Here’s a bit of summer reading to get your kids ready for … fall reading? While they’re winding down the dog days basking in the glow of fireflies and denial, you’re looking ahead to the fall and wondering whether school will agree with them. If you’re worried about the first day jitters, use the long nights you still have left to read these 13 classroom-themed books together and help them see that it’s not so bad. Then rejoice — your 6-hour-a-day break from kid care is nearly here.
While everyone is freaking out about the first day back, nobody stops to consider what the damn building is thinking. School’s First Day Of School, illustrated by Caldecott-winner Christian Robinson (Last Stop On Market Street) comes at the subject from the perspective of Frederick Douglas Elementary. He (She? It?) is fine so long as it’s only the janitor prepping things — but what happens when those classrooms are full? You know what anxiety is? It’s dozens of barely potty-trained 5-year-olds inside your walls.
School’s First Day Of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson ($18)
The Day The Crayons QuitThis New York Times bestseller warns of what might happen if you piss off your crayons. You’d be annoyed, too if you were Blue (worn down from endless seascapes), Yellow (obviously a better sun color than Orange), or Beige (Brown’s annoying step-cousin). All of them walk out, leaving young Duncan with a handful of letters when all he wants to do is color. He manages to save the day while this meta-commentary manages to be unpretentious.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers ($10)
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To School…A boy with a hyperactive imagination contends with ninjas, mole people, time machines, and a gang of even more absurd obstacles as he doggedly tries to get to school on time. After you’ve read this, your kid will always have a better excuse for their lateness than, “Dad overslept.” Although you will have to sign off on a note confirming that giant ants ate their breakfast.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School… by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud ($10)
Earthling!A funny thing also happens on the way to school in this graphic novel, except protagonist Bud never makes it there. Instead, he takes the wrong bus to the Cosmos School in a faraway galaxy, befriends an alien computer nerd, poses as a martian (Tenarian, actually) to avoid anti-Earthling expulsion, and has to win an anti-gravity sports tournament or be lost in space forever. Your kid’s first day will be a cakewalk by comparison.
Earthling! by Mark Fearing and Tim Rummel ($10)
The Little Red PenWhen the other school supplies refuse to help, Little Red Pen wears herself out trying to grade the whole homework pile and ends up in the trash, AKA The Pit Of No Return. Eraser, Scissors, Stapler, and Señorita Chincheta, the spicy Mexican Pushpin, then band together to rescue her. The phrase “Spicy Mexican Pushpin” alone is worth the price of admission.
The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel ($14)
Jane, The Fox, And MeThis award winning graphic novel hits heavy themes like bullying and loneliness but teaches that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Outcast by cruel classmates, Hélène finds inspiration in Jane Eyre and connects with a fox and a new girl who encourages her not to give a flip what anyone thinks. Pair this with Mean Girls on your “Raising A Daughter With A Healthy Body Image” syllabus.
Jane, The Fox, And Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault ($12)
Rain SchoolInspired by his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chad, James Rumford writes and illustrates the story of a class whose first lesson is to build their school. By the time their little brains are full, rainy season comes and forces them to do it all over again. It’s like the book version of, “There are starving kids who would love that broccoli.”
Rain School by James Rumford ($11)
My Teacher Is A Monster!Every troublemaker thinks their teacher is a big green stomping monster, but if they’re anything like Bobby’s teacher, Ms. Kirby, they’re just giving back what their students put out. After a chance encounter with Ms. Kirby in their favorite park where he’s actually allowed to throw paper airplanes, Bobby’s crappy attitude in class fades, along with Ms. Kirby’s scales and spiky teeth. In case your kid needs a reminder that you see through their complaints about their teacher.
My Teacher Is a Monster! by Peter Brown ($14)
Marco Goes To SchoolMarco the busy red bird can’t even spell school (he thinks it’s a food) but joins a class of human kids for his first day. He quickly becomes obsessed with space travel and is easily distracted, as you’d expect from a literal birdbrain. Considering Marco spends more time daydreaming than listening to his teacher, the lesson here might be that not all main characters are role models.
Marco Goes To School by Roz Chast ($11)
HomeworkIf you read comics and fall asleep instead of doing your homework, your pencils, eraser, and entire desk will come to life in the night and do it for you! Again, maybe not the best message for little kids, but it’s a lively take on the creative process and how inspiration can come from everywhere, even an exploding fountain pen. (Although what kid uses a fountain pen?)
Homework by Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski ($14)
Chu’s First Day At School“What will happen?” “Will they be nice?” “Will they like me?” Turns out your kid has the same first-day fears as a New York Times bestselling panda with a borderline offensive sneeze pun for a name. Chu quickly learns each of his animal classmates has a unique talent and everything will be fine, which should be reassuring your kid, especially since their sneeze is unlikely to blow the roof off their school.
Chu’s First Day At School by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex ($12)
Edda: A Little Valkyrie’s First Day Of SchoolBeing different is what makes you special. If not, an ancient Norse goddess from a magical land called Asgard would have a hell of a time making friends. Once you get through this book, your kid will either have fully embraced their inner hero or developed a new obsession with Thor and Wagner operas.
Edda: A Little Valkyrie’s First Day of School by Adam Auerbach ($11)
A Pirate’s Guide To First GradeA pirate-obsessed kid is severely disappointed by the lack of treasure and cool pirate stuff at school, until his teacher helps out. But be honest, you don’t care what it’s about. You’re going to buy it just so you can spend every day asking your child some variation of, “What arrr you learning in school today?”
A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade by James Preller and Greg Ruth ($6)