It’s time to fill the backpack with new notebooks and pencils, and welcome another school year. The new year brings opportunities, but sometimes it also brings worries. What if you can’t find a seat on the bus? Will you know anyone in your class? Is your language arts teacher going to expect an amazing essay on what you did this summer? Mom, Dad and maybe even your big sister will tell you not to worry. But sometimes it’s helpful to get an outsider’s opinion. So if you want advice — and some laughs — check out these back-to-school books.
by Barbara Park. Ages 6 to 9.
Young readers will giggle at the sassy Junie B. Jones and her colorful school guide. She may still be in first grade, but she has a “jillion” helpful hints, mostly about what not to do. Rule number two on bus riding: “Do not press your nose and lips on the window and make faces at people driving in cars.” Junie B. explains that someone might take a picture and e-mail it to your principal. Other warnings include “no hitting people in the head with your lunch tray” and “do not tap dance on the way to the pencil sharpener.” Avoid Junie B.-havior, and your teacher will send only happy notes home to your parents.
by Dan Gutman. Ages 8 to 12.
The author of the funny “My Weird School” series decided to write about something slightly more serious: writing itself. Gutman sees kids’ reactions coming a mile away. “It’s probably going to be a borefest,” he imagines kids thinking. He promises his book isn’t about indefinite articles, split infinitives and other things his teachers taught. The first part is about storytelling. Gutman gives clues about how to come up with an idea and characters. The second part is about (gulp!) grammar. Gutman explains simple rules so you don’t look “like a dumbhead” when you write. His examples are funny, and illustrations featuring his “Weird School” characters keep the pages lively.
by Thomas C. Foster. Ages 11 to 14.
This kids’ version of a popular adult book would help middle-schoolers explore beneath the surface of fiction books. Foster uses examples from new books that plenty of kids are reading (including Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book”) and shows them similar themes or characters in books from long ago (Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” written in 1894). He explains that readers should pay attention to details such as the story’s location and the weather. Is there a storm coming? What could that mean? The book isn’t easy reading, but it will provide lots of ideas for class discussions and book reports.
by Marissa Moss. Ages 10 to 13.
This book, aimed at middle-school girls, is actually two books in one. The stories, “Amelia’s Book of Notes & Note Passing” and “Amelia’s BFF,” follow a sixth-grader who has friendship issues. In “Notes & Note Passing,” Amelia worries that the school’s new girl is trying to steal her best friend, Carly. A bunch of mean notes dropped in Amelia’s locker makes it seem that she’s right. Will she end up eating lunch alone, or will old friends stick by her? The drama continues in “BFF,” when Amelia’s out-of-town best friend, Nadia, visits. Nadia and Carly don’t get along, and Amelia is caught between them. A baking contest helps Amelia realize that things you love — flavors or friends — don’t always go together.
— Christina Barron