50 Books for Back-to-School

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In addition to all the books I’ve already shared this week, I’m excited to share with you  50 more of my favorite back-to-school reads for all ages. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some of the standouts over the last few years.  Some are dealing directly with first days of school (whether it be in a pre-school or kindergarten setting for the very first time or a new school or grade for older students) while some are focusing on the ins and outs of a classroom setting, friendships and social skills, and the unique dynamics of social hierarchies withing a school. And all are simply great books! 🙂

50 Back to School Books

Kindergarten Specific

Countdown to Kindergarten

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

Kindergarten Rocks

On the First Day of Kindergarten

Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten

Kindergarten Diary

Jake Starts School

First Day Jitters

The Kissing Hand

Wemberly Worried

Llama Llama Misses Mama

 

Picture Books

I Walk With Vanessa

Sumi’s First Day of School Ever

My Teacher is a Monster

The Name Jar

My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil

The Art Lesson

Thank You, Mr. Falker

Rain School

The Teacher From the Black Lagoon

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan

This Is the Way We Go To School

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Miss Nelson is Missing

The Invisible Boy

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To School

 

Chapter Books/Middle Grade

Lola Levine is Not Mean

Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters

Frindle

Gooney Bird Greene

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

The One and Only Stuey Lewis

Wonder

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things

Stuart Goes to School

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

Real Friends

Wolf Hollow

 

Young Adult

The Hate U Give

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

Stargirl

Homeroom Diaries

Anna and the French Kiss

Drama

Speak

Extraordinary Means

Words on Bathroom Walls

Challenger Deep

The Fall

 

Have I missed any of your go-to’s? Be sure to share them in the comments below! Happy Reading!

 

Middle Grade Book Review ~ Zinnia and the Bees

Summer is just around the corner which means summer reading can begin! And because you can never have too many middle grade books to read here’s a great one to get everyone started.

Zinnia Flossdrop is not having a good summer.  It all started when she was sent to detention on the last day of school for yarn bombing the school mascot with her older brother and then coming home to find that said older brother had up and left. Now her mother, Dr. Flossdrop (a dentist) has adopted a mangy dog as her latest project, refuses to discuss Adam’s disappearance, and insists Zinnia do something to make herself useful.  But she can’t. The other complication in her life is in the form of bees, a whole hive of them that have taken up residence on Zinnia’s head and it’s all she can think of. (Can you blame her?!)

Enter Birch, the nephew of Zinnia’s next-door neighbor who has come to stay for the summer and considers himself something of a naturalist. But Zinnia doesn’t want to admit she needs his help, or even speak to him at all, convinced he will betray her just like everyone else has.

Told from both Zinnia’s and the bees points of view, you get a bit of a science lesson regarding the inner workings of a hive as well as the inner workings of Zinnia’s mind. A tad unrealistic, obviously, but also a sweet little story of friendship, trusting others (and yourself) and a reminder that just like the bees we all have a part to play in making this world a bit sweeter.

Zinnia and the Bees book review

Zinnia and the Bees

Written by: Danielle Davis

Number of Pages: 232

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers, 2017

Age Range: 7-12

Rating: 3/5

What’s on your summer reading list?

Middle Grade Book Review ~ Just Sayin’

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 love me a good epistolary novel. (For anyone unfamiliar with that term, it’s a book written in the form of letters, diary entries or the modern-day version generally uses emails or even text messages.) I fell in love with the form back in 3rd or 4th grade when I spent my hard-earned money at the school book fair on a copy of Dear Mr. Henshaw (which is a little tattered but still graces my bookshelves today!)

Today’s middle grade book is a rare modern setting that actually relies on letters (our poor narrator constantly bugs her mom for a cell phone to text, can’t get on her grandma’s computer to email like she’d prefer and absolutely hates to talk on the phone.) It sounds a little contrived but it works.

Cassie is living with her grandmother while her mother goes off to ‘find herself’ and recover from a broken engagement. Meanwhile, Nick and Julie are forced to move from their home to a retirement community with their grandfather while helping their father heal. The kids spend the summer writing each other letters trying to piece together what happened between their parents to ruin the family they’d all hoped to have.

