Tag Archives: Derrick Barnes

Top 10 (okay, 14!) Back to School Picture Books for 2019

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Well, it’s that time of year again.  Time to face the fact that summer is drawing to a close  and school is right around the corner.  Some of you, in fact, have already started teaching.  But there is an excitement that comes at this time of year – the anticipation of a new students to get to know and a new class community to build and nurture.  But while the start of school brings excitement for some, it can bring anxiety for others.  Sharing books about starting school and all that that entails is a wonderful way for making your students feel safe and connected. Here are my top new “back to school” picture books for sharing during “back to school”  week.

The Proudest Blue – Ibtihaj Muhammad

While it doesn’t appear to be by the cover, this is a powerful story about the first day of school that turns out to be so much more.  It is about rites of passage, the bonds of sisters, overcoming classmate cruelty and taunts, and the importance of culture and faith.  This book will be released on September 10th and I highly recommend it.  Gorgeous illustrations!   An important book to share about acceptance and pride in who you are.  (Great anchor for “Who Am I?” lessons from Powerful Understanding!)


Clothesline Clues to the First Day of School – Andy Robert Davies

You will have a lot of fun with this interactive book during the first week back.  Catchy rhymes and clear visual cues introduce young readers to the people they’ll encounter on their first day of school.  Perfect for Pre K – grade 1.

The School Book – Todd Parr

Todd Parr has done it again! With his signature bright, bold illustrations, “The School Book” is a must read for back to school this year. Positive and affirming step-by-step guide to a school day, from morning routines, to meeting new people, to learning and playing together. Love the way he weaves in a cheerful, child-friendly message of sharing, inclusion, and community. A perfect book for parents and teachers to read with any little one starting or returning to school.

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All Are Welcome – Alexandra Penfold

A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids starting and returning to school.    All children need to know they are welcome in their classrooms and feel a sense of belonging.  In rhythmic phrases, this story emphasizes the inclusiveness, acceptance, and celebration of all cultures.  The perfect book for the first week of school to promote a positive classroom and school community.

If I Built a School – Chris Van Dusen

Chris Van Dusen’s If I Built a House is one of my go-to read-alouds to inspire imaginative writing so I was thrilled to see his new book about an imaginary school!  Told in a bouncy rhyming text, a boy describes all the fantastic and amazing things he would include if he was building his own school – money and reality no object!  Puppies and zoo animals would greet you at the door, students would have movable hover desks, every library book would come to life when you opened it, you’d race on submersible bikes in the school’s pool!   What fun!  A perfect anchor book for some inspiring back to school imagination pocket writing and art!

Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten! – Lisa Robinson

Very sweet story about “Pirate Emma” transitioning from preschool to kindergarten and getting to know new classmates, a new classroom, a brand new teacher, and a new routine.  Packed with pirate language and lively illustrations, this story is a perfect “connect” book for any buccaneer that might not be feeling very brave when starting a new adventure.

Lola Goes to School – Anna McQuinn

A simple, comforting story about a little girl preparing for the first day of school.  While many similar books begin on the actual first day of school, I like how this one focuses on the preparation day before – choosing clothes, packing backpacks and lunches.   This one leaves you with such a positive, uplifting feeling that gently eases any worries young readers may be feeling about starting school.

Sorry, Grown-Ups!  You Can’t Go to School – Christina Geist

This book is an entertaining story with some reverse psychology intended to make kids want to go to school.   The role reversal outlines all the fun things that a child would be excited about – new backpacks (with secret pockets), playing games, reading on the cozy carpet, science experiments, and recess, all of which drive the adults nuts with longing!  Bright, playful illustrations. (the lack of diversity is my only criticism)  This book is fun and would certainly help to ease nerves as the school year begins.  

Butterflies on the First Day of School Annie Silverstro

Rosie is excited about the first day of school but then when the day actually arrives, she discovers she has “butterflies in her tummy.”   As the first day unfolds, each time Rosie opens up and talks to a new classmate or her teacher, butterflies – which only she can see – escape out of her mouth and fly into the sky.   As the butterflies fly out, Rosie’s confidence begins to grow, and new friendships and experiences are forged; she even finds the courage to help another shy little girl with butterflies of her own.  I love how this “butterfly” metaphor is developed into a clear analogy for kids – opening up to others to let the butterflies out.

