School has begun, or is about to begin, and children are beginning a new year with new teachers and subjects to learn. Some important things kids learn besides academics are friendship, kindness and getting along with others. Here are some outstanding picture books on these other subjects, as well as etiquette and manners. All of these books are good for ages 4 through 8.
Little Lola, by Julie Saab, and illustrated by her husband, David Gothard, is about a cat, Lola, who desires to have an adventure. When Lola finds discarded leggings, sneakers, a backpack and even pink eyeglasses on the ground, she puts them on and races to catch a school bus. Once in school, Lola experiences great school activities. When she finds a mouse there, she uses it for “show-and-tell” which results in humorous chaos. The wonderful and colorful watercolors fill the pages and add perfectly to the story, making this a great introduction to school for the newest arrivals.
My Teacher is a Monster! (No I’m Not), by Peter Brown, is an excellent book showcasing that children need not be afraid of their teachers. Young Robert is very much afraid of his teacher. The mixed media used to illustrate the pictures initially depicts the teacher looking mean. Robert doesn’t like the fact that she sometimes uses a loud voice when disciplining her students for throwing paper airplanes in class. But when he meets her in the park and gets to know her as a person, and not a teacher, she becomes nice looking. This is an excellent book helping youngsters understand why their teacher must have order and respect in the classroom.
Flip & Fin: We Rule the School, by Timothy Gill, and illustrated with watercolor by Neil Numberman, is actually a great ice-breaker for classroom settings that will help make for an accepting atmosphere with students. Flip and Fin are sand shark twins who are getting ready for their school joke day. Flip is nervous and trying to find the best joke, and when he finally does, he’s scared to say it in front of his school. His brother and friends help out and save the day. There are really fun and funny jokes found throughout the book that youngsters in second and third grades would better understand and really enjoy. The humorous paintings of the fish are fun as well. There are more jokes found at the back as well as information about the fish found in the book.
Monsters Love School, by Mike Austin, is a preparatory book that informs children of what to expect during a school day such as learning letters, reading, numbers, art, recess and even lunchtime. There’s even a checklist of school needs at the beginning of the story. This book continues in the tradition of Austin’s fun and colorful illustrations from “Monsters Love Colors”.
The Troublemaker, by Lauren Castillo, vividly shows with etchings of colors abounding off the page, a young boy who appears bored and decides to sneak away with his little sister’s favorite stuffed bunny for his pirate game. He gets in trouble with his mom for being a troublemaker and returns the now wet animal. However, there is another troublemaker at play here and the reader can find clues of what it is throughout the story. In the end, the boy learns his lesson as the mysterious troublemaker takes his favorite toy and is eventually discovered. There are many lessons and discussions to be learned here.
A Piece of Cake, by LeUyen Pham, is reminiscent of “The Little Red Hen” where animals that didn’t bake the Hen’s bread now desire a piece. Mouse has baked a birthday cake for his friend Little Bird. Along the way, he trades away parts of the cake as he greets other animals who fancy a piece. Each animal repays his kindness with an unnecessary item. By the time he reaches his friend, the cake is gone. So they both return to bake another (which turns out even better) and along the return trip, they find each animal in need of a solution to a problem. This lovely book showcases how the kindness of Mouse and the ingenuity of Little Bird made a better place for all. The bright illustrations of pencil and digitally colored pictures give a retro-feel to the book.
Two Speckled Eggs, by Jennifer K. Mann, is the perfect story to teach youngsters to include others in group activities and make friends with even those kids who are left out. Ginger is about to have her birthday party at her home. Her mom made her include every girl in her class, even though she didn’t want to invite Lyla, who “smelled like old leaves….(and) didn’t talk much”. But Ginger discovers something pretty amazing at her party: the other girls didn’t cooperate with her planned games and they didn’t even like her cherished flavors in her cake, except for Lyla. The illustrations are a nice match with the story. The author/illustrator used simple penciled figures with a blend of gouache and digital collage adding to this sweet story.
Jacob’s Eye Patch, by Beth Kobliner Shaw and her nine-year-old son Jacob Shaw, and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, is about dealing with physical abnormalities that make a child feel different. Jacob wears an eye patch to help his one eye become strong like his other eye. (I can relate with this as my daughter wore an eye patch at a very young age). He gets more attention than he’d like to receive and becomes annoyed when his parents explain in detail why he has an eye patch. But he begins to understand the attention he receives when he sees a young girl with braces on her teeth and decides not to ask her about them. There are great lessons to be learned and discussed from this book.