Tag Archives: Mo Willems

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

Top 10 Tuesday – Ten Spring Releases I am Eagerly Awaiting!

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It’s been a few weeks since I posted, but now report cards are written and marking is done, I’m  happy to be sharing some new releases ( picture books and novels) that I’m excited about!   I have listed release dates and all are available for pre-ordering.  While I haven’t actually READ these yet – some have amazing track records, some are from favorite authors, while others just caught my eye!  I’m “inferring”  I shall love them all!

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1. Flora and the Peacocks – Molly Idle (release May 3rd)

Molly Idle gifted us first with Flora and the Flamingo and then Flora and the Penguin.  Darling, dancing Flora is back, and this time, she is dancing with a pair of colorful, moody peacocks.  Can’t wait to read this one!

Book Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e75i9Q40STM

2. The Bear and the Piano – David Litchfield  (April 5)

I judged this book by it’s cover and decided it was a MUST read!  I can just imagine holding this cover up and asking the students “What are you wondering?”  My brain is swirling with wonderings!

3. Twenty Yawns – Jane Smiley  (April 1)

This looks like a sweet bedtime story and I adore Lauren Castillo’s illustrations so I’m keeping my eye out for this one!

4. Elephant and Piggie – The Thank You Book – Mo Willems  (May 5th)

I’m a huge fan of this hilarious, tender series and can’t wait to add this to our library collection!

5. Duck, Duck, Porcupine! – Salina Yoon (May 17)

I have enjoyed Salina Moon’s Penguin and Porcupine books so am looking forward to this book, told entirely through dialogue.

6. Flying Frogs and Walking Fish: Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-Propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move – Steve Jenkins (May 3) 

If you know me, you know I love Steve Jenkins.  Not just a little love – but overflowing book love for S. J.  His nonfiction books he writes with his wife (sigh) Robin Page are fascinating, engaging, stunning, and down-right glorious.  Here’s his latest.

7.  Booked – Kwane Alexander  (April 5)

 If you have not yet read or shared Kwane Alexander’s riveting novel in verse The Crossover, which won the Newberry in 2015 – it is a MUST READ!  In this much anticipated follow up novel, basketball is replaced with soccer.

8. My Seventh Grade Life in Tights – Brooks Benjamin

Lots of buzz about this charming, feel-good story of a tween boy who wants to be a dancer.

Book Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IOwYpsPLyI

9. Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood – Liesl Shurtliff (April 12)

If you are a fan of True Stories series by Liesl Shurtliff  (Rump and Jack),  you will be excited about Red!  If you teach middle school, these hilarious fractured fairy tales make the BEST read-alouds!

10.  Raymie Nightingale – Kate DiCamillo  (April 12)

Magic happens when you read Kate DiCamillo’s books.  Everything she writes is crafted masterfully and filled with heart-breaking, poignant moments and gorgeous, gorgeous language. This is the story of  a summer friendship.  Let the magic begin!

Thanks for stopping by!  Which book has caught your eye?

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Filed under 2016 releases, Top 10 Tuesday

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – Picture Book Month Favorites

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

It’s hard to believe that November is almost over and in a few hours, the countdown to Christmas will begin!  It has been wonderful celebrating picture books this month with you and I hope that you have been inspired to use some of these wonderful books to enhance your lessons and bring some picture book joy to your students!  Here are some of the books I’ve featured on my Facebook page this month plus a few extras!

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The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Class – Justin Roberts

I know a book is going to be great when the word “transform” is written in the last line: “And now the world could transform and a change could be made by the smallest girl in the smallest grade.” This is a wonderful story about Sally, who, despite her small size, notices things going on around her – hurtful things. An inspiring story about making a difference and standing up for change – no matter what size you are! Vibrant pencil-crayon illustrations and rhyming text. A perfect primary read-aloud! Love!

