Best of Back to School Books

Many parts of the country have been back to school for a few weeks now, but here in the PNW many kids are still enjoying their summer break.   Those days of getting little ones ready to go to kindergarten and back to school are so filled with emotion, excitement, anxiety, wonder – basically all the feels. Having books to read at night can really be a helpful tool to ease little ones and their worries about all the new adventures to come.

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Kindergarten is Cool! by Linda Elovitz Marshall and art by Chris Chatterton (Cartwheel Books, 2016) is a great introduction into what can be expected from getting up and dressed to getting to school and what your petites classroom might look like. What we loved about this book is that it provides steps of what happens first and next. My petites love this kind of book. We also loved that the classroom hamster can be found on each page doing something silly and funny. I am certain that this book will be a story time success, because after all, Kindergarten in COOL! 

Sophie’s Squash Go To School by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Witsdorf (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016) is a book about a little girl’s first day of school. Sophie brings along her two best friends Bonnie and Baxter who just happen to be squash. Initially Sophie is only interested in playing with her squash and doesn’t show interest in making new (human) friends and at some times can have a bad attitude. 

However, things really change throughout the story with a little boy who wants desperately to be Sophie’s friend. Sophie and her classmate Steven Green are drawing pictures of friends and the portrait that Sophie made is accidentally torn. What I think is so sweet and so endearing about this book is in how Steven resolves the issue after the picture is torn. He realizes that her feelings are hurt and does something quite lovely, he fixes the picture of Bonnie and Baxter and gives Sophie a packet of seeds. Adorable, right? Something you can absolutely envision a little one doing for his friend. What I love even more than this gesture is that they share the seeds with the class and they all grow their own squash plants. You see this glorious transformation for Sophie where she is really engaged and participating with her classmates after this moment.

This is a wonderful story to talk about feelings and conflicts might happen, but wonderful things can come out of conflicts.

Ming Goes to School by Deirdre Sullivan and illustrated by Maja Lofdahl (Sky Pony Press, 2016) is an absolutely wonderful look at a little girls first year of school. This book showcases all that is possible, all the wonder that will be found, all the pretending that will happen and the discoveries that will be made, and of course the special friends she will make. This book has very few words, but the words having been chosen with great care. The water color illustrations are delightful. This is a perfect book for a little one who is nervous about starting school, this book does a fantastic job of coming up with all that there is to be really excited about in a comforting and calming way. **This is one of our top recommendations for reading before starting school for the first time. We love this book and highly recommend it.**

As we get ready to send our little ones back to school a fun read that will be sure to have them giggling, is Milk Goes to School by Terry Border (Philomel Books, 2016) is an absolute pun-filled adventure on the first day of school. This book captures the anxiety a petite might have before their first day of school in such a fun and whimsical way. The silly photographs will have kids laughing their first day jitters away.


It’s Back to School We Go! First Day Stories from Around the World by Ellen Jackson and art by Jan Davey Ellis (The Millbrook Press, 2003). This is an increbly interesting book for petites. It highlights eleven different countries around the world and what going back to school looks like for each of those countries.

At the beginning of this book the author share that these eleven children that are shared in this story are composites of real children from around the globe. The author shares that she “tried to capture the diversity of school experiences, to compare and contrast the lives of children from different cultures, and – most of all – to emphasize their common humanity”.  Of course, this book gives generalities, because there is no way that one picture book could encapsulate all cultures and children experiences, but I believe that this book does an incredible job of creating a commonality among all children. I think that this book is one that will teach diversity, empathy and foster understanding of different cultures.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and art by Christian Robinson (Roaring Brook Press, 2016) is a perfect example of personification. This book is so original, so unique that I couldn’t help but smiling as I read it to my petites. This is the story of a brand new school called Fredrick Douglas Elementary and how the school feels about his very first day. There is all sorts of excitment and new things happening that will be sure to keep your little ones interested and turning the page to see what happens next. 

If these glorious illustrations look familiar it is because it is the stunning work of Christian Robinson who is known for The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker and his most recent book Last Stop on Market Street. This book would be perfect for little ones entering into kindergarten, as well as younger elementary. I would also highly recommend using this book with old students to teach personification, it would be an amazing lesson.

Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman and art by Adam Rex (Harper Collins, 2014) is a perfectly relatable story about Chu who is a little nervous about his very first day of school. As the class goes around one by one and shares their names and something they like to do, Chu sits silently. When he is the final student to share his name something so silly, so unexpected happens that you can’t help but laugh.
He sneezes in the largest possible way…ahhh ahhh CHU!

It is adorable. It is a tender story that discusses if the kids will like him or not. If your petite is a critical thinker, they might then worry that Chu would be embarrassed from sneezing and that the other kids would then make fun of him. Adam Rex does an amazing job, as usual, with the superb illustrations and facial expressions for Chu. This is the perfect book for petites starting preschool or kindergarten.

Bear’s Big Day by Salina Yoon (Bloomsbury, 2016) is an absolutely lovely story for petites who are starting preschool. This would be a perfect read aloud at preschool or with parents before hand to gear up for the big day. This is a book filled with feelings of excitement for being big enough to go on new adventures at school, but also still small enough to need your favorite snugglie for comfort during the day.
I love that this book is so real. I love that this book shows the steps that petites will need to take to get ready to go to school in the morning, along with what supplies they might be taking with them. This book is light on words and heavy on its message. That having feelings, being sad, asking for help and needing a little support are all normal feelings. This is a great story for petites in the 3-4 age range. Salina Yoon does a fantastic job once again with her bold illustrations that help you to focus on the message that going to school doesn’t mean you have to give up your snugglies or your childhood. 

If you want to extend this book with a fun activity here is a packet of great activities that your petites might enjoy from Bloomsbury. Enjoy!…/files/s16_ActivityBookREV4.pdf



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