Chapter Books about School

31 Aug

It’s back-to-school season! There are a lot of wonderful back-to-school picture books out there, but kindergartners aren’t the only ones who enjoy reading about school. I’ve selected eight of my favorite chapter books set in schools, perfect for ages 7-10.

Wayside SchoolSideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Wayside School is not your average school. It was intended to be one story with 30 classrooms, but was instead built thirty stories high with one classroom on each floor. This book is made up of 30 vignettes about the students and teachers of the peculiar, silly, wonderfully weird Wayside School.

Ellen TebbitsEllen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary

When third-grader Ellen meets Austine, the new girl in her class, the two quickly become best friends. But when Ellen makes a huge mistake that puts the future of that friendship in jeopardy, she must come up with a way to make things right. Ellen is a character that readers will easily empathize with. Her everyday struggles and triumphs ring true.

Amber Brown is Not a CrayonAmber Brown Is Not a Crayon by Paula Danziger

Third graders Amber and Justin are best friends who share everything from inside jokes to Oreo cookies. When they find out that Justin is moving away, Amber is heartbroken. Amber and Justin’s differing reactions to Justin moving away is accomplished in a very realistic way. Chances are, every child will find themselves in this type of situation at some point in their lives, so this book will appeal to a wide audience. Amber is an engaging character that kids will relate to.

FrindleFrindle by Andrew Clements

Prankster Nick Allen squares off against his dictionary-obsessed teacher, Mrs. Granger, when Nick decides to invent a new word for pen – frindle. The new word takes off quicker than Nick could have imagined, and soon the whole country is using it! This clever book is full of wit with a touch of heart. Kids and teachers will love it!

Spelling QueenSpelling Queen (Kylie Jean) by Marci Peschke

Second grader Kylie Jean has her heart set on winning the school spelling bee. She practices every chance she gets, and enlists her whole family for help (even the dog!) Kylie Jean is a plucky and funny protagonist who works hard to achieve her goal. Like the other books in the Kylie Jean series, this book includes a glossary, discussion questions, and a recipe!

Muggie MaggieMuggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary

Maggie doesn’t want to learn cursive writing, and the pressure from her parents and teacher just makes her resist more. When her teacher announces that Maggie’s cursive is so untidy that her name looks like “muggie,” it inspires her classmates to give her the nickname “Muggie Maggie.” This story is amusing, honest, and relatable for a lot of children.

How to Be Cool in Third GradeHow to Be Cool in the Third Grade by Betsy Duffey

Robbie is starting third grade, and longs to be considered cool by his classmates. To remake his image Robbie comes up with a plan: get jeans, ditch the superhero underwear, and avoid the school bully, among other things. Many readers will see their own struggles mirrored in Robbie’s quest for coolness.

Katie Woo Rules the SchoolKatie Woo Rules the School by Fran Manushkin

Told in four separate short stories, Katie Woo has a series of school adventures. She looks after the class pet, deals with a teasing bully, tells a lie, and performs in a class play. These simple, humorous stories are perfect for beginning readers.

Chapter Books about School



If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!

24 Aug

If You Ever Want To Bring An Alligator to SchoolTeachers, take note: If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! by Elise Parsley (©2015) is a laugh-out-loud funny picture book that is perfect for the classroom.

A spunky little girl named Magnolia decides to bring an alligator to school for show-and-tell, but the alligator is nothing but trouble. He disrupts class by throwing paper airplanes, chewing gum, and nearly eating a student, and by the end of the day the alligator has gotten Magnolia into a whole heap of trouble!

This book is an absolute gem. The story is funny and imaginative and will appeal to a wide age range. The vibrant illustrations hilariously depict the alligator’s antics, and you can’t help but love the expressive characters. There are plenty of fun details to discover on every page, making this book one to read over and over again.


Two Winning Books by Chris Van Dusen

17 Aug

Today I’m pleased to share two outstanding picture books by one of my all-time favorite author/illustrators, Chris Van Dusen.

If I Built a CarIn If I Built a Car (©2007) a boy named Jack shares his design for an out-of-this-world vehicle. Jack’s car comes complete with a pool, a snack bar, and even a robotic chauffer! It can deftly transition from land to sea to sky with the push of a few buttons. Jack and his dad take the test drive of a lifetime in a car that’s like nothing you’ve seen before!

If I Built a HouseIn the follow-up If I Built a House (©2012) Jack tells his mother all about his plans for a one-of-a-kind house that meets all of his family’s needs. The kitchen features space-age robotics that make cooking and cleaning a breeze. The living room has trampolines and a giant ball pit. Jack’s design also includes an Art Room, Flying Room, Racetrack Room, and Fish Tank Room. This unique home will appeal to kids and parents!