Cassie and Nick are the main writers but Julie, their parents, grandma, the local preacher and even a game show host each have a chance to have their say.  There’s a bit of Parent Trap-esque scheming involved but I really appreciated that the adults weren’t absent, just distracted. The realistic portrayals of each character’s growth and progression throughout the book was another point in its favor. It’s a great introduction to the genre and a fun, feel-good tale for middle grade readers.

Just Sayin' Book Review

 

Just Sayin’

Written by: Dandi Daley Mackall

Number of Pages: 190

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 3.5/5

 

For fans of the genre, or those looking to explore more epistolary novels these are a few of my favorites:

Picture Books

The Quiet Place

Dear Mr. Blueberry

The Jolly Postman

Meerkat Mail

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Middle Grade

Dear Max

When Audrey Met Alice

Trial by Journal

Diary of A Wimpy Kid

Young Adult

Life as We Knew It

Monster

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

Book of A Thousand Days

Code Name Verity

Adult

Dear Mr. Knightley

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

84, Charing Cross Road

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Middle Grade Book Review ~ The Nameless City

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When I was growing up there were very few, if any, graphic novels available for younger readers (or at least very few mainstream ones, I don’t think I ever encountered one on all of my trips to the library.) I remember when I was a teenager my younger brother getting into comics and manga and my mother freaking out because most of them featured very scantily clad women and lots of violence. Thankfully that has changed a lot in recent years. There are now tons of graphic novels and comic style books for all age ranges featuring gorgeous artwork, complex and funny stories. Basically anything you could want in a “regular” book.

I’ve never been able to get into the manga style animation so you probably won’t ever see one of those featured here on the blog (sorry!) But I’ve come to really appreciate the beauty and genius of a graphic novel. This one I read recently made me feel as if it were a historical fiction (I kept looking for an author’s note with additional information on the time period and such.) The author was definitely influenced by ancient China but has created an original tale with engaging characters. I can’t wait to read more!

Nameless City Book Review

The Nameless City

Written and Illustrated by: Faith Erin Hicks

Number of Pages: 240

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 3.5/5

The Nameless City changes names each time a new conqueror takes control. The occupants of the city choose to keep their heads down and stay out of trouble as much as possible and call themselves Nameless rather than acknowledging the latest power, which never seems to last very long. Kaidu is from the Dao clan, the current occupiers of the city and Rat is a cynical, street smart native. The two meet and become reluctant friends, learning to respect each other’s ways and helping to change the fate of the nation.

There’s intrigue, perseverance, battles and bullying, friendship–pretty much anything a tween boy could ask for (or girl for that matter!) When I worked at the library I loved handing graphic novels to reluctant readers. They’re perfect with their minimal text and lots of pictures but that doesn’t make them any less valuable as books. There’s still a lot going on. Plus they’re just plain fun!

If you’re already an aficionado I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments. I definitely haven’t read them all! And if you’ve never read a graphic novel, I’ll challenge you to pick one up in the next couple of weeks. Give it a read and let me know what you think!

Happy Reading!

Picture Book Review ~ Yellow Favorites Part 3

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I have a few last lovely yellow covers to share today. One is a newer release while the other two are older favorites (one reaching as far back as my own childhood…yep, that old!)

Windows Book Review

Windows

Written by: Julia Denos

Illustrated by: E.B. Goodale

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 5/5

A boy and his dog take an evening walk through their neighborhood at dusk observing all the goings on. As the sky darkens the lights come on in the windows of shops, houses, and apartment buildings giving us (and the boy) a glimpse of what is happening inside. The details in the highlighted windows encourage discovery and re-reading while the neighborhood has both urban and suburban appeal. It’s a beautifully executed reminder to slow down and look around you, to appreciate the small moments and remember that those around us are more like us than they are different.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate Book Review

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Written by: Jacqueline Kelley

Number of Pages: 344 

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 5/5

We’re going back a few years to 2010 for this Newbery honor favorite. Eleven-year-old Calpurnia is facing the turn of the century and all that the new modern future will bring. Unfortunately she is expected to become a traditional Texas lady learning handiwork, cooking and all that goes with it. But she’d much rather spend time with her cantankerous grandfather studying bugs, digging in the mud and learning about Darwin and his groundbreaking (and controversial) theory of evolution. Callie, her family, and the whole community experience some unexpected events and go through some growing pains before they come to an understanding about what the future means for them all.

