Within the next few weeks, we’ll all be venturing back off to “school”. Whether your child is transitioning from one class to the next or one school to the next, going back full-time, part-time, or completely virtual, we want to help set you and them up to be successful and motivated to have an amazing year. We’ve created a collection of books that highlight a few dimensions of the school experience. We’ve divided them into these categories:
(1) first days: starting school or worrying about starting school;
(2) fitting in: interacting with peers;
(3) life lessons: experiences within and beyond the classroom;
(4) classroom adventures: characters taking on great heroic risks
(5) classroom comedies: humorous school stories.
As an educator, I can attest that so many things can happen within a school day. Sit back, relax, and read a good book about navigating school life.
Butterflies on the First Day of School by Annie Silvestro, Dream Chen (Ages 3+)
Rosie can’t wait to start kindergarten–she’s had her pencils sharpened and her backpack ready for weeks. But suddenly, on the night before the big day, her tummy hurts. Rosie’s mom reassures her that it’s just butterflies in her belly, and she’ll feel better soon. Much to Rosie’s surprise, when she says hello to a new friend on the bus, a butterfly flies out of her mouth As the day goes on, Rosie frees all her butterflies and even helps another shy student let go of hers, too.
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Ages 3-6)
A confident little boy takes pride in his first day of kindergarten, by the Newbery Honor-winning author of Crown. The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets. It sits and shines behind your head–like a crown. Mommy says that today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten! Starting kindergarten is a big milestone–and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He’s dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can’t wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he’s up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can’t wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements–and then wake up to start another day.
I Got the School Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison, Frank Morrison (Ages 3-6)
Summer is over, and this little girl has got the school spirit! She hears the school spirit in the bus driving up the street–VROOM, VROOM!–and in the bell sounding in the halls–RING-A-DING! She sings the school spirit in class with her friends–ABC, 123!
The school spirit helps us all strive and grow. What will you learn today?
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, Christian Robinson (Ages 4-8)
It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him?
The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters.
Princess Cupcake Jones Won’t Go to School! by Ylleya Fields, Michael Laduca (Ages 5-7)
Princess Cupcake Jones, the modern-day princess who loves her tutu and playing with her toys, is about to begin school . . . but says, “I won’t go!” Cupcake tries everything to avoid her first day–from pretending to be sick to even hiding! However, Mom stays one step ahead of her. Only after arriving at school and meeting a new friend does Cupcake realize that school might not be as scary as she thought.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (Ages 5-8)
There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.
Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
Elizabeti’s Schoolby Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, Christy Hale (Ages 5-8)
It’s the first day of school and Elizabeti can hardly wait. She puts on her new uniform and feels her shiny shoes. School must surely be a very special place
Shortly after arriving at school, however, Elizabeti begins to miss her family. What if Mama needs help cleaning the rice? What if her baby sister wants to play? What if her little brother wants to go for a walk? But soon Elizabeti is making friends and learning her lessons. Best of all, she shares her experiences with her family that evening – and can apply what she has learned right away.
Mr. Shipman’s Kindergarten Chronicles: The First Day of School by Terance Shipman and Milan Ristic (Ages 6-9)
When Dewayne, a soon to be kindergartner rushes in the house after going shopping for school supplies his sister Banicia and mother help him understand what’s about to happen. An entertaining story of the wonder and excitement of going to kindergarten. Join Banaica as she recalls The First Day of School in Mr. Shipman’s classroom. Mr. Shipman is their kindergarten teacher, and he makes The First Day of School an experience his students will never forget. Mr. Shipman shares it all with his class of delightful five-year-olds and builds excitement for your child for all the things, The First Day of School in kindergarten can be!
First Day in Grapes by L King Perez, Robert Casilla (Ages 6-9)
All year long Chico and his family move up and down the state of California picking fruits and vegetables. Every September they pick grapes and Chico starts at a new school again. Often other children pick on him – maybe because he is always new or maybe because he speaks Spanish sometimes.
Chico’s first day in third grade turns out to be different. His teacher likes him right away, and she and his classmates are quick to recognize his excellent math skills. He may even get to go to the math fair When the fourth-grade bullies confront Chico in the lunchroom, he responds wisely with strengths of his own.
Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes, R. Gregory Christie (Ages 7-9)
Dyamonde Daniel may be new in town, but that doesn’t stop her from making a place for herself in a jiffy. With her can-do attitude and awesome brainpower, she takes the whole neighborhood by storm. The only thing puzzling her is the other new kid in her class. He’s grouchy – but Dyamonde’s determined to get to the bottom of his attitude and make a friend.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (Ages 3-7)
The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she? Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it–Yoon-Hey.
Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker, April Harrison (Ages 4-8)
It is Grandparents Day at Zura’s elementary school, and the students are excited to introduce their grandparents and share what makes them special. Aleja’s grandfather is a fisherman. Bisou’s grandmother is a dentist. But Zura’s Nana, who is her favorite person in the world, looks a little different from other grandmas. Nana Akua was raised in Ghana, and, following an old West African tradition, has tribal markings on her face. Worried that her classmates will be scared of Nana–or worse, make fun of her–Zura is hesitant to bring her to school. Nana Akua knows what to do, though. With a quilt of traditional African symbols and a bit of face paint, Nana Akua is able to explain what makes her special, and to make all of Zura’s classmates feel special, too.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, Suzanne Kaufman (Ages 4-8)
Discover a school where–no matter what–young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.
A Friend for Henry: (books about Making Friends, Children’s Friendship Books, Autism Awareness Books for Kids) by Jenn Bailey and Mika Song (Ages 5-8)
In Classroom Six, second left down the hall, Henry has been on the lookout for a friend. A friend who shares. A friend who listens. Maybe even a friend who likes things to stay the same and all in order, as Henry does. But on a day full of too close and too loud, when nothing seems to go right, will Henry ever find a friend–or will a friend find him? With insight and warmth, this heartfelt story from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum celebrates the everyday magic of friendship.
Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi, Lea Lyon (Ages 5-8)
Lailah is in a new school in a new country, thousands of miles from her old home, and missing her old friends. When Ramadan begins, she is excited that she is finally old enough to participate in the fasting but worried that her classmates won’t understand why she doesn’t join them in the lunchroom.
Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (Ages 5-10)
Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class. Your Name is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.
The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story by Aya Khalil,Anait Semirdzhyan (Ages 6-8)
Kanzi’s family has moved from Egypt to America, and on her first day in a new school, what she wants more than anything is to fit in. Maybe that’s why she forgets to take the kofta sandwich her mother has made for her lunch, but that backfires when Mama shows up at school with the sandwich. Mama wears a hijab and calls her daughter Habibti (dear one). When she leaves, the teasing starts.
The Year of the Book, Volume 1 by Andrea Cheng, Abigail Halpin (Ages 6-9)
In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated.
When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot–constant companionship and insight into her changing world.
Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.
My Name Is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada, K Dyble Thompson (Ages 7-10)
For Maria Isabel Salazer Lopez, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn’t call her by her real name. “We already have two Marias in this class, ” says her teacher. “Why don’t we call you Mary instead?”
But Maria Isabel has been named for her Papa’s mother and for Chabela, her beloved Puerto Rican grandmother. Can she find a way to make her teacher see that if she loses her name, she’s lost the most important part of herself?
Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes (Ages 8-12)
For twelve years, Joylin Johnson’s life has been just fine. A game of basketball with the boys-especially her friend Jake-was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirts, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then, everything suddenly seemed to change all at once. Her best girlfriend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. Jake is acting weird, and basketball isn’t the same. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from . . . where? What lengths will Joy go to–and who will she become–to attract his attention?
In short poems that perfectly capture the crazy feelings of adolescence and first crushes, award-winning author Nikki Grimes has crafted a delightful, often hilarious, heart-tugging story.
New Kid by Jerry Craft (Ages 8-12)
Seventh-grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.
As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds–and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?
This middle-grade graphic novel is an excellent choice for tween readers, including for summer reading.
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (Ages 10-12)
“Hope is the thing with feathers” starts the poem Frannie is reading in school. Frannie hasn’t thought much about hope. There are so many other things to think about. Each day, her friend Samantha seems a bit more “holy.” There is a new boy in class everyone is calling the Jesus Boy. And although the new boy looks like a white kid, he says he’s not white. Who is he?
