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Five Little Ducklings Go to School

Carol Roth, illus. by Sean Julian. NorthSouth, $8.95 paper (32p) ISBN 978-0-7358-4346-2

The duckling siblings who faced bedtime in Five Little Ducklings Go to Bed are on their way to school. Each duck wears a stylish headpiece (a blue beanie, a purple brimmed hat) and matching striped ties. Roth writes in an enthusiastic, rhyming song: “ ‘Yippee! Hooray! Oh Boy! That’s Cool!’ Four little ducklings couldn’t wait for school!” But when the fifth duckling expresses anxiety, the others follow suit. Mama duck comforts and assures her ducklings en route to the classroom: “Don’t be sad; don’t be blue./ Teacher will take good care of you.” Sure enough, the teacher—a gangly stork—welcomes the ducklings and their fellow students (a turtle, a beaver, a rabbit, and others) with open wings. An assuring, rhyme-heavy readaloud for first-day fears. Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Hannah Sparkles: Hooray for the First Day of School!

Robin Mellom, illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. HarperCollins, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-232234-0

In the second Hannah Sparkles book, Mellom’s protagonist has first grade all figured out: “I imagined it like this: side by side with my best friend, Sunny Everbright, laughing and working.” In reality, Sunny is seated across the room, so Hannah is on her own. Talking enthusiastically about her interests and offering an unbidden hug doesn’t seem to engage the other students. When she confides in Sunny at recess, her friend suggests that she try “listening and watching” rather than talking and sharing, and time in her classroom’s “refill station” gives Hannah a moment to recenter. Brantley-Newton creates a welcoming school environment filled with cozy nooks, while the heroine exudes personality. Mellom sensitively conveys how school brings with it important, unexpected social lessons. Ages 4–8. (June)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Even Monsters Go to School

Lisa Wheeler, illus. by Chris Van Dusen. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-236642-9

When a blue-horned monster girl (first introduced in the co-creator’s Even Monsters Need to Sleep) is reluctant to go to school, her father reminds her that every monster—even famous ones—attends classes. Van Dusen’s vivid, action-filled art shows the cast of friendly monsters taking part in typical school tasks. Bigfoot rides the school bus; Frankenstein impresses his peers with iron-soled Chuck Taylors; and Troll runs out from under his bridge to enjoy recess with a group of goats. The blue monster child is encouraged by the examples of other pupils—as readers may be, as well: “You’re ready! And you know the rule... All little monsters go to school.” A fun read for readers who are thinking about Halloween monsters a bit early. Ages 4–8. (June)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Dragons from Mars Go to School

Deborah Aronson, illus. by Colin Jack. HarperCollins, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-236851-5

In this sequel to Dragons from Mars, dragons Molly and Fred are not looking forward to school: “Maybe they’ve never seen dragons before. What if they’re frightened and run for the door?” With the support and company of Nathaniel, their shaggy-haired kid pal, the pair fly to school, just barely squeezing themselves through the door. But when Fred crushes a chair in the classroom, the human students make fun: “Don’t sit on the floor or you just might fall through!” When Molly and Fred stand up for themselves—sharing how “remarkable” they really are (even offering the kids “a quick trip to Mars”)—the children have a change of heart. Jack renders the dragons with inky, frayed outlines and in playful colors (Molly is pink and blue; Fred is ketchup- and mustard-hued), lending them a friendly eccentricity. A light message about kindness and acceptance. Ages 4–8. (June)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Back to School: A Global Journey

Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko. Charlesbridge, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58089-837-9

This photographic survey updated from 2001 uses simple captions (“Doing long-division math in Jordan”) and images from a variety of sources to celebrate some ways that schools globally ignite children’s curiosity and connect them to dedicated teachers, new friends, and a wider world. Whether studying “motors and electricity” (Ghana) or on a field trip to a local potter (Thailand), whether children get to school by camel (Mongolia) or boat (Myanmar), “going to school is a big step toward growing up and learning to be responsible,” write Ajmera and Ivanko (To Be a Kid) in the afterword. The image quality is uneven, but in the best photographs—best friend pairs in India and Kyrgyzstan, a Cote d’Ivoire child who flashes a beaming smile—children regard the camera with delight and pride. Ages 4–8. (June)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Bunny’s Book Club Goes to School

Annie Silvestro, illus. by Tatjana Mai-Wyss. Doubleday, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-525-64464-4

