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Back to School Picturebooks

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As children return to the classroom in September, books about mental health, class transitions and coping with change are more important than ever. We’ve handpicked a list of picture book recommendations to share with children returning to school – grouped into themes of community, resilience, rules, being yourself, starting a new class, feelings, friendship etc….

Books about starting a new class

Wendy Meddour
 & Daniel Egneus

This is a beautiful picturebook that celebrates new beginnings and the power of human connection. Tilly moves to a new home by the sea. She’s sad to learn that her precious dog Shadow is not allowed to go into her new school on her first day. Tilly faces the challenge of a new start alone. At playtime, the teacher notices that Tilly is alone and suggests trying the Friendship Bench. A boy already occupies the bench and the pair form a bond as they work together to transform the old, broken bench into something beautiful.

This is a warm and gentle story. Most children can relate to the feeling of having nobody to play with or having to face a new challenge alone. The story gently encourages readers to seek human connection and reminds us all of the difference that reaching out and making friends can make. The story could be used to encourage children to reflect on how to make new or isolated members of the school community welcome. Could you work together this year to create spaces around the school where lonely children could go, where children can build connections through shared activity or where friendships can blossom?

Colin McNaughton
 & Satoshi Kitamura
Picturebook
It was an ordinary morning when the ordinary boy woke up, and it was an ordinary journey to school - but then Mr Gee bounced into the classroom and everything changed. Mr Gee plays rousing music which thunders around the classroom, and asks what it makes them think of. The dull grey world has been transformed into one of colour and excitement. 'Write a story about it!' laughs Mr Gee. And the ordinary boy began to write: the words just tumbled out of him pell-mell. And the places he went to, and the things he saw were extraordinary!
Matt Goodfellow
 & Yu Rong
Picturebook

Shu Lin’s Grandpa is perfect for use with a new starter to your class, particularly if they speak English as an additional language. It would also be a great story to support work on empathy and inclusion, whether or not there is a new starter at school. The artwork in the book is fitted carefully around the text and brings it to life – the star piece being a beautiful double-gatefold picture by grandpa. The illustration provides a good opportunity to look at this style of oriental art and have a go in school, as well as a chance to discuss celebrating difference, sharing heritage and welcoming others…

Caryl Hart
 & Rosalind Beardshaw
Picturebook
A fun and gentle introduction to expectations about what to do when you go to school. When a dragon goes to school, will she stamp her feet, hide from the teacher or throw crayons around? Or will she choose to put her belongings on her peg, enjoy the toys and books and eat her lunch politely with her friends? A lovely exploration of how to enjoy the routines, relationships and responsibilities that come with being big enough for school.

Books about being yourself

Smriti Halls
 & Ali Pye
This is a joyful celebration of all the pieces, places and people that make us who we are. It is a wonderful way to get children thinking about and learning about their own families, and also opening up discussions about all of the other pieces that come together to make us all unique: from our friends and food we eat, to activities we get up to and the places we go. Children will enjoy finding out more about themselves and their families, and thinking about other families and friends who are similar or different to their own.
Ben Faulks &
 & David Tazzyman
Picturebook
Who am I? I ask myself. What makes me a ME? I think hard with all my might, And look around to see. What makes you a you? Are you like a sports car - lightning fast? Or maybe you're like a tree ... Do your arms stick out like branches? No? Then perhaps you're like a snail - very slow (especially when it's time for school!). A funny and thought-provoking look at what makes us us, from Ben Faulks (known as Mr Bloom from CBeebies) and David Tazzyman (bestselling illustrator of You Can't Take an Elephant on the Bus ). Guaranteed to feed the imagination, this celebration of being who we are is perfect for inquisitive (and inventive!) little minds.
Sophy Henn
Picturebook
Sometimes you are twinkly and floaty, sometimes you are soft and cuddly. Sometimes you are quiet and gentle, sometimes you are loud and clanky. Whatever you are, let's be proud of you being you! This bright and colourful picture book is a joyful celebration of the uniqueness of each individual. “The trick is not to worry about what you are not. Instead enjoy the things you are and all the brills you've got!”
Shinsuke Yoshitake
Picturebook
This quirky picture book tells the story of a boy who wishes to make a robot clone of himself. Before he can, he needs to examine exactly what it is that makes him him. This thought-provoking book with detailed illustrations is lots of fun and provides a good stimulus for discussion or classwork about the uniqueness of each individual.