The King of Kindergarten – Derrick Barnes

A gentle, joyful introduction to what to expect in a Kindergarten classroom and a sweet story about making friends, playing together, loving school, and putting positive energy into the world.  Such a lovely message in this one!   The artwork is stunning and the story is charming and uplifting.  Love this one!

The Pigeon Has to Go to School! – Mo Willems

Mo Willems is back with another pigeon book just in time for back to school! The Pigeon Has to Go to School is a laugh-out-loud hilarious story focusing on fears about going to school for the first time. Not preachy and a great ending. A perfect back to school read! LOVE this!

How To Read – Kwane Alexander

While not specifically about starting school, this ode to reading by the amazing team of Kwane Alexander and Melissa Sweet would make an excellent first week read-aloud.   I so loved the “how to” format filled gorgeous poetic language and literary techniques: “Once you’re comfy, peel its gentle skin, like you would a clementine…Next, did your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section and POP the words out.”  Vibrant, collage illustrations but I did find the busy layout and embedded font sometimes difficult to follow on some pages.   Great for read-aloud and wonderful anchor book for writing similes, personification and imagery.

Back to School: A Global Journey – Maya Ajmera

I so love this beautiful, joy-filled book filled with stunning color photographs of children around the world studying, learning, exploring, and having fun together.  A perfect book for any lesson on global education and includes back notes and maps about each photograph.  Seeing children’s joy about school and learning is so inspiring!   I would pair this book up with The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found on or two “Back to School” books that caught your eye!  Happy “New Year”, teacher friends!

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Filed under 2019 releases, Back to School, Connect, New Books, Top 10 Tuesday

Favorite Picture Books of 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!  It’s been months since I last posted… any spare writing time was spent trying to finish my new book so I  didn’t have time to blog.  But now the book is FINISHED!  (what a relief!)  So I hope to get back into my routine of regular blog posts!

Before launching into some of the new books for this year, I thought I would do a recap of my favorites from 2017 –  in case you have missed any of these great titles!  Nearly impossible to narrow it down – and I’m sure I’ve missed many but, in no particular order, here my favorite picture books of the last year….

 

King of the Sky – Nicola Davies

King of the Sky is a beautiful, moving story that touches on immigration and inter-generational relationships.   It is the story of a young, displaced boy from Italy and a retired, elderly Welsh coal miner who races pigeons. The book is a gentle meditation on loneliness, courage, and finding your place in the world when you feel out of place.  I love everything Nicola Davies writes – this sweet story is one of my favorites.  Gorgeous illustrations.

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Now – Antoinette Portis

Love this peaceful book about mindfulness, living in the moment, and appreciating what’s in front of you.  A little girl takes readers on a delightful journey that shows all her favorites and ends with an especially lovely one.  Love the bright autumn pallet.  This would be a perfect book for primary students for making connections to favorite things; with intermediates, I would use it for inferring a deeper message.

Questions Asked – Jostein Gaarder

Any book that promotes deep thinking and deep questions is going to be on my list of favorites!   This gorgeous book poses some of life’s most difficult, unanswerable questions in quiet and nonthreatening ways, opening the possibility for further thought and discussion.  A perfect book for introducing deep thinking questions.

A Different Pond – Bao Phi

This book combines family and cultural traditions, inter-generational relationships, and the challenges of the immigration experience all in one.  Beautifully crafted – so quiet and honest, with subtle text and beautiful imagery.  Bao Phi tells the story of an early early morning fishing trip with his father. The trip is not for recreation; it is for food.  There are so many quiet references to the challenges of the immigration experience (Bao makes reference to his father’s English, how hard his parents have to work, how everything costs so much).  This would make an excellent book for inferring and a focus on the hardships of immigration.

The Antlered Ship – Dashka Slater

A gorgeous epic filled with equal parts adventure and philosophy, this is one of those books that caught me by surprise when I first read it.  This sweet story features a curious fox who seeks answers to many big questions. Together, with his unlikely group of animal friends, they embark on a wondrous adventure.  Stunning illustrations by the Fan brothers – each page is its own piece of artwork.   Love the lessons in kindness, boldness and friendship.