If-I-Built-A-House-InsideThe rhythm of Chris Van Dusen’s energetic verse is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. The rhymes are snappy and the books are a delight to read aloud. The vibrant, meticulously detailed illustrations combine a retro, 1950s look with a futuristic flair. Every single one of Van Dusen’s illustrations are entirely hand-painted, each taking days or weeks to complete.

If-I-Built-A-Car-InsideThese clever, exuberant stories are sure to ignite kids’ imaginations. You’ll never look at a car or a house the same way again!

I recommend these books for ages 4-8.

Board Books about the Zoo

10 Aug

One of my family’s favorite summer activities is a trip to the zoo!

Cougar Mountain Zoo

This is my daughter and me at Cougar Mountain Zoo in Issaquah, WA. She loved getting an up-close view of the animals, especially the lemurs, wallabies, macaws, and tigers! I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in the Seattle area.

Board Books about the Zoo

At home, my baby can’t get enough of zoo-themed books! Here are five of our favorite board books about the zoo. Your baby or toddler is sure to love these!

Dear ZooDear Zoo

In this classic lift-the-flap book, a child writes a letter to the zoo asking them to send a pet. One by one different animals arrive, but each has to be sent back. The elephant is too big, the frog is too jumpy, and the monkey to too naughty. But finally the zoo gets it right, and sends the perfect pet! My baby loves getting to lift each flap to reveal the different animals. Older toddlers can practice saying the name of each animal as it is revealed.

Good Night GorillaGood Night, Gorilla

It’s bedtime at the zoo, but the sneaky gorilla has swiped the zookeeper’s keys and let all of his animal friends out of their cages. The animals follow the zookeeper home, and the gorilla even climbs into his bed! While this book does have some words, the story is told primarily in vivid illustrations. Each picture is chock full of detail so there’s something new to discover with every reading. Ever since my daughter turned one, this has been her absolute favorite book. Because of that I’ve read it at least 100 times just in the past few months, and I’m not sick of it yet! Now THAT’S saying something!

Little CritterLittle Critter Numbers

Little Critter is visiting the zoo! With his camera in hand, Little Critter sees one lion, two hippos…all the way up to ten penguins! This simple book is a fun way to teach counting and animal names all at once. There’s really not much of a story, but my daughter loves this book and that’s good enough for me!

Peek-A ZooPeek-A-Zoo!

This book is the follow-up to Peek-a Who? which was my daughter’s absolute favorite book when she was an infant. Colorful zoo animals are peeking through die-cut windows, waiting to be revealed with a turn of the page. The book is short and simple and will get babies giggling every time!

Polar Bear Polar BearPolar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

The polar bear hears a lion roaring, the lion hears a hippo snorting, and so on through a whole zoo full of animals. The twist at the end reveals that the sounds are actually a group of children wearing masks and imitating their favorite animals. Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy mimicking the animal sounds described in the book.

Picture Books about Camping

31 Jul

Picture Books Featuring CampingThere’s plenty of summer left, and many families are making the most of it by heading for the great outdoors! Whether you’re camping in the wilderness or in your own backyard – or even your living room! – these camping-themed picture books are sure to be a hit! Don’t forget the s’mores!

Bailey Goes CampingBailey Goes Camping by Kevin Henkes

Bailey’s brother and sister are going on a camping trip, but Bailey is too young to go with them. To cheer him up Bailey’s parents let him go camping indoors, complete with a tent, bathtub fishing, and roasting marshmallows on the stove. The emotions in this book will resonate with kids, and the illustrations are absolutely charming. This is a sweet story that will inspire toddlers and preschoolers to have their own indoor camping adventures. Don’t forget the marshmallows!

Just Me and My DadJust Me and My Dad by Mercer Mayer

Little Critter and his dad take a camping trip – just the two of them. They have a few mishaps along the way, but Dad is always there to smooth things out. This endearing tale of a father-son camping trip is packed with humor and heart.

Toasting MarshmallowsToasting Marshmallows by Kristine O’Connell George and Kate Kiesler

This beautiful collection of poems – 30 in all – bring to life all the wondrous aspects of camping in the great outdoors. The poems – sometimes humorous, often heartfelt, and always magical – are accompanied by gorgeous painted illustrations. This book will call forth memories of camping trips past, or inspire you to create new ones.

Curious George Goes CampingCurious George Goes Camping by Margret Rey and H.A. Rey

In this entertaining installment in the Curious George series, George and the man with the yellow hat go on a camping trip. On his way to fetch a bucket of water for their campsite, George wanders off and gets himself into a whole heap of mischief. But when George spots a small forest fire, he acts quickly and ends up saving the day!

Camping Spree with Mr. MageeA Camping Spree With Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

Early one morning, Mr. Magee and his dog Dee hitch up