During a winter full of surprises, good and bad, Frannie starts seeing a lot of things in a new light–her brother Sean’s deafness, her mother’s fear, the class bully’s anger, her best friend’s faith and her own desire for “the thing with feathers.”
Jacqueline Woodson once again takes readers on a journey into a young girl’s heart and reveals the pain and the joy of learning to look beneath the surface.
Shin-Chi’s Canoe by Nicola I.Campbell,Kim Lafave (Ages 4-7)
When they arrive at school, Shi-shi-etko reminds Shinchi, her six-year-old brother, that they can only use their English names and that they can’t speak to each other. For Shinchi, life becomes an endless cycle of church mass, school, and work, punctuated by skimpy meals. He finds solace at the river, clutching a tiny cedar canoe, a gift from his father, and dreaming of the day when the salmon return to the river a sign that it’s almost time to return home.
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, Nora Z. Jones (Ages 5-8)
All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need,” when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants.
Booked by Kwame Alexander (Ages 10-12)
Can’t nobody stop you
Can’t nobody cop you…
In this follow-up to Newbery-winner The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship take center stage. Twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, Kadir Nelson (12+)
Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider-Man.
But lately, Miles’s spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren’t meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad’s advice and focus on saving himself.
As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can’t shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher’s lectures on the historical benefits of slavery and the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk. It’s time for Miles to suit up.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds,Brendan Kiely (12+)
A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement? There were witnesses: Quinn Collins–a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan–and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team–half of whom are Rashad’s best friends–start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before. Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this four-starred reviewed tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken directly from today’s headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.
What Momma Left Me by Renée Watson (12+)
Serenity is good at keeping secrets, and she’s got a whole lifetime’s worth of them. Her mother is dead, her father is gone, and starting life over at her grandparents’ house is strange. Luckily, certain things seem to hold promise: a new friend who makes her feel connected, and a boy who makes her feel seen. But when her brother starts making poor choices, her friend is keeping her own dangerous secret, and her grandparents put all of their trust in a faith that Serenity isn’t sure she understands, it is the power of love that will repair her heart and keep her sure of just who she is.
The Dramatic Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith, Mari Lobo & Gloria Felix (Ages 6-8)
Azaleah’s big sister, Nia, has been cast as Willa Wonka in the school musical, and the entire Lane family is looking forward to the show. Azaleah has even helped plan a surprise dinner party for Nia at Avec Amour, Mama’s restaurant. But then the real drama starts. At the first rehearsal, all sorts of things go wrong: missing batteries, sets falling over, props misplaced . . .
It’s so many things, in fact, that Azaleah suspects “foul play.” And when the special effects on Nia’s costume don’t work at dress rehearsal, Nia is a nervous wreck. To top it all off, the high school journalism class is covering the performance for the school blog, and the director doesn’t have time to replace Nia’s costume. Nia has to wear it without the special effects. Azaleah becomes determined to make sure the musical isn’t ruined for Nia. Azaleah has to get to the bottom of the mysterious rehearsal troubles and finish party preparations before the curtain goes up.
Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business, Volume 1
by Lyla Lee, Dung Ho (Ages 6-9)
Mindy Kim just wants three things:
1. A puppy!
2. To fit in at her new school
3. For her dad to be happy again
But, getting all three of the things on her list is a lot trickier than she thought it would be. On her first day of school, Mindy’s school snack of dried seaweed isn’t exactly popular at the lunch table. Luckily, her new friend, Sally, makes the snacks seem totally delicious to Mindy’s new classmates, so they decide to start the Yummy Seaweed Business to try and raise money for that puppy!
When another student decides to try and sabotage their business, Mindy loses more than she bargained for–and wonders if she’ll ever fit in. Will Mindy be able to overcome her uncertainty and find the courage to be herself?
To Catch a Cheat: A Jackson Greene Novel: A Jackson Greene Novel by Varian Johnson (Ages 8-12)
Jackson Greene is riding high. He is officially retired from conning, so Principal Kelsey is (mostly) off his back. His friends have great new projects of their own. And as he’s been hanging out a lot with Gaby de la Cruz, he thinks maybe, just maybe, they’ll soon have their first kiss.
Then Jackson receives a link to a faked security video that seems to show him and the rest of Gang Greene flooding the school gym. The thugs behind the video threaten to pass it to the principal — unless Jackson steals an advance copy of the school’s toughest exam.
