Saturday, August 20, 2011

Updated Global 2014 'Back to School' Books

Grades K-2

Ada, Alma Flor. 1993. My Name is María Isabel. Illustrated by K. Dyble Thompson. New York: Aladdin.
María Isabel is the new girl in school and instead of being called by her given name her teacher gives her a substitute name, Mary. A writing assignment provides an opportunity for Maria to express her feelings about her name to her teacher.

Alarcón, Francisco X. 2005. Para soñar el futuro/Dreaming Up the Future in Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para soñar juntos. Illustrated by Paula Barragán. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Lovely poem that explores what children might become in 20 years. Poem is written in Spanish and English.

Alarcón, Francisco X. 1999. Primer día de clases/First Day of School and Ángel de la Guarda/Guardian Angel. From Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems/Los Ángeles Andan en Bicileta y Otros Poemas de Otoño. Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. San Francisco: Children's Book Press.
Two poems about the first day of school.

Amado, Elisa. 2011. What Are You Doing? Illustrated by Manuel Monroy. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
Before going to school for the first time, Chepito walks about his neighborhood finding all types of people engaged in meaningful reading.

Argueta, Jorge. 2006. Moony Luna: Luna, Lunita, Lunera. Illustrations by Elizabeth Goméz. San Francisco: Children's Book Press.
First day of kindergarten for Luna - a bilingual [Spanish/English] picture book.

Ashley, Bernard. 1991. Cleversticks. Illustrated by Derek Brazell. New York: Dragonfly Boooks.
Ling Sung doesn't like school after the first day. Everyone in his class can do things he cannot. But, during the second day, Ling Sung does something only he can do.

Choi, Yangsook. 2001. The Name Jar. New York: Knopf.
Unhei's first days of school and the tribulations and triumphs of name.

Croza, Laurel. 2010. I Know Here. Illustrated by Matt James. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
Although not a first day at school book, the little girl who narrates tells of what she knows about her town in northeastern Saskatchewan in an attempt to name what matters as she and her family ready to move to Toronto. Often think this is a powerful book for our time.

Figueredo, D.H. 2003. When This World Was New. Illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez. New York: Lee & Low Books.
The story of a child's arrival to the United States, his anxiousness about going to school the next day, and the lovely surprise that awaits him when he wakes up.

Herrera, Juan Felipe. 2000. The Upside Down Boy / El niño de cabeza. Illustrated by Elizabeth Gómez. San Francisco: Children's Book Press.
Jaunito feels everything is upside down when he attends school for the first time. Bilingual [English/Spanish] picture book.

Hole, Stian. 2008. Garmann's Summer. Illustrated by Don Bartlett. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman's Books for Young Readers.
At the end of summer, Garmann confronts his worries about change as he readies to go to school.

Kleven, Elisa. 2007. The Apple Doll. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Because she is scared to go to school, Lizzy's mom helps her to make a doll out of an apple she picks from her favorite tree. Great collage work.

Lee, Hyun Young.  2008. Something for School. La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller Publisher.
Set in South Korea, a young girl's first day at kindergarten and feelings about being a girl.

Ljungkvist, Laura. 2011. Follow the Line to School. New York: Viking.
This is a continuation in a series of books in which the reader follows a line. In this case the line leads from room to room at a school on the first day.

Léonard, Marie. 2001. Tibili: The Little Boy Who Did Not Want to Go to School. Illustrated by Adrée Prigent. La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller Publisher.
A tale about starting school set on the African savannah.

McNaughton, Colin. 2005. Once Upon an Ordinary School Day. Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux.
A not-so-ordinary teacher, Mr. Ghee, changes an ordinary school day.

Pak, Soyung. 2003. Sumi's First Day of School. Illustrated by Joung Un Kim. New York: Viking.
First day of school for a Korean child at her new school.

Recorvits, Helen. 2003. My Name is Yoon. Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
A Korean girl's adjustment to school.

Stock, Catherine. 1993. Where Are You Going, Manyoni? New York: Harper Collins.
A Zimbabwe child walks to school.

Stuve-Bodeen, Stephanie. 2007. Elizabeti's School. Illustrated by
Christy Hale. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Elizabeti's first day of school. While at school she wonders what her family is doing at home. The story is set in Tanzania.

Taulbert, C. L. 2001. Little Cliff's First Day of School. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Very reluctant to start school, Little Cliff is helped by his great-grandmother, Mama Pearl.

Young, Cybèle. 2011. A Few Blocks. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
Ferdie does not want to go to school. His sister encourages him, bu engaging him in imaginative play, Extraordinary art by visual artists Cybèle Young.

Grades 3-5

Brand, Dionne. 2006. "Skipping Rope Song" in Earth Magic. Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Books.
Two poems in this lovely and powerful collection of twenty poems, speak about childhood and school.

