Back to the books to help you get back to school

BOOKS - September 2004


Judy Belanger


Summer vacation goes much too quickly, but it's fun to get ready to go back to school. This is the time to see friends and catch up on everyone else's summer. That first day is especially exciting for a child entering school for the first time. Here are some suggestions to help you have a good school year with all of your friends as well as some of mine.

WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY? THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, by Toby Forward, illustrated by Carol Thompson, Clarion Books, $15; ages 4-8.

Mom and son start their day by making their lunches. They walk to school, then go their separate ways on this first day of school. The left-side page tells the thoughts of the child thinking about what his mom is doing at different moments during the day, while the right-side page shows Mom at her job. When it is snack time at school, it is Mom's coffee break. During the day they both run around, do their best writing and clean up their mess before going home. Mom meets her son at school and on the way home it is a time to share what they each did all day.

ARTHUR'S OFF TO SCHOOL and ARTHUR'S HOMEWORK, by Marc Brown, Little Brown and Co., $3.99 each; ages 4-8.

Everyone's favorite aardvark is back along with the rest of his friends in this new 8-inch-square format series. In Off to School, Arthur gets ready while his little sister, D. W., imitates everything he does. She says she is practicing for next year when she will start kindergarten. Of course, big brother thinks little sister is a pest. When Arthur gets to school, he realizes his homework is at home. D. W. saves the day by bringing the work to him. In the next book, Arthur is without his homework again. The assignment is for everyone to do a project about their town. Arthur helps all his friends with their projects and never gets his own finished. The teacher recognizes what Arthur has done and gives him credit for all his help.

(A fun Arthur fact: Marc Brown plays a game with his children, hiding their names in his art work. Look for the names of Tucker, Tolan and Eliza as Brown continues to place them within the pictures of each book.)

COUNTING OUR WAY TO THE 100TH DAY!, by Betsy Franco, pictures by Steven Salerno, Margaret K. McElderry, $15.95; ages 4-8.

Many teachers keep track of school days, counting up to the 100th day, which comes in February. It's a great math exercise. This book offers a poem to read each day. The poems include the number 100 in various ways. The poem called “Recipe on Day 27” mixes 10 each of different kinds of nuts, dried fruits and chocolate chips'an outline for a class to create their own treat. The “Day 41” poem is about popping 100 kernels of corn. It's almost as much fun for kids to estimate how many of the kernels will actually pop as it is to eat the finished product. I especially liked the “Day 72” poem, which looks at some of the modern conveniences not here 100 years ago. What would kids today do without TV, computers or cell phones? On the other hand, how did we ever survive without them?

MY SCHOOL'S A ZOO!, by Stu Smith, illustrated by David Catrow, HarperCollins, $15.99; ages 5-8.

A class field trip to the zoo revs up the imagination of a little boy. He knows it is going to be a strange day as he opens his eyes the next morning to see a giraffe in his bed. He is sure Miss Wright, his teacher, will be able to set it all straight for him. But, when he gets to school, he finds a substitute teacher (who is a bear) is sitting at the desk. As he continues through the day, all his teachers are animals. I liked the wise owl as the librarian and the worms in all the books. As he gets off the bus, everything seems to be back to normal. Some days are just like that. The next field trip is to the dinosaur display. What will happen after that?

THE A+ CUSTODIAN, by Louise Borden, illustrated by Adam Gustavson, Margaret K. McElderry, $15.95; ages 7-10.

Schools are ready for the return of students. Custodians have been working all summer getting the buildings in tiptop shape. Everyone in a school'students, parents and faculty'know how important the custodian is. The halls at Dublin School are lined with special work by the students. One day, third-graders Gracie and Zach decided to get the whole school to put up banners and posters to surprise and honor their A+ custodian, Mr. Carillo. It is a special way for the school to show their appreciation for all his hard work.

FOURTH-GRADE FUSS, by Johanna Hurwitz,illustrated by Andy Hammond, HarperCollins, $15.99; ages 8-12.

The students in Mrs. Schraalenburgh's fourth-grade class know that this year they take the statewide standardized test in April. In October, the other fourth-grade classes are already practicing. Mrs. Schraalenburgh reassures the class not to worry, they will be ready. She doesn't want to spend all the class time getting ready because there are too many other things one needs to learn in fourth grade. Julio and his classmates who appeared in Class Clown are back again. This book will make a good read-aloud not only for fourth grade but also for third-graders who participate in the Illinois Standards Achievement Test. Hurwitz points out that we all take tests throughout life'including driving tests and medical tests. Maybe this will help put students at ease about test taking.




Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.


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