I was just booking a long overdue orthodontic consultation for my middle child when the front desk lady and I both remarked about how quickly the school year is flying by! October already?!! Now that we are back in the swing of school, here are some new picture books on specific school issue topics. My kids were especially fond of the Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Fairytale.
These days even though none of my children have a nut allergy, we never pack nut snacks for school or sports. There is at least one child in their class who is very allergic to it. This book is great because my kids were able to empathize with the princess. My oldest said that I should blog about it because lots of kids have nut allergies.
Back-to-school also brings up a host of anxieties both real and imagined from fear of learning cursive to standing up to bullies. I would use these books to address concerns your child might have as a starting place for a discussion. They are also great in a classroom either as part of a teacher’s permanent collection or on loan if you want to enlist the teacher to address a topic that your child might be struggling with. How is back to school going for you? What issues are you dealing with and what books are helping you and your child? Please share!
Back to School Books on Bullying, Allergies, and ADHD
Bully by Jennifer Sattler
If your child likes The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle, this is a very similar story. Bully the Bullfrog wants all the lilies, unwilling to share with dragonfly, snail, bee, or fly. He picks and wastes so many lily flowers that there is just one left. When bee and friends chase Bully out, the lilies start to come back. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
I think this original collage and watercolor drawing picture book should be up for a Caldecott! Young uses paper sculpture (Japanese paper printed with etched copperplates) along with charming color-washed drawings to create 3-D paper sculpture streetscapes. The effect makes this story of a short walk to school a wondrous place of make-believe. Ferdie, the younger brother, doesn’t want to go to school today, “Not now. Maybe never.” His sister Viola coaxes him along with make-believe scenarios: superhero, pirate, and knight. In the end, Viola is now too tired to make that last block to school. Luckily Ferdie has a magic bean to “give you superpower strength.” And he even shares it with his sister! Such a charming book!
The Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Fairytale by Sue Gantz-Schmitt, illustrated by Micah Chambers-Goldberg
This is a book that all my kids (grades 1, 4, and 6) agree is a great book. It takes the Princess and the Pea story and cleverly turns it into a nut allergy tale that every child can relate to. With nut allergies so common that we pretty much NEVER pack snacks with nuts to school or sports games, it’s a must-have for every classroom and home. I also like how this story weaves in modern-day realities like epinephrine injections and blood and skin tests for allergies seamlessly. When the queen purges the castle of food with nuts, the packaging is “old thyme” but the list is modern: peanut oil, trail mix, dog bones, energy bars, grain bread, ice cream, peanut oil, etc.! My youngest has asked for this story three nights running! He doesn’t have food allergies nor do his closest friends, but it’s something that he’s very aware of and I think that is why he loves this book.
Even Superheroes Get Diabetes by Sue Gantz-Schmitt, illustrated by Micah Chambers-Goldberg
We don’t know any child with Type 1 diabetes, but this book gives a great and non-scary introduction to this condition and how to handle it from the perspective of a little boy and his family.
The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses series by Barbara Esham, illustrated by Mike and Carl Gordon
This series addresses special needs and teaches compassion allowing children to see things from a different perspective and would be beneficial for any school or classroom library! It is perfect for third grade!
Mrs. Gorski, I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets by Barbara Esham, illustrated by Mike and Carl Gordon
This book addresses the ADHD and ADD boys in class who can’t seem to sit still. The story is old by David who has the wiggle fidgets which his teacher doesn’t seem to understand. He comes up with some great solutions including fidgets, attention cards, and a timer. Coming up with creative solutions is ALSO a common characteristic for those with ADHD and ADD and I think that is a really important point that the book makes.
If You’re So Smart, How Come You Can’t Spell Mississippi? by Barbara Esham, illustrated by Mike and Carl Gordon
Third grader Katie is surprised that her dad, one of the smartest people in the world that she knows, is not a good speller because he’s dyslexic. When Katie goes to the library to learn more about dyslexia, she learns that Helen B. Taussig, the first woman to become a full professor at Johns Hopkins University, and William James also were dyslexic. She learns that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence or success which is great because there is someone in her class that she wants to give this message!
Last to Finish, A Story about the Smartest Boy in Math Class by Barbara Esham, illustrated by Mike and Carl Gordon
Math anxiety is a real medical condition! It’s the math version of dyslexia. It turns out that Max, a third grader, may not be able to do timed math fact tests, but he’s very gifted in algebra. This is technically different from math anxiety but the crux of this picture book targets a real-life math curriculum dilemma, math facts versus problem-solving.
Stacey Coolidge’s Fancy-Smancy Cursive Handwriting by Barbara Esham, illustrated by Mike and Carl Gordon
Third grade is when my kids had cursive handwriting. Some parents think it’s antiquated in this age of computers and screens. Carolyn, in this story, is having trouble learning to write in cursive, unlike her classmate Stacey Coolidge. Even though Carolyn works really hard at it, she’s still struggling. Her teacher lets her know that cursive is just slants and curves and that she’ll get the hang of it if she keeps trying but what is the most important is her wonderful imagination.
Leave Me Alone: A Tale of What Happens When You Stand Up to a Bully by Kes Gray and Lee Wildish
This picture book addresses a little boy who is being bullied and how friends can help stop the bully. In this case, it’s concerned animal friends that notice his despondency and step in (great modeling for kids) to help him chase away the bully forever. This is exactly how to stop bullying in the schoolyard; the passive watchers need to stand up to the bully. A must-read for every classroom and home! Use this book to start a discussion with your child about bullying and what to do about it. We are all in this together!
Let’s Count to 100 by Masayuki Sebe
My kids all learn to count to 100 in Kindergarten. They track the first one hundred days of school and on that day, bring in a ziplock bag of 100 things (anything as long as it is nut-free!). They celebrate the day with 100-day games and worksheets. This book would fit right in! It has charming drawings depicting 100 different animals: mice, cats, sheep, birds, fish, elephants, kids, and more. It’s a fun way to practice counting to 100!
Ankylosaur Attack (Tales of Prehistoric Life) by Daniel Loxton, illustrated by Daniel Loxton with Jim W. W. Smith
The realistic photos-like depictions of Ankylosaur versus Tyrannosaurus Rex make this era of dinosaurs come alive, but the message of helping out someone under attack can also be likened to the bully story, Leave Me Alone, above.
The perfect book for young budding architects! It gives both definitions of architectural vocabulary like structure, foundation, arch, dome, column, frame, and beam, as well as examples.
My Name is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee and Matthew Forsythe
This comes across as an old-fashioned book though it is newly minted. I think it’s the two-color illustrations that give it that effect. I like that a lot actually. The story is a simple one about self-identity. Elizabeth prefers to be called Elizabeth and not by any other nickname. For young kids who decide quite emphatically on their name!
Chippy Chipmunk: Babies in the Garden by Kathy M. Miller
A clever blend of nonfiction that reads like a story. Realistic photos help to tell the story of the young chipmunks as they wander out of their burrow for the first time! The chipmunk family is introduced on the front inside cover of the book and great chipmunk factoids are on the back inside. This is a non-fiction book that would appeal to girls (and boys!).
Motion, Magnets and More by Adrienne Mason, illustrated by Claudia Dávila
My son is now taking a Mad Science class after school. He’s a first grader. Now he is making up “experiments” at home. This book covers physical sciences and the experiments are both manageable and only require things that you’d normally have around the house which is great because that is all I can handle!
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.