If Animals Went To School (Ann Whitford Paul)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If Animals Went To School, written by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by David Walker, fourth in the pair’s series of animal what-ifs.

If animals went to school, Beaver would be nervous: “I don’t want to go!” he protests to his father, shuff-shuffling along as Kangaroo bounds by to be the first inside. As Beaver’s first day commences, the other animals in his class go about their activities, from stacking blocks, practicing letters, identifying shapes, sing-a-longs, and storytime, all under the watchful eye of Ms. Cheetah. As the day unfolds, Beaver begins to grow more comfortable with his friends, even joining in their play and learning. At last, when Papa comes to pick him up again, he protests once more: “I don’t want to go,” he whines, stuff-shuffling all the way home.

Very cute. The storyline is that of classic first-day-of-school jitters, with the menagerie of creatures providing gentle laughs and a celebration of all the things that make school fun for little learners. And while the animals’ characteristics are mostly anthropomorphized, there are a few nods to their beastly sides, such as goat chomping down on a book during reading time. The illustrations are light, colorful, and feature an adorable cast of cuddly young animals. The length is fine, and JJ had plenty of giggles for the animals’ antics. Overall, this one was very sweet, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Butterflies On The First Day Of School (Annie Silvestro)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Butterflies On The First Day Of School, written by Annie Silvestro and illustrated by Dream Chen, a charming tale of back-to-school jitters.

Rosie is utterly eager for her first day of school: she’s practiced writing her name and raising her hand, picked out her first backpack, and learned her teacher’s name. But on the eve of the big day, she suddenly feels uneasy, and the morning of, she seems to be looking for any excuse to stay home. Her mother simply hugs her: “You just have butterflies in your belly,” she explains. Boarding the school bus and approached by a friendly girl named Violet, Rosie offers her name – and is stunned to see a butterfly slip out of her mouth with the word! Indeed, each time Rosie opens up and talks to a new classmate or her teacher, butterflies – which only she can see – flit out of her mouth and escape into the sky. And with each butterfly fluttering off, Rosie’s confidence begins to grow, and new friendships and experiences are forged; she even finds the courage to help another shy little girl with butterflies of her own.

Wonderful. Updating the classic “butterflies” metaphor, the warm and gentle story gives a clever analogy for its remedy: opening up to others to let the butterflies out. Rosie’s trepidation and eventual ease into comfort and confidence feel incredibly universal, and the moment of helping another to come out of their shell encourages empathy and kindness. There’s even a subtle and touching moment at the end hinting that even grown-ups can get butterflies, especially on their little ones’ first day of school. Chen’s stylized illustrations are gorgeous, filled with color, movement, and emotion, and fit the tone of the story to a T. The length was great, and JJ loved the butterflies and expressive artwork. This will be a perfect story to help little bookworms concur their fears, especially come August. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher 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.)

The Little School Bus (Margery Cuyler)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Little School Bus, written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Bob Kolar, a cheerful look at the life of a school bus.

In bouncy rhyming text, the reader is introduced to the titular school bus and its driver, Bob. Early morning, the pair wake up and – after Bob’s coffee – head out to pick up kids for school. Rain or shine or snow, the school bus and Bob drive across towns, around bends, and through neighborhoods. Sometimes, Bob takes Bus to the mechanic for a tune-up: dents get fixed, squeaky hinges oiled. Then back to work, Bus’s favorite thing to do. At the end of the day, after safely getting the children to and from school, Bob and Bus head home to rest for the next day.

Very cute! Bright and jolly rhymes paired with adorable yet simple illustrations make for an easy and quick read. The layout of the rhymes is a bit confusing, as each page starts with “I’m a little school bus” which would lead me to believe that the rhymes should be read to the rhythm/tune of “I’m A Little Teapot”. This has pretty mixed results though, and I found it much easier to read aloud amelodically. Still, there’s a nice look at some of the duties of a school bus, and some wonderful and unexpected diversity: the characters are a rainbow of skintones, and there is a page and rhyme dedicated to wheelchair accessibility. The length was fine, and JJ really enjoyed the adventures of Bob and Bus. Delightfully uncomplicated yet absolutely entertaining for early readers, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

No Frogs In School (A. LaFaye)

Hello, friends! Our book today is No Frogs In School, written by A. LaFaye and illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans, a sweet and funny story of little boy and his indomitable love of animals.

Bartholomew Botts loves his pets – his many, MANY pets. Dogs, cats, goats, pigs, lizards, guinea pigs, etc.; it seems as though Bartholomew has at least one of each, and at least one goes with him everywhere. So when he heads for school on Monday, he thinks nothing of bringing his new frog, Ferdinand, along – until the little frog escapes and causes a fuss. The teacher, Mr. Patanoose, sets a new rule: no frogs in class. So on Tuesday, Bartholomew brings Sigfried the salamander instead (after all, salamanders aren’t frogs). Mr. Patanoose decrees “no amphibians!”, so Bartholomew brings Horace the hamster on Wednesday, and so on. Bartholomew does his best to follow each new rule, but with each new pet, Mr. Patanoose seems more exasperated than the last, finally declaring that Bartholomew can bring NONE of his pets. But the little boy just loves his animals so – how can Bartholomew enjoy his pets without breaking the school rules?

Delightful. The hilarious winks to the audience about poor Mr. Patanoose’s frustrations coupled with Bartholomew’s earnest innocence over the trouble his beloved pets inadvertently cause give the story a warm, almost timeless sensibility, and any animal-loving child or adult will relate. The illustrations are packed with adorable creatures and clever details – a grumpy-faced cat hidden on the first page gave me a big chuckle, and JJ loved spotting the numerous animals. The length is great, and we had a ton of fun reading it together. Pure, simple, and good-natured fun. Baby Bookworm approved!

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