So Gang Greene reunites for their biggest job yet. To get the test and clear their names, they’ll have to outrun the school’s security cameras, outwit a nosy member of the Honor Board, and outmaneuver the blackmailers while setting a trap for them in turn. And as they execute another exciting caper full of twists and turns, they’ll prove that sometimes it takes a thief to catch a cheat.
The Great Greene Heist >by Varian Johnson (Ages 8-12)
Jackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has connections to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count.
So Jackson assembles a crack team: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.
The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson (Ages 8-12)
Eleven-year-old Ailey Benjamin Lane can dance–so he’s certain that he’ll land the role of the Scarecrow in his school’s production of The Wiz. Unfortunately, a talented classmate and a serious attack of nerves derail his audition: he just stands there, frozen. Deflated and defeated, Ailey confides in his Grampa that he’s ready to quit. But Grampa believes in Ailey, and, to encourage him, shares a childhood story. As a boy, Grampa dreamed of becoming a tap dancer; he was so good that the Hollywood star and unofficial Mayor of Harlem, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, even gave him a special pair of tap shoes. Curious, Ailey finds the shoes, tries them on, taps his toes, and makes a wish. In the blink of an eye, he finds himself somewhere that if most definitely no place like home!
Do Not Bring Your Dragon to Recess by Julie Gassman, Andy Elkerton (Ages 4-7)
Dragons are more than just fire and wings. They have outside interests like slides and swings. But can a dragon follow the rules and use proper playground manners at recess? With the help of her best friend she can. This is the third book in author Julie Gassman’s popular dragon series. Using a diverse cast, relatable situations, and rhyming text, the importance of recess etiquette has never been funnier
Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Last Day of School by Julie Gassman, Andy Elkerton (Ages 4-7)
Another year of learning is in the books, and it’s time to celebrate! Dragon loves parties and picnics and playgrounds and is ready to celebrate too. But is it smart to bring a dragon to the last day of school? Find out if Dragon gets to join in the fun in this hilarious picture book by Julie Gassman (Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library, Do Not Take Your Dragon to Dinner, Do Not Bring Your Dragon to Recess, and Do Not Take Your Dragon on a Field Trip). The interactive story is perfect for reading out loud at storytime!
Keena Ford and the Second-Grade Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson (Ages 6-8)
Keena Ford doesn’t mean to be a troublemaker, but sometimes things get out of hand. Lucky for her, it’s the beginning of the second grade and Keena’s got a clean slate. So when her new second-grade teacher, Ms. Campbell, mistakenly thinks it’s her birthday and brings in a huge chocolate cake, Keena realizes that she’s gotten herself into a sticky situation. She knows she has to tell the truth, but it’s not easy to turn down her very own birthday cake and a chance to wear a sparkly crown. How will Keena get out of this mess?
EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken! by Sally Warner, Jamie Harper (Ages 6-8)
EllRay Jakes is tired of being bullied by fellow classmate Jared Matthews. But when EllRay tries to defend himself, he winds up in trouble. Then his dad offers him a deal: If he stays out of trouble for one week, they’ll go to Disneyland! EllRay says he can do it. But saying it and doing it are two very different things.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look,Leuyen Pham (Ages 6-9)
Here’s the first book in the beloved and hilarious Alvin Ho chapter book series, which has been compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and is perfect for both beginning and reluctant readers.
Alvin, an Asian American second grader, is afraid of everything–elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’s there, he never, ever, says a word. But at home he’s a very loud superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother to Calvin and Anibelly, and a gentleman-in-training, so he can be just like his dad.
Miami Jackson Sees It Through >by Fredrick McKissack, Patricia McKissack, Michael Chesworth (Ages 6-9)
Miami’s class has a brand-new teacher, no-nonsense Miss Amerita Spraggins. She’s a real tough lady. She insists on assigned seats. She hands out detentions like coupons. She even refuses to call kids by their nicknames. Miami can’t take a whole year with crazy Miss Spraggins. He has to get out of her class!
You can find these books and many more in our “School-Themed Picture & Chapter Books” collection on our Bookshop store. Bookshop’s mission is to financially support local, independent book stores. We do receive a small percentage of the sales from books purchased through our links. Support us and support independent book stores with your purchase.
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