Stack Overflow: 8 Back-to-School Picture Books

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Stack Overflow: Back to School

Wait, it’s time for school already? This summer has flown by for my family, and it’s hard to believe that it’s time to get ready for school again. I mean, seriously, my kids aren’t getting up anywhere near early enough for school lately—can I get an extension?

To help get your kiddos back into the school routine, here are some picture books about schools!

If I Built a School

If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen

Jack thinks his school is okay, but “pitifully plain,” and really feels like he should have been consulted in its design. As he talks his teacher through his ideal school, we get to see what’s in his mind’s eye: glass tubes that zip you to your glass-topped tower classrooms, floating desks and holographic displays, a gym with a trampoline basketball court and skydiving wind tunnels, and field trips to Mars. Chris Van Dusen brings all of these outlandish ideas to life with his illustrations, celebrating how much fun school could be. If only our real schools were actually funded at a level that allowed even a fraction of this innovation…

My Teacher Is a Robot

My Teacher Is a Robot by Jeffrey Brown

Freddy also has an overactive imagination, but his is working overtime in service of a single hypothesis: he thinks his teacher is secretly a robot, trying to turn all the kids into boring robots. Throughout the book, we get to see the things that the various students are imagining—sometimes shared imaginations, even. There’s not really a lesson to be learned, exactly, but it’s mostly just some entertaining daydreaming by Freddy.

The King of Kindergarten

The King of Kindergarten written by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

The star of this book is a little boy who’s been told by his mom that he’s the King of Kindergarten! He goes throughout his day, re-casting everything in a royal light: the school bus is a carriage that takes him to a “grand fortress.” What’s great, though, is that in this story being King of Kindergarten doesn’t mean he’s a despot. In fact, it’s about bravely asking a friend to play, sharing dessert with a classmate, and being charming, wonderful, and kind.

So Big!

So Big! by Mike Wohnoutka

Bear is ready for school: he’s SO BIG! He can dress himself, reach the cereal on the counter, and walk to the bus stop. But the bus is also SO BIG, as are some of the kids, as is the school. This book shows a first day of school and being surprised when things don’t exactly match your expectations—and it’s mostly told through very simple phrases like “So big!” and “Not so big.” But things work out in the end, and Bear feels “just right.”

Being Edie Is Hard Today

Being Edie Is Hard Today written by Ben Brashares, illustrated by Elizabeth Bergeland

Edie is having a hard day at school, and nobody seems to appreciate her imagination. She sees herself as a series of different animals: she’s a hungry cheetah on the playground, a sloth when she’s being taken to the principal’s office, a bat hiding in her cubby. The illustrations show all the kids with different ears or antlers, and sometimes characters have emojis floating over their heads as well. The story is about how sometimes it’s hard to be yourself, but sometimes it gets better.

A Friend for Henry

A Friend for Henry written by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song

Henry is a little boy who wants a friend, but he’s having trouble finding somebody who fits him. The book shows us (rather than telling us) that Henry is on the autism spectrum, and helps us to see what the world is like from his point of view, and the things that bother him and make him frustrated. But he does find a friend—somebody who isn’t just like him, but knows how to play with Henry, and Henry learns to play with her, too. It’s a sweet book that could give kids a little more perspective  and empathy if they meet classmates at school who are on the spectrum, written by somebody who is raising a child with autism herself.

Little Libraries, Big Heroes

Little Libraries, Big Heroes written by Miranda Paul, illustrated by John Parra

This one isn’t exactly about a school, but it does start out with a boy who struggled in school because he had trouble reading. As an adult, Todd Bol was inspired by his mother and the way she taught kids to read—so he built a tiny little schoolhouse on his front lawn and filled it with books. This eventually (though it took some time and a lot more work) became the movement known as Little Free Library. You may have seen some of these yourself—or even have one on your lawn: there are now over 73,000 registered LFLs around the world! This picture book tells the story of how they got started, from Bol’s original idea to creating and delivering them around the country, to stories of other little free libraries that have changed their communities.

Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend!

Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! by Cori Doerrfeld

This book plays with the idea that “every goodbye leads to a hello.” When Stella says goodbye to her mom on the first day of school, she says hello to Charlie, who quickly becomes her best friend. Together they say goodbye to snowmen and hello to puddles. They play sports together and get through tough times like the loss of a goldfish. And, eventually, there’s another goodbye when Charlie’s family move away—but even that leads to another hello. Saying goodbye is always a tough lesson, but this book (which just might make you cry) also celebrates the new beginnings that come after the goodbyes.


My Current Stack

Well, I’ll be honest: this week has been a bit of a mess, so outside of a cartoon book and continuing to read So You Want to Talk About Race?, I haven’t read much else. Mostly I’m trying to get through my Gen Con coverage, and then get my kids ready for school. We’ll see how next week goes!

Disclosure: I received review copies of these picture books.

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