Back to School Picture Books

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  

As we head back to school we often focus on those going for the very first time. Pre-schools are pretty ubiquitous these days but kindergarten is still a big step; often the first time that kids are gone every day, sometimes for a full day including lunch and naps. It seemed appropriate to start our lists out with a book focusing on this important milestone.

Planet Kindergarten book review

A nameless explorer is preparing for his biggest mission yet, a journey to Planet Kindergarten. His parents help him gather supplies, get a check-up and assure him he is ready so off he goes!  His new commander (teacher) and crew (fellow students) have to work together to meet the objectives of the flight plan (daily schedule) and test all the equipment before lunch, naps, and the end of the mission.

Failure is not an option, so with a positive attitude and a little hard work he finds a way to succeed and even continues training to return again the next day.

A mixture of fantasy and reality play out in this fun tale that kids will enjoy with bright, busy graphic illustrations to capture every reader’s imagination.

 

Planet Kindergarten

Written by: Sue Ganz-Schmitt

Illustrated by Shane Prigmore

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Kids, 2014

Age Range: 3-7

Rating: 4/5

And if you enjoy this one, there’s a second in the series, Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit, as well.

Schools First Day of School book review

I don’t know that anyone else has ever written a first day of school story from the point of view of the school (though a few of my favorites feature teachers and faculty that are reluctant to start a new year.) This one is a subtle delight and pulls off the feat quite nicely.

A new building built over the summer is cared for by a kindly Janitor who does his best to explain to the school just what a school actually is. The school is a bit nervous to be filled with children and when the first day arrives there are children everywhere.  It’s more than the school knows quite how to handle though it enjoys watching the kids explore the playground and learn. It’s disheartened to overhear a couple of kids complain that they hate school and its nerves set off the fire alarm by mistake. But for the most part the day passes uneventfully and when the janitor returns that afternoon the school decides it would probably be okay if the janitor invited everyone back again tomorrow.

Children’s own fears about starting a new school or going for the first time are lovingly portrayed by the anthropomorphized school. And the childlike illustrations show the basic ins and outs of a school day from a few perspectives. Kids will appreciate and relate to both.

 

School’s First Day of School

Written by: Adam Rex

Illustrated by: Christian Robinson

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, 2016

Age Range: 3-7

Rating: 4/5

This is My Home This is My School book review

Another subject that doesn’t get quite as much play as it probably should is homeschooling. What if your home and school are the same place? Jonathan Bean tackles that very topic in his great little autobiographical (ish) picture book.

A typically busy day of homeschooling is slightly frenetically illustrated from sun up to sun down. The boy narrator explains how his mom is his teacher (dad plays a role too, teaching shop and acting as phys ed coach), and all the rooms (and his yard) are classrooms. They go on field trips, visit the library, eat in the cafeteria, have show and tell, and do homework just like everyone at a school would.

The best part is an author’s note follow-up that tells the reader about his experiences being homeschooled and includes pictures of his family’s school in action. For those of you who homeschool it’s a wonderful resource for making connections to someone else’s school experience.

 

This is My Home. This Is My School

Written and Illustrated by:  Jonathan Bean

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher:Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 4/5

 

Who have you got headed back to school this year? How are you helping them prepare for the big day?

Back to School Giveaway!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.    

I’m so excited to be hosting my first giveaway over on Instagram this week.  All week on the blog I’ll be featuring some back to school favorites for all ages in order to help everyone gear up for the big day. Today’s spotlight books are 2 fun dino-themed tales that I’ll be sending off to one lucky winner. Have you entered yet?!

Page and Print Back to School Giveaway

 

First up is an absolutely adorable dino by the name of Penelope. She’s a little nervous to start school but mom and dad are there to help getting her a new backpack and making her lunch. The problem is all of her classmates are human! So Penelope does what any dinosaur would do. She eats them! A scolding from her teacher gets things (mostly) back on track but now everyone is very wary of her and it’s clear she’s not making many new friends.  Dad gives her some guidance and she heads back into day two determined to try harder. But it looks like things will stay very much the same until Walter the class goldfish gets involved.

