Back-to-school stories


I know, you can’t wait for the end of August and the beginning of another school year. Thank goodness for teachers with patience. Sometimes it’s a little difficult to let go of summer, but the children in the following stories should help get all of us ready for another great start.

READ ALL ABOUT IT!, by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, HarperCollins, $17.99; ages 4-8.

Tyrone thinks he is a pretty smart kid and in most of his classes, he is. But it’s a different story in homeroom. Tyrone doesn’t like to read and he doesn’t pay attention during story time—that is until the day the characters start appearing in class. Imagine a ghost appearing during a Halloween story or Benjamin Franklin walking into the classroom flying a kite. The best was when Miss Libro started reading a chapter book about a pig. When the story was over, the pig disappeared. As the students hunt for the pig, guess what they discovered in the library? Visit for activities related to this book, which includes some thoughts from Laura and Jenna Bush.

JAKE STARTS SCHOOL, by Michael Wright, Feiwel and Friends, $16.95; ages 4-7.

It is the first day of school for Jake. Everything seems to be going smoothly, even as mom and dad drive him to school. Standing outside room 1, Jake feels very small. Then the door opens and out steps Mrs. Moore. Jake looks at his teacher, then turns around and runs to his parents and won’t let go of them.

THE VOWEL FAMILY: A TALE OF LOST LETTERS, by Sally M. Walker, illustrations by Kevin Luthardt, Carolrhoda, $16.95; ages 5-9.

Have you ever tried reading a paragraph written with only consonants? That’s exactly what happened when Pm Smth mrrd Sm Vwl. As each of their five children, Alan, Ellen, Iris, Otto and Ursula were born, the words in the Vowel family improved. As young students learn to write they often omit vowels. You will probably be surprised how easy it is to figure out all the words, especially with the help of Aunt Cyndy.

HAMSTERS, SHELLS AND SPELLING BEES: SCHOOL POEMS, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, pictures by Sachiko Yoshikawa, HarperCollins, $16.99; ages 4-8.

The 20 poems in this book should be a reminder of the many activities that await you in school. I picked a couple I thought were especially fun to read. Many classrooms have pets and someone has to watch the animals over the summer. In Hamster Math the caretaker is getting ready to return Sam and Max. As you have probably guessed from the title, they weren’t both boys. How many do you think were returned? I also liked the Library poem:"A place where treasures are bound for you to enjoy until they become overdue.”

FIRST DAY JITTERS, by Julie Dannebergh, illustrated by Judy Love, Charlesbridge, $6.95; ages 4-8.

Mr. Hartwell tries to get Sarah out of bed so she won’t miss her first day at the new school but Sarah tries all the excuses,"I won’t know anyone” and"I don’t want to start over.” Mr. Hartwell came back with,"Just think of all the new friends you will meet” and"What will everyone think if you aren’t there?” The reader soon finds out why it is so important that Sarah makes it to school on the first day.

ELLIE MCDOODLE: NEW KID IN SCHOOL, by Ruth McNally Barshaw, Bloomsbury,$12.99; ages 8-12.

Eleanor McDuggle is better known as Ellie McDoodle because she keeps a journal in which she not only writes about everything but also includes little pictures to help tell her story. She and her family, which includes two brothers and a sister, are packing up their life ready to move. Once the family gets situated in the new house, the first person Ellie meets is Miss Claire, the children’s librarian. While investigating the new neighborhood Ellie meets Travis and discovers they will be in the same grade. The first day of school arrives and as far as Ellie is concerned, it is a total disaster. The teachers can’t seem to understand she wants to be called Ellie, the art teacher criticized her drawing and worst of all, the lunch line is so long that by the time she gets her food it tastes terrible. After reading these stories, you might want to try your hand at keeping a journal.

Judy Belanger is Chicago Parent’s children’s book reviewer and a retired elementary learning resource center teacher with four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6.

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