Lulu’s First Day / Butterflies on the First Day of School

Lulu’s First Day
Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
Alanna Max

Lulu is starting pre-school and she’s already been well prepared. There have been lots of story time sessions at the library, a visit to the school, and special gifts from Nana and Tayo that she’ll use regularly for school.

She’s even chosen her clothes for the next day and packed extras in her new bag – just in case.

The big day dawns, everybody is up early and with a pause for a quick photo, off she goes with her mum.

There’s a warm welcome from her teacher and Lulu is soon enjoying all that nursery has to offer.

Almost before you can say, ‘circle time’, there she is on the carpet with all her friends and the grown-ups are waiting outside eager to hear of those new experiences.

Yes, its’ been a tiring day, but Lulu can’t wait for tomorrow …

With all the reassurance that little ones need, Anna McQuinn and Ros. Beardshaw present the pitch perfect book for those who, like Lulu, are about to take those next steps into pre-school.

Butterflies on the First Day of School
Annie Silvestro and Dream Chen
Sterling Children’s Books

An enchanting fanciful take on a well-known figure of speech is presented in this story of first day nerves.

Rosie has been eagerly anticipating starting school for a whole month but on the night before her big day, doubts creep in and next morning she announces that she doesn’t feel well.

Her mum tells her it’s just butterflies in her tummy and when she sits chatting rather nervously on the school bus to another new girl, butterflies (seen only by Rosie) flutter from her mouth. Now she understands her mum’s puzzling comment.

More butterflies are released, also seen only by Rosie, every time she opens her mouth in the classroom during that first session,

until by playtime her tummy is less rumbly and she can barely feel any more butterflies.

Out go the children to play, Rosie feeling pretty confident now. Then she notices another little girl standing alone under a tree, hands on her tummy. Rosie introduces herself and when the forlorn-looking girl speaks, a cloud of butterflies come fluttering from her mouth.

With its bold bright butterfly images this is a lovely warm story that will reassure little ones who like Rosie are starting school imminently, along with adults who may well share that first day feeling.

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!
Mo Willems
Walker Books

At last the time has come; our favourite picture book Pigeon is to start school, despite the fact that he’s adamant that he’s not going. “I already know EVERYTHING!” he insists immediately shooting himself in the foot by inviting readers to ‘… ask me a question. Any question!’

From there however he starts revealing his real anxieties: he’s not good first thing in the morning; supposing he doesn’t like it and worse – supposing the teacher doesn’t like pigeons. One by one these worries emerge from beneath that feathery bluster. There’s sooooooooooo much stuff to learn – too much and his head and body might part company.

We’re treated to an eight-part tirade of terrifying possibilities – ‘Will FINGER PAINT stick to my feathers? … What’s up with those heavy BACKPACKS? I’m a fragile bird.’ By now our little Pigeon is a jittering wreck.

But then, after a further rant …

comes a light bulb moment … followed by the very best of all Pigeon possibilities that answers his question, ‘Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!”

It’s a truly wonderful finale, perfectly delivered Mo Willems style; and I’m sure all the Pigeon fans out there will be on the edges of their seats as they anticipate what is about to show up next – whey hey! …

Presented almost entirely through speech bubbles, Pigeon’s monologue is simply brilliant and the way in which Willems zooms in and out on his protagonist both orchestrates the action and highlights the emotional turmoil.

I’ve totally loved all of the Pigeon books but perhaps this is my favourite so far.

Share with those about to start school as well as those already experienced in the mysteries of the classroom.

The Colour Monster Goes to School / Beautiful Bananas

The Colour Monster Goes to School
Anna Llenas
Templar Publishing

It’s the day Colour Monster starts school and he’s rather confused about what to expect as he anticipates what this new place might be like.

His friend Nuna is there to reassure him about what to put in his bag as well as to introduce him to his teacher and new classmates and to accompany him as he discovers the activities on offer that day.

First comes Nuna’s favourite, music, in which Colour Monster is let’s say, an enthusiastic participant though he seems even more enthusiastic about stories …

There are lessons to learn about turn taking, appropriate use of the toilet facilities

and how to eat lunch.
The afternoon comprises some gymnastics – with an additional piece of equipment; followed by a creative session with Colour Monster as the subject.

Come home time, it’s clear that the newbie has had a fun-filled day; but poor Nuna is completely worn out.

