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5 great books for back to school

Back-to-school season lays bare for kids all that comes with leaving home for hours and navigating a world without parents. It can be daunting but wonderful. Friendships and learning how things work in the halls of education teach kids as much about themselves as all the book and real-world knowledge.

Recommendations by Holly Myers, Elliott Bay Book Company children’s bookseller


The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School
By Deborah Diesen
FSG, 2014

The board-book edition is such fun to read aloud, with its wonderful rhymes. The unabridged text from the picture-book edition is the perfect format for small hands to see that school is actually not a scary place at all.


Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
By Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow, 2006
Up to age 7

Probably the best book about school (and life). Lilly is thrilled to be going to school and loves her new teacher, Mr. Slinger. When she arrives for school with the most magnificent new purple plastic purse and accoutrements, her exuberance to share with her classmates has heavy consequences. But forgiveness (and good communication) win the day.


Wayside School series
By Louis Sachar

HarperCollins, 2004
Ages 6-10

Sometimes if we re-examine school from a different perspective, we see it isn’t all that vexing, and the perfect lens for re-evaluation comes in Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Wayside School is Falling Down and Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger. The series is smart, wildly imaginative and yes, even highly relatable.


Roscoe Riley Rules
By Katherine Applegate
HarperCollins, 2008
Ages 6-10

This award-winning author hits the perfect pitch with her unforgettable character Roscoe Riley, who stars in a series of his own. Book one is Roscoe Riley Rules; first-grader Roscoe’s well-intentioned “help” goes so very awry, but kids (and parents) will find so many giggles in this terrific series.


All’s Faire in Middle School
By Victoria Jamieson
Dial Books, 2017
Ages 9-12

Eleven-year-old Imogene, who has been homeschooled by her Renaissance fair-focused parents, has entered public school and of course gets in the crosshairs of the mean girls. This graphic novel beautifully presents how we all have otherness and seek to fit in, but possess the strength of character to accept ourselves (and others).

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