As school begins, and the time to start working on AR reading goals begins, Crystal and I wanted to cover some of our favorite picks in chapter books for the pre-high school crowd.
Ready for Kindergarten Stinky Face? By Lisa Mccourt with illustrations by Cyd Moore, Early Reader Books: Green Level
As Stinky Face tells his mom the wildest worries he has about starting school, his mom helps him come up with solutions proving that if he can handle something as outrageous as sinks that only have grape juice than he can totally handle the normal newness of kindergarten.
Cam Jansen and the First Day of School Mystery by David A. Adler with illustrations by Susanna Natti, 3rd Grade Reading level
Cam and Eric are pretty sure they know what to expect on their first day of school but it doesn’t take Cam long to be in the center of another mystery when their new teacher is arrested! Fortunately for Ms. Benson, star student and top detective Cam Jansen is on the case and has proved her teacher’s innocence by the final bell.
American Girl School Books by Various Authors, 3rd to 4th Grade Reading level
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to go to school as a pioneer, on the prairie, or as a servant girl at the turn of the century, then these books are for you! Each book takes on what it would be like to attend school in a different era highlighting the differences (learning how to drink tea properly instead of use multiplication) but also the things that are familiar to the reader such as having good friends.
Wayside School Series by Louis Sachar with various illustrators, 3rd grade reading level
The Wayside School books by Louis Sachar are probably the funniest, weirdest, and silliest books about school. The fact that Wayside school is thirty stories high isn’t the only thing wacky about this school where you can have ice cream that tastes like your friends and naughty kids get turned into apples.
Middle School is worse than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm with illustrations by Elicia Castaldi, 4th grade reading level
Middle school is a year full of changes and challenges for anyone but poor Ginny seems to have been given an extra helping of bad luck along with the dreaded cafeteria meatloaf. Told through notes, detention slips and cringe worthy school pictures, this book will have you laughing out loud.
Juv Level books for Middle Schoolers
Report Card by Andrew Clements, 4th grade reading level
Clements has written so many great books about school that it was hard to pick just one to feature and while the others are certainly worth checking-out (library pun intended), Report Card is a standout. Nora is a gifted genius but doesn’t want anyone to know because that would mean being obviously different than her classmates and going to a different class than her friends. Like many kids, Nora also feels that everyone is too worried about grades and wants to prove it by bringing home a report card full of C's and D's. Chaos ensues as everyone learns that letter grades aren’t always what determines how smart a person is and that we should all be less afraid of showing what makes us different.
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Middle School by Robin Epstein, Ben Winters, and David Borgenicht
This middle school survival guide is a great nonfiction book that I found on Hoopla, to help calm those pre-class jitters. It is an informative guide full of tips and tricks to help juggle the new issues that come with lockers, multiple teachers, and homework coming from every class. It even has suggestions for how to handle new problems with friends, finding new interests, and the embarrassment of changing in the locker room.
Reading level 6th grade
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess is a story about Olivia Grace, the long lost half-sister of Princess Mia. Olivia is in the 6th grade going about her business like usual, dreaming of being a wildlife illustrator, when out of nowhere she gets the news of her princess title from a very jealous friend turned bully. She is suddenly in a school where everyone wants to sit next to her, even if they have never spoken to her before, and meeting the family she has always wanted. It is a really cute book and the start of a new series.
Reading level 5th grade
Middle School: Get Me Out of Here by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
Middle School: Get Me Out of Here is the story of a boy named Rafe who is just starting 7th grade in a new town and a new school. He is accepted into the Cathedral School of Arts and finds out that getting in was the easy part. The school has the students reapply after every year! He needs to keep up good grades, make great art, and keep out of trouble to be able to come back next year. That could be easier said than done. This book is told in an entertaining way and is full of great drawings.
Reading level 5th grade
Geeked Out by Obert Sky
Geeked Out is a dystopian middle school book. The world has gone to ruin after a dreadful movie adaptation led to a revolt, and the revolt led to the collapse of governments, and life was never the same. Unfortunately, even with the mess society has become kids still have to go to school. The main character is Timothy Dover (Tip). He and the rest of the AV Club start out attempting to get revenge against the jocks and end up getting super powers. This book is a funny one with lots of illustrations.
Reading Level: 5th grade
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
The School for Good and Evil is a story about two girls that were picked to attend the fabled School for Good and Evil to be trained to be fairy tale heroes or villains. The main characters, Sophie and Agatha, thought they knew what sides they were destined for but are taken by surprise when Sophie, with her pink dresses and glass slippers, is sent to the school for evil, and Agatha, who dislikes nearly everyone is sent to the school for good.