If you’ve not come across the Colour Monster in his previous escapades, then this is a great place to start especially if you have little ones starting school or nursery next term.

With her wonderful mixed media illustrations, Anna Llenas’ funny story of the risk-taking protagonist is a delight, reassuring with plenty to giggle over, as the big day draws close.

Beautiful Bananas
Elizabeth Laird and Liz Pichon
Oxford University Press

There are gentle echoes of Handa’s Surprise in this African setting tale of Beatrice, who sets out through the jungle with a bunch of beautiful bananas for her granddad.

That’s her intention, but along the way a giraffe flicks his tail accidentally displacing the bananas and sending them into a stream.

This sets off a concatenation of animal-related mishaps involving a swarm of bees, then some mischievous monkeys,

a lion, a parrot and finally an elephant each of which apologises and provides a replacement gift, with the story coming full circle with the elephant’s offering. It’s a delighted Beatrice who then heads to her Grandad’s home, assuring herself that after all, “Bananas are best.”

There’s plenty to spot in Liz Pichon’s vibrant scenes, not least the tiny jungle creatures

and the pairs of eyes peeping out from among the foliage as youngsters listen to Elizabeth Laird’s amusing story that is still a winner with me 15 years after its first publication.

Pirates Don’t Go To School!

Pirates Don’t Go To School!
Alan MacDonald and Magda Brol
Little Tiger

There seems to be no limit to the stream of piratical picture books set on the high seas; but a young pirate enrolling in a primary school, now that’s something rather different.

It is though what young Jake, fed up with ‘mopping parrot poop’ from the deck of the Salty Prawn, eventually persuades his Ma and Pa to allow him to do.

On arrival however, he does have some first day jitters.

And when he gets inside the classroom and removes his hat, both teacher and children – not to mention Jake himself – are in for something of a surprise.

His stowaway parrot, Poll, is in playful mood and leads Jake, children and teachers a merry dance

until the young pirate suddenly has an idea.

His action succeeds in calming down the lively bird, much to everyone’s relief, leaving Jake anticipating being sent home in disgrace.

Not so! Miss Cherry is an accommodating teacher and the lad happily spends his first day with the others until it’s time for his family to meet him.

That evening he regales them with the story of his first day at school; but will they allow him to return next morning? You bet; can Miss Cherry cope though?

Dirty Bertie author, Alan Macdonald has struck gold with this unlikely starting school tale. It’s perfect for young listeners soon to start school themselves, but equally will delight anyone partial to funny stories. This one’s made all the funnier thanks to Magda Brol’s spirited scenes of Jake, his family and his new friends, whether at sea or on land.

Why Do I Poo? / Freddie the Fox Feels Frightened

Thanks to Booklife Publishing for sending these: it’s always good to discover a new publisher.

Why Do I Poo?
Kirsty Holmes
Booklife Publishing

Bodily functions and in particular, poo, seem to hold an endless fascination for young children; mere mention of the word often elicits giggles among those in a reception class or nursery group; and with a cover like the one on this book, I’m sure it will arouse interest straight away.

Actually the whole book isn’t about poo; rather it offers a straightforward look at the workings of the human digestive system, (using a pizza as exemplar)

along with some other poo-related information such as that ‘poo gives off methane and that can be burned to produce power for our homes’, as well as powering buses. Also, animal poo is useful as a fertiliser for plants and, since it contains a lot of fibre, can also be made into paper – not human poo but that of sheep, elephants and even pandas.

After a look at other waste products we make,

there’s a spread on poo-related tummy troubles, as well as one inviting you to ‘rate your poo’ (using the Bristol stool scale). Don’t try that if you’re suffering from those tummy troubles though.

If your little ones are feeling quizzical, then they might like to try matching the poo piles to the four animals illustrated on the opposite page.

The book concludes with a glossary and index. Are you ready, steady, air freshener to hand? …

Freddie the Fox Feels Frightened
John Wood and Danielle Jones
Booklife Publishing

This is one of the Healthy Minds series aimed at the foundation stage and would work either shared at home or with a nursery group.

The author uses a narrative style to explore Freddie’s feelings on the evening before and morning of Freddie’s first day at school.

Despite Andy’s reassurances, Freddie goes to bed feeling frightened about what the next day might bring. So much so that he has a scary dream about being fired from a cannon, his fall being watched by countless pairs of eyes.

