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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - 10 New "Back to School" Books in 2019

There are so many "first day of school" picture books. I know some of my favorites have been the more unusual ones, such as: Be A Friend (A mime's POV), School's First Day of School (the school's POV); First Day Jitters (the teacher's POV); and The Day You Begin (new kid in school/immigrant). It takes a pretty special premise, author, or POV to soar above the crowd these days.

As the new school year approaches, I want to highlight a couple of books that have done just that. Books about starting school jitters, new schools, and school friends. About feeling invisible to others and trusting oneself. These are my favorites released since May 2019:

Invisible Jerry by Adam Wallace, illustrated by Giuseppe Poli (EK Books)- It's so easy, even for the most outgoing person, to occasionally feel invisible. Like no one sees them. This book functions both as a mirror for the invisible child; seeing them and encouraging them to "hang in there." And as a window - and a call to action - for everyone else. Asking us all to look around us and be "a Molly" - reaching out to others. What a great book to read aloud at the start of every school year and a perfect book for every library.

A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story by Erin Gunti, illustrated by Esteli Meza (Barefoot Book) - A great book for opening discussions about a facet of some children's lives that is unfortunately increasing. To combat the anxiety and uncertainty of living in a women's shelter, a young girl and her mother use their imaginations to cope. The book includes endnotes on homelessness and helpful resources.

Sorry, Grown-ups, You CAN'T Go To School by Christina Geist, illustrated by Tim Bowers (Random House) - Reverse psychology or a FREAKY FRIDAY moment, when the adults can go to school and have fun and play instead of going about their adult, responsibility laden days? Lively, hilarious book about a special place that only kids and teachers can go. To help ease a child's nerves as they face the first days of a new school year.

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses by Susanne Gervay, illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall (EK Books) - This is a great book for times when a child stands out or feels unseen for who they really are. A book for kids discovering they need glasses, for working through empathy in classrooms and schools, and for reminding adults to be aware of what and HOW we talk to kids. One that I think would be a welcome addition to any library.

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Nancy Paulsen Books) - An uplifting, exuberant book about making friends, playing together, sharing, and loving school. Perfect for summer reading before starting school or with children nervous about making new friends. And a great book for expanding a child's vocabulary. Overall, a book that should be in every library.

Your First Day of Circus School by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Melissa Crowton (Tundra Books) - A humorous picture book where the text could, if read without seeing the illustrations, be a typical "how to survive your first day of school" book. But, when you add Melissa's images and the particular words she chose to highlight, you get the funniest school day ever.

Make A Wish, Henry Bear by Liam Francis Walsh (Roaring Brook Press) - Though perhaps a tad tangential, it's still revolves around a child's school experience and what happens when a birthday wish that "parents were more fun" comes true. A sure to please picture book that looks at the consequences of wishing and new school friends.

Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare (Holiday House)- A real treasure about school and the moon. It is different from all the ones I've seen so far, as it is entirely wordless. With a lot of visual variety and great spreads, the book takes kids on an adventure that could happen in their own lives. Not necessarily on the moon, but as they deal with their own fears of the new, different, or unknown.

Butterflies on the First Day of School by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Dream Chen (Sterling Children's Books) - This is an ingenious and beautiful exploration of overcoming the nerves many young children experience associated with trying new things and making new friends. The book plays with a common figure of speech. And has the most tender and true ending imaginable.

I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani (Roaring Brook Press) - This book will resonate with anyone who's shy, facing a new or scary experience (new school, new grade) or daring to chart their own path. The text is a lovely poetic ode to discovering ones bravery. With beautiful, lively illustrations that make this a story of a young girl overcoming her fears as she heads to school. It is also a powerful and gorgeous call to action for practicing kindness to ourselves and others. []

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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