7 books to ease back-to-school transition

SECOND GRADE HOLDOUT, by Audrey Vernick; illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Clarion Books)

Who wants to leave the comfort of first grade for the unknown of second grade? Not the kid in this story, an unnamed boy who appeared in the author's earlier book, First Grade Dropout. The boy tells us how he had so many good times in first grade, and, importantly, was in the same class as his best friend. So he decides he's staying with his first-grade teacher: "If I stick with her in good old room 101, I could be Lakeview Elementary's smartest-ever first-grader! They might even have medals and certificates for that. Maybe a crown of some kind." His resolve tightens when his friend's sisters tell him all sorts of dreadful things about second grade, like being required to spell "platypus". Soon, though, he and his friend discover the girls are pranking them. Funny and relatable, this book will make kids laugh out loud.

AMANDA PANDA QUITS KINDERGARTEN, by Candice Ransom; illustrated by Christine Grove (Doubleday

Books for Young Readers) A colourful, soft watercolour illustration on the cover hints at the gentle nature of this tale. Amanda Panda loves the colour brown, running fast and building with blocks. A girl who adores pink and sparkly things, and who seems to be perfect, tries to befriend Amanda on the first day of kindergarten, but Amanda attempts to evade her. Deciding kindergarten is a bust, she sneaks into her older brother's second-grade classroom, only to realise that the chairs are too big and the vocabulary words are too hard. Then, to her surprise, Amanda sees her nemesis has wound up in the same room after getting lost. Will Amanda help the girl? It's a sweet story about the power of kindness and getting past first impressions.

K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN, by Erin Dealey; illustrated by Joseph Cowman (Sleeping Bear Press)

As the first day of kindergarten approaches, kids can read about what to expect and discover related activities. Each letter of the alphabet offers a starting point for a rhyme and things to do. "F is for all the smiling faces of the new kids that you meet. Some may ride the bus to school. Some might live right down the street." The corresponding page asks: "Do you live close to your school or far away? How will you get there? By bus? By foot? Make a chart of all the ways students might travel to your school." The snappy rhymes and thought-provoking challenges offer a chance for parent-child bonding and a way to build excitement for the big day.

FALL IS FOR SCHOOL, by Robert Neubecker (Disney-Hyperion)

A brother and sister approach the end of summer differently - the girl is excited for school to start and the brother would rather just stay home. Even after describing the new subjects they will be studying and things they will do, the boy is adamant about not going to school: "I am going to play all day! It doesn't matter what you say." His sister responds: "Recess is for playing games: We'll run and jump and climb! Let's go right now and join the fun. You really must not whine!" The sister's enthusiasm never wanes and eventually the brother - seated at a chair and surrounded by friendly pupils in a cheerful classroom - discovers his sister was right. Bright, bold, detail-laden drawings paired with sing-song rhymes create a perfect "turn-that-frown-upside-down" story.

TINYVILLLE TOWN: TIME FOR SCHOOL, by Brian Biggs (Abrams Appleseed)

The residents of Tinyville - from a teacher choosing his best sweater to wear to kids lacing their sneakers and filling their backpacks to a crossing guard checking her watch for the kids to arrive - are excited for school to begin. The smiling principal is nearby, checking on everyone: "Bubba, where are your shoes? Here, Anna, you can borrow my pencil. Bring yours tomorrow. Owen, return that library book you borrowed last year." The book takes readers through a day at school through the eyes of Ellie, who is new to the neighbourhood. We see her get acclimatised to the school's activities and make a friend. The bustling Tinyville, shown in boisterous coloured pencil and India ink illustrations, is as much fun to visit as the neighbourhoods made famous by children's author Richard Scarry.

HERE COMES TEACHER CAT, by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Claudia Rueda (Dial Books for Young Readers)

Cat is summoned to work as a substitute teacher for Ms Melba at Kitty School. But Cat isn't interested. Mainly he would just like to nap. In this book - the next entry in the warm and funny series in which an unseen narrator talks to Cat and Cat responds by holding up signs - he (reluctantly) steps up to the challenge. His ideas, though, are different from what usually goes on in the classroom: He gathers the kittens for a loud music-group session incorporating guitars, drums and a trumpet; builds a fish-spouting fountain; and turns art time into a chance for paw-painting on the walls and floors. It's all in good fun, though, and kids will think it is just purrfect.

HOW TO GET YOUR TEACHER READY, by Jean Reagan; illustrated by Lee Wildish (Alfred A. Knopf)

In a twist on teachers explaining everything about the classroom and what lies ahead, this book features kids who are the experts.

"Show her your favourite spots in the room. If she asks, 'Why don't I have a cubby?' point to all the drawers in her own desk."

Cute and charming illustrations, along with lively, humorous text, make this book something your kids will want to read and reread throughout the school year.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline '7 books to ease back-to-school transition'. Subscribe