Dust off the backpacks, and break out the notebooks—school is starting! These inspiring stories of student life will help youngsters find their back-to-class groove.
Everybody’s favorite bird returns in The Pigeon HAS to Go to School by Mo Willems. This time around, Pigeon is contending with the impending first day of school—an unwelcome prospect. As someone who already knows everything (“Go on—ask me a question,” he urges. “Any question!”), Pigeon feels he should be exempt from attending. Moreover, school commences in the a.m., and he is NOT a morning bird. Soon he’s panicking over a series of unknowns: What if the teacher dislikes pigeons or the finger paint sticks to his feathers? What will his classmates make of him? After taking stock of his fears, the contrary bird realizes that school is the right place to be. The book’s clever endsheets show him in class with a group of avian pupils. Willems’ wit shines through in his trademark line drawings, which are minimal yet fully expressive and backed by a palette of soft colors. As ever, Pigeon has attitude, smarts and plenty of style, and they’re on full display in this grade-A tale.
The start of school is an event of regal import in The King of Kindergarten, written by Newbery Honor winner Derrick Barnes. In this delightful story, an African American boy—encouraged by supportive parents—is ready to rule at school. When the big day arrives, he washes his face “with a cloth bearing the family crest,” puts on “handpicked garments from the far-off villages of Osh and Kosh,” downs a pancake breakfast and gets on the bus—“a big yellow carriage.” As he approaches the school’s imposing entrance, he remembers his mother’s advice to hold his head high. In class, new friends and a beaming teacher greet him. Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s irresistible depictions of kindergarten life—group storytime, followed by big fun on the playground—have color, texture and a wonderful collagelike quality. With an emphasis firmly on the positive, Barnes’ story is a fun reminder to readers that they have what it takes to succeed. It’s sure to become a back-to-school classic.
Clothesline Clues to the First Day of School, co-written by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, is the newest entry in their nifty Clothesline Clues series. Items hanging on a clothesline provide hints about the people that readers might encounter at school. The story’s text takes the form of snappy stanzas: “Book bag and new shirt, / a class roster to review. / Bow tie and jacket. / Who wants to meet you?” Based on the clothesline clues, the answer to this riddle is a teacher—a smiling figure shown in a colorful classroom. The story moves forward in this manner, depicting a wide variety of school personnel, from a crossing guard to a cafeteria cook to a custodian. It concludes on a high note with a diverse group of students at play. Andy Robert Davies’ vibrant, upbeat illustrations make this a title that parents and kids will appreciate as summer comes to an end. As this skill-building book shows, it takes a village to ensure that a school runs smoothly.
In Christina Geist’s Sorry, Grown-Ups, You Can’t Go to School!, Buddy and his sister, Lady, are having breakfast as usual when their routine takes a decided detour: Mom and Dad announce that they’re planning to come with them to school. Yikes! Their mom sports a fresh backpack, and their pop shows off his new high tops. Even the grandparents are ready to go. But the kids soon burst their bubble: “Sorry, grown-ups! You can’t go to school!” The adults are disappointed, because they’ll miss out on the day’s neat activities—spelling games, science experiments, recess. The story’s upshot: “only kids and teachers” are lucky enough to experience life in the classroom. Tim Bowers’ depictions of the parents dressed and ready for school are downright hilarious, and he brings Buddy and Lady’s mixed-up morning to vivid life. A great intro to what makes school cool, this exuberant story is sure to get kids excited about the year to come.
There’ll be chills, thrills and lots of laughs when little readers get a load of Even Monsters Go to School. Written by Lisa Wheeler, this madcap tale focuses on a four-fingered boy-monster with blue fur and golden horns who is definitely not in a school-going mood. During breakfast (a ghoulish-looking goulash in which an eyeball floats), his equally blue, equally furry father provides encouragement by telling him about fearsome fellow creatures who face a similar fate: green-faced Frankenstein, tiny Troll, mighty Bigfoot, scaly Dragon. All of them, his father says, go to school. For each creature, Wheeler has dreamed up a hilarious school-based scenario, which she recounts through ingenious rhymes: “When Bigfoot wakes, he combs his hair . . . and steps out in the morning air. Yellow bus is waiting there. Even Bigfoot goes to school.” Chris Van Dusen’s bright, vibrant illustrations feature likable monsters. This appealing tale will help transform reluctant school-goers into eager students.