book reviews / Featured / Jennifer Bradley

re-connect with back-to-school picture books!

It’s back to school time, and that can bring up a variety of feelings in both children and (as I know very well) parents. Here are some wonderful children’s books, categorized by grade, that help young children (and their parents) process those first weeks of school.  Animals in general, but even more specifically, rodents- seem to be a strong theme in back to school books- I can’t quite figure out why?

 

 

Preschool:

 

 

Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Appelt is an insanely sweet tale of a mama (bird) dropping her wee baby bird off to preschool.  It begins with “Oh my baby, liittle one, the hardest thing I do, is hold you tight and let you go, then walk away from you.”  And the book ends with, “But oh my baby, little one, the sweetest thing I do is sweep you up and hold tight and come back home to you.”  Beautifully said!  (And we love finding the heart on each page)

 

 

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes.  Henkes’ trademark edginess is less apparent in this story of a girl (mouse) who worries about EVERYTHING.  But the biggest worry of all is of course, nursery school.  Henkes validates Wemberly’s worries, but also lets her find her soulmate in a similarly hesitant friend.  They both worry a bit less and clearly enjoy school by the end of the book.

 

 

The Kissing Hand.  If I had a nickel for every nursery or kindergarten teacher who uses this book on the first day of school… well, I’d have a lot of nickels.  This is a sweet tale about Chester (raccoon), who is not too keen on going off to school.  He’d rather be home with Mama.  Well Mama finds a way for each of them to carry a kiss with them during their time away from each other.  A comforting classic.

 

 

 

Kindergarten:

 

Without explicitly saying it, Henkes character Chrysanthemum seems like the poster child for kindergarten.  She loves her name, the idea of school, and wearing swing-style jumpers.  Her cool parents (with fabulous vocabularies) are excited to send their wonderful little mousling off to school.  And unlike Wemberly, Chrysanthemum can’t WAIT for school.  Until she meets the not so lovely Victoria, who makes fun of Chrysanthemum’s very looooooooong and very floral name.  Chrysanthemum simply wilts under all this bullying until they meet their music teacher, the devine Ms. Twinkle.  Victoria has to eat a bit of crow when the class finds out their beloved new teacher’s first name is…. Delphinium!

 

 

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten!  A very cute (and very canine) Miss Bindergarten excitedly gets all of those wonderful toys and manipulatives and paints ready for her students’ arrival the first day.  Obviously, Miss Bindergarten isn’t impacted by No Child Left Behind… kids still get to play in her classroom!  A fun book with loads of animals with fabulously alliterative names.

 

 

In Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester, poor Wodney gets twipped up by those wascally r’s, and like Chrystanthemum, his classmates have not yet had anti-bullying training.  But then a new (and very intimidating) classmate arrives, and Wodney saves the day with his (challenging to decipher) version of Simon Says.  A great tale at any time, but a good reminder at the beginning of the year about the importance of being kind.

 

 

First Grade

 

We are big fans of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Keven Henkes.  Lilly is the bomb.  First grader (mouse) extraordinaire.  Filled with attitude.  And she loves her teacher, Mr. Slinger.  Adores him.  Until he takes her purple plastic purse away for the day after LIlly plays with it in class.  Lilly is furious and writes Mr. Slinger a note which she ends up regretting immensely.  Thankfully, Mr. Slinger isn’t easily shaken; the relationship is repaired and the jingly purse is returned to its feisty owner.

 

 

The Junie B. First Grader books are almost the chapter book versions of Lilly.  And while LIlly only appears in a few of Henkes’ texts, Junie B. has her own industry!  She’s a goofy, curious, free-spirited first grader with a compelling cast of supporting characters.  And there is a Junie B. book for almost everything that could possibly happen in first grade… from navigating the school bus to lunchoom antics to losing teeth.  A fun way to introduce your first grader to chapter books that you can look forward to reading together all year long.

 

 

As our little ones start these firsts, it can be both comforting and entertaining to read about other (rodents or puppies or racoons or kids) going through similar issues.

 

Does your child have a favorite back to school book?

 

One Comment

  1. Marti Anderson says:

    Jen, I love the way you describe some of my favorite books to read to my students (at back to school and other times) — particularly the Kevin Henkes sagas. Your descriptions will likely inspire even more teachers (and parents — I’m the rare strange teacher who would rather see The Kissing Hand introduced by parents instead of teachers) of young children to share these fabulous books.

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