With back-to-school season might come some back-to-school jitters for your young ones—whether they’re starting kindergarten, starting a new school, or making that big leap to junior high. But luckily there’s a way to get your kids excited about this new season, and surprise, it has to do with reading! These are my top recommendations for your kids to read if they need a story to encourage them to push aside their nerves and make the most of their new school experiences.
Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes. This is an adorable story about a little mouse named Wemberly who often worries about things big and small, but her biggest worry yet is about starting school. It’s perfect for kids heading to school for the first time, and is sure to lift their spirits!
First Day Jitters, by Julie Danneberg. If your child is going back to their first day after switching to a new school, this is the story for them. It’s about a girl named Sarah who is very nervous to start her life over at a new school, and the relationship she builds with a teacher there who helps her transition smoothly through. It’s a charming and memorable book that will stick with anyone going through that difficult transition!
Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes. On Chrysanthemum’s first day of school she is teased for her name—something she had always loved about herself. Henkes can do no wrong in this sweet paperback about learning to take pride in oneself no matter what anyone else thinks…a lesson every kid should have the opportunity to soak in before stepping into their first classroom.
The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn. This one is about a raccoon named Chester who is a little scared about starting school for the first time, and the mother who tells him a family secret called the kissing hand so that he will always know how loved he is anytime his fear starts to get the best of him. This one could be a tear-jerker for any parents out there who aren’t ready to let go of their babies just yet, so make sure to keep the tissues on hand!
What is your favorite back-to-school tale? Let me know in the comments!
I just saw Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg’s movie, The BFG. (Big Friendly Giant to all you new guys.) It’s totally cool. For those who don’t know, it’s about this eight-year-old girl Sophie who gets snatched away from her orphanage bedroom by an awfully tall giant and whisked away to the giant’s cave way off in Giant Country.
I won’t tell you everything that happens after that. There’s the problem of the nine other bad giants that eat kids. (Our nice giant is a vegan.) And the trip to Buckingham Palace to warn the queen that the bad giants are about to invade. But that’s just plot stuff. The charm and essence of the thing is the BFG’s job. He captures dreams—in a butterfly net, no less—and stores them in jars and sneaks into town late at night and blows them into the bedrooms of sleeping children. With his long, skinny trumpet.
“Nice dreams. Lovely golden dreams. Dreams that is giving the dreamers a happy time.”
A great leitmotif are the Frobscottle and Whizzpoppers. Frobscottle is a bubbly green drink where the bubbles float down instead of up. So instead of burping, it has you making great green Whizzpoppers out of your down part. They lift you off your feet.
Sophie is a proper British girl and is put off by this, but she comes around to it in the end. As it were. Even the queen and her Corgis try Frobscottle and the results are diverting.
You’ve got to love Dahl’s wackiness. He’s the king of wacky. But I think my favorite thing of his is the way he sticks it to the grownups with this naughty stuff. He often said the key to his success was conspiring with children against adults. (I have found with my own children’s stories that the more I can slip past the naughty police, the better. Up to a point, of course.)
About the movie itself: It tracks the book straight down the line (except for changes that the genre demands). The visuals are great. (Hey, this is Spielberg, right?) The makeup is magical. (Think Harry Potter.)
And the acting: They say Mark Rylance (the giant) is the greatest stage actor of his generation. You may have seen him in Bridge of Spies and the TV series Wolf Hall. (A KGB colonel and Thomas Cromwell, respectively.) He deals with the BFG role wonderfully, and manages to get Dahl’s goofy words out cleanly. E.g., ughbwelch, probsposterous, quogwinkles. (I know, this is part of any good actor’s job, but YOU get the book and try rattling off some of these in the middle of a sentence!)
I put Ruby Barnhill (Sophie) at the top, though. She is eight years old in the story and looks it in the movie. Oh, maybe ten—but her front teeth aren’t even in straight yet. She handles the part of a proper little English girl like a twenty-year-old pro. Her delivery and enunciation are right there, and she comes off as a real, live kid. Like she’s done this for ten years. I can’t say she’s better than Rylance—she’s not—and anyway that’s apples and oranges. But I do put her performance at #1. For the true and ample reason that it’s easier to play a grotesque than a real, natural, sure-enough individual person. You can go look it up!
This past week, I has the opportunity to read two wonderful children’s books I think you would all love. Check out my review below.
Maggie Larche’s two little books, Charlie Bingham Gets Clocked and Charlie Bingham Gets Serious are two utterly cute stories! About a boy’s serial misadventures in primary school (I’m guessing in about fourth grade).
In Clocked, a friend’s pet lizard crawls inside the teacher’s favorite clock, an old-fashioned one with the big bells on top. Charlie and his friends borrow it to catch the lizard, and this sets off a zany and wonderful series of events. The trick is to get the clock back to Miss Walker (whom Charlie has a crush on) without getting into trouble. This turns out to be anything but simple. The clock gets passed from kid to kid like a hot potato and everybody gets totally stressed. I got stressed!
The story really is a primary-grade tour de force.
In Serious, the first line jumps right out at you:
“Sorry, Charlie. You’re just not hall monitor material.”
But this is precisely the thing Charlie has been yearning to be, for two good reasons. One, hall monitors get to leave class ten minutes before lunch and before the final bell. And, two, they get to wear really cool sashes. Owen, the head hall monitor, tells our hero he’s too much of a goofball for the august position. Charlie decides to prove him wrong by appearing as a line leader and sporting a line leader’s distinctive ribbon. First he has to get a girl to let him have her line leader spot for that day. And just like in Clocked, this sets off a wacko series of outcomes that had me really turning pages.
The stories’ point-of-view is first-person (Charlie’s), and this is exactly what you want in kids’ books. The narrative is clear and real and immediate, and would be no problem for young readers.
Miss Maggie calls these her “silly, funny” stories. She’s spot-on about that, but she may be a little too modest. I can’t imagine kids not enjoying these books.
Five stars at least.