Sunday, September 2, 2018

Four More Favorite Back to School Picture Books

Kids in New York begin school after Labor Day and go until the end of June, so it's still back to school time for us, even though most of the country has been back for a while. Lately, we've been reading lots of back to school books (see my earlier post HERE) and would like to share a few more that have become favorites.

It's Your First Day of School, Busy Bus by Jody Jensen Shaffer, 
illustrated by Claire Messer
Beach Lane Books, 2018, 32 pages

It's the first day of school for Busy Bus, but before he can leave the bus barn, Ben the bus driver must make sure everything is in tip-top shape before they pick up the school children. There are so many things to check, but Ben does each one step by step. Ben inspects Busy Bus's tires, fills him with gas, adjusts his mirrors, check his lights and his all important STOP arm, plus all the buttons and gauges on the dashboard.  Busy Bus is set to go, but now he's feeling jittery - what if the kids don't like him? What if he gets homesick? Shaffer has managed to address a first day of school anxiety that many children have through Busy Bus - that of leaving home, getting on the school bus and going to school.  This turned out to be a real favorite with my young readers, and even though most of my kids don't take a school bus, but this did get them taking about their first day of school. Ben's safety check  reassured my kids, who are familiar with car dashboards, and it didn't take long for them know all the parts of the bus. The thing they were most curious about? The STOP arm. The lino print, ink, and digitally colored illustrations are big, bold, and brightly colored, with lots of white space around them. Busy Bus is certainly a hit.

Best Frints at Skrool written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis
Roaring Brook Press, 2018, 40 pages

Here is another school story that addresses common school fears through an alternative means - here it is through alien children from the planet BoBorp. And my kids love it (or maybe they love hearing me trying to read it without stumbling over the words). Skrool isn't terribly different on BoBorp than it is on Earth. Kids learn to sit quietly when their skreecher speaks, to keep their tentacles to themselves, to read and count, and make new frints at recess. Frints play and share their lunch with each other including new best frints Yelfred and Q-B, but no one is very frintly with lonely Omek. When Omek tries to share with Yelfred and Q-B, the result is a food fight, and before they know it, the yunch ladies have them in a time out. But Omek, Yelfred and Q-B are still hungry. Yelfred invites them to his house after skrool for some spewd and before long there are three best frints. This is a silly story about inclusion and navigating school friendships and kids will certainly be able relate to both Omek and besties Yelfred and Q-B, but will also see how easy it is to have more than one best friend. Check out the endpapers for a BoBorp glossary, how to count and how to play eye ball on Boborp. If you're lucky, your kids will soon become fluent in BoBorp just as mine did.

The Truth About My Unbelievable School... by Davide Calli, 
illustrated by Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books, 2018, 44 pages

If you think the school on BoBorp is strange, wait until you read this book. Henry, clad in a black suit and red tie, is asked by his teacher to give his new classmate a tour of the school. First stop is the class pet, an enormous jelly fish, Henry must climb a ladder to feed. Next is the music room, the art room, the math corner where no one understands the equations, followed by science and recess. Throughout the tour, the young girl seems completely unfazed by everything she sees, no matter how strange it is, and it is strange. The swimming teacher looks like an amphibian, the science class is building project that looks like something a mad-scientist would invent, and the Principal's office is underground, arrived at by boat. So why is the young girl so completely unperturbed, almost bored with everything she see? The explanation comes at the end, and my kids really cracked up. This book is a little different, and it didn't appeal to all the kids I read it to, but the ones who got it (and they were the older kids in the group), really liked it. The illustrations are interesting, and somewhat Gothic, but nothing should scare most young readers, but will tickle the funny bone of some. There are literary nods throughout to other books, although most kids won't get them. This is indeed a fun frolic through a different kind of back to school book.

Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus, pictures by Jose Aruego
Windmill Books, 1971, 32 pages

This isn't really a back to school book per se but I like to read it every year for my benefit and that of my young readers. It is a nice reminder that not all kids learn the same way at the same pace and sometimes the adults in their lives need to practice patience. All the other animals are learning to read to write, to draw, and to speak, but not Leo, a young tiger cub. When his dad begins to be concerned, Leo's mom tells him to be patient, Leo's is just a late bloomer, and to stop watching for him to bloom. Time goes by, winter becomes spring and Leo still hasn't bloomed. Then one day, in his own good time, Leo blooms, and he can do everything his friends can do - read, write, draw, eat, and speak in whole sentences.  I think the brightly colored illustrations really capture Leo's sense of frustration and confusion about why he isn't doing what the others animals can do. It's a look I've seen on the face of some young learners often enough. When this came out in 1971, Leo the Late Bloomer wasn't well received, but since then, we've thankfully come a long way in recognizing learning differences in children. I read this to remember that and to give any lagging kids encouragement. 

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