Books about making friends

Caryl Hart
 & Tony Neal
Picturebook

Meet the Mini Monsters, four adorable characters who are learning valuable lessons about friendship and how to get along, in a pre-school setting. In this story, Sparkle is putting on a magic show with Arthur, but when Scout wants to join in, Sparkle is not happy. After some heartache, Sparkle soon learns that playing together is much more fun. Hooray!

Author Caryl says: “I am in love with the design of this book, the colour scheme, backgrounds and illustrative details are really, really clever and Tony Neal has done a great job of capturing the personalities of these loveable characters.”

Linda Sarah
 & Benji Davies
Picturebook
Brit and Etho are the best of friends. Every day they take their cardboard boxes to the top of Sudden Hill and turn them into adventures. But when Shu comes along, their comfortable two-by-two relationship is changed and Brit finds it difficult to adjust. Eventually, with much persuasion from Etho and Shu, Brit learns that three-by-three can be even better. This heartwarming story explores the feelings of insecurity many of us feel when a new personality comes along, and shows children that it is okay for friendships to change over time. The story inks to the whole school value of 'friendship' and can be use with individuals or small groups of children experiencing friendship issues (e.g. when three children are finding it difficult to share each other) or for helping established friends to welcome new friends into their group.
Tom Percival
Picturebook
Meesha loves making things . . . but there's one thing she finds difficult to make - friends. She doesn't know quite what to do, what to say or when to say it. But one day she discovers that she has a special talent that might just help her navigate social situations - and maybe even make new friends. A warm and affectionate look at the joys and difficulties of making and keeping friends, relating to others, and finding your place in the world.
Rebecca Cobb
Picturebook
A beautifully illustrated, wittily observed picture book about kindness, empathy and friendship from the award-winning Rebecca Cobb. Hello Friend! tells the story of one big-hearted and enthusiastic little girl who is insistent on making friends with a certain little boy. And why wouldn't he want to be friends with her? She's very good at sharing - even if it's a sandwich that he doesn't like. And she's certain that playing outside is their favourite thing to do, even if he is not so sure. But while he doesn't seem keen on many of the things that she loves to do, there is one thing he's very keen on after all . . . being friends.

Books about community and togetherness

Arree Chung
Picturebook
The Blues, Reds and Yellows lived in harmony. Reds were the loudest, Yellows the brightest and Blues were the coolest. However when one of the colours proclaims they are the best, discord breaks out and eventually the colours decide to live in different parts of the city. Then one day a Yellow befriends a Blue and they become inseparable, discovering a world of different possibilities and colours. From the brilliantly talented Arree Chung comes a sweet tale of difference and acceptance. Mixed is a charming and timely story with characterful illustrations and humour.
Tracey Corderoy
 & Tony Neal
Picturebook
Sunnyville is perfect. It twinkles with total loveliness. Until Rhino drops a toffee wrapper! “What? It's only one!” he says. Soon things are messier, noisier and a WHOLE LOT grumpier! Can anyone save the day? The perfect book to teach kids that a little care for your local environment and taking time to think of those around you, makes for a joyful world for all.
Alexandra Penfold
 & Suzanne Kaufman
Picturebook
The #1 New York Times bestselling picture book, celebrating diversity and inclusivity. No matter how you start your day, What you wear when you play, Or if you come from far away, All are welcome here. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcome. A school where children in patkas, hijabs, baseball caps and yarmulkes play side by side. A school where students grow and learn from each other's traditions. A school where diversity is a strength. Warm and inspiring, All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, and they are welcome in their school. Engaging lyrical text and bright, accessible illustrations make this book a must for every child's bookshelf, classroom and library.
Caryl Hart and Ali Pye
Picturebook

Together We Can is a celebration of all the different forms and types of friendship. Crammed with a huge diversity of characters (and animals!), with a wide range of interests, this joyful book looks at what a friend is, how to be a friend, how to make friends, and the value of being together. It offers gentle suggestions on combatting loneliness, taking turns, saying sorry and finding commonality with others. Every child will be able to find someone like them within the pages of this book.

Together We Can has been chosen by Save The Children for their #SaveWithStories appeal. You can listen to the book, read by actress Freya Allan, here.