If You Give a Mouse an iPhone – Ann Droyd

Getting sucked into screen time is certainly a topic we can all connect to! This is a hilarious spin on the classic series by Laura Numeroff. A boy gives Applesauce, the mouse, an iPhone to keep him quiet for 10 minutes. Of course, Applesauce wants the phone for much longer and ends up missing out on the fun activities surrounding him. If you are a parent trying to explain to their children why they should NOT get an IPhone – this might help your cause! Great illustrations, great fun! A great companion to Anne Droyd’s “Goodnight Ipad” (similar spin on Goodnight Moon)

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3nVxt6_lAc

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The Storm Whale – Benji Davies

This beautifully illustrated book invites readers to infer both from the carefully selected words and stunning artwork. The story is about a Noi, a young boy who discovers a whale on the beach after a storm. His father is a busy fisherman (and is a great hugger) and, despite their 6 cats, Noi is often alone. He decides to take the whale home and hide it in his bathtub. There is a tenderness to this quiet tale of loneliness, family and friendship.  Will make a wonderful book to practice questioning and inferring. 

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Blizzard – John Rocco

This book is based on John Rocco’s childhood experience duing the now infamous blizzard of 1978, which brought 53 inches of snow to his town in Rhode Island. Brief text and dynamic illustrations: the wonder of a winter storm told through the eyes of young boy. I LOVED John’s Rocco’s book Blackout (2012 Caldecott Honoree) about a family’s experience one summer during a power outage. I think I may love this one just a little bit more.

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Louise Loves Art – Kelly Light

This is a book that celebrates creativity, imagination and the challenges and joys of having a younger sibling!  Louise loves art – when she is not drawing, she is thinking about what she is going to draw next.  One day, she is preparing her latest masterpiece for the “Gallery du Fridge”, when her younger brother wants to join in but has a slightly different plan for her painting!  I liked the way the text told Louise’s story and the illustrations told her brother’s.  The illustrations are bright and lively and I liked how Louise modeled self control when her brother clearly ruined her special art.  This would be a perfect “connect” book!

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Waiting is Not Easy – Mo Willems

Love this latest in the Elephant and Piggy series by the great Mo Willems.  This one deals with the challenges of having to wait for something!  Poor Elephant  is not having an easy time waiting for a special surprise that Piggy has in store for him.  This would be a perfect book to practice making connections with your primary class – especially with the Christmas season coming up… Who doesn’t have a hard time waiting for Christmas to arrive?

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The Hockey Sweater – 30 Anniversary Edition by Roch Carrier

With the passing of Pat Quinn, one of the most beloved faces of Canadian hockey this month, it seemed fitting to post a book celebrating this great sport. The Hockey Sweater is a true classic Canadian book and this year they have re-issued it as an “anniversary edition” (30 years!) Same classic story but filled with extra materials, still photos from the animated movie and best of all, quotes from celebrities who have read and loved the book. The story centers around a boy living in a small town in Quebec, his hockey hero #9 Maurice Richard, and the famous rivalry between the Montreal Canadians and the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is a story of hockey, family, community, heroes, passion and dreaming big.  This book would make a perfect Christmas present for the special hockey players in your life. (All three of mine have their own copy!) LOVE this book.

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What We See When We Read – Peter Mendelsund

Visualizing, or “making metal pictures” when you read is a strategy I have spent years teaching students about. In this fascinating book, graphic and book jacket designer Peter Mendelsund explores how we are better able to understand the act of reading through visualizing. In a “scrapbook” approach, a collage of short text, pictures, sketches and concepts he creates a visually interesting and thought-provoking look at the process of reading. Lively, quirky and thought provoking. This is a quick read (I read it cover to cover on the Victoria ferry) and reinforced the very foundation of what I know to be true: “The reader writes the story” (Annie Proulx)

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The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie – Chris Van Allsburg

It is actually painful for me to admit this – but I did not really like this book.  I love everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) that Chris Van Allsburg has EVER written.  I was SO excited seeing this new release on display in my favorite book store, but after reading it, I was left feeling so very disappointed.  Sweetie Pie is a pet hamster who longs to be free and run wild with other wild creatures. We follow Sweetie from the pet store to the owner’s house and finally to the classroom when he becomes the class pet.   Over Christmas, one of the students takes Sweetie Pie home – and forgets about him! I felt as if this whole book was about the abuse of this poor animal and about selfish children who didn’t care about him or anything!  I could not see myself reading it to my class as I don’t think there would be anything positive to discuss.   I am often teased by friends and colleagues that I “love every book” I read.  This book,  sadly, I did not even like!

 Hooray – this is my 100th Post!    Thanks for stopping by today!   Please leave me a message and let me know which book caught your eye!

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Filed under Friendship, Infer, It's Monday, making connections, New Books, Picture Book, Question, Reading Power, Visualize, What Are You Reading?