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It's time to return to school. After so many months away, the idea of starting term in September might feel a little daunting for some children. Others will be excitedly looking forward to seeing their friends and enjoying all the great things that school offers.
With all pupils expected to attend full time from the autumn term your school will be busily preparing a safe environment and, at least for a while, children will learn and play in small groups. There may also be changes to lunchtimes, certain lessons and after-school activities. We all recognise how essential school is for children's education and well-being and we can rely on our wonderful teachers and staff to give a enthusiastic and comforting welcome back to all their pupils.
With this in mind we have gathered together a varied and fitting collection of books, all with a school theme, for a range of ages from those starting reception to those moving to senior school and beyond. Some are gentle and reassuring, others offer a more practical approach of what children might expect when school starts up again. Those worried about the return to school can find a greater selection of books and resources in our Anxiety & Wellbeing feature.
And we've thrown in some entertaining storybooks too, to remind children of all the fun they can have at school!
Young readers will recognize themselves in School, a compassionate portrayal of school life by bestselling author Britta Teckentrup.
With thanks to Gerd Altmann from Pixabay for the lovely rainbow background image.
Rebecca Cobb’s warm and uncluttered illustrations capture the importance of friendships and how they can best be made. Here, an eager little girl expresses her delightful enthusiasm for sharing everything including indoor and outdoor play, packed lunch and more while in pleasing contrast the boy who is the focus of her attentions shows that friendship can also take longer to develop. A sweet story which also provides a lot of scope for thoughtful conversation and reflection.
Lydia Monks’ Twit Twoo School stories are perfect for reading with children just about to start school and Rabbit Races Ahead is both a fun adventure story and a cleverly delivered lesson about kindness and thinking of others. Rabbit can’t wait for sports day. She knows she’ll come first in every race, and she does. Why aren’t her friends more pleased for her, she wonders? Fortunately, the long distance race is still to come and instead of rushing to the finishing line, Rabbit interrupts her race to help her friends. She wins a special cheer and realises that it feels good to be kind, even better in fact than coming first. The bright illustrations are lovely to look at and this is a hugely appealing book for the very young.
Children’s mental health and wellbeing are a high priority for all schools and parents. This wonderfully reassuring book is from the award-winning Rachel Bright, teamed with illustrator Chris Chatterton who has created the most adorable little dinosaur: The Worrysaurus. Parents will immediately recognise the behaviour of a natural worrier - the child that likes to plan ahead and to have thought of everything before setting out to enjoy a lovely picnic. But it is not long before the overthinking gets out of control and a suggestion from a similarly nervous lizard feeds his anxieties just as children can do to each other. But Worrysaurus has a very helpful strategy in place and he remembers his mother’s advice. He has a tin of precious things in his bag and, going through them one by one, they give him the strength to set the butterfly of worry free. Even tiny children know all about the feeling of butterflies in the tummy so this is universally relatable. He shares a lovely picnic with the anxious lizard and they learn to live in the moment instead of worrying about what might happen. While this can simply be read as an enjoyable rhyming story, it will be most useful to prompt discussion and sharing. It will work well for this purpose with children in Key Stage One and Two making it a very useful purchase indeed.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | Meesha loves making things. And she is good at it too. But the one thing she doesn’t know how to make is friends. It seems to be easy but for Meesha it isn’t! When Meesha tries to share her ideas with other children they are just confused or uninterested. So instead of playing with other children, Meesha makes some wonderful friends of her own. Snipping and sticking she soon has a lovely crowd of chums she can enjoy being with. But a real friend would be nice and when Meesha meets Josh she finds exactly the friend she has been looking for. Soon Meesha and Josh are busy making more friends together. In both words and pictures Tom Percival tells a gentle and touching story about the importance of friendship and how to develop it.
