Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Randomly Reading Roundup: Back to School

Even though the kids have been back to school for a while, it's not too late for some back to school reading. Here are some of my favorites that we have enjoyed both before and after school began. The kids like reading them, but more importantly they helped some of the kids open up about their own fears and concerns at the start of the new school year.

A New School Year: Poem Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mike Song
Charlesbridge, 2017, 48 pages, age 5+
It’s the start of a new school year and in 24 free verse poems, young readers are privy to the innermost thoughts and concerns of six students from Kindergarten to Fifth Grade.  Told in four parts, it covers the night the first day, the morning of the first day, at and after school the first day. Kindergartener Ethan puts his bear’s fuzzy jacket in his pants pocket so he can touch it when he’s feeling scared; 1st grader Zach worries about making mistakes,Katie learns her 2nd grade teacher has been changed to someone she doesn’t know, a Mr. instead of a Miss or Mrs., third grader Jackie hopes her teacher won’t mind having her in the classroom an hour before school starts, Carolos worries that there won’t be anyone in Fourth Grade who looks like him, and Mia worries about homework, and whether she will have the right school supplies for Fifth Grade. How does each student’s first day work out? Derby has really summed up some of the most realistic concerns kids have about school, making this a great book for helping kids manage their own first day worries, regardless of their age. Song’s gentle, softly colored illustrations stay focused on the kids, who are a nicely diverse group of students.

The Teacher's Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora
Disney Hyperion, 2017, 40 pages, age 4+
Mr. Stricter, who is anything but, and his young students are watching the growth of tadpoles as their science project. When the tadpoles are grown enough, they release them into a nearby pond, except for one named Bruno. Bruno grows and grows into a large hippo, who eats homework, farts, and continually disrupts the class. But Mr. Stricter just doesn’t see what a problem the class pet has become. It’s up to the children to solve the problem of Bruno, and convince their teacher he needs to be freed. Rissi turns the tables in this humous tale illustrating the pluses and minuses of having a class pet and young readers will definitely get the age-appropriate irony she uses. Classroom pets can be fun, but also distracting and kids may recognize some of their own behavior in their teacher. A fun story with a nice old fashioned feel to the bright acrylic and pencil illustrations. 

Sarabella's Thinking Cap written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
Dial Books, 2017, 32 pages, age 5+
Sarabella is a talented artist who has a lot of trouble focusing on her school work and getting it done on time. Consequently, she brings home a lot of notes about daydreaming instead of paying attention. But no matter how hard she tries, Sarabella’s keep turning away from school and into her own daydreams. Finally, her teacher Mr. Fantozzi gives his class a weekend a project ideal for Sarabella, called “A Penny for Your Thoughts.” And Sarabella knows just what she needs to do for this project. This is an important story to share with a class, or even at home. Kids have difficulty focusing on school for all kinds of reasons and wisely, Schachner doesn’t’ not give Sarabella a specific diagnose. But she doesn’t excuse behavior like Sarabella’s either. Instead, she presents a way that should lead to understanding. After reading this book, I immediately began to daydream about what my thinking cap would have looked like when I was Sarabella’s age. And I wish I had had this book to read to my former students who also struggled with focus problems. Schachner’s gouache, acrylics, college and mixed media illustrations will take your breath away.

This story also really struck a personal note for me. I was an undiagnosed dyslexic who struggled with school, brought home lots of notes similar to Sarabella’s, and often lapsed into daydreaming. It wasn’t until an 8th grade teacher actually “saw” me that things changed. 

Twindergarten by Nikki Ehrlich, illustrated by Zoey Abbott Wagner
HarperCollins, 2017, 32 pages, age 4+
Twins Dax and Zoe go together like peanut butter and jelly, but now they are getting ready to start Kindergarten and feeling a little jittery: the twins had wanted to be together, but ended up in separate classes. Mom thinks that perhaps it will be a good opportunity for them to make separate friends, but the twins aren’t so sure they want to do that. The night before the first day of school, Dax pushes his bed closer to Zoe, but the next day, it is Dax who makes the first friend,a boy named Max. And even though she has met a girl named Sydney, Zoe misses him that much more. At recess, they have a chance to be together again, just like peanut butter and jelly. When recess is over, Dax slips something into Zoe’s pocket that turns out to be just the thing she needs to be able to make her own friends and have fun in Kindergarten. While Twindergarten is about twins, it is a good book to share with any child who is feeling a see-saw of emotions about starting Kindergarten - excited but nervous, confident but jittery. Abbott’s whimsical color pencil illustrations have the feel of a child’s drawing, making the story all that much more relatable for kids. This is an excellent choice for kids who need just a little more reassurance that starting school doesn’t change everything.

How To Get Your Teacher Ready by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish
Alfred A. Knopf, 2017, 32 pages, age 4+
Kids know all about how they get ready for school and all the special events of the school year, but what about their teacher? Written in the same vein as her earlier books, a classroom full of students offer advice to a teacher to help her cope with any jitters she might be experiencing about starting school. From a big first day “Good Morning,” students answer anxious questions such as why she doesn’t have a cubby and where the bathroom is. Advice for Picture Day (no messy snacks), the Holiday Concert (how to spot her family in the audience) and Field Day (make sure her whistle works), and a variety of other mishaps and events are covered. Reagan also turns the tables in this whimsical look at the school year, but this is a clever way to deal with a child’s fears about school and what to expect, by putting the teacher in the child’s place. Wildest colorful illustrations are humorous and really catch the feeling of a year in Kindergarten. 

Kisses for Kindergarten by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan
Silver Dolphin Books, 2017, 40 pages, age 4+
It’s time to start school, but Stella Isabella Harden isn’t quite ready for Kindergarten, explaining to her parents that her puppy Buster told her she didn’t have to go. So Stella decides to reimagine Kindergarten with Buster. Reimagined school begins with playtime in the park, which is fun, as is the snack time picnic she and Buster share. Nap time begins with building a pillow fort for napping and ends with a pillow fight. But then comes story time and Buster really wanted a story. Too bad Stella Isabella can’t read to him. And so Buster places his paw on the book, and lets Stella Isabella know she needs to go to real school. And Buster - well, Buster waits patiently every day for Stella Isabella to come home from school to tell him a story. Written in a rhyme that sometimes doesn’t really work, this is, nevertheless, a book for kids who think they don’t need to go to school, and who, like Stella Isabella, discover that they really do need to and want to go. And while the rhyme might not always work, Pamintuan’s boldly colorful illustrations do. She has really captured the playful energy and love between Stella Isabella and her pup, Buster. A nice book for reluctant school-goers.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for including my book, HOW TO GET YOUR TEACHER READY, in your round-up! Your post put a smile on my face. :-)


Imagination Designs