Books to Help Ease Kids Back Into School

By Lee Littlewood

August 12, 2016 6 min read

These lively picture books will remind students that school can be fun and exciting. From Pete the Cat to an awesome otter to an apprehensive kindergartner, in these new reads, everybody returns to school for new experiences.

"Otter Goes to School" by Sam Garton; Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99.

Otter and her pals, Giraffe, Teddy and Pig, are apprehensive about starting school, but want to give it a try after finding out that's where their human, Otter Keeper, got his smarts. So the plush friends head off in their Little Tykes coupe and start class. Otter dons a dress and glasses to become the teacher. They all have fun except Teddy, because he fears he's not good at anything. Teacher Otter figures out a way to make him feel better — by talking to Otter Keeper at home, who explains that everyone is good at something, and "You just need to find out what that something is." For Teddy, it turns out to be art.

Preschoolers and kindergartners who are a bit shy or scared of starting school will enjoy this helpful tale about trying different things and being brave enough to keep going. Sam Garton's fresh and fun illustrations and writing make "Otter Goes to School" a must-read. Other books in this series include "I Am Otter," "Otter in Space" and "Otter Loves Halloween!"

"Frank and Lucky Get Schooled" by Lynne Rae Perkins; Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99.

Lynne Rae Perkins is the author of many children's books, including a Newbery Medal winner, "Criss Cross," three other novels and a host of picture books. This absorbing, lighthearted tale is a love story of a boy and his dog, set with a theme of education. Frank goes to school thousands of times, while Lucky has been there 10 times, but is just as interested in learning, especially science and math. One of Lucky's favorite math problems is, "If a chair is accidentally left pulled out from the table at 8:30 in the morning, how much cake will be left at 4:00 in the afternoon?" With tons of wit and humor — "We won't know the answer until someone comes home. And then it will be a history question" — Perkins concocts a unique story about an inquisitive dog and his patient, loving boy.

A truly fun, witty picture book, "Frank and Lucky Get Schooled" does offer true bits of learning ("Making people's eyes move around to different parts of the picture is called Composition.") and plenty of humor ("Here is an art lesson: every picture can be better with a dog in it. Or a cat.").

I love this book. It's perfect for dog lovers and kids in school, ages 5 to 10, which means everyone.

"Pete the Cat's Got Class" by James Dean; HarperCollins; 30 pages; $9.99.

The popular Pete the Cat stars in another helpful, but funny tale. This one's about starting school and helping a friend. With a fold-out poster, flashcards and stickers included, James Dean's latest has extra touches of interactive fun. In the story, Pete aims to help a friend, Tom, who only wants to play with cars. So Pete smartly and subtly incorporates math while they are playing with cars at Tom's house. Pete asks, "If five red cars are going to the racetrack and five yellow cars are going to the car wash, how many cars are on the road?" "Easy," says Tom. "Ten cars — like a traffic jam!"

This is a cute, fun book that promotes using alternative, engaging ways to figure out problems. It also makes sure young readers know math is fun. "Pete the Cat's Got Class" makes a great back-to-school book for any youngster.

"Ruby Rose Off to School She Goes" by Rob Sanders; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $15.99.

Ruby Rose loves to dance and can't believe it when she hears there's no dancing at school. Even her teacher has never danced a day in her life. Ruby tries to incorporate dance into every day, sambaing down the hallway and pirouetting in art class, but Ms. D finally says enough is enough. When Ruby hears this, she jumps up and knocks over the class ant farm, sending thousands of ants scurrying and the students and teacher dancing to get the crawling ants off their legs.

Readers will smile at this little girl's determination and laugh when Ruby later tells her mother, "Ms. D. is a great dancer!" and "By the way, Mom, we need to buy Ms. D. a new ant farm."

With lots of pink-tinged pages and plenty of personable humor, "Ruby Rose Off to School She Goes" is a fun riot of a read.

"Rappy Goes to School" by Dan Gutman; illustrated by Tim Bowers; HarperCollins; 40 pages; $17.99.

You know this book's going to be a riot when it begins with this note to parents: "Rap it! Get out of your seat! Get up on your feet! Turn up the heat! Give me a beat! I repeat! Give me a beat!" Dan Gutman's active read is truly a blast — starring a rapping dinosaur boy with a backward cap and a rambunctious look. There are rhyming paragraphs like the one about dogs: "Dog is spelled D-O-G. With a D and an O and a G-G-G. That's the key, Dog starts with a D, like dark and door and disagree." Rappy the Dinosaur clearly enjoys going back to school, and his zesty rapping will get kids excited, too.

Besides all the hilarity and liveliness, "Rappy Goes to School" also includes a side tale about a classmate being bullied. Rappy speaks up — in rhyme of course. Tim Bowers' award-winning artwork is super cool, too.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

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