Best-selling duo Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb reunite in a lovely story that begins in a Year One classroom before taking us on an exciting, fantastical journey. Scenes in the classroom and at home with the children as they play with their shared Everywhere Bear are beautifully depicted in Donaldson’s nimble rhyming text and Cobb’s sketchy, lithe illustrations. Their imaginations take flight when the poor bear is lost, swept down a drain and into the sea in dramatic scenes before finally, almost miraculously, he’s reunited with Class One. In the hands of star author and illustrator, it all makes for an exceptionally satisfying adventure for young readers, with much they’ll recognise, much to make them wonder. ~ Andrea Reece Best-selling Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb create some wonderful adventures for the much-loved class bear in this warm-hearted and dramatic story with a strong classroom background. One thing is for sure - the Everywhere Bear knows that his life will never be dull! He goes home with a different child every weekend and no-one knows what surprises the weekend will bring! ~ Julia Eccleshare
No matter how you start your day, What you wear when you play, Or if you come from far away, All are welcome here. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcome. A school where children in patkas, hijabs, baseball caps and yarmulkes play side by side. A school where students grow and learn from each other's traditions. A school where diversity is a strength. Warm and inspiring, All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, and they are welcome in their school. Engaging lyrical text and bright, accessible illustrations make this book a must for every child's bookshelf, classroom and library.
Best-selling Emma Chichester Clark has created a perfect story for all children about to start a new school. Lily is nervous about starting a new school but luckily she has Blue Kangaroo to help her! Blue Kangaroo is really looking forward to all the things that he and Lily can do at school. With his support, Lily finds she does like school after all. And so does Blue Kangaroo!Lily and Blue Kangaroo - a friendship forever! The eighth title in this hugely popular series featuring Lily and her loveable soft toy sees the inseparable duo starting at a new school with surprising results.
Bright, colourful and very attractive to look at, this is the ideal book for any child getting ready to start school. Not only is it an excellent book to build vocabulary, with over 300 familiar words illustrated, it will also reassure young children apprehensive about this big step in their life by emphasising the fun and friendly aspects of school. It also provides parents with lots of opportunities to talk about what goes on at school. The final page takes readers through the whole day, from getting dressed to going to bed, and everything in between. A fun and very useful little book. Lovereading4kids Back to School Favourites: The Great Grammar Book Listen and Learn First Chinese Words The Terrific Times Tables Book Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo! First Book About the Orchestra The Usborne Chess Book Look Inside How Computers Work My First Word Book About School I Yam a Donkey
It’s headmistress Mrs Bottomley-Blunt who declares 4B to be LITERALLY the Worst Class In The World, and she may have a point. After all, there was the school trip to the zoo when Harvey Barlow smuggled a penguin back on the bus, the time they tried to tunnel to Finland, and the Show and Tell incident with Manjit’s dog, Killer… Everyone has bad luck though, and after reading this very funny book, most people will agree with Stanley Bradshaw and decide they wouldn’t have 4B any other way. Stanley’s descriptions of their antics, recounted in two separate stories, are highly entertaining: Joanna Nadin captures the chaos and excitement of primary school perfectly, and young readers will recognise the setting and the characters, not least long-suffering teacher Mr Nidgett. Short sentences, lots of pictures and clever repetition of words and phrases plus the lively action make this a perfect first chapter book. One to recommend to fans of Patricia Butchart’s Wigglesbottom Primary series ready to move onto something more challenging.
Holly Sterling creates very recognizable, diverse characters and these are the perfect backdrop for this sensitively written guide which will be helpful in both home and school contexts. The situations depicted and described are recognisable and familiar to young readers. The body language is particularly well captured on the page which describes in child friendly terms what it feels like to be shy. The situations used as examples, in Poppy’s story attending a big occasion with her parents and in Matteo’s story attending a friend’s birthday party, are instantly familiar. What is shown and described is how a child might feel at first and how that might change during the event and how they can be supported to eventually enjoy the experience and learn strategies for dealing with new situations. The Story Words page is a simple glossary of words and expressions which really develop understanding. At the end of the book a Next Steps section with suggestions for activities and discussion will be very useful and the section where each story is summarised in four steps will be invaluable for modelling writing. The first of a must have series for the early years.
Making friends, being friends, falling out with friends – these are important matters for everyone, whatever their age. Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith tackle the subject with typical sensitivity in a book that will provide young readers with lots of reassurance and good advice, along with the strong sense that its authors really understand them. It’s OK they say, to have lots of close friends, just one, or even none at all; your family can be your best friends, or you might not get on with them at all, but it’s all normal, and nothing to be worried about. This is the latest in the thoroughly inspiring and useful Great Big Book of series, and as always, readers of all shapes, colours and abilities will find themselves in the pictures. ~ Andrea Reece
60 Poems to Boost Reading and Spelling | What an ingenious idea! The B on Your Thumb combines two seemingly unlikely bedfellows – grammar and poetry – and to excellent effect. Jolly verses, frequently comic and lots of fun to read aloud, are cleverly full of useful spelling and phonics tips. Struggle spelling ‘necessary’ or ‘separate’? (Shh – I do!) You won’t after you’ve read this book and the two little poems that make their spellings so memorable. Also made fun and simple via fun rhymes are letter sounds, sh, ee, ou, ch and so on. Tor Freeman’s illustrations are as bright and welcoming as the verses and it seems that this author illustrator duo have succeeded in making spelling fun.
