The Center for Children's Books

Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Back to School: A Bibliography of School Stories - September 2012

Created and Annotated by Anna Holland

Borden, Louise. Off to First Grade. McElderry, 2008. 40p. 4-7 yrs.
Twenty-three nervous and excited first-grade animal newcomers each share their “first-day” emotions and experiences as they get ready for school, take the bus for the first time, and meet their teacher and fellow classmates. The story’s unfolding in a sequence of alphabetical character entries also makes this an excellent alphabet picture book, and youngsters will likely find someone’s “first-day” story to identify with.

Bottner, Barbara. An Annoying ABC. Knopf, 2011. 32p. 4-6 yrs.
The schoolroom and a wild (perhaps too wild) cast of schoolchildren take center stage in this humorous picture book ABC. Whether it’s used as a storytime or an alphabet lesson, audiences will be schooled on their alphabet as well as enjoy the comical cause-effect set in motion by Adelaide, who pounces on Bailey. This causes Bailey to rat out Clyde, and Dexter to annoy Eloise, etc.

Edwards, Pamela Duncan. Dinosaur Starts School. Whitman, 2009. 26p. 5-7 yrs.
What if your dinosaur doesn’t want to start school? In this series of “What if…” questions, a reluctant and worry-prone dinosaur is continually reassured and helped into the routine of school by his young human pal. Youngsters with first-day of school nerves will likely find as much comfort and empowerment in the boy’s gentle pep talks as does his dinosaur.  

Greene, Stephanie. Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade. Putnam, 2010. Gr. 1-2.
The first day of first grade sounds dreadful to Posey, who knows that she won’t be allowed to wear her pink tutu—her favorite outfit, which not only makes her scaredy-cat demeanor disappear but gives her the boldness to be brave. As Posey adjusts to the new school year, she finds her fears subsiding and her excitement growing for the First Grade Parade, where Posey has been encouraged by her new teacher to wear whatever she wants.

Hannan, Peter. My Big Mouth: 10 Songs I Wrote That Almost Got Me Killed. Scholastic, 2011. 235p. Gr. 5-8.
High school freshman transfer Davis Delaware (not from Delaware) is not the sort of kid to cause waves. But when a spiraling series of comical, exaggerated events suddenly makes the boy who only wanted to blend in become the king of the school (with a rock band to boot), he finds himself the unlucky target of Gerald “the Butcher” Boggs, the school bully.

Haston, Meg. How to Rock Braces and Glasses. Poppy/Little, 2011. 294p. Gr. 6-8.
Marquette Middle School mean girl, fashion idol, and hurtful truth-wielder, Kacey Simon is about to have her perspective changed. When an unlucky eye infection prevents her from wearing contact lenses, which in turn leads to a chipped tooth and a visit to the orthodontist, Kacey’s vanity takes a major hit. Can Kacey reclaim her status as middle school queen bee?

Hayes, Sarah. Dog Day. Farrar, 2008. 32p. 4-7 yrs.
Ben and Ellie and their classmates are in for a surprise. Their new teacher is a dog named Riff! With Riff’s arrival comes a change in the curriculum, which includes barking, digging holes, sniffing, and many more doggy activities. But what does Mrs. Pink, the principal, think of the new instructor’s teaching?

Humphrey, Anna. Mission (Un)Popular. Disney Hyperion, 2011. 401 p. Gr. 6-9.
Seventh-grader Margot Button speaks her mind—impulsively. Thanks to her big mouth, she finds herself friendless, insecure, and bullied by the terrible Sarah J. and her popular-girl posse. The social ladder at Manning Middle School, however, is about to get rocked by the arrival of intimidating new girl, Em, who quickly befriends Margot and persuades her to enlist in her campaign to take down the popular girls.  

Ignatow, Amy. The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvements and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt & Julie Graham-Chang. Amulet/Abrams, 2010. 208p. Gr. 4-6.
Fifth-grade best friends Lydia and Julie are determined to start junior high amongst the popular crowd. First though, they have to crack the code of popularity. Like any good scientist, they approach the situation with a thoughtful, though extremely comical, series of observations, experiments, and failures. Written in journal format, with goofy sketches and commentary, Lydia and Julie’s adventures will surely draw fans of Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid series.

Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley’s Journal. Amulet/Abrams, 2007. 217p.Gr. 6-8.
The seventh-grade popularity pyramid has Greg Heffley pegged at the very bottom, making middle school downright crummy for the young and promising brilliant leader. Luckily though, Greg keeps a journal in which he writes all his frustrations, dreams, and desires. The combination of Greg’s funny, comic-filled diary, sardonic wit, and unlikely hero status make one laughable middle school survival story.

Layton, Neal. The Mammoth Academy. Holt, 2008. 151p. Gr. 2-4.
This goofy British import brings together Ice Age primitiveness and sensible British school manners. Woolly mammoth friends Oscar and Arabella have finally reached the age to begin Mammoth Academy, where they will learn new things like geography and skiing. A school-wide mystery, however, uncovers an Ice Age human plot to invade of the Academy and it’s left to Oscar, Arabella and their friends to save the school.  

Meyerhoff, Jenny. Third Grade Baby. Farrar, 2008. 105p. Gr. 2-3.
No one likes being called a baby, especially when you’re in third grade. Polly Peterson isn’t a baby, but she is the shortest kid in class and has yet to lose any baby teeth. When a new classmate, Zachary, begins to tease her about her size in a misguided attempt to be friendly, Polly takes offense, and a full-on third grade battle ensues.

