Our house overflows with anticipation this summer because my twin girls are getting ready to start kindergarten. Here are some of our new favorite back-to-school books, all guaranteed to fuel excitement as well as ease first-time jitters.
Kindergartners, there's a new bible for you: My Kindergarten, by Rosemary Wells (Hyperion, $16.99, 96 pages, ISBN 0786808330). Writer and illustrator Wells has firmly established herself as a grand dame of children's books with the popular Max and Ruby characters, and has written more than 100 books, including Emily's First 100 Days of School. In Wells' new book, we meet Emily again, along with her friends and their teacher, the lovely Miss Cribbage.
My Kindergarten is a real treasure. It's divided into color-coded sections for each month of the school calendar, beginning with a lovely, reassuring spread called, "The Night Before the First Day of School." Here Emily worries and wishes upon a star while her mother holds her hand and calls Emily "my little star."Emily then steps right into classroom experiences 96 pages brimming with stories, Wells' trademark illustrations and short, lively discussions of school events. Don't miss Emily's adventures in Miss Cribbage's class. My Kindergarten is so much fun, even I am ready to enroll!For another lively, innovative book, check out I Am Too Absolutely Small for School (Candlewick, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 0763624039) by Lauren Child. The narrator, big brother Charlie, explains his family's dilemma: "I have this little sister, Lola. She is small and very funny. Mom and Dad say she is nearly almost big enough to go to school. Lola is not so sure."On the next page the siblings stand beside a measuring stick, showing that Charlie is "big" while Lola is still "smallish," along with amusing increments such as "tiny," "teeny" and "eeny weeny." Lola decides she is not only too small, but also much too busy to go to school, while Charlie repeatedly tries to convince her that school will be fun.
Lauren Child's illustrations are a zany mixture of media, including illustrations, photographs and collage. For example, Lola explains that she has no need to learn to count to 100 because "I never eat more than ten cookies at one time." Each of her 10 words is paired with a photo of a different type of cookie, creating a mouth-watering page. Charlie finally reminds Lola that her invisible friend, Soren Lorensen, will be going to school, and Lola realizes she needs to go to keep Soren company. All turns out well, of course.
Fitting inLike Lola, Enrico the cat is nervous about starting school in Enrico Starts School by Charlotte Middleton. Enrico finds his first school experiences disheartening: he's too shy to answer questions, the kids aren't nice at recess, and they eat his sandwich at lunch. Poor Enrico tries and tries to fit in, but he isn't very successful. Finally, Enrico's younger brother gives him some age-old advice: stop trying so hard and simply be yourself. This makes all the difference, and soon Enrico has a new best friend.
Get ready for laughs with Mrs. Watson Wants Your Teeth (Harcourt, $16, 36 pages, ISBN 0152049312) by Alison McGhee. A new first-grade girl is convinced having been informed in no uncertain terms by a knowledgeable second-grader that her teacher is "a three-hundred-year-old alien who steals baby teeth from her students." Imagine her fear: our heroine sits on the school bus asking herself questions like: "Is it possible to make it through first grade without ever opening your mouth?" Her worries turn to terror when she realizes that she has, you guessed it, a loose tooth.
Kids will eat this story up it's so absurd that no young reader will fear Mrs. Watson, as they might in the hands of a less humorous writer. They'll simply giggle at the plot and at the expressions on the faces of the characters, drawn by Harry Bliss. The first-grade heroine finally learns the truth about Mrs. Watson, but I'm not spilling the beans.
Crack the pages of these books and any young students you know will soon be ready to hop on the school bus. Just be sure they don't ask any second-graders for advice!