Here’s a bookbag full of stories to help your new learner

published by the News and Observer SEPTEMBER 25, 2017 9:12 AM

It seems my granddaughter was born just the other day, and now she’s in kindergarten. I sent books to ready her (and her parents) for this transition.

My granddaughter loves one of my favorite books, Pat Zietlow Miller’s “Sophie’s Squash,”and I know she’ll appreciate the sequel, “Sophie’s Squash Go to School” (both from Schwartz and Wade, ages 4-6). Stubborn, loyal Sophie has had a close friendship with her beloved squash, Bernice, Bonnie and Baxter. She insists these vegetable companions are all she needs when she enters school (even though she knows that she will soon have to tuck them into the ground “for their winter nap.”) Gradually she understands that human friends, especially a creative, caring one like Stephen, can be important, too. There’s lots here to comfort either a shy child or one uncomfortable with change.

Nikki Ehrlich’s “Twindergarten” (Harpercollins, ages 4-6) stars biracial siblings Dax and Zoe, who “go together like peanut butter and jelly.” They have never been separated and now they’ll be in different classrooms. Dax and his sister Zoe vary in their periods of anxiety, but their love shines as they support each other while adjusting and appreciating kindergarten.


Sometimes the ones who suffer are those who wait at home. Moose, a girl-loving mutt, is a sibling stand-in who despairs when Zara goes off to school in her wheelchair in Maria Gianferrari’s “Hello Goodbye Dog” (Roaring Brook, ages 4-6). Saying goodbye is “an itch that couldn’t be scratched” and “tug without war, hide without seek.” The book’s imagery is not focused on either Zara’s being biracial or differently-abled but on the warmth of a loving relationship and Zara’s resourcefulness as she comes up with a resolution to Moose’s unhappiness.



Two new school titles stand out for their intriguing perspectives and their comedic lightness. Adam Rex’s “School’s First Day of School” (Roaring Brook, ages 4-6) is told by a new building who overhears children’s negativity about starting school. He’s worried they won’t like him, but by day’s end, he’s been cheered by jokes, art and studies. School’s naivete and Rex’s irony bring humor to anxious students.

Deborah Underwood’s fifth book starring Cat shows the silent, sign-toting Cat standing in as a substitute teacher in “Here Comes Teacher Cat” (Dial, ages 4-7). Cat’s nerves gradually fade in the excitement of fun and activity. The humor may do the same for anxious children.


My granddaughter is quite upset she doesn’t ride a bus to school, but others may be a bit timid about those big yellow vehicles. Kate and Jim McMullan add to their personified vehicle series with “I’m Smart!” (Balzer and Bray, ages 4-7), a proud tale told in the voice of a school bus who is confident about its intelligence, wisdom and the ability to keep children safe and entertained en route.

Cheer and familiarity arrive through song in Tish Rabe’s “On the First Day of Kindergarten”(Harper, ages 4-6). Sung to the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” the cumulative verses describe all the familiar firsts of kindergarten, among them counting, riding the bus and making friends.

Other new books for school issues:

Barbara Bottner, “Priscilla Gorilla” (Atheneum, ages 4-7): Priscilla, passionate about apes, creates classroom chaos in her determination to express her learning. Further learning comes when she understands how apes work in community.

Sean Ferrell, “The Snurtch” (Atheneum, ages 4-7): Ruthie’s problem at school comes from the invisible Snurtch who is not nice. Expressing her frustration in art helps her learn that peers suffer the same kinds of monsters.

John Grandits, “Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the Cafeteria” (Clarion, ages 5-8): Insect-loving Kyle views cafeteria and peer personages as bugs as he sorts out seven rules that aid him and humorously explain lunchroom environs.

Curtis Manley, “Shawn Loves Sharks” (Roaring Brook, ages 4-7): Shawn’s adoration of sharks puts him in direct conflict with a classmate when she lands sharks as her report focus and he has to investigate seals. Negotiation and manipulations end in mutual understanding and friendship.

Peter Sis, “Robinson” (Scholastic, ages 4-7): An inventive boy loves pirate. He also loves Robinson Crusoe and choosing that costume instead of a pirate’s puts him at odds with friends.

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