When the two leave for school, Freddie takes with him his comfort blanket and even so Andy is concerned that he looks rather unwell; he certainly feels that way on account of his fears of what might happen when they arrive.

His procrastinatory tactics take the two on a rather longer than expected route and during their journey Freddie talks more about his feelings.

Eventually the wet, muddy pair arrive just in the nick of time, with Freddie’s tail all a-tremble and his heart beating fast. Andy continues to reassure him as he opens the door

and following her instructions he counts to ten, looks around and very quickly finds himself absorbed in the children’s game.

With questions to ponder during the story and more to discuss afterwards, this book is, like Andy’s words to Freddie, a reassuring one to use with those soon to start school (or a nursery class). Danielle Jones’ bright, uncluttered illustrations show how both Freddie and Andy feel throughout and should help allay those pre-first day fears in little humans.

Little Owl’s First Day / This is the Way We Go to School

Little Owl’s First Day
Debi Gliori and Alison Brown
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Leaving a parent to begin school or nursery for the very first time, particularly when a younger sibling is still at home, can be a bit bothersome for little ones and so it is for Little Owl.

We first met the delightful character when a new sibling arrived and now he’s facing his first day at school.

When he wakes up on the big day, he isn’t feeling full of excitement as his Mummy Owl anticipates; instead the little fellow doesn’t even want to get out of bed. “I want a small day. I want to stay at home with you and Baby Owl,” he tells her.

After a lot of cajoling, they’re all ready to sally forth but then Little Owl is reluctant to pick up his new owlbag. Eventually, with Little Owl calling the tune, he sets off pushing his baby in the pram while Mummy carries his bag.

At the school door Miss Oopik is ready with a welcoming greeting; and reassuring farewell’s over, Little Owl is gently encouraged to try his wing at painting.

His picture is Mummy and Baby Owl moonbound in a rocket, and they seem to occupy his every thought for a considerable part of the morning until snack time is announced. And then it looks as though Little Owl might just have found a friend as he and Tiny Owl share the contents of their owlbags with one another.

The rest of the session seems to pass in a flash before Miss Oopik calls them all together for a story.

Soon, who should be waiting outside but Mummy and Baby Owl; but Little Owl is much too sleepy to tell them all about how he spent his time.

Debi Gliori’s gently humorous tale is a real situation soother that will embrace a first timer like a warm comfort blanket, especially since it’s woven together with Alison Brown’s scenes of adorable strigine characters small and not so small.

This is the Way We Go to School
illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang
Nosy Crow

Ideal for little ones about to start, or already at nursery or playschool, is this board book version of a favourite song, complete with sliders. With these your child can help the little tigers in the early morning to get out of bed; eat their breakfast, brush their teeth

and walk to school, where they smilingly wave a farewell to their parents before rushing inside to join their friends.
In addition to the sliders that facilitate getting up, teeth brushing and waving, there’s a wheel to turn that brings into view a host of other animals all hurrying schoolwards.

Both the tigers’ home, and the journey to school spreads have plenty of interesting details for little humans to spot and discuss.

Inside the front cover, is a QR code to scan onto a phone or tablet and download that provides a sing along version of the song.

Jessica’s Box

Emmanuelle, who starts school this week,  engrossed in the story.

Jessica’s Box
Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing

Jessica’s mind was too busy for sleep. / Her thoughts are already with tomorrow.’ …
‘tomorrow’ being the day Jessica is starting school. The whole family is excited. She’s determined to make friends and to that end, with her to school goes a large cardboard box.
On the first day it contains her teddybear; but the other children are unimpressed and leave her alone. The second day is really no better: she fills the box with cupcakes.

They quickly draw a momentary crowd, but ne’er even a thank you.
Time for some serious thinking.
On the third day, Jessica takes her dog, Doris in the box. She has a temporary success but then the school caretaker steps in and Doris is returned home.
Day four arrives and Jessica takes an empty box ….

Then a little boy notices her and the seeds of a friendship are sown …

Carnavas’s potent images, with and without full colour, need few accompanying words to relate the emotional rollercoaster of Jessica’s first few days at school. The message is clear, just be yourself: true friends will love you for what you are; you cannot ‘buy’ friendship however hard you try.
A perfect, starting school story; but equally, with its friendship theme, a lovely book to share at any time: the author really does see things from behind the child’s head.

I’ve signed the charter