Book Band: Lime Ideal for ages 6+ | Dylan dreams that he’s living in a jam jar, cut off from his family, in a silent world. In fact, he’s losing his hearing and that brings all sorts of issues. He doesn’t like how loud the world is with his hearing aids in, doesn’t like the way the others in his class treat him differently now; and he feels that without sound to anchor him he’s somehow floating away. It takes a hair-raising experience, and the quick-thinking and love of his dog Pluto to bring him back down to earth. In the new Bloomsbury Readers series, this story is written specifically for children just growing reading confidence and understanding, with short chapters and illustrations on every page. Nonetheless, the story is subtle and moving, with lots to prompt discussion and reflection. There are questions to share with children at the end to help them get the most from the story.
Joining Class 2R at Wigglesbottom Primary is always a treat, and the three adventures in this collection are typically funny, well-observed, and gorgeously illustrated. Once again, the children let their imaginations run wild, so that everyday primary school life becomes a thing of delight and wonder: could the pet rabbits in the playground be attack bunnies? Is the special visitor sitting at the back of the classroom and making Miss Riley so nervous really a TV talent scout? Could Miss Stein the music teacher be a witch? We’re happy to accept all these propositions, at least until the truth is revealed, and the stories make irresistible reading. Becka Moor’s illustrations are as bold and lively as the text, and these little stories are absolute gems.
Funny, action-packed and full of great characters, I can recommend Serena Patel’s new story to anyone – indeed, everyone – who’s at primary school. They’ll giggle with recognition at the setting and be thoroughly caught up in the story. In this new adventure, the second in a series, our hero Anisha is set to show off her volcano project at the science fair and has high hopes of winning the prize and a trip to the national space centre. But disaster strikes when her volcano erupts prematurely and floods the school. Anisha is disqualified and begins to suspect sabotage. With the help of her best friend Milo and his pet rat, she sets out to find the culprit. Anisha’s family are as much a part of the story as her schoolmates and readers will put down the book feeling they have increased their circle of friends considerably. Illustrations throughout by Emma McCann add to the overall liveliness of the telling. Great stuff! This is one to recommend to fans of Konnie Huq’s Cookie books which also feature a direct talking, lively, science-obsessed central character and are just as much fun to read. Some of our Kids Reader Review Panel were lucky enough to review the first in the series, Anisha, Accidental Detective - read their reviews here!
There are some excellent series for young readers at the moment: Amelia Fang, the Royal Rabbits of London, Isadora Moon, and now Mermaid School. Marnie Blue is worried about her first day at Mermaid School, for all the usual reasons: will she make friends? will the teachers be very strict? When she arrives, it seems her teachers expect her to take after her aunt Christabel, now a famous singer and DJ, who was a right terror! And for some reason, fellow first year Orla seems to have it in for Marnie too. It’s all a lot more interesting than the average primary school, and Orla’s story in particular involves Marnie in a very exciting adventure. Very nicely told, and the underwater world is enticing; young readers won’t be able to put this down.
Having super-powers is not necessarily all that – well, super – if you are 9 ¼ years old and coping with a new school and no friends, not to mention an annoying super-powered little sister. That’s Pizazz’s situation and, as she describes her life, we see just how frustrating it would be if you have to keep breaking off from things you’re enjoying to go and thwart an evil genius’s wicked plan. Her super-powers don’t help her make new friends, nor, when she’s made eco monitor at school and trying to save a local park from developers do they help there either – at least, not initially. Sophy Henn’s story is great fun, narrated at super-hero speed and in a wonderfully direct and distinctive voice by Pizazz, who is exactly the kind of super-hero we all want to be with right now: funny, honest, self-aware, and able to tell a really good story. I can’t wait for more from Pizazz and expect that she’ll soon have legions of fans. Sophy Henn’s artwork is snazzy and comic and absolutely on the ball, just like her new character. This is a series to recommend to fans of Clarice Bean or Sibéal Pounder’s Bad Mermaids.