Books to inspire class art projects

Barney Salzberg
Picturebook
We love this engaging picture book, filled with interactive pop-ups and flaps. The story is about the tapping into the potential of things that appear to be mistakes, showing how torn paper or spilt paint can be approached with a positive attitude when you know that mistakes can be transformed to become something beautiful. We highly recommend this book for all primary classrooms!
Peter H. Reynolds
Picturebook
The story of a little girl whose art teacher helps her to develop a 'can do' attitude. Vashti is sure that she can't draw, but when the teacher puts Vashti's simple dot picture on display, Vashti begins to think of what else she might be able to draw too if she is only willing to give it a try.
Anna Llenas
Picturebook
A picture book follow-up to The Colour Monster, Anna Llenas's jaw-dropping pop-up book. One day, Colour Monster wakes up feeling very confused. His emotions are all over the place; he feels angry, happy, calm, sad and scared all at once! To help him, a little girl shows thim what each feeling means through colour. What is the Colour Monster feeling? And can you help him feel a little less mixed up? A gentle exploration of feelings for young and old alike.

Books to inspire icebreaker discussions

Kate Baker
 & Madalena Matoso
Picturebook
Travel along the story path and discover an enchanted world where fairy princesses battle with monsters from the deep and vampire cats zoom through the galaxy on silver unicorns. This innovative twist on the classic quest tale allows young readers to choose their own characters, settings and plots at every turn. With a simple, easy-to-follow structure and bold, quirky imagery by award-winning illustrator Madalena Matoso, this is an imaginative storytelling experience for children of all ages. Who will you meet? Where will you go? What will you do next? It's all up to you...
John Burningham
Picturebook
Would you rather drink snail squash or eat mashed worms? Help a witch make stew? Tickle a monkey? Or maybe - if you could really be anyone or do anything in the world - would you rather just be...you?
Katie Abey
Picturebook
A fantastic first book of feelings that introduces little ones to a wide range of emotions. Why are the animals happy? What has made them feel sad? What do YOU feel excited about? We feel happy when reading our favourite book. We feel calm when we have a bath. We feel excited when we go to a party! We Feel Happy is the perfect book for starting a conversation about feelings with children. The animals are experiencing lots of different emotions, from the hippos who are excited to visit their friends to the shark who is grumpy about brushing its teeth. Includes learning hooks such as counting, first words and recognising animals, interactive speech bubbles, prompts and ideas on how to process and understand our emotions and lots of interesting things to spot on every page.
Pippa Goodhart
 & Nick Sharratt
Picturebook
Get pupils choosing, imagining and expressing their own preferences with this massively appealing picture book full of choices. Each double-page spread is themed around a different choice to make and packed with all sorts of possibilities from the tame to the outright wacky; choose furniture for your ideal house, choose a pet (watch out for the dragon) and choose favourite food (the ice cream looks good but I'm not sure about the boar's head!).

Books to inspire fun and laughter

John Kane
Picturebook
There's something very important that I need you to remember. When I say Ooh, you say Aah. Let's try it.' Ooh the donkey has lost his pants. Readers must help him find them! In this picture book, young readers help to sell the story by responding to simple verbal or visual cues. This hilarious book is perfect for reading aloud and is fun for the whole family.
B. J. Novak
Picturebook
You might think a book with no pictures would be boring and serious. Except . . . here's how this book works: Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say BLORK . Or BLUURF . And even if they have to say things like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and MY HEAD IS MADE OF BLUEBERRY PIZZA! That's the rule. That's the deal. US comic writer and actor, B. J. Novak's brilliantly irreverent and very, very silly The Book With No Pictures will delight kids and grownups alike!
Jory John
 & Pete Oswald
Picturebook
Be a smart cookie-and don't miss the fifth picture book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Food Group series from creators Jory John and Pete Oswald! This cookie has never felt like a smart cookie no matter how hard she tries, especially in comparison to all the clever cupcakes and brilliant rolls in the bakery. Will a dash of creativity and a sprinkle of confidence be enough to help her learn that perfect scores and having all the answers aren't the only ingredients for intelligence? Jory John and Pete Oswald serve up another heaping plate of laughs and lessons with this empowering, witty, and charming addition to their #1 New York Times bestselling series!

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