Campbell, Nicola I. 2008. Shin-chi's Canoe. Illustrated by Kim LaFave. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
This sequel to Shi-shi-etko, tells the story of brother and sister who are forced to attend a residential school in Canada.

-----------------------. 2005. Shi-shi-etko. Illustrated by Kim LaFave. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
The last four days prior to a young Canadian girl's removal from her family to attend a residential school in order to learn English language and culture. This is a challenging book to read aloud emotionally.

Grimes, Nikki. 2005. Danitra Brown, Class Clown. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. New york: Harper Collins.
Danitra and her best friend, Zuri Jackson react to the start of school differently.  Told through poems.

Hughes, Langston. 2006. "To You" in Daphne Muse (compiler) The Entrance Place of Wonders: Poems of the Harlem Renaissance. Illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb. New York: Harry N. Abrahms, Inc.

Jiménez, Francisco. 1998. La mariposa. Illustrated by Simón Silva. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
A son of migrant workers who has difficulty adjusting to a new school.

Khan, Rukhsana. 2009. A New Life. Illustrated by Nasrin Khosravi. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
A novella about an eight year old girl's experience emigrating from Pakistan to Canada, her first days at school, and adjusting to a new home.

Maher, Ramona. 2003. "September" in Alice Yazzie's Year. Illustrated by Shonto Begay. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press.
An 11-year-old Navajo girl prepares to go to school.

McBier, Page. 2001. Beatrice's Goat. Illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter. New York: Aladdin.
A true story about a nine-year-old Uganda girl who is able to go to school.

Median, Tony. "My Princess Story" From DeShawn Days. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Told in verse, this poem about 10-year-old DeShawn tells how he would be the hero helping a neighborhood princess get to school safely through the streets.

Moss, Marissa. 2011. The Name Game! New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Daphne doodles, draws, and documents in her diary the disasters (just got braces, teacher forgets her name) from her first two days of fourth grade.

Nikola-Lisa, W. 2006. How We Are Smart. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. NY: Lee & Low.
Although not book about starting school it may provide a complementary way of thinking about how we are smart by reading aloud these brief biographical sketches.

Perez, L. King. 2002. First Day in the Grapes. Illustrated by Robert Casilla. NY: Lee & Low.
Chico, a 3rd grader's first day in a new school.

Roberts-Davis, Tanya. 2003. We Need to Go to School: Voices of the Rugmark Children. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
Writing and drawings by Nepalese children who now attend school instead of being forced workers in carpet factories.

Ruurs, Margaret. 2009. My School in the Rain Forest: How Children Attend School Around the World. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mill Press.
Informational text about 14 different school experiences in the world.

Schertle, Alice. 2007. We. Illustrated by Kenneth Addison. New York: Lee and Low.
A striking book-length poem that examines human evolution. An interesting way perhaps of seeing interconnections.

Grades 6 - 8

Burg, Ann E. 2013. Serafina's Promise. New York: Scholastic
Serafina, a Haitian child, wants to go to school to become a doctor. Stunning novel told in verse. Set in Haiti.

Gansworth, Eir. 2013. If I Ever Get Out of Here. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books.
In this novel, Lewis, a young boy from Tuscarora Indian Reservation begins his second year at a mostly white junior high school. A new arrival to the school becomes his friend and helps him to cope with bullies and loneliness.  Takes place in 1975, upper New York state.

Loyie, Larry. 2005. As Long as the River Flows. Illustrated by Heather D. Holmlund, Contributed to by Constance Brissenden. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
First person account of the summer prior to being taken away from his family and forced to attend a residential school.

Walker, Alice. 1998. "Women." From Catherine Clinton (Ed.) I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry. Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, (p. 122). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Poem that explores lineage.

Wynne-Jones, Tim. 2013.  Rex Zero, the Great Pretender. New York: Farrar.
Un this novel, Rex pretends to go to his new school but instead goes to his former school. Takes place in 1963. Funny.


  1. My second grade "reader" was entitled "Down Cherry Lane"... more or less an Ozzie & Harriett view of America. We've come a long way, baby!!

  2. Hi Mary Ann,

    I just discovered your blog while searching the topic 'close reading and PARRC'. My principal asked me this week if I had heard of the term 'close reading'? At first I thought is was a program of some kind. Anyway, I'm glad to discover your blog, it looks great, and your entry on 'close reading' sent me to the library for some Seamus Heaney. Thanks, Charlie Otting (

    1. Thanks for reading the post and the blog, Charles. I will be blogging a lot about ways of working with students during the next few weeks as I start some intensive work with elementary and middle school students. Hope you will check back:)


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