While it remains uncertain if schools across the country will reopen for students this fall, we’ve gathered a selection of noteworthy books to get young readers back in the spirit of learning and connecting with teachers and classmates—in-person or at a distance.

Picture Books

All Welcome Here

James Preller, illus. by Mary GrandPré. Feiwel and Friends, June 16 $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-15588-7. Ages 4–7.

The creator of the Jigsaw Jones series switches creative tacks with this sequence of haiku that propels classmates through a busy opening day of school, highlighting their activities, personalities, and emotions. Caldecott Honoree GrandPré captures the day’s shifting moods in pictures of absorbed, interacting kids of various skin tones and abilities.

The Alphabet’s Alphabet

Chris Harris, illus. by Dan Santat. Little, Brown, Sept. 29 $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-316-26662-8. Ages 4–8.

This playful twist on the ABCs invites readers to look at letters in a whole new way: “An A is an H that just won’t stand up right. A B is a D with its belt on too tight... and a Z is an L in a tug-of-war fight!”

Bunny Braves the Day: A First-Day-of-School Story

Suzanne Bloom. Boyds Mills, Mar. 18 $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-68437-812-8. Ages 3–7.

What’s a bunny to do on day one of school when he frets that no one will like him, he can’t tie his shoes, and he can’t read?

Clifford Goes to Kindergarten

Norman Bridwell. Scholastic, July 7 $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-338-61934-8. Ages 3–5.

In this jacketed hardcover edition of the classic story, the big red dog joins a nervous Emily Elizabeth for her first day of kindergarten, where they sing songs and play games.

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten

Laura Purdie Salas, illus. by Hiroe Nakata. Two Lions, Aug. 1 $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5420-4246-8. Ages 4–6.

On opening day, a calm-loving kitten finds a lot to dislike about kittygarten: blocks clatter when they tumble, the teacher’s hand bell sounds like a gong, and another kitty’s tail invades her “purrrrrrsonal space!” Salas shapes a read-aloud that will spark conversation with first-timers who are sensitive to stimulus, while Nakata humorously conveys the resolute feline’s emotions.

The Color Monster Goes to School

Anna Llenas. Little, Brown, July 7 $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-53704-9. Ages 4–8.

After the girl who befriended the anxious, eponymous star of The Color Monster tells him that he’s about to start school, he again turns various colors as he grapples with new emotions.

Danbi Leads the School Parade

Anna Kim. Viking, July 7 $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-451-47889-4. Ages 3–7.

Introducing an ingenuous girl who has just moved from South Korea to the U.S. with her parents, Kim’s debut radiates positivity, inclusivity, and hope. Danbi bravely enters her classroom on the first day at her new school to encounter a gaggle of staring, curious kids who speak a different language than she does.

First Day Critter Jitters

Jory John, illus. by Liz Climo. July 7 Dial, $17.99; ISBN 978-0-7352-2855-9. Ages 4–8.

The creators of Can Somebody Please Scratch My Back? present another spry animal picture book, commingling comedy and counsel while showcasing a passel of creatures braving the first day of school.

I Got the School Spirit

Connie Schofield-Morrison, illus. by Frank Morrison. Bloomsbury, July 7 $17.99; ISBN 978-1-5476-0261-2. Ages 3–6.

The vivacious African American protagonist from I Got the Rhythm and I Got the Christmas Spirit returns in this follow-up, as she embarks on the first day of school with optimism and oomph.

Nana Akua Goes to School

Tricia Elam Walker, illus. by April Harrison. Random/Schwartz & Wade, June 16 $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-525-58113-0. Ages 4–8.

Zura’s school is inviting grandparents to visit, and though her Ghanaian grandmother, Nana Akua, is “her favorite person in the whole universe,” Zura is worried that her tribal facial markings will draw unwanted attention. Newcomer Walker writes convincingly about how difference can cause unease among children, and her story offers a compelling portrait of a grandmother whose pride and poise put that concern to rest. The book received a starred review from PW.

One Golden Rule at School: A Counting Book

Selina Alko. Holt/Ottaviano, June 16 $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-16381-3. Ages 2–6.

Alko brings her signature mixed-media collage art into a classroom setting through this counting tale with a timely and timeless message. A seek-and-find challenge progresses from spotting one object to 10 before reversing direction for a countdown, culminating in “One Golden Rule” (“Do to others as you would have them do to you”) and “one great day at school!”

Our Favorite Day of the Year

A.E. Ali, illus. by Rahele Jomepour Bell. S&S/Salaam Reads, June 30 $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8563-0. Ages 4–8.

