Honor Roll of Back-to-School Books

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The perfect way to celebrate your child’s new school year, or ease back-to-school jitters is with a great book.  Even if you don’t have a child returning to school next week, you may have a niece, or nephew, grandchild or godchild who will be. Don’t forget to sign and date the inside of your book with a short message, making the gift personalized and meaningful.

Here’s my Honor Roll – back-to-school books that earned an A+ in originality, language, and illustrations.

First Day Jitters” by Julie Danneburg and illustrated with ink and watercolor by Judy Love.  Currently the best book out there for kids who are nervous about starting a new school.

Mr. Hartwell is trying to wake up Sarah for her first day of school and she immediately responds from under her covers, “I’m not going.”

Throughout the book, Mr. Hartwell tries to be patient listens to the reasons why Sarah doesn’t want to go to her new school and responds patiently yet firmly, “ Don’t worry, you liked your other school, you’ll like this one. Besides think of all the new friends you will meet.”

As they pull up to school and she sits in the car, scared to get out, the principal spots Sarah and greets her, “Oh Sarah, there you are I’ll show you where to go”

The principal leads her into a class and introduces her to all the staring children.

The surprise ending, is such a surprise, even parents didn’t see it coming. As the principal begins to introduce the new girl, “I would like you to meet…” (Turn the last page), “your new teacher, Mrs. Sarah Jane Hartwell.”

Kids love the twist and immediately want to go back and read it again, this time knowing the real story.

“Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook” written and illustrated by Michael Garland.

Zack’s first day of school is going along like any other until story time.  Miss Smith brings out her storybook and begins reading.  Immediately the kids learn this is a magical book where characters spring from the pages and come to life.

One day when the teacher is caught in traffic and will be late, the principal steps in and reads to the kids and things go awry.  Soon, the school is filled with real live characters; Goldilocks, three bears, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Dorothy, a knight in shining armor, pirates, three pigs and more are all out and don’t want to go back in to the book. Thankfully Miss Smith arrives just in time and knows how to get them back into the book.

This gorgeous picture book is the sort that kids will want to linger over each page before it is turned.  When finished reading it to my son for the first time, he immediately responded, “I want a book like that.”

“Justin Case (School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters) by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

Justin is entering third grade. He keeps a daily diary, which begins for the reader the week before school starts and is updated daily until his last day of third grade. He candidly shares his innermost thoughts and feelings about school and home life.  Justin is an underdog, my favorite type of protagonist.  He is funny, curious, and acutely aware of his place in the world.

“September 20, Sunday: I’m on a soccer team again. Dad is the coach. Again. I don’t know where the man gets his hopefulness about my skills and their chances at improvement. Obviously, not from reality.”

“October 4, Sunday: Gangs have begun to form.  About half the stuffies on my bed are uniting behind Snakey. The rest are following Bananas. It is impossible to sleep. Wingnut and I ended up on the floor last night.”

“May 4, Tuesday: The violin recital is in two weeks. I am back to thinking about moving to New Jersey.“

A wonderfully humorous story for both boys and girls, Justin Case will make your child laugh, and feel OK about whatever worries they have.  And remember, like Justin finds, things usually turn out OK.


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