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Back to School Books That Make School More Fun Than Play

Lee Littlewood on

These new picture books should help young children ease back into a routine and look forward to the first weeks of school.

"Sarabella's Thinking Cap" by Judy Schachner; Dial Books/Penguin; 32 pages; $17.99.

Judy Schachner's magnificent "SkippyJon Jones" series, "The Grannyman," "Bits and Pieces" and "Dewey Bob" are some of the most imaginative, well-loved tales of modern children's literature. In her latest, dreamer Sarabella has a hard time in school, and memorizing and remembering aren't her strong suits. Sarabella certainly thinks a lot; she always has a thought bubble full of creative things occupying her brain. But eventually, her teacher wants her to focus and concentrate on her lessons. How Sarabella reacts to a drawing assignment and the beautiful, free-thinking project she concocts changes the dynamics of the classroom and the open-mindedness of the students and teacher.

This is a wonderful story for students who struggle with the rigidity of traditional classrooms. Schachner's ode to thinking outside the box is welcome and reassuring.

"Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten" by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Ned Young; Disney Hyperion; 40 pages; $16.99.

Childlike Crayola-colored drawings of a heroic dinosaur, his rescue rocket and his super sticky shoes start off this vibrant, energetic school story. Since all the characters are dinosaurs with human personalities, it doesn't seem so far-fetched that kindergartner Arnold wants to start school as red-caped Super Saurus! Like most young students, Arnold packs his backpack. But inside are flippers, a fishing pole, a rocket and sticky syrup. We find out through Arnold's high-energy adventures underwater and in outer space why he needs those particular school supplies. He climbs skyscrapers and escapes into a field of stars just before storytime. His duels with teacher/foe Zorgo are funny and relatable, but eventually, he assists his teacher by saving the class from a huge Tyrannosaurus rex. Kindergarten certainly needs Super Saurus Arnold.

Incredibly witty and imaginative writing from Deborah Underwood paints an uber-zesty classroom romp that's out of this world. Ned Young's hyperkinetic pictures fly right off the pages. It's fun, indeed!

"Truckeroo School" by David Kirk; Feiwel & Friends; 32 pages; $17.99.

From the creator of "Miss Spider's Tea Party" comes an introduction to Truckeroo School, where odd yet silly monster children learn the rules of the road with their pet trucks. Strange, you say? Kind of. The narrator says: "Smeve, a little clot with a temper raging fiery hot! His truck is fitted with a spout to blast his flaming tantrums out!" Then there's Persmella, who's "such a dainty lass, admired for spewing stinky gas." Though the characters seem strange, when they go to school, they all work together to make music and art and have lots of fun. Fans of "Little Miss Spider" will appreciate the character's face on several pages.

"Twindergarten" by Nikki Ehrlich; illustrated by Zoey Abbott; HarperCollins; 30 pages; $15.99.

Twins Zoe and Dax are at times excited and fearful about starting kindergarten. They're not in the same class, though they're assigned to the Awesome Alligators and Cool Cats. Despite alternating between nervous and happy, the twins make friends and find out how fun kindergarten is. They even get to play at recess, and a note Dax tucks in Zoe's backpack reassures her when she feels lonely.

"Twindergarten" is a lovely ode to new beginnings and a sweet back-to-school story for any child with reservations, especially twins.

"Danny and the Dinosaur: School Days" by Syd Hale; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $16.99.

This tale follows in the style of Syd Hoff's "Danny and the Dinosaur" book with a classroom story about the friendly dinosaur that goes to school with Danny. It's an easy read, scoring a HarperCollins I Can Read 1 rating (beginning reader). It is written classically and sure to win over a new generation of readers, just like the original book did in 1958.

As a refreshingly vintagey, sweet and simple book, "Danny and the Dinosaur: School Days" should be a kindergarten favorite.

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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.

 

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