried about meeting the students (Janitor says: “Don’t worry — you’ll like the children.”). Rex’s droll telling is fun to read aloud, especially when the school is talking. Robinson’s naively styled paintings are the perfect complement to a warm, welcoming story.
Subjects: Picture Books; Schools—Elementary schools; Janitors; Emotions—Worry
Vernick, Audrey First Grade Dropout
32 pp. Clarion 2015. ISBN 978-0-544-12985-6
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Having suffered landmark mortification (“I. Called. My. Teacher. MOMMY!!!”), the narrator concludes his only option is dropping out of school. Later, friend Tyler’s grace at his own derision-worthy slip-up is a revelation for the age-appropriately self-absorbed narrator. Young readers will relate and also get that he’s overdoing it. Loose pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings capture the narrator’s downward thought-spiral.
Subjects: Picture Books; Humorous stories; Schools—Elementary schools; Emotions—Embarrassment
Yum, Hyewon Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten!
40 pp. Farrar/Foster 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-35004-8
A young boy entering kindergarten looms large, while his mom appears small and blue (as in “sad”). Turns out she’s worried. Youngsters will giggle when she asks, “Will you be okay…? You’re still so little” — the illustration shows a big, robust boy and his tiny mom. Kids will get right away that the roles are reversed and that this is mightily amusing. Yum’s breezy illustrations are spot on.
Subjects: Preschool; Schools—Kindergartens; Family—Mother and son; Emotions—Fear; Emotions—Worry
From the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good School Story?” For more recommended school stories, see “From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books” from the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.