School Days

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Graham Cracker School Bus by Ella

For the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to know a wonderful group of parents and kids who meet for dinner every Wednesday night, then come to the library for my Family Storytime.  Most of those kids will be starting Kindergarten next week, and to me it feels almost as bittersweet as it did when my own son started school.

The little group has become like a second family, and I’ve enjoyed seeing the kids each week as they fight like siblings over who is going to get to check out the book I just read (or am about to read), suggest wild new original verses for songs, and glue dozens of googly eyes to whatever craft project we’re doing.  It’s been so much fun to see them get taller, and more expressive, and skilled with crayons and glue sticks and scissors.  They are definitely ready for Kindergarten, and I’m excited for them.

But I know life gets much busier once kids go to Kindergarten, especially with homework and class projects and after school activities.  So I hope they’ll keep coming on Wednesday nights, but I know it may be hard.

Last night I had planned to read stories about school and Kindergarten to celebrate their big day next week.  But first, because a number of the Moms in the group crochet, I had to share:


The Surprise by Sylvia van Ommen

My coworker Gail B., who runs our library knitting group, showed me this one.  It’s an adorable wordless picture book about a sheep who measures her own wool, drives to the store on her motor scooter for some dye, dyes herself red, shears off her wool and takes it to a very French poodle to be spun into yarn.  And then she knits a surprise.   One of the Moms commented that she wished more books were about crocheting rather than knitting (there are quite a few knitting books now including The Red Wolf by Margaret and Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen).  So children’s authors and publishers, take note!


I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child

The kids loved this Charlie and Lola story, where Charlie explains why Lola needs to go to school to learn how to count (in case eleven elephants want a treat), write letters (so Santa Claus’ elves don’t get her Christmas wishes mixed up), and read (in case a very angry ogre demands to have his favorite bedtime story read aloud).  The kids especially enjoyed the pages that featured Soren Lorenson, Lola’s invisible friend, who appears ever-so-faintly in the pictures.  A fun read-aloud about all the worries kids might have about starting school.


Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort and G. Brian Karas

Okay, so this one wasn’t actually a school story either, but I had a couple of toddlers in the audience, and my craft was about buses.  Hilarious version of The Wheels on the Bus, about a bus full of animals.  My favorite are the “vipers on the bus” that go “Hiss Hiss Hiss.”  Buh-dum-bum.  I actually read this one again this morning for a toddler storytime, and one little boy was so fond of it that he cried every time his caregiver put it down.


The Pirate’s Guide to First Grade by James Prellar; illustrated by Greg Ruth

This book is written entirely in “pirate,” which makes it fun to read aloud, and perfect for Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19!).    The illustrations show a boy going about all the usual routine of the first day of school, except that he is accompanied every where he goes by faint line drawings of pirates (his invisible crew), and he talks like a pirate.  Librarians will appreciate that the “treasure” he finds at the end is the book Treasure Island.


Twinkle Twinkle/ABCD:  These were by request.  After we sang Twinkle Twinkle and ABCD, one of the kids suggested that we hum the song, so we did.  Then we quacked it like a flock of noisy ducks.  Great fun.

Baby Bumblebee: I had a big bumblebee puppet, so we actually sang “I’m bringing home a giant bumblebee,” and then I “stung” all the kids with the puppet.  After that, I asked the kids for suggestions (it’s always a fun challenge to come up with a rhyme on the spot).  We brought home a baby giraffe (“won’t my Mommy really start to laugh”); a crocodile (“won’t my Mommy cry for quite a while”); a bunny (“won’t my Mommy really think that’s funny”) and, the stumper, a baby person (“won’t my Mommy think that’s worse and worsen” –best I could do).


Skip To My Lou by John McCutcheon from 20 Great Kids Songs.  Great, lively version of this traditional song, where McCutcheon presents some of his own verses like “There’s a hole in the doughnut and a fly flew through.”  This is one of my favorite albums for kids.

CRAFT: Graham Cracker School Buses

Mini bus by Sarah

Mini bus by Sarah

I added yellow food coloring to some whipped cream cheese in advance, then gave each kids a plate with a graham cracker, 2 Oreo cookie “wheels,” square cereal pieces for windows, a dollop of yellow cream cheese and a plastic knife.  It was quick to assemble, and surprisingly not terribly messy.  I think a number of the buses didn’t made it out of the station.   This craft appears on a number of websites, including Juggling With Kids, where they made it to accompany a Mo Willems book reading event (they added the pigeon from the Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus series).


There were so many books I didn’t get to, but here are a few of my favorites about going to school:

Tom Goes to Kindergarten by Margaret Wild and David Legge

Cute story about a panda who is nervous about starting Kindergarten until his parents are allowed to stay with him for the first day.  They all have a wonderful time, singing songs and painting and making things.  The next day, Tom goes off happily to school on his own, but now his Mom and Dad are sad they aren’t allowed to go to Kindergarten too.

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall

This is such a classic.  It has everything: drama, mystery, and a larger-than-life villain, Miss Viola Swamp.  I love that the book gives just enough clues for the kids to figure out what really happened to Miss Nelson without stating it outright.  I once read that James Marshall loved to draw as a kid, but stopped when a horrible teacher in elementary school made fun of his artwork.  He gave up drawing altogether until he was an adult, and that teacher became the basis for Miss Viola Swamp. That story makes me incredibly sad because among my favorite books as a child were Marshall’s George and Martha series, and I hate to think that the world could have lost out of those altogether because of the nasty comments of one person.   I tell Marshall’s story to my son a lot to remind him never to give up doing the things he loves, no matter what anyone else says.

The Grandma Cure by Pamela Mayer and John Nez

This one was written by a local librarian, and, while it’s not actually set in school, the heroine of the story gets to act like a teacher.  When Becky stays home sick from school, her two grandmothers come to take care of her.  The trouble is that they have very different ideas about the proper things for a sick girl to eat and drink, and they argue all the time.  Becky tells them that they are acting like they are in preschool, and teaches them the rules for taking turns and sharing she knows from Kindergarten.  It’s an adorable, funny story that would also work well for a storytime about grandparents.

What are your favorite books about going to school?



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