Let’s face it. School starts are stressful. Books that address these issues can lighten the mood and open up conversations.
Richard Torrey’s heroine in Ally-Saurus & the First Day of School(Sterling, ages 5 and up) fusses when she can’t bring her stuffed dinosaurs to school in her new dinosaur backpack. The illustrations show pink spines and a ridged tail drawn around Ally’s human form. At school she meets classmates who are similarly outlined–Robert is framed with a blue space suit and three little princesses are crowned and gowned in gold. Ally is excluded from the princess table but on the playground she “soared with a dragon, flew in a spaceship, chased away pirates and finally even had a bit of stomping after tea with princesses.” There’s a mix of friendship, imagination and warmth.
School starts are hard for parents, too as we see in Mike Wohnoutka’s Dad’s First Day (Bloomsbury, ages 5 and up). Oliver’s ready for school. His dad? Not so much. He dawdles, hides, and finally has to be dragged to the car where he slowly drives to school and collapses in tears at the classroom door. “The teacher walked Oliver’s dad outside” says the text as illustrations show her carrying him out of the room as Oliver waves a cheery goodbye. Oliver’s dad trudges to the car, tries to lose himself in errands and screams “I’M NOT READY FOR SCHOOL!” However, seeing Oliver happily enjoying himself in class. The father and the two celebrate with ice cream at the close of school.
In Jeff Cohen’s Eva and Sadie and the Best Classroom EVER! (Harper, ages 4-6), Sadie, a second grade sister, prepares kindergarten-bound Eva. She blows a horn to break up Eva’s nap habit, drills and grills her about attendance, cafeteria waits, and playground practice. Eva is exhausted and worried by the time her parents step in and teach Sadie the difference between supporting and threatening.
Jennifer K. Mann’s dreamy heroine, Rosie, states her concern in the title I Will Never Get a Star On Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard (Candlewick, ages 5-7).Mrs. Benson gives stars for spelling, neatness, using a loud voice when reading aloud and getting a math fact right. Rosie spills snack and gets a stomach ache worrying about Mrs. Benson’s clean desk request. Rosie is inspired by a visiting artist and she, in turn, inspires her class by producing a large colorful thank you card. She’s rewarded by Mrs. Benson’s praise, a star and learning her teacher is not as stern as she (and the readers) may have thought. The simple illustrations accent the strong emotions of this story.
Humor relief comes in Elise Parsley’s If you ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON’T! (Little Brown, ages 4-8)“If your teacher tells you to bring something from nature for show-and-tell, she means a hollow stick, or a bird’s nest, or some sparkly rocks. She does NOT want you to bring an alligator,” Magnolia warns readers. Her mischievous alligator gets her into non-stop trouble with his funny drawings, flying origami, and gum chewing. Soon Magnolia fears that she can’t uphold her promise that “he’ll be quiet and good, and he won’t eat anyone-cross your heart.” The rye humor in text and illustrations make for a stress-reducing, laugh-producing read aloud.