In this sequel, the bibliophile star of Bunny’s Book Club and his animal pals follow their human friend Josie to school, hoping to calm her first-day jitters. But the girl beats them to the door and has disappeared by the time the critters enter the building. Bunny is determined to track her down, but his companions get distracted: Squirrel opts to hang from the gym’s basketball net, Bird heads to music class, and Bear and Mouse chow down in the cafeteria. Bunny, to his delight, finds the school library, and through a window spots Josie at recess, precipitating a joyous playground reunion. Jam-packed with comedic details (art supplies get stuck in Porcupine’s quills; Frog demonstrates his jumping-rope prowess), Mai-Wyss’s busy pictures heighten the geniality of this celebration of friendship and school. Ages 3–7. (June)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Sorry, Grown-ups, You Can’t Go to School!

Christina Geist, illus. by Tim Bowers. Random House, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5247-7084-6

The creators of Buddy’s Bedtime Battery offer a hyperbolic riff on a common picture-book conceit: parents touting the joys of school to reluctant offspring. As Lady and Buddy’s mother flaunts her pink backpack, announcing, “I’m wearing it to school!” their father eagerly ties his new high-tops. The kids react with a rather flat refrain that’s repeated throughout: “You can’t go to school! Only kids and teachers! Only kids and teachers!” Soon, their grandparents arrive with their dog in tow—all wearing backpacks—and the grown-ups share what they’re most looking forward to at school. After putting the final kibosh on the adults’ plan, Lady comically assuages their disappointment by reassuring them that the grown-ups can pick up the kids at day’s end. A non sequitur brings the tale to a curiously anticlimactic close, as the girl proclaims, “Tomorrow we get to go to work with you!” High-energy art magnifies the story’s message: kids know best. Ages 3–7. (July)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Preschool, Here I Come!

D.J. Steinberg, illus. by John Joven. Grosset & Dunlap, $9.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9052-3

Steinberg continues his series of celebratory books about school milestones with a collection of short poems about preschool. Joven illustrates a diverse group of students with rounded faces, beadlike eyes, and bold expressions. The children are seen participating in a wide range of activities throughout the school year, from spelling to playing horses in the gym (“We pretend the gym is a racetrack”). Classroom practices are also portrayed: a list of rules, and spreads that show kids washing hands and sharing, let readers know what to expect. Steinberg conveys the passing of time by showing the children engaged in seasonally themed projects; in autumn, “we pile up the pumpkins./ Some are little, some are plumpish./ Some are big and some are skinny.” A final scene shows the students as they graduate. Next stop, kindergarten! Ages 3–5. (July)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Pigeon Has to Go to School!

Mo Willems. Hyperion, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-368-04645-9

At long last, the school bell tolls for Pigeon, despite his insistence that “I already know EVERYTHING!” But as longtime readers of Willems’s series know, there’s a little bird beneath all that bluster, and Pigeon soon reveals that school has turned him into a feather-covered bundle of anxieties. “What if the teacher doesn’t like pigeons?” he asks, his normally robust black pupil shrinking to a little dot of fear. As he thinks about learning math and the alphabet, wearing a hefty backpack, and meeting other birds, the strong black outlines that have always defined Willems’s beloved, kvetching protagonist turn ragged: “The unknown stresses me out, dude,” he confides. But wait—is that a school bus he gets to ride on? “Coming through!” he shouts. “The Pigeon HAS to go to school!” Ages 3–5. (July)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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First Day of Groot!

Brendan Deneen, illus. by Cale Atkinson. Marvel, $12.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-368-00069-7

In this marginal story by the creators of Night Night, Groot, a young Groot, the extraterrestrial, treelike member of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, takes off on an educational adventure with his buddy Rocket Raccoon. Deneen’s clunky verse accompanies an image of the duo at the breakfast table (“Breakfast is the greatest/ meal of the day./ It gives you the strength/ to run and play”) before they embark on a trip across the galaxy, during which Groot gets fleeting, vague lessons in sharing, counting, and working together to defeat villains who appear suddenly. Full-bleed, vividly hued cartoons by Atkinson feature a hodgepodge of Marvel superheroes and villains whom kids in the target audience may not know, but Groot fans know what they’re in for. Ages 3–5. (July)

Reviewed on 06/21/2019 | Details & Permalink

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