Little Mole Goes to School (Glenys Nellist)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little Mole Goes to School, written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sally Garland, a sweet tale of discovering the importance of having unique talents while navigating first-day jitters.

Little Mole is headed to his first day of school, but he is feeling terribly anxious. He doesn’t know his alphabet, he’s hard of hearing, and his eyesight is not the best. Mom suggests sitting toward the front of the class for the latter two issues, and simply trying his best; no one knows everything on the first day of class. Little Mole likes his teachers and classmates, but is intimidated by Little Rabbit’s excellent hearing, and Little Squirrel’s wonderful eyesight. Little Lark even knows the whole alphabet song, and sings it beautifully! By recess, Little Mole is feeling pretty inadequate. But when Mole and his friends find themselves in a spot of trouble during recess, he may find that being different is not always bad, especially when everyone can use their talents together to solve a problem.

Lovely! First day of school nerves are a evergreen theme for picture books, as is finding value in our differences. Nellist’s sweet and simple, if slightly predictable, plot weaves both together nicely, reminding children that being different and having different strengths is not only part of life, but can act to a group’s benefit if everyone uses their strengths to help each other towards a common goal. Garland’s autumnal, grainy illustrations create some sweet and endearing character design and a peaceful woodland setting. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I both enjoyed it (it was JJ’s first day of school, so she was especially excited to see Little Mole’s journey). Overall, an affirming title for back-to school time, and we enjoyed it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

All Welcome Here (James Preller)

Hello, friends! Our book today is All Welcome Here, written by James Preller and illustrated by Mary Grandpre, a poetic look at the varied experiences and emotions of the first day of school.

Told in a serious of titled haiku, readers are treated to nearly thirty miniature stories, featuring a diverse array of characters, settings, and situations that recall the first day at a new school. There are emotions, like trepidation, excitement, and shyness; new experiences, like meeting the principal and boarding the bus for the first time; and new places to explore, like the school library and playground. And at the end of the day, everyone heads home, knowing that they’ll return the next day for more learning, laughter, and adventures.

Interesting. Since the “first day of school” theme is a common one for picture books, it’s always nice to see a novel approach, and one of a collection of haiku poetry is certainly that. And on occasion, the form, combined with the colorful, energetic paintings of the artwork, results in a lovely effect, such as in “Growing Up”, where a child boarding a bus is compared to a bird leaving the nest, or “Library”, an ode to the heart of nearly every school building. However, many of the haiku fall flat or feel incomplete, the medium not quite suited to the feeling it’s meant to evoke. Certain poems, such as “Harold” and “Prank” even feel a little mean-spirited, which is perhaps not an unrealistic view of school life but hardly an encouraging one for young readers who may be nervous about their own first day. Otherwise, the length is fine, and broken up easily as the reader wishes, and JJ enjoyed some of the poems and artwork immensely. An uneven offering to a popular genre, but not without its charms; overall, Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Clover Kitty Goes To Kittygarten (Laura Purdie Salas)

Hello, friends! In honor of JJ’s first day of kindergarten, our book today is Clover Kitty Goes To Kittygarten, written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Hiroe Nakata.

Young Clover Kitty prefers calm things: knitting quietly, napping on a warm floor, slowly nibbling her kibble. Sometimes she wishes she had someone to share her calm activities with, but otherwise, she feels very safe and secure in her familiar routine. So when the time comes for Clover to head to Kittygarten, she’s very nervous – and after a disaster of a first day, it’s easy to see why. Between the bright lights, loud noises, crowded classrooms, strong scents, and general newness of everything and everyone around her, Clover is overwhelmed and has a meltdown. For the next three days, she asks to stay home, and her mother lets her. Mom even allows a quiet friend, Oliver, from school to try and visit; Clover hides the first two days, yet is disappointed when he doesn’t show up the third. Deciding that she wants to try school (and friends) one more time, Clover comes up with a plan…

Wonderful. Everyone knows that the first day of school can be scary – add in sensory issues like Clover’s, and it can feel like an impossible challenge. A fantastic use of descriptive language allows readers with and without sensory issues of their own to understand her discomfort with “glaring” lights and perfume that stinks “like licorice”. Clover’s toolkit for combatting sensory overload (sunglasses, earmuffs, special blanket, etc), is a nice introduction to the same items sensory-sensitive children use. Adorable artwork managed the tricky balance of setting both the calming and overwhelming tones without being visually overwhelming themselves. The length was good, and JJ adored this one, seeing a kindred spirit in Clover. This is a great story, especially for classrooms who must consider sensory issues: nuerotypical kids will better understand their impaired peers, and sensory-sensitive kids will feel seen. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Roar & Sparkles Go To School (Sarah Beth Durst)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Roar & Sparkles Go To School, written by Sarah Beth Durst and illustrated by Ben Whitehouse, a back-to-school story with a scaly twist.

Roar the dragon dreads the end of summer: it means no more playing at the beach with his beloved big sister Sparkles, for one. But more pressingly, he has to go to his first day of school! Roar is scared of what will be expected of him – will he have to breath fire all by himself? Or fly over an erupting volcano? Sparkle assures him that the first day will be easy, and that he will like school. Roar still frets right up to the moment Sparkles walks him to class – but inside, he sees toys, a friendly teacher, and new friends. After a day of fun, Sparkle picks Roar up from class, and the younger dragon presents her with a drawing of his favorite thing in the world: his big sister.

Very sweet. Telling the well-worn story of the apprehension before the first day of school, the dragon-themed setting and characters inject some fun and color. These details are clever, such as burnt sandwiches for lunch and a Cindragonella storybook (in which the heroine declines waiting to be rescued in favor of becoming a brave knight herself – AWESOME). The vivid, colorful illustrations can feel a little busy at times, but also work in some truly delightful visual gags. The length is great, and JJ loved it, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

It’s Show And Tell, Dexter! (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is It’s Show And Tell, Dexter! by Lindsay Ward, the adorable second installment of the Dexter T. Rexter series.

Dexter T. Rexter, a dinosaur toy, is back with a new challenge to face. His owner, Jack, is having show-and-tell at school, and he’s going to bring his very favorite toy: Dexter, of course! Dexter is so excited, and he’s been preparing for weeks. However, he’s also pretty nervous: will the kids like him? What outfit should he wear? Should he try to wow everyone? Will he make Jack proud? Dexter works himself into a frenzy over his worries, but the reader offers a suggestion: instead of trying to impress Jack’s classmates with costumes or flashy tricks, what if Dexter just went as… himself?

Wonderful! This was a story with a lot of comedy, yet had a very encouraging message for little ones who also may be feeling nervous about their first day of school. Dexter’s histrionics are presented in laughably dramatic text that is a blast to read aloud and act out – JJ was screeching with laughter by the time we got to “TOTAL FREAKOUT!”. But the message that being yourself is always the best way to face new experiences is the best part, and brought the plot full-circle beautifully. The art is bright, colorful, and full of energy, and JJ loved seeing Dexter’s antics. The length is great, and we both enjoyed this one a lot. A fantastic follow-up, yet stands on its own as a wonderful lesson in being oneself. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)