Picture books make back to school fun, kind of

  • By Karen Macpherson Scripps Howard News Service
  • Friday, August 31, 2007 3:44pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

School is the focus of dozens of new kids’ books. Here’s a look at the best of the picture book crop:

“How does a dinosaur go to school?/ Does he walk? Does he ride in a busy carpool?” So begins the whimsical new book “How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?” (Blue Sky/Scholastic, $16.99), the latest in the popular series written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mark Teague. Yolen’s bouncy rhymes works perfectly with Teague’s comical illustrations of huge dinosaurs trying to fit into regular classrooms or play on the school playground. As a bonus, kids who are crazy about dinosaurs will particularly enjoy the way Teague names the type of dinosaur in each illustration and inside the book’s front and back covers. (Ages 3-7).

Ten-year-old Hassa in Mongolia goes to two schools a regular one, and a one where he is training to be a Buddhist monk. Eight-year-old Reena in India has to care for her younger siblings during the day, so she goes to school at night. And 10-year-old Alexei, a member of the reindeer-herding people called Nenets in the Russian Federation, takes a helicopter to his boarding school, where he spends nine months each year.

These are just a few of the fascinating stories in “A School Like Mine: A Unique Celebration of Schools Around the World” (DK. $19.99). Written by Penny Smith and Zahavit Shalev, the book includes hundreds of photos guaranteed to capture the interest of young readers who will be intrigued to see how other kids deal with school. Written in collaboration with UNICEF, the book opens with a brief introduction by soccer star and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham. (Ages 6-14).

With kid-friendly illustrations and a simple rhyming text, author/illustrator Janet Morgan Stoeke takes readers along for a lively ride in her book “The Bus Stop” (Dutton, $12.99). Kids who are getting used to riding the school bus will feel reassured by the positive way Stoeke addresses their concerns. (Ages 3-5).

Author/illustrator Robert Neubecker highlights the fun of learning in “Wow! School!” (Hyperion, $16.99). The third in Neubecker’s series of over-sized, brightly-colored picture books, “Wow! School!” is filled with visual details that will have kids poring over the pages for hours. (Ages 3-7).

Everybody tells Beth that preschool will be great. But Beth doesn’t want to hear it. All she will say is, “Don’t want to go to silly school!” In “Silly School” (Frances Lincoln, $15.95), author/illustrator Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick tells how Beth finally understands that she might actually enjoy school. With its simple text and colorful illustrations, Fitzpatrick’s book will provide comfort for preschoolers who are reluctant to head to school. (Ages 2-4).

As he proved in his first book, “Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For Bed?,” Cornelius is a pig who does things his way. Now, in his latest outing, “Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready For School?” (Candlewick Press, $15.99), Cornelius shows that he hasn’t changed a wit. Answering “yes” when his mother asks him if he’s up and getting dressed, etc., Cornelius is actually off in a world of his own, a world where his bed becomes an elephant to ride and breakfast is popcorn and cotton candy. Author/illustrator Barney Saltzberg’s spare text is matched with irresistibly-bright watercolor illustrations that celebrate Cornelius’ uniquely fun way of doing routine tasks. (Ages 3-5).

Blabber is a mouse who lives up to his name. He just loves to chat, even in class when the teacher gets angry with him. When she assigns the class an oral book report, however, Blabber suddenly finds himself speechless for the first time. In “The Blabber Report” (Dutton, $15.99), author/illustrator True Kelley tells how Blabber overcomes his fear of public speaking with some help from his teacher and friends. Blabber’s difficulty in keeping on task and doing his own work also will endear him to young readers dealing with the same learning challenges. (Ages 4-7).

Karen MacPherson, the children’s/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md. Library, can be reached at Kam.macpherson@gmail.com.

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