Though simply reading helps prepare children for the return to learning, books that specifically address going back to school can markedly reduce youngsters' fears and concerns. These new picture books aim to do just that.
"Ready or Not, Woolbur Goes to School!" by Leslie Helakoski; illustrated by Lee Harper; HarperCollins; 28 pages; $17.99.
Woolbur the sheep is excited about the first day of school, and knows he can dress himself and fix his unruly wool. He's so confident — even when other animals tell him he colors outside the lines and paints upside-down pictures, he exclaims, "Isn't it great?" Even when Goat points out that the lunch grass tastes different that it does at home, and when Donkey says it's too noisy, Woolbur responds with, "Isn't it great?"
The upbeat story coupled with Lee Harper's hilarious illustrations of personable animals will evoke chuckles and happy nods from kids who may be a bit too apprehensive to admit how excited they are. Harper's depiction of the lovable little sheep with unruly braids is irresistible. A shining gem of a simple but absolutely wonderful picture book.
"Shark Dog and the School Trip Rescue" by Ged Adamson; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99.
Shark Dog is half dog, half shark, but looks mostly like a shark with feet. The dog part comes in his personality, which is eager, rambunctious and lovable. Ged Adamson's story begins when a famous explorer, who looks like Yukon Cornelius from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," leads the class nature field trip. Shark Dog tries to stay the course as the human children discover a big spider and a very tame bird and even animal bones. When someone yells, "Footprints!" Shark Dog bounds through the forest and finds a bear cub stuck under a fallen tree. Teamwork comes into play as the whole class lifts the tree off the bear, who bounds off into the woods.
With themes of working together, exploring the outdoors and helping animals in need, "Shark Dog and the School Trip Rescue!" is a fun and satisfying tale about the extra opportunities school provides.
"It's Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!" by Jody Jensen Shaffer; Claire Messer; Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster; 30 pages; $17.99.
Kids who ride school buses and tots who love buses will enjoy this introduction to a happy yellow bus preparing for the first day of school. With rounded, happy, almost crayon-like illustrations, Busy Bus can't wait to meet the children, and is patient when Ben the Bus Driver fills his tires, inspects his parts and checks his wipers, steering wheel and brakes. Kids will relate to Busy Bus' worries about homesickness and making friends, and will smile when he drops off his first schoolchildren.
A truly joyous look at school from the bus' point of view, Jody Jensen Shaffer's book is adorable.
"Best Frints at Skrool" by Antoinette Portis; A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press; 40 pages; $17.99.
Antoinette Portis' first alien tale, "Best Frints in the Whole Universe," was deemed a Kirkus Best Book of the Year and ALA Notable Book. Wacky and sweet, her tales tell funny tales about alien "frints," Omek and Yelfred, always late, mischievous and energetic. Her latest centers on a friendship triangle made better with a little understanding and a friendly game of eyeball in the peedle pit. The text is a hoot and a holler to read aloud — "Some stroodents read bloox," "On Boborp, sometimes frints use their words in ways that aren't so frintly," and happily, "On Boborp, what makes things the most fun is a best frint and a best best frint."
A truly hilarious read-aloud about friendship challenges at school, this colorful tale also includes a Boborpian Glossary of alien terms in the front end papers and extra activities at the back.
"Click, Clack, Quack to School" by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin; Simon and Schuster; 34 pages; $17.99.
The new addition to the award-winning "Click, Clack, Moo" series, this adventure invites the animals to spend the day at school, but Farmer Brown warns them school is not the place for clomping and clapping and hooting and being "Duck-y." However, animals aren't allowed in school, so Farmer Brown goes alone, or so he thinks. Soon, when recess hits, children come pouring out "wiggling and giggling, squeaking and squealing, thunking and clunking." So the animals stomp and clomp and clap and holler, but all along, Duck is still "Duck-y."
A silly and fun schoolyard romp, the tale ends smartly with a list of school, (or anytime), rules about being kind and safe and helpful and not eating paste.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.