Allay fears of a new school year with these children’s books | Books

Special for the Arizona Daily Star

Tucsonians with kids at home don’t need a calendar to know that the first day of school is only two weeks away.

There are backpacks to buy, forms to fill out, carpools to organize. Are last year’s t-shirts still suitable?

It’s an exciting time, sure, but many children will also find it unsettling.

New adventures come with new challenges, new uncertainties and fears in the face of each new unknown. Children who are new to school or to the community may find the start of a school year particularly difficult.

To help, the Tucson Festival of Books asked festival volunteer Kathy Short, a University of Arizona professor and director of the College of Education’s World of Words Children’s Library, to recommend an assortment of books for children recently published. These selections remind us that courage comes in all shapes and sizes… and the most important lessons we learn in school sometimes have nothing to do with reading, writing or arithmetic:

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“School is everywhere I am” by Ellie Peterson is a picture book that explores learning as an adventure that takes place both in the classroom and in the world beyond…as long as you have an open mind and an open heart. The book conveys the importance of lifelong learning and the need to welcome learning opportunities wherever they arise.

“The Boy Who Tried to Shorten His Name” by Sandhya Parappukkaran is a picture book, due out in January, about a boy named Zimdalamashkermishkada who is starting at a new school. He knows everyone will stumble over his long name and decides to reduce it to Zim, but it doesn’t feel right deep down, feeling more like a denial of his Indian family heritage.

“Broken-down” by Ernesto Cisneros is a mid-level novel about two Hispanic friends who face the challenges of college, divorced parents, and basketball. Marco, who is smart and super short, is persuaded to try basketball, while Isaac – a natural athlete – struggles academically. Both need each other’s support as friends…even if they don’t achieve their goals.

“Gibberish” by Young Vo is a picture book that visually depicts the terrifying experience of starting school in a new country. Bubbles full of gibberish and classmates drawn like cartoon characters are gradually transformed through friendship into a place of belonging and reality.

” A storyory of me” by Adrea Theodore and Erin Robinson is a picture book about a young girl who feels racially scarred at school. She is the only black person in her class. Her mother shares family stories that reflect the courage and strength passed down to her from generation to generation and insights into the changing opportunities available to her.

“Jennifer Chan is not alone” by Tae Keller is a mid-level novel about a new girl who breaks the most important rule of middle school: you have to fit in to survive. Jennifer’s belief in aliens marks her for painful intimidation and Mallory is initially too scared to intervene, until Jennifer disappears. A stimulating exploration of doubt, fear, forgiveness and friendship.

“Thank you Suárez the cool cheek” by Meg Medina is a mid-level novel, slated for release in September, about Merci’s eighth grade as she deals with school drama and changing family dynamics and discovers who she can trust . It is the final book in a trilogy about Merci’s experiences in college and his responsibilities within an intergenerational Cuban-American family.

“My First Day” by Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien is a wonderful picture book of Vietnam. The story tells of a child who has to steer a small boat on the Mekong to attend the first day of school. Because it’s the rainy season, he has to overcome many obstacles and fears of the unknown as he paddles to school.

“The Only Thing You’d Save” by Linda Sue Park is a collection of narrative poems in the voices of high school students who are asked by their teacher to imagine that their house is on fire. Their family and pets are safe, and there’s only time to save one thing. What would that be? The poetry uses the Korean structure of sijo verse to create a variety of voices and rulings and to invite readers.

“Vinyl Moon” by Mahogany L. Browne is a young adult novel about a teenage girl who moves to a new school after a violent incident and heals her wounds in a classroom where teenagers read black writers and mix music. The chapters blend poetry and prose, depicting teenagers unpacking their traumas and finding their joy through literature and relationships.

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