Callie is spunky and endearing and while this volume doesn’t solidify everything for Callie, there is a second installment that continues her story. I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in both of them.

Hooper Humperdink Book ReviewHooper Humperdink….Not Him!

Written by: Theo LeSieg

Illustrated by: Charles E. Martin (It’s been reissued with new illustrations by Scott Nash (of Flat Stanley fame) as you’ll see if you click on the link above.)

Number of Pages: 48

Age Range: 5-9

Rating: 3/5

We’re going back even farther, all the way to 1976 for this early reader. Dr. Seuss wrote various volumes under another nom de plume which haven’t quite gained the same notoriety but there are a few gems among them. (This isn’t necessarily one of them, though it is a nostalgic favorite!) 🙂

The main character is having a party and inviting everyone but Hooper Humperdink. He lists everyone from A to Z (literally) and details all the fun things that will be happening. The reader can see the look of disappointment on Hooper’s face throughout the telling and when the narrator has a change of heart at the end we’re rewarded with an eager smile from both Hooper and his faithful pup. It’s a great discussion prompt for including others or feeling left out.

Well, I hope you’ve all managed to stay warm wherever you may be. And if I’ve missed any of your favorite yellow covered volumes (which I’m sure I have, there must be millions out there!) please share them in the comments below.  Happy reading!

Middle Grade Book Review ~ The Wonderling

The Wonderling Book Review

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. 

The Wonderling

Written by: Mira Bartok

Number of Pages: 450

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

This was such an unexpected delight! I went into it with zero expectations and was thoroughly entranced. Bartok has created a magical world reminiscent of a slightly steampunk Victorian society filled with villains and mysteries and peopled with all sorts of creatures from humans to regular animals to groundlings. Our main character, 13 (later known as Arthur and then the Wonderling) is a groundling, a hybrid creature part human and part animal (Arthur is part human and part fox.) He’s also an orphan living in The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, run by the evil Miss Carbuncle.

The orphans there are governed by fierce rules (no talking, no singing) and forced to work in the factory on the orphanage grounds. Life is pretty dreary until he makes friends with Trinket, a bird who has seen the outside world and begins to show Arthur how powerful hope can be. The two unknowingly start a resistance movement and embark on an adventure to find Arthur’s home outside the walls and tumble into Miss Carbuncle’s nefarious plans to abolish music forever.

I was constantly reminded of The Secret of Nimh (which I haven’t read in forever so that could be a completely unfounded comparison) and The Tale of Despereaux as I read, and there are many references to King Arthur. There’s definitely grand adventure and loads of heart in this fantastically satisfying tale. This is Bartok’s first book for young readers and I’m hoping it won’t be her last!

Middle Grade Book Review ~ Saving Marty

Saving Marty Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

Saving Marty

Written by: Paul Griffin

Number of Pages: 195

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 5/5

There are books that grab you by the lapels and shake you until your soul falls back into place, particularly when you didn’t know your soul was out of place to begin with. I admit, it may have just been my mood that day but this book, my goodness!

Marty was the runt of the litter. And just like another literary runt, he’s more than just a pig. Marty doesn’t befriend a spider, but he does think he’s a dog and consequently gets his owner Lorenzo into a bit of trouble, and also out of some trouble as well.

Eleven-year-old Lorenzo wants nothing more than to be a hero like his father who died in the war. His best friend Paloma is the only thing that makes life bearable until Marty comes into his life. The three are inseparable and spend their time singing songs Paloma has written (Renzo accompanying her on his father’s guitar), trying to avoid the town bullies who have it out for Marty, and hanging out with Renzo’s grandpa.

But then Paloma wins a songwriting contest and a scholarship to an arts school in another town. Marty causes a dangerous accident and is doomed to be sent away as well. And then Renzo learns a truth about his father he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to process.

