If the little readers in your household are stuck in summer mode, then you’ve come to the right place. Prep those kiddos for class with one of these inspiring books, and get set for a sensational school year.
COURAGE IN THE CLASSROOM
A grade-A story from start to finish, Jennifer P. Goldfinger’s Hello, My Name Is Tiger features Toby, a shy boy who likes to pretend he’s a cat. Toby even wears a kitty costume, complete with whiskers and tail. He’s a fearless feline—except when it comes to starting school. Adjusting to life in the classroom when you’re a cat can be tough! At first, Toby resists. He plays by himself in the sandbox and climbs trees during recess rather than joining the other kids. But with the help of kindred spirits—including Pete, who loves to pretend he’s a monkey—Toby finds his comfort zone. Goldfinger’s buoyant mixed-media illustrations—a blend of chalk doodles, pencil sketches and vivid washes of color—give this appealing story extra charm. Just the thing for nervous newbies who aren’t sure what to expect from school.
FROM A SCHOOL’S PERSPECTIVE
The main character in Adam Rex’s ingenious School’s First Day of School is Frederick Douglass Elementary, a spiffy new building with a bad case of the first-day nerves. The idea of incoming students makes the school creak! The building befriends a kindly janitor, who readies him for the big morning, and then the children arrive—“more of them than the school could possibly have imagined.” In class, the kids learn the definition of a square (“Wow,” the school says to himself. “I did not know that.”), and one girl makes a picture of Frederick Douglass Elementary (“It looks just like me,” the school thinks.). Not bad for a first day! Artist Christian Robinson depicts the building as a place with personality—the main door, with its window eyes, seems to be smiling—and his colorful illustrations give the book a timeless feel. It’s sure to become an end-of-summer classic.
EDUCATION AGAINST THE ODDS
Based on true events, Deborah Hopkinson’s inspiring, accessible Steamboat School tells the story of the remarkable school established by St. Louis teacher and preacher John Berry Meachum. In 1847, when a state law is passed denying education to African Americans of all ages, free or enslaved, Meachum has a daring idea: construct a steamboat on the Mississippi River, beyond the reach of the Missouri government, and use it as a school. Two young students, James and his sister, Tassie, help him build the boat and get pupils on board. “I felt like a pot about to boil over,” an excited James says when their work is done. Ron Husband’s detailed, realistic pen-and-ink illustrations have an old-fashioned sepia feel and perfectly complement Hopkinson’s lyrical lines. Young readers are sure to be intrigued by this chronicle of a classroom on the water.