Reading Level 5th grade
Other fun school Books:
Mama Don’t go by Rosemary Wells with illustrations by Jody Wheeler, Early Reader Books: Red Level
According to Humphrey series by Betty G. Birney, Reading level 3rd to 4th grade
Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson, Juv collection, 3rd grade reading level
All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson, YA Graphic Novels, 3rd grade reading level
The end of August can be a dreaded time for kids of all ages as summer fun transitions back into school routine. What better way to get back into the swing of things than with familiar characters, favorite authors, and honest, relatable, fun tales from school? To give recommendations for every kid in the family, I’ve teamed up with Crystal to suggest the best school books available at the library or through the Hoopla app. Stay tuned for our next blogs where we’ll be talking about school themed chapter books for early readers and beyond! To start things off, I’ve highlighted some of the best picture books for helping younger kids gain confidence about going to school, especially if they are going for the first time.
Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes by Eric Litwin with pictures by James Dean
Pete the cat knows the importance of looking good on his first day as he goes to school rocking a new pair of his signature sneakers. The first day of school isn’t without its challenges for Pete, but this book shows how something as simple as a new pair of shoes can help a child start school with the confidence of everyone’s favorite cat. Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus and Pete the Cat’s Got Class are also available at the library with audio versions available on the Hoopla app.
What Did You Do Today?: The First Day of School by Kerry Arquette with illustrations by Nancy Hayashi
This unique book does the double duty of showing a kid what to expect at school while also giving them a look into what their grownups do during the day as well. While many back to school books focus on the child missing their adult, this book shows that missing one another is shared experience along with other activities like having lunch.
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex with Illustrations by Christian Robinson
Kids aren’t the only ones who get nervous about going back to school, it turns out that your school is very nervous about meeting you too! This sweet and hilarious book shows what your school goes through to be ready as Frederick Douglass Elementary shares many of the same worries as the kids who will soon inhabit it. Will the kids at school like school? What if school gets embarrassed? Luckily, in spite of a first day full of new things, both school and its new students decide they want to have many more days of fun that year.
Maisy goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins
Starting preschool can be just as big of an adventure for kids and Maisy Goes to Preschool introduces small children to everything they can expect at school through Cousins’s friendly illustrations and a short story that’s the perfect size for smaller attention spans.
First Grade Stinks by Mary Ann Rodman with illustrations by Beth Spiegel
Many children are excited about the new freedom of first grade and maturity that comes with being old pros at going to school. But many kids are also not expecting the new changes that come with moving past kindergarten. Through this funny and relatable book, Haley learns that while many things are different in first grade, that can be a good thing when it comes to learning new things like reading. She also learns that the most important things, having teachers that care and good friends, are the same no matter what grade you’re in.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn with illustrations by Nancy M. Leak
The Kissing Hand is a wonderful book for a child who is especially nervous about starting school and being away from their parents for the first time. This book is a beloved classic because of the useful ritual it shares for helping kids feel close to their loved ones when they are apart. By finding a way to bring a kiss with him to school, Chester Racoon helps remind kids that they are loved and that separation is only temporary.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Little worries can seem huge to a child Wemberly’s age so starting school is no easy task when that change can make even the bravest child worry. This book reminds kids that everyone worries about big changes (including grownups!), and that they won’t be the only ones who are nervous on the first day.
Lunch Money and Almost Late to School by Carol Diggory Shields with illustrations by Paul Misel
These two collections of poems are silly fun for all ages and cover a wide variety of school topics from show and tell mishaps to making sense of math. Told with fun illustrations and words that crawl, twist, and turn across the page, these books are perfect for reading aloud and laughing away back to school jitters.
Other Great School books:
The Berenstain Bears go to School by Jan And Stan Berenstain
How do Dinosaurs go to School? By Jane Yolen with illustrations by Mark Teague (Also available as an audiobook on the Hoopla app).
Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London with illustrations by Frank Remkiewicz
If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! by Elise Parsley
We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (available as an e-book with narration through the Hoopla app)
Looking for some inspiration on what to read next? Who better to ask then the people who work around books for a living!? Each month we will post a "staff picks" blog post written by one of our staff members. These posts will vary in genre, theme, age appropriateness, etc. If you have any requests on a genre or age category you would like to see, submit a comment here and we will get it on the list!