Hello, friends! As summer winds down and we start heading towards fall, we wanted to bring you a new Top 5 list! This month’s theme: Back To School! We’re taking a look at some of our favorite books about school and education. We’ve chosen books that recognize the trepidation that little bookworms may be feeling as the first day grows near and celebrate all there is to love about going to school: new friends, new experiences, and the power of education.
So please enjoy our Top 5 list, in no particular order, of our favorite Back To School books:
1. School’s First Day Of School (Adam Rex, illus. Christian Robinson)
One summer, a special building is built on an empty lot, and named Frederick Douglass Elementary. School thinks that’s a very nice name for himself, and he enjoys spending his days with Janitor, who comes to clean him. He tells Janitor as much, only to be surprised by his reply: soon, School will be filled with teachers and children who come to learn and play! How scary! Will they like School? Will they be nice to him? Will he make any friends like Janitor? The story follows School through his tumultuous first day and shows that even School gets first-day jitters.
“The illustrations are cute and colorful, and really bring School and his inhabitants to life, and the story is just great. It’s perfect for any child who might be feeling a bit unsure about heading to school.”
2. Dad’s First Day (Mike Wohnoutka)
After an entire summer of playing with his dad, Oliver is ready to for the next adventure: his first day of school. But the first day of school can be a nerve-wracking thing… for Oliver’s dad! His dad complains of tummy aches and foreboding feelings, but Oliver reassures him: school will probably be lots of fun! The day that Oliver goes, dad gets left behind, and begins to worry more than ever. But after seeing Oliver happy with his new friends, we realizes that it’s time to let his little buddy strike out on his own.
“It’s enjoyable how the story flips expectations and has the father as the one most nervous about Oliver’s first day – not only is this humorous for little readers, but it’s a clever and subtle way of showing that nervousness about school is natural, and even parents can feel it. It also opens up the possibility for a discussion of these feelings so that parents and kids can help each other settle their nerves.”
3. I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About A Simple Act Of Kindness (Kerascoët)
Vanessa, a new girl at school, is shy around her more boisterous classmates. When school ends, she walks home alone, where she is stopped by a bully who taunts her to the point of tears. Vanessa runs home crying, much to the dismay of another girl, who has watched the entire exchange. The girl worries over it all night, until she has an idea over breakfast. On her way to school, she stops by Vanessa’s house and offers to walk together. Vanessa accepts, and they chat as they go, until another friend joins them. Then another, then another, until a whole crowd of children is walking Vanessa to school, and she is protected from the chagrined bully. That day, Vanessa begins getting to know her new friends, finally feeling safe enough to come out of her shell.
“It speaks to the sheer perfection of Kerascoët’s art that words aren’t needed to tell a compelling, touching, and uplifting story; in the absence of text, the bully’s harsh words are still cutting and cruel, the downcast expressions of the two girls speaks volumes, and the reader can practically hear the chatter of friendly, supportive children during the final scenes. The simplicity of the story can speak to readers of any age: hatred and callousness always loses when good people come together to stand against it.”
4. Ruby’s Wish (Shirin Yim Bridges, illus. Sophie Blackall)
In a big house in China, a long time ago, there lived an enormous family. One of the grandchildren was Ruby, a little girl so called because she loved red and wore it every day. Ruby’s grandfather hired a teacher for the many grandchildren, and while it was unusual for the time, he allowed both the boys and the girls to attend lessons. Ruby loved school, and worked hard every day to master her subjects (harder even than the boys, because she had to spend her free time learning cooking and homemaking as well). One day, Ruby writes a poem for school that expresses her sadness at being born a girl. Her grandfather is concerned: why does Ruby think that the boys of the home are treated better? Will Ruby have the courage to speak her mind, and tell her grandfather of the opportunities she longs for?
“This was a fantastic story, made all the more moving because it’s true. Ruby is a wonderful role model for little ones: she tells her grandfather of the special treatment the boys get, and expresses a desire to attend university. Moved by her passion, her grandfather secures her entrance to a school, both he and Ruby bucking the gender limitations of the time. It’s a triumphant ending, and teaches an important lesson: both men and women must fight for gender equality.”
5. Goodbye Brings Hello (Dianne White, illus. Daniel Wiseman)
Changes can be daunting, especially the big ones. But it’s important to remember that when we say goodbye to the old, we say hello to the new. You may be sad that you’ve outgrown your beloved old sweater, but it makes room in your closet for a fresh new winter coat. It may be hard to give away your old tricycle, but it means that you’re ready to take your big girl bike out for a ride. Haircuts, new shoes, flying in a plane from home to go visit grandparents – leaving the old might be scary, but it allows to new into our lives. And after all that changing and growing, you might just be ready for the next step, and the one after that, knowing that for each goodbye, there’s a chance to say hello.
“This is a great way of discussing change with kids, and encourages them to find what’s exciting about what that change may bring. The simple yet adorable illustrations give plenty of examples – culminating in the children’s first day of school – but the lesson and language is broad enough to help little ones through any sort of major or minor life changes they may be dealing with. A cheerful, diverse cast of kids are featured in the art, which keeps things minimal but still manages to express emotion and humor wonderfully. […] A dose of encouraging words for the unsure that can help during difficult transitions, and we loved it.”
That’s our list! Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much!