This tranquil tale opens on kindergarten’s initial day, as Ms. Gupta tells her richly inclusive class that the first day of school is her favorite day of the year, and that each student will have a chance to share their favorite day at show-and-tell. The book received a starred review from PW.

Pearl Goes to Preschool

Julie Fortenberry. Candlewick, July 21 $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0743-9. Ages 2–5.

In Fortenberry’s winsome, taut story, a timid child warms to the idea of preschool with her mother’s tactical nudging and her own ingenuity. This charming antidote to preschool anxiety contains a deftly measured dose of sweetness.

Superhero vs. School

Ethan Long. Bloomsbury, July 7 $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-68119-828-6. Ages 3–6.

Intent on his caped and masked alter-ego, the deceptively brave boy at the center of this spry cartoon battles the forces of evil in his bedroom, but stalls when directed to don his school clothes. With high-octane, bright pictures, this early reader comic may well provide a boost of confidence to wary, school-bound superheroes.

The Truth About Dragons
Jaime Zollars. Little, Brown, Sept. 15 $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-48148-9. Ages 4–8.

In this solo debut by Zollars, a child’s anxiety about the first day of school is represented by a castle full of dragons who at first seem scary but soon reveal their friendliness.

We Will Rock Our Classmates

Ryan T. Higgins. Disney-Hyperion, July 21 $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-368-05959-6. Ages 3–5.

In this companion to We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Penelope the T. rex overcomes feelings of doubt and takes on the schoolwide talent show.

Welcome to Unicorn School (David the Unicorn #1)

Pip Bird, illus. by David O’Connell. Imprint, July 21 $15.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-250-25634-8. Ages 7–10.

In this light series opener, Mira is delighted when she receives her acceptance letter to Unicorn School, where students are assigned their own unicorns, “specially chosen for each person for specific magical reasons.” Publishing simultaneously: Team Spirit (Dave the Unicorn #2).

Middle Grade

American as Paneer Pie

Supriya Kelkar. Aladdin, June 9 $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3938-2. Ages 8–12.

In this resonant #OwnVoices novel, a first-generation Indian American girl who initially wishes to blend into her predominantly white school and community learns to honor her identity.

Dress Coded

Carrie Firestone. Putnam, July 7 $17.99 ISBN 978-1-984816-43-6. Ages 10–up.

A school’s unfair dress code, which targets young women and fails to account for socioeconomic and other circumstances that can make the code difficult to adhere to, is challenged in this YA novel, in which protagonist Molly begins a podcast where students share their experiences and object to the unjust rules. The book earned a starred review from PW.

A Place at the Table

Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan. Clarion, Aug. 11 $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-358-11668-4. Ages 10–12.

When 11-year-olds Elizabeth and Sara meet in an after-school South Asian cooking class, they don’t immediately hit it off. Pakistani-American Sara is anxious about starting sixth grade at a big public school instead of the private Islamic one she’s always attended, while Elizabeth, who is Jewish, worries about her British mother’s depression and her old best friend replacing her. After the girls become cooking partners, though, they embark on a cautious friendship with some realistic bumps.

Young Adult

Again, Again

E. Lockhart. Delacorte, June 2 $18.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-385-74479-9. Ages 12–up.

Lockhart returns to Alabaster Preparatory Academy—the setting for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks—to tell the story of a different character. Adrift in the summer between her junior and senior years, and staying on the nearly deserted campus, Adelaide Buchwald navigates the aftermath of an unexpected breakup, at least one potential new romance, and a wrenching situation with her brother, while also making up an unfinished project for her set design class.


Tracy Deonn. S&S/McElderry, Sept. 15 $18.99 ISBN 978-1-5344-4160-6. Ages 14 and up.

A modern-day twist on Arthurian legend, Deonn’s contemporary fantasy follows 16-year-old Black girl Bree Matthews, who joins a residential program for bright high school students at UNC-Chapel Hill. When a magical attack occurs on campus, Bree discovers of her own unique magic and buried memories about her mother’s death.

One Year at Ellsmere

Faith Erin Hicks. First Second, July 14 $22.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-2502-1910-7. Ages 10–14.

Previously published in black-and-white, this new edition of the graphic novel sports updated line art and color work by Shelli Paroline that subtly enhances Hicks’s original art. The book stars Juniper (“Jun”), the first and only scholarship student at the prestigious Ellsmere Academy for Girls, a castle turned boarding school founded for girls to study science and literature.