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Crown – An Ode to the Fresh Cut – Derrick Barnes

This book made me smile a big wide smile and brought a bit of a tear to my eye at the same time.  It is just that good.  In a simple way, it is the story of a young black “tween” getting a haircut from the local barber.  But underneath it is a powerful message about dignity and empowerment and the feeling of importance.  Rich, beautiful, and joyful.

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Here We Are:  Notes for Living on Planet Earth – Oliver Jeffers

“Some things about our planet are pretty complicated, but things can be simple, too: you’ve just got to be kind.”   This beautiful book is a message to our little citizens about the mysterious world that they live in and how to understand and take care of it. Originally written as a message to his new born son, add this to your shopping list for any new babies being born, or for birthday presents for the littlest ones in your life!  Simple message for children but equally important and surprisingly deep message for grown-ups.  Gorgeous illustrations.

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Windows – Julia Denos

A warm little book about neighborhoods and the people within them. It’s a story about a child walking through a neighborhood and noticing people in the windows.  Comfort, belonging, community – all wrapped up in this beautifully illustrated book.

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    That Neighbor Kid – Daniel Miyares

In this almost wordless picture book, a young girl curiously watches her new neighbor begin a creative project.  While he struggles with his plans, she offers her help.   A celebration of creativity, friendship, collaboration and determination.  Love the way the illustrations begin as black and white and, as the friendship blossoms, so does the color.

The Bad Seed – Jory John

This humorous tale of a bad sunflower seed who eventually turns good makes a great read-aloud for primary students.  Sunflower is a BAAAAAAAAAD seed!  How BAAAAAAAAD?  He cuts in line, lies, doesn’t listen, has no manners…the list goes on!   I like how this book explores how he got to be so bad as well as focusing on his transformation to the “good side”.   Expressive illustrations – lots of laughs but great message.

                                                    Why Am I Me? – Paige Britt

Another stunning book that poses philosophical questions – this one with a deep pondering on identity and diversity.  Gorgeous mixed-media illustrations in an urban setting and great examples of point of view and inner dialogue.  Great discussion starter.

Life – Cynthia Rylant

Cynthia Rylant is definitely one of my top favorite children’s writers. I find her books to be so life-affirming, full of wonder and hope. Her new book “Life” is simply stunning. “What do you love about life?” is the question asked to many different animals. Through their responses, we are gifted with a wonderful message about life: how it constantly changes, the beauty of it, the darkness, and the wonders all around it. Simple, lyrical text and beautiful illustrations by Brendan Wenzel – it is a calm and reassuring book. Love.

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Wolf in the Snow – Matthew Cordell

So many great moments, great emotions and great sound effects in this moving, nearly wordless picture book about friendship, kindness, and compassion.  So much to love about this tale of a young girl who gets lost in the woods in deep winter as a wolf cub gets separated from her pack. The cub is afraid and in danger and the girl carries her to her mother. But the girl is now hopelessly lost, and in even greater danger. The pack, sensing this danger, howls to help the girl’s parents find her.  This is a must read, must share and must have little book.   (Kleenex required)

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Come With Me – Holly M. McGhee

What can we do to make the world just a little bit better, despite the fear, devastation and hatred we see everyday?  In this timely book, a young girl, frightened by what she is seeing on TV, asks her parents what she can do to make the world a better place. They respond by telling her and showing her that every person can make a difference by being kind, brave and showing compassion.  “Come with me…we can make this world better together.”  A wonderful book for launching a compassion project.

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When’s My Birthday? – Julie Fogliano

I so enjoyed this enthusiastic celebration of all things birthday!  Perfectly captures the agony and ecstasy of waiting for that one special day.   This book has rhyme and repetition; it’s bouncy and infectious and full of joy!  A great connect book for children – and even better one for parents!  “How many more days til my birthday?”

This House, Once – Deborah Freedman
Thought-provoking and beautifully poetic story about a house – and the oak tree, bricks and stones that it once was.  Though-provoking book invites readers to think about where things come from and what nature provides.  Soft, quiet, dreamy.  A note to readers at the back is great for promoting discussions.
There you have it!  So many more I could add but have to stop somewhere!  What were your favorite picture books of 2017?  Would love to hear your titles!
Watch for upcoming lists featuring favorite novels and early chapter books of 2017!

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Filed under 2017 releases, Connect, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Question