I won’t spoil the twist except to tell you that Penelope figures things out and makes friends with her classmates. It’s a perfect vehicle for discussing any fears that may arise (no matter how silly) about going to school and has a way of making the reader sympathetic to both sides of the dilemma. Higgins’ humor and heart are both spot on (if you’ve read any of his Mother Bruce books you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t you need to remedy that ASAP) and even older readers will appreciate the subtle irreverence of it all.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

Written and Illustrated by: Ryan T. Higgins

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Disney/Hyperion, 2018

Age Range: 3-8

Rating: 4.5/5

 

The second book in our giveaway doesn’t actually have anything to do with back to school but pairs perfectly with Penelope’s story.

In a similar vein as Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and the many other active reader books that have followed, this story invites the reader to step into the story and participate in a very real way. We come across an angry dinosaur who threatens to chomp anyone who turns the pages. Of course, we don’t fall for his threats and continue to read until he confesses that he’s keeping all of his cakes and goodies at the end of the story and doesn’t want to share. But his bark is worse than his bite…or is it? 🙂

Continue the conversation you began with the first book and lead into manners and sharing and what it means to be a friend. And have a giggle or two while you’re at it!

 

I Will Chomp You!

Written by: Jory John

Illustrated by: Bob Shea

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Random House, 2015

Age Range: 3-6

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Check back in every day this week for more recommendations and don’t forget to visit my Instagram page for all the details on how to enter to win copies of these two great books for yourself!

Happy National Book Lover’s Day!

National Book Lovers Day

In my world, every day is book lover’s day, but I guess the rest of humanity might need a special reminder. 😉 So, if you weren’t aware of the holiday I’m giving you a little head’s up to find at least a few minutes to celebrate in some way today. Drop into a library or bookstore, share a story with a little, read a favorite poem or just reminisce about the favorite titles and covers on your own bookshelves if you don’t have time for some serious reading. But do tell, how are you going to celebrate today?

Books and reading have always been a part of my life. During some phases I have more time to devote to them than at others but not a day goes by that I don’t do some kind of reading whether it’s a verse of scripture, an online article, or the back of the cereal box. I find that you make time for the things that matter (though not always for the things that are important, those aren’t always the same but they probably should be.) And I can always find time for at least a little bit of light reading but I know it’s not always easy, especially when you start adding jobs, kids and other responsibilities to the mix. Over the years I’ve found a few things help to make it easier to carve out some time with books.

  • Take advantage of audio books. I listen on my drive to/from work, when I’m waiting in lines, or doing chores like laundry or dishes that don’t take much mind power. (Visit my Instagram page to see my current listening experience!)

 

  • Always keep a book with you. Channel your inner Rory Gilmore and take a book everywhere you go (this is much easier now that we can load books on our phones, tablets etc and don’t actually have to make room in an already heavy purse for the latest 400 page thriller.)

 

  • Keep books in the main rooms of your home. This one is especially great if you’ve got kids. They’ll be more likely to pick them up and you can spend a few minutes of down time (or use them as a calming down tool) if they’re close at hand. A basket of books by the couch, the bed, even in the bathroom (pick some of the ones made from plastic coated pages or ones you won’t be devastated if they fall in the tub if you’re doing this with kids 😊) can increase time spent reading on a daily basis.

 

  • Turn off the TV! This one is hard for me. It’s so easy to use this as a decompression tool, watching until late into the night (oh Netflix, you’ll be the death of me one of these days!) But especially at night, turn the TV off (and the phone and all other electronic distractions) an hour earlier than you normally do and keep a book by your bedside. There are all sorts of studies showing how the lights from our electronics can mess with our circadian rhythms and disrupt our sleep patterns so this one has a double benefit…unless you find yourself caught in the ‘just one more chapter’ trap!

