8 Picture Books to Help Students Come Back to School

The start of a new school year can be scary for all students, but especially younger ones. Share these stories to help them laugh, find someone who understands what they’re feeling, and give them tools to help navigate the new year.


The start of a new school year can be scary for all students, but especially younger ones. Share these stories to help them laugh, find someone who understands what they’re feeling, and give them tools to help navigate the new year.

RedReviewStarIsabel and Her Colores Go to School by Alexandra Alessandri. illus. by Courtney Dawson. Sleeping Bear. ISBN 9781534110632.
PreS-Gr 3–Spanish-speaking Isabel, with brown skin and curly hair, loves coloring with her favorite crayons. What she does not like is that tomorrow is her first day of school where everyone will speak English. At story time, a Black girl named Sarah asks Isabel if she wants to be friends. Isabel does not understand the question, but at coloring time, with its familiar and comforting hues, she draws a picture for Sarah, visually explaining that she indeed wants to be friends. This first day of school story beautifully serves as a mirror for children learning English and as a window into their experience for their classmates.

Super Milly and the Super School Day by Stephanie Clarkson. illus. by Gwen ­Millward. Nosy Crow. ISBN 9781788007689.
PreS-Gr 1–Milly excitedly dresses for Superhero Day at school, but she is anxious about her lack of actual superpowers. How will she save the day without them? Once at school, she uses her positive character traits like kindness, humor, and courage to solve a series of problems for individual classmates. Lauded by the other children for her helpfulness, Milly realizes that the personal qualities she put to work are her superpowers.

Principal Tate Is Running Late! by Henry Cole. illus. by author. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063025745.
PreS-Gr 2–It’s seemingly a normal school day at Hardy Elementary School—a variety of animal students are arriving and everything is “all systems go!” Except that at quarter to eight, Ms. Dee notices that the blinds in Principal Tate’s office are down. What will Hardy Elementary do without its fearless leader? It is then that the staff members come to the rescue, sorting out problems and working together to get things running smoothly. The ultimate message of a community working together toward a common goal resonates.

The New Kid Has Fleas by Ame Dyckman. illus. by Eda Kaban. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781250245243.
PreS-Gr 2–Right from the first pages, readers will get the impression that the new kid might have been raised by wolves. No one will talk to her but the narrator of the story, a young boy who notices the new kid sitting alone and perhaps even looking sad. He goes to her house after school where his fears are realized. She is indeed being raised by a family of wolves—and they are AWESOME! This title adeptly opens up several types of much-needed conversations, making it useful not only at the start of the year but whenever a new student is going to join the class.

My School Unicorn by Willow Evans. illus. by Tom Knight. Silver ­Dolphin Bks. ISBN 9781645177302.
PreS-Gr 2–Evie is starting elementary school and imagining the worst—stern teachers, yucky food, and no one to play with. Arriving at Madame Lexi’s Uniform Emporium to buy school clothes, she can’t stop worrying, until from the pocket of her new school blazer pops a tiny unicorn. Bobby the unicorn will help calm her nerves on her “big adventure.” This sweet tale deals with that universal rite of passage and all the accompanying fears and uncertainty.

RedReviewStarWhy I Was Late for School Again by Dan Greenburg. illus. by Deborah Zemke. Creston. ISBN 9781939547781.
Gr 1-3–In this hilarious chapter book, Daniel, a young Black student at Chicago’s Stewart School, faces a series of comedic obstacles in his quest to get to class on time. Daniel tries his best to be on time, but as he navigates the streets of Chicago, he meets one antagonist after another with ridiculous problems demanding his help. Young readers will find this book’s silly antics, funny names, and wordplay uproarious.

Little Bat in Night School by Brian Lies. illus. by Brian Lies. Clarion. ISBN 9780358269847.
PreS-Gr 2–When Little Bat arrives in class, he is welcomed by his raccoon teacher but is excluded from play by the other bats and retreats to cubbies to hide. In the cubbies he meets shy Ophelia, a young possum, and together they bravely join the class of other nocturnal animals and quickly settle into familiar routines and activities of the school “day.” This will make a wonderful start of the year story to share to discuss inclusion, having a growth mindset, and making new friends.

Time for School, Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. illus. by Jill McElmurry & John Joseph. Clarion. (Little Blue Truck). ISBN 9780358412243.
PreS-Gr 1–Little Blue Truck sees the yellow school bus and wishes that he could drive the farm animals to school. The bus reminds him that he is not built for the job; the bus is long and shiny and has lots of seats and windows. When he sees Piggy at the side of the road—Piggy has overslept and missed the bus—the determined Little Blue Truck will get Piggy to school on time, and he knows a shortcut through the woods, going where the big school bus can’t venture. A charming tale of an endearing little truck on a mission, perfect for story times.

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