Each child, whether confident or nervous, stands on the edge of the great unknown when a new school year begins. These dandy books will help the youngest students face this big step toward independence.

In Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! we find out that two people are anxious about the first day: mom and son. At first, the oversized boy bounces out of bed while the nervous mom (small and washed in anxious blue) drags her feet. Using color, size and varying perspectives to show the emotions of both generations of kindergartners, Hyewon Yum captures the nerves, bravado and excitement of the first day.

In Marco Goes to School, a chuckle-worthy and encouraging sequel to Too Busy Marco, a little red bird has a big dream. Marco wants to go to the moon. After he exhausts the opportunities for entertainment around the house, his mom suggests he attend school. Though teacher Mrs. Peachtree has fun floral pants, she talks a lot, which allows Marco’s mind to wander to the class library, where a toy astronaut is perched alluringly. Marco knows what he wants: to go to the moon. Roz Chast’s love of this distracted student is almost enough to get him there, but he does find a friend willing to push him very high . . . in a swing.

For read-aloud hilarity, Ollie’s School Day: A Yes-and No Book, written by Stephanie Calmenson and illustrated by Abby Carter, is the perfect choice. Written as a series of questions, this read-aloud gem allows even the youngest child to learn about the social and behavioral expectations of school. The reader asks questions about Ollie’s day (What will Ollie eat? Wear? Say? Ride? How will he ask a question? Do at story time?). Three silly follow-up questions allow the reader to call out, “NO!” before the turn of the page allows the satisfying “YES.” Calmenson’s wit and Carter’s light, cartoony watercolors are the perfect vehicles for imparting important social expectations to newbies.

Stan is worried that all the other children know how to write, but his words are coming out in a muddle. In Back to Front and Upside Down! Claire Alexander has created a comforting book for little learners. Instead of asking for help with the principal’s birthday card, Stan struggles by himself. He hides his writing failure from his friends until the pressure is too much. Then he finds out that everyone needs help sometimes, and writing becomes easier once he shares his struggle with the engaging Miss Catnip. Stan’s story can serve as a springboard to discussions about learning and getting help when needed.

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