What are your favorite ways to squeeze reading into your day?  And what are you currently reading that you can’t wait to get back to? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Happy Reading!

Music for the Weekend ~ Nat King Cole

I tend to go through waves in my music listening.  Sometimes I just put the ipod (yes, I still use my ipod!) on random and see what happens but often I’ll get in genre moods and inundate my ears with everything I have stuck in a particular grouping (my definitions and qualifications are fuzzy at best and no musicologist would be able to find much of a scientific basis for what counts as what in my world…but hey, it’s my world!) Lately I’ve been on a ‘jazzy’ kick. This means anything from Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble and even some Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson. Today’s artist of choice though is a pure classic and this song just seems to sum up how I feel right now.

What are you listening to? And what have you got on tap for the weekend? I hope the music and the plans are both fabulous!  Happy Friday 🙂

YA Book Review ~ Ready Player One

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.                                

I married my husband under false pretenses. In his online dating profile, he mentioned that the last book he’d read was The Hunger Games. Naturally I assumed that meant he’d read others as well…but no. He’d only read that one to see what his teenage daughter was into and that’s pretty much the only book he’d read outside of a classroom during his whole adulthood. I’ve been doing my darndest to change that ever since.

On our honeymoon we bought a copy of The Martian after seeing the movie and started reading it out loud to each other each night. He loved it (as did I.) It was the perfect vehicle for proving to him that books aren’t boring. We’ve read about 20 books together since then. Some hits, some misses, some fiction, some non, some of his choosing, some of mine. One of our latest successes was Ready Player One.

Cline’s writing reaches out and grabs you from the very first page. His dystopian world is all too believable and since the hubs is a huge video game fan and was a teen in the 80s all the nerdy references were just icing on the cake.

In the year 2044 the world is a dark and overpopulated place. Most people seem to spend the majority of their waking moments inside the OASIS, a virtual reality video game world created by James Halliday. When Halliday dies he leaves clues to a treasure hunt hidden within the OASIS. The solver of the riddles will become controller of Halliday’s company and vast fortune.

Wade Watts lives in a trailer in the stacks (the definite wrong side of the tracks) and has been obsessed with Halliday for as long as he can remember. When he becomes the first person to find the first clue the virtual becomes very, very real. Now he’s up against some of the most obsessed, powerful and dangerous people in both worlds and he enlists the help of some unlikely allies to figure everything out.

There’s intrigue, adventure, romance, humor, and 80s throwbacks galore. Anyone who lived through the 80s (or knows anyone who lived through the 80s) will appreciate the references to Monty Python, PacMan, Star Trek (all iterations), WarGames, Dungeons and Dragons, Ray Bans, Indiana Jones, John Hughes, HR Pufnstuf, and Rubik’s Cubes just to name a few. Even if you have no idea what any of those things are you’ll still get caught up in the story and cheer for the underdogs right up to the very last page.

Steven Spielberg turned this into a movie that was released this past spring, and last week it was released on Blu-ray. We literally finished the book in the parking lot of the movie theater 20 minutes before watching the show and that may have ruined the experience for us. We both came away highly disappointed that it didn’t stick more closely to the book. It was entertaining but it lost so much with the changes they made (surprising since Cline was involved with the screenplay and producing.) We want to give it another shot now that there’s a little bit of space between the book and the viewing. But I’m curious…have any of you both read the book and seen the movie? What did you think? Should we give it another go?

Regardless, if you’ve got a video game addicted teen (or husband :)) you might want to give this one a look. And let me know if you’ve read anything similar I could pass on to the hubs to try.

(P.S. We’re always looking for suggestions of books to read together so please be sure to send some our way!)

 

Ready Player One book review

Ready Player One

Written by: Ernest Cline

Number of Pages: 375

Publisher: Broadway Books, 2011

Age Range: 13+

Rating: 5/5