Books for back to school

Bailey

Summer is winding to a close (boo!), which means it’s almost time for school to start (yay?). We’ve updated our recommended back-to-school reading list with picture books, easy readers, chapter books, and novels so students from preschool to high school can get back in the swing of things. All of the titles were published in […]

Back-to-school reading

telgemeier_drama_205x299

The books recommended below were published within the last several years. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion. Picture books Suggested grade level listed with each entry Bailey written and illus. by Harry Bliss (Scholastic) Bailey loves school. Then again, he’s the only dog at Champlain Elementary. Straightforward sentences tell […]

No-worries back-to-school

Mom, it's My First Day of Kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum

These four stories take the stress out of school for early elementary school students. From first-day worries to doubts about the next school year and test anxiety, the topics are covered in fresh and humorous ways. Hyewon Yum’s Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! turns the usual first-day-of-school anxiety story on its head. Breezy […]

The Other Half

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

by Diana Wynne Jones This is not about my own school. I prefer to forget that. This is about how a large part of the job description when you write for children is the remorseless visiting of schools. When I was young and strong, I was required to do this almost once a week. Half […]

Review of Bailey

Bailey

Bailey by Harry Bliss; illus. by the author Primary    Scholastic    32 pp. 8/11    978-0-545-23344-6    $16.99 Bailey loves school, where he is by far the most popular student. Then again, he is the only dog at Champlain Elementary School. No one can resist a dog who hangs his head out the school bus window, willing the […]

Back to School Books

The Horn Book recommends books about school, published within the last few years.

Not an Essay

A special guest article by Kadir Nelson, originally published in the September/October 2008 issue of Horn Book Magazine.

More of Robin Smith’s Favorite School Stories

Marianthe’s Story: Painted Words / Spoken Memories written and illustrated by Aliki
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
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.

Teachers I Remember

Although I love to write about books, I am a teacher, not a writer. My favorite writers create worlds out of their imaginations; what I try to create, every August, is a new community of children, one I hope will be strong enough to make it through the school year. Secretly, I have another hope: I hope the children will remember second grade as one of their best years. I hope they will remember me the way I remember my teachers — those from my childhood and those who come alive in the books I love.

Each year, right before school starts, I organize my classroom library, pulling out the chapter books I like to read to the class during the year and finding the picture books I use during the crucial first weeks when my students and I are settling in. What kinds of books am I drawn to? My favorites are books about school. You would think I would be sick of them, especially since some are schlocky and idealistic — impossible to live up to — but you would be wrong. Books about school give me some common ground with my class to talk about my expectations for the year. Though fictional, the teachers in these books inform my teaching every day.