Cookie is one of those characters who have the best intentions, but just can’t help getting into scrapes and mix ups, and readers will love her all the more for it. In this new adventure, her plans for a plastic-free birthday party are overtaken by circumstances and before we know it, she’s accidentally become best friends with Suzie Ashby, got a detention, upset her friend Jake, and handed over £25 to take part in Woodburn Primary’s very own F Factor, which turns out to be not what she expected at all. Cookie being Cookie, it all works out in the end and everyone, the reader included, has lots of fun along the way. Konnie Huq clearly remembers what it is to be a ten year old very well indeed and Cookie’s fast flowing, tangent-embracing, stream of consciousness narrative is a delight. Huq’s own black and white illustrations are the perfect complement to the text, giving us even clearer insight into what’s going on in Cookie’s head. A fast, fresh and very funny read.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | There’s a very high level of cuteness in this book, in the shape of Noodle, the excitable but lovable little dog who becomes a special member of Wigley Primary. The children of Mr Reed’s class can hardly believe their luck when he’s introduced and his exploits certainly liven up the school day, not to mention their trip to the seaside. It’s not just that Doodle brings fun and silliness though, his presence helps Lou feel more confident, and brings all the children of the class together. Jonathan Meres clearly understands children as well as he understands dogs (Noodle is based on his own dog), and young readers will very much enjoy sharing Noodle’s adventures. Published by dyslexia specialists Barrington Stoke this is super readable and Noodle will be everyone’s friend.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Emotionally rich and full of the kind of questions that need discussing and answering, Britta Teckentrup’s beautiful picture book explores the complicated relationships and emotions that are commonplace for every child in any school. The soft focus illustrations capture the different moods of the characters perfectly and are well- supported by brief stories which provide some background which, in turn, throws up a raft of questions: Why are some children bullied? Why does no one stand up for them? How can it be right that a teacher can put a student off a subject by being mean to them? How can you help someone who is lonely? Why do some children exert power over others? Children will enjoy this on their own but it will work best as a spur for important conversations.
Meet Mina Mistry, primary school student and would-be private investigator. She’s smart, observant and has a great sidekick in the shape of her best friend, cuddly toy Mr Panda. All she needs is a case to solve and there’s one right under her nose: how come their school dinners are such a danger to their teeth, in direct contrast to what their headmaster says and school dinner lady wants? Hmmm. Against the backdrop of a wonderfully wacky charity fundraising event, and assisted by her Granny Meera, Mina uncovers some dodgy goings-on in the school office. Mina is a lively character and her assorted school friends and family members make an excellent supporting cast. This is very readable, lots of fun and a satisfying mystery too.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Less than one year ago, until November 2019 in fact, SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus hadn’t infected a single person and was completely unknown to nearly all of us. Now it has changed our whole world, yet most of us still have only a hazy idea of what viruses are, which is where this brilliant little book comes in. The Virus tells you everything there is to know about viruses including of course COVID-19. It explains what viruses are, what they look like and do, why they are so successful at making us ill, what we can do to combat them, and why some of them actually help us. If this sounds a bit technical or heavy going, think again: it’s fascinating stuff and presented in a way that makes it really easy to read and understand. The story of coronavirus as told here is an adventure, full of heroes and villains, facts and figures that will stop you in your tracks, and some good jokes too. I can’t think of a more interesting or relevant book for our times – everyone needs to read this! If you're interested in science you can find many similar titles in our Best Non-Fiction collection.
Wayside School | The inimitable Louis Sachar has done it again in this new Wayside School caper. Sachar totally gets Primary age readers - sees the world through their eyes, speaks to them in a wry voice that rings with understanding and funny details. What’s more, the bitesize chunks of plot (essentially inter-connected vignettes that form a satisfying whole) keep readers hungry for more, while the off-the-wall (yet believable) comic characters are guaranteed to induce gaggles of giggles. As a new year begins, Mrs Jewls’s pupils have a big bunch of stuff on their plates. An Ultimate Test looms ahead of them, while a Cloud of Doom looms overhead, growing bigger and more powerful each day. Back in class, the pupils are tasked with collecting one million nail clippings to get a sense of just how massive one million is, while Mrs Jewls’s paperclip appreciation is taken to crazy heights (“she marvelled at the magnificent metal masterpiece”) when she’s revealed to keep a secret stash of them in a locked room. Then there’s Mrs Surlaw the librarian, who has a GIANT stuffed walrus and arranges books according to their length, and the author’s cameo appearance as Louis the yard teacher (fun fact - the author actually used to be Louis the yard teacher). Perfectly complemented by Aleksei Bitskoff’s wittily detailed illustrations, this is clever, comic joy. You might also love The Worst Class in the World from Joanna Nadin or the Middle School series from James Patterson.