This book had all the feels and then some. Renzo is the best kind of underdog, perfectly lovable and heart-breakingly sweet. The story is timeless. The text is punctuated with hand-written copies of Paloma’s songs and letters to and from Renzo’s dad. If you like stories filled with honesty and hope, put this on your to read list!

 

Middle Grade Book Review ~ The Stars Beneath Our Feet

 

The Stars Beneath Our Feet Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

Written by: David Barclay Moore

Number of Pages: 294

Age Range: 10-14

Rating: 4/5

Lolly’s having a hard time dealing with his older brother Jermaine’s death.  The only thing that seems to help is building his Lego city in the bedroom they used to share. When his mother’s girlfriend brings home two large bags full of Legos from her job his city and obsession grow bigger than their apartment in the NYC projects can hold. An adviser in the after school program invites him to use a spare storage room and the city takes on a life of its own, even helping Lolly become an internet sensation practically overnight.

Meanwhile, Lolly and his best friend Vega are also on the verge of making a life-altering decision. In their neighborhood, once you reach a certain age it’s expected that you’ll join a crew or gang. They’ve each been jumped by a couple of older kids and also approached by some of Jermaine’s friends who’ve offered protection and retaliation. Lolly spends more and more time absorbed with his city while Vega takes a different approach and their friendship suffers. Things reach a critical point when Vega gets a gun from his cousin, Frito. Will he convince Lolly to confront the crew with him or will they find a way to step outside of the expected path and do something different with their lives?

One of the best things about books is their ability to show you a world unlike your own and this one definitely fits the bill. I had a hard time reading it because it broke my heart knowing that there are kids who actually have to make decisions like this every day. An author’s note explains his use of African American vernacular throughout the book and the role of language throughout cities in America. I would definitely recommend this, especially as a class read aloud. The discussions will be priceless.

Middle Grade Book Review ~ Every Soul a Star

Every Soul a Star Book Review

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. 

Title: Every Soul a Star

Written by: Wendy Mass

Number of Pages: 322

Age Range: 10-14

Rating: 4/5

Three teens’ lives intersect at the occurrence of a total solar eclipse and none of them will ever be the same.

Told in alternating points of view the book opens with 13-year-old Ally describing Moon Shadow, the isolated campground her family established and her home for as long as she can remember. An amateur astronomer, she’s looking forward to the upcoming eclipse and honoring her grandfather’s memory by discovering a comet. She loves the quiet, the hot springs, her home school studies with her brother, and conversing each night with her friends, the stars and planets she studies.

Next up is Bree. She wants nothing more than to be a model, run the A-Clique at school, and anything else she can come up with to distance herself from her uber-scientific parents and nerdy little sister. When her parents drop a bombshell and tell her they’ll be taking over running a campsite in order to devote more time to their science she’s convinced her life is over.

And finally we’ve got Alex, a smart, shy kid who’d rather spend time drawing and thus finds himself facing summer school until his science teacher invites him to join a research trip to witness the eclipse. He hops a bus full of strangers prepared to keep his head down and muddle through but the universe has other ideas.

As they converge on camp Moon Shadow, the kids are forced to face their realities and what they had envisioned for their respective futures. The other camp goers also play a part in helping each one of the narrators expand their views of what happiness can mean and how to appreciate what’s right in front of us.

I missed the totality of the recent eclipse by a couple hundred miles but heard so many accounts of the incredible experience that reading the descriptions in this book made me feel as if I was somehow reliving it anyway. Apparently words like “magical” and “life changing” aren’t an exaggeration. (I’ve added it to my bucket list.) But I’ve always been fascinated by the stars and found so much to love and think about in these pages.

Mass has a great talent for creating stories that reach out and grab you and make you re-think your place in the world.  If you, or your child, witnessed the eclipse you should definitely give this one a look. And if you missed out on the totality and wondered what all the fuss was about add it to your list as well. Or, if you just love stories about self-discovery filled with heart and magic…well, this book’s for you!

I’d love to hear about your astronomical experiences or your favorite book about the stars in the comments below.

Happy reading!