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No-worries back-to-school

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.

Mom, it's My First Day of Kindergarten! by Hyewon YumHyewon Yum’s Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! turns the usual first-day-of-school anxiety story on its head. Breezy illustrations depict a confident young boy and his worried-looking mother. He’s eager to go to school (“I have my crayons and markers…I’m all set!”), but Mom is less sure. 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, feet dangling as he pulls her behind him. Kids will get right away that the roles are reversed — and that this is mightily amusing. (Foster/Farrar, 4–6 years)

A Gold Star for Zog by Julia DonaldsonZog, star of Julia Donaldson’s A Gold Star for Zog, may be in dragon school, but it feels more like the School of Hard Knocks when he crashes into a tree during flying practice. Fortunately, a girl in the field where he lands offers him a Band-Aid. As the years go by, she faithfully helps out — and finally gives him the most useful gift of all: she reveals that she’s royalty just as Zog fears he’s about to fail his capture-a-princess test. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler, a multicolored, endearingly homely cast of cartoon dragons attends class in the woodland setting, where none of the other critters seem remotely afraid of the fire-breathers in their midst. (Levine/Scholastic, 4–6 years)

Oh No! Not Again! (Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History)(Or at Least My History Grade) by Mac BarnettIn Oh No! Not Again!: (Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History) (Or at Least My History Grade), author Mac Barnett and illustrator Dan Santat reunite with a companion to Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World). After missing a question on her history test, our bespectacled heroine builds a time machine that brings her back to 33,000 BCE. While she is changing history by painting caves in Belgium, two cave dudes steal the machine and do a little history-changing of their own. Bright digital illustrations with lots of graphic elements play up the considerable humor, and many light touches will allow young readers in on the joke. (Disney-Hyperion, 5–8 years)

Pearl and Wagner: Five Days Till Summer by Kate McMullanWhat will the next school year be like? Who will be in my class? Will I like my new teacher? In Pearl and Wagner: Five Days Till Summer author Kate McMullan perfectly captures such common insecurities when Pearl gets a glimpse of her future teacher, Ms. Bean, and imagines the worst. (Fortunately, her fears turn out to be unfounded.) R. W. Alley’s engaging illustrations capture the myriad expressions on all the characters’ faces, and McMullan’s text begins to bridge that territory between easy readers and chapter books. (Penguin, 5–8 years)

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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