Michael, Ted. The Diamonds. Delacorte, 2009. 343p. Gr. 7-10
Mean girl Marni enjoys the perks of being a Diamond, a member of the ultrapopular troupe of A-list girls at Long Island’s well-regarded private Bennington School. But when Marni makes the mistake of getting too close to Diamond ringleader Clarissa’s ex, she finds her popularity membership revoked. Eager to take down the Diamonds, Marni starts her own group—the Stonecutters—and prepares for the ultimate high school chick showdown.

Patterson, James. Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. Little, 2011. 283p. Gr. 4-7.
It’s the first day of middle school, and Rafe Khatchadorian and his friend, Leonardo the Silent, are bored beyond belief. They quickly devise a game to amuse themselves, however, which involves breaking every rule in the school handbook (with assigned point values, bonus points, and three “lives” that can be lost for copping out). Silly illustrations, an inconvenient crush, a jealous bully, and numerous sticky situations make this a wildly funny read.

Peirce, Lincoln. Big Nate: In a Class by Himself. Harper/HarperCollins, 2010. 224p. Gr. 3-6.
Eleven-year-old Big Nate has left the newspaper comic strip for a longer adventure in this chapter book by cartoonist Lincoln Peirce. The unlikely hero of P.S. 38 stumbles into a series of familiar mishaps, middle school woes, and humiliating situations. Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will find much to like in Big Nate’s soon-to-be-genius character and will appreciate the funny cartoon illustrations.

Portis, Antoinette. Kindergarten Diary. Harper/HarperCollins, 2010. 40p. 4-7 yrs.
Annalina is new to kindergarten, and she’s a little uneasy about leaving preschool and starting Big School where she images big mean kids, a scary teacher, and other worrisome new things. But Annalina’s anxieties are overcome with the passing schooldays as she adjusts to a new routine, learns how to share, and ultimately decides she quite likes kindergarten.

Schrag, Ariel. Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age. Viking, 2007. 210p. Gr. 7-12.
Sometimes middle school can be nothing short of painful. In this black and white graphic novel anthology sixteen acclaimed cartoonists tackle the most awkward, horrid moments of junior high with an embarrassing humor and rawness that can only stem from truth and experience. Teens will find themselves and characters they relate to in the vast and impressive range of illustrations and personalities in this anthology.

Rumford, James. Rain School. Houghton, 2010. 32p. 5-8 yrs.
In the African country of Chad, young Thomas is ready to begin his first day of school, but when he arrives at the schoolyard there is no school. “We will build our school,” the teacher says. “This is the first lesson.” After nine months, the school Thomas and his classmates built washes away in the rainy season, but Thomas remembers his devoted teacher and the exciting lessons he learned. North American readers will likely enjoy noting the similarities and differences between this school on the other side of the world and their own educational experience.

Starmer, Aaron. DWEEB: Burgers, Beasts, and Brainwashed Bullies. Delacorte, 2009. 228p. Gr. 4-7.
A band of brainy eighth grade misfits, known collectively as “DWEEB”, are the only hope of uncovering the strange happenings at Ho-Ho-Kus Junior High. Framed for a crime they didn’t commit and imprisoned in the school’s basement by Vice Principal Snodgrass, the DWEEBs find themselves in the thick of trouble—and only a week before the dreaded Idaho tests!

Tanen, Sloane. Appetite for Detention. Bloomsbury, 2008. 76p. Gr. 8-12.
This snapshot saga of the traumas and joys (though mostly traumas) of high school is told via an assortment of eight cleverly posed fuzzy yellow chicks, over fifty photographs, and incredibly humorous commentary. Tanen captures the stereotypes and highs and lows of the high school experience in a way that is not at all deep but certainly entertaining.

Vande Velde, Vivian. 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos. Holiday House, 2011. 80p. Gr. 2-4.
Twitch the squirrel has been rousted out of his schoolyard home and chased into the elementary school by none other than the principal’s dog. In order to elude the furious dog, Twitch enlists the help of the numerous class pets. Told in alternating chapters, each from a different pet’s perspective, this funny chapter book will have young animal lovers and classroom read-alouds in giggles.

Vernick, Audrey. Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2010. 32p. 4-6 yrs.
Buffaloes (and kids) nervous about the transition to kindergarten may find the comical guidance in this picture book a helpful step toward first-day-of-school-readiness. Buffalo faces many common first-day jitters varying from shyness, name-calling, sharing, and schoolyard anxieties.

Winters, Ben H. The Mystery of the Missing Everything. Harper/Harper Collins, 2011. 272p. Gr. 5-8.
Eighth-grader Bethesda Fielding is hot on the trails of another case. This time, the one-and-only trophy won in the history of Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School has vanished, and until it is returned all hope of the long-awaited eighth grade field trip to Taproot Valley is suspended. Can Bethesda crack the case without jumping to conclusions?

Weissman, Elissa Brent. The Trouble with Mark Hopper. Dutton, 2009. 227p. Gr. 5-7.
This comedy of errors school story begins when two Mark Geoffrey Hoppers (one a arrogant academic elite, the other an easygoing people person) unknowingly start sixth grade at the same school. After each discovering their name doppelgänger, the two Marks embark on a plan to win Mark I a prestigious student award.

Yum, Hyewon. Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! Farrar, 2012. 32p. 4-6 yrs.
Starting kindergarten is a milestone for everyoneparentsincluded. Yum cleverly reverses the traditional “first day of school” story motif so that instead of the boy being anxious, it’s the mother who needs reassuring, a fact imaginatively indicated in the illustrations by her small size and sad blue color.