Thursday, September 1, 2016

School Stories (with Surprises)

It's that time of year again! My boys are having an exciting first week back at school. We prepared for  a new year in the usual ways: school supply shopping, a new outfit, and a visit to the classroom to meet the teacher. But as any picture book loving parent knows, no event preparation or holiday celebration is complete without books on the subject. The ones I am sharing here struck a chord with my boys and I. They got us laughing, thinking, and imagining. Our brains are fired up and ready for a great year!


ALLY-SAURUS & THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
by Richard Torrey
Sterling Children's Books
2015

Ally loves dinosaurs. In fact, she is a dinosaur! At least in her imagination (shown in crayon, drawn by a child-like hand). But when Ally goes to school, she learns that not everyone is a dinosaur. And that's okay. This is one of the best back-to-school books I've seen that playfully depicts what it is like for a child to navigate the first day of school. (P.S. Walter is one of my favorite minor characters of all time!)

THE INVISIBLE BOY
by Trudy Ludwig
illustrated by Patrice Barton
Alfred A. Knopf
2013

There are all kinds of children in a class. Some are sporty, others are loud. Some are social, others are needy. But what about the one who is invisible? On the first page, we learn that "Even Mrs. Carlotti has trouble noticing (Brian) in her classroom." This picture book adeptly focuses a lens on the child who is left out and alone. And what a difference small kindnesses and acknowledgements make. If I were still teaching, I would definitely use this book as a read-aloud during the first week of school. Kids need opportunities to observe difficult situations and discuss the positive actions they can take. There are even questions in the back of the book for this purpose.

THE WHISPER
by Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2015

First, I would like to point out how gorgeous the illustrations are in this book. Each one is vibrant and magical, inviting the reader to imagine the story along with the girl. With the feel of a folktale, the girl is given a magical book by her teacher. She is disappointed when there are only pictures, but a whisper encourages her to write the words herself. In this enchanting story, the voracious reader becomes a writer, discovering that everyone has a story within.

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