Five early reader books for fall school jitters

Posted on August 28, 2018 at 6:00 am

By Sheri Boggs

Most of us are not strangers to the first-day-of-school jitters—that delightful mix of excitement and mild apprehension as one contemplates what the new school year might bring. Such a feeling has as much to do with our need to connect and to be accepted as it does with our need to discover and learn.

There are so many amazing picture books coming out this fall, and I wanted to highlight five that capture that “first day” experience of seeing something from a new perspective or making connections despite a variety of hurdles:

Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse (ages 4–8) is one of those books I’m going to be pressing into the hands of everyone I know for the foreseeable future. Chloe’s classmate Adrian talks endlessly of his amazing horse, and Chloe, who knows he’s lying, has had enough of it. When she lashes out, her mom wisely takes her for a walk that teaches her far more about empathy than any scolding could. Pen and ink illustrations by Corinna Luyken (The Book of Mistakes) lend lightness and delicacy.

All Are Welcome (ages 4–8) celebrates the bright energy of a diverse community as students from widely varying backgrounds go through their day–together. The text could be a direct descendant from the legacy of Fred Rogers: “No matter how you start your day. / What you wear when you play. / Or if you come from far away. / All are welcome here.” And the bold figures against a white backdrop offer a message of vibrant multiculturalism. As the children—some of whom are differently abled or wearing a hijab—interact, all differences fall away and the book’s overarching theme becomes one of appreciation and inclusion.

It’s no secret I’m a sucker for a good dog book and Good Rosie (ages 5–8), by Kate DiCamillo, does not disappoint. When Rosie feels lonely “in an empty-silver-bowl sort of way,” her owner George takes her to the dog park. At first Rosie doesn’t take to the other dogs, especially tiny, high-strung Fifi or big, drooly Maurice. But when conflict breaks out and the peace of the dog park is threatened, Rosie learns to overcome her shyness and new friendships are formed. This picture book/graphic novel/easy reader hybrid is perfect for those kids who might be a little nervous about the first day of school and making new friends.

Dreamers (ages 4–8) depicts, in gorgeous colors and Mexican motifs, the journey of a young mother and her son as they settle in the United States. As mother and son explore San Francisco, they figure out the rules of their new home. Public fountains, for instance, are not for playing in, and public libraries are vast wonderlands where you can borrow almost anything. As they learn to live in two cultures, they discover how to bring forth their own unique gifts. Inspired by author and illustrator Yuyi Morales’s own journey from Mexico to the United States in 1994, this is a vivid and timely story of hope, creativity, and contribution. It is also available in Spanish with the title Sonadores.

An intrepid orange tabby demonstrates the concept of mapping in Mapping Sam (ages 4–8). Once her family is safely asleep, Sam sets out to explore her neighborhood. As Sam goes from one spot to the next, readers are introduced to not only basic map-reading skills but different kinds of visual pathfinders, including blueprints, constellation charts, and even anatomical diagrams. Author Joyce Hesselbreth introduces new cartography concepts, such as what a “compass rose” is and how to orient oneself using familiar landmarks, and does so in a fascinatingly relational way. This is essential reading for a generation of kids being raised with GPS and Siri.

Sheri Boggs

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