The end of summer signals the start of something big: a new school year! To get little readers ready for what lies ahead, try one of these five picture books that capture the infectious energy of the back-to-school season and offer loads of encouragement, inspiration and fun.
Coaxing anxious students into the classroom proves to be a challenge in Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube. Mae is less than excited about the start of school. She crawls under the bed and tells her parents, “I’M. NOT. GOING.” When Mae finally leaves the house and arrives at school, she hides in the branches of a tree outside. But she isn’t alone: Rosie, another anxious pupil, soon perches beside her, and the pair commiserates over a cookie. “What if no one will play with me?” Rosie says. “Or what if I have to read—I don’t know how!” A surprise visitor to the girls’ hideout helps them realize that together they can brave the day.
Berube’s endearing illustrations of the two fretful students and their most feared classroom scenarios strike a chord. This charming book is the perfect remedy for first-day fears.
FIND YOUR NICHE
Bug School is “abuzz with hundreds of shiny, scurrying shapes,” but nobody—not even Miss Orb, the spider teacher—takes note of new student Heidi. A stick insect with a narrow physique, Heidi blends right in with the scenery. Author Aura Parker tells the story of this adorable, overlooked insect in her ingeniously illustrated Twig. When a student named Scarlett mistakes Heidi for a stick and tries to use her in a craft project, Heidi finally speaks up and becomes the center of attention as Miss Orb and the other bugs work to make her feel welcome. Because she’s tall and thin, Heidi—no longer shy—can help with all kinds of activities, and her school year gets off to a promising start. Teeming with bustling bug activity, this sweet story provides plenty of back-to-class inspiration.
If your kids are heading to class for the first time this year, Priscilla Burris’ Hello School! is the perfect read to prep them for the big day. From meeting their new teacher to finding the right cubbyhole and painting in art class, the kids in this appealing book gradually become accustomed to life in the classroom. Important lessons like learning how to listen and share (especially at snack time!) reinforce this gentle story of what it’s like to be a new student. With friends to meet, letters of the alphabet to learn and songs to sing, the first day turns out to be “the best day ever!” Burris’ expressive illustrations capture a sense of wonder as the youngsters make discoveries about their new environment. This light-hearted look at the classroom routine can help readers establish expectations for the year ahead.
FEELING AT EASE
Alexandra Penfold celebrates diversity in the uplifting All Are Welcome. In this bright, inviting book, the school semester kicks off right, with an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality in which a diverse set of pupils from many different cultural backgrounds feel at ease: “In our classroom safe and sound. Fears are lost and hope is found. Raise your hand, we’ll go around. All are welcome here.” Using rhymed stanzas throughout, Penfold details the students’ day, from music class, where they play a variety of instruments, to lunch and more.
This is an inspiring tale that showcases a group of youngsters—each with individual talents and traits, as made clear by Suzanne Kaufman’s irresistible illustrations—who are united by their differences. It’s a simple story that offers a big back-to-school boost.
A GALAXY FAR AWAY
Set on the planet of Boborp, Best Frints at Skrool features the pair of extraterrestrial pals from author and illustrator Antoinette Portis’ Best Frints in the Whole Universe. This time, Omek and Yelfred are ready to tackle the school year together—until a newcomer arrives.
The best friends blast into a classroom filled with colorful aliens, but during recess, Yelfred finds a new friend named Q-B, and Omek feels left out in the cold. The trio squabbles and gets into trouble at lunchtime, but they soon discover that three friends can have more fun together than two. Portis’ playful space creatures and creative vocabulary—“skrool” for school; “skreecher” for teacher—add to the book’s out-of-this-world attraction. There’s no better way to usher in a new school year than this laugh-out-loud tale of life in an intergalactic classroom.