August 2020 Book of the Month | It’s Superhero Day at school and Milly is ready in her costume – she’s used all the tinfoil, a tea towel and her brother Joe’s pants and really looks the part. She knows that she doesn’t have any superpowers though, or has she? As the day goes on, we see Milly being a hero in all sorts of ways: she’s super kind for example when she helps William, super clever when she works out a way to help Archie, and a super friend when she works with Iqbal on his show and tell. Gwen Millward’s illustrations are very appealing and the story is full of incident and great fun to read. At the same time, it will give young readers real insight into what actually makes us super, and how powerful it is to help and work with our friends.
Your Guide to Starting Secondary School | “Going up to big school is like going on safari” is this lively book’s opening gambit and as the author says just like with any adventure you may well have an attack of the “what if’s” and if so what you need is information to quell those niggling worries. This book is designed to talk the reader through the most commonly shared anxieties like- what if I don’t fit in/ older kids are horrible/I get lost/teachers are scary etc etc. Aimed very much at the child reader this will be an essential purchase for parents to leave lying around for a child to find. It very nicely combines a jokey, amusing approach with some very sensible practical advice and provides tools and quizzes for self-analysis (understanding why you behave in a certain way and how this might appear to others is half the battle) and further helpful information and sources to find out more. Each scenario described will resonate with young people’s actual experiences and the advice given is sensible without being at all po-faced or judgemental with a reassuringly relaxed attitude to life/school balance and presenting teachers as human beings too. This will be a very useful and inevitably well-thumbed book to have in every primary library.
Smart, incisive, brimming with the breath of human experience and written with engaging age-appropriate verve, this clever concept (“a tale told in ten blocks”) is perfectly executed. For the chorus of kids whose lives play out on these impeccably-written pages, the walk home from school represents a rare time of freedom; a period of limbo between being under the watchful eyes of teachers and parents. Unsupervised, the kids reveal their true selves, most of them dealing with hidden heartache and anxieties alongside goofing around, self-reflecting and navigating their way through Middle School. As always with Jason Reynolds, the characterisation is ingeniously vivid, with deep insights expressed through, for example, the different ways kids open their lockers. Many of the stories are intensely poignant, such as that of the Low Cuts crew whose bad behaviour is fuelled by a desperate love for their sick parents. The moment it turns out that Bit the hustler is a “son who was scared. A son who loved his mum” is shatteringly powerful. There’s much humour too, such as the laugh-out-loud scene in which smelly Gregory is slathered in VaporRub by friends seeking to beautify him before he visits a girl he’s keen on. Bittersweet, hard-hitting and powerfully perceptive, these pitch-perfect reader-centric stories shine a light on oft-overlooked lives and ring with empathy and authenticity.
Mental Health campaigner Natasha Devon is a brilliant speaker. Funny, self-deprecating but passionate and informed too. The key aspect you take away in person or from this excellent book is that she really cares. She is completely frank and open about her own problems growing up but shares her successes too. This honesty shines through and gives the reader confidence in the advice she offers. Everything is grounded in research and at the back you can see the experts she has consulted for every chapter as well as useful lists of where to go for further help. The book is most certainly entertaining enough to read from cover to cover, but it is also straightforward to pick and choose the relevant section you need, and it covers all of secondary school through to university and beyond. As with most self help guides there are quizzes and assessments for self-analysis which again are thoroughly grounded in research. The layout and illustrations are bright and lively, and the jokes flow freely but the important thing is that the overall tone is neither puerile nor patronising. The author has spent a considerable amount of time in schools with young people and it shows, the tone is absolutely pitch perfect. About the only circumstance which is not comprehensively covered in this excellent book is the cancellation of the entire exam system. But given that this will undoubtedly be causing considerable stress in young people then this book will certainly earn its keep. Highly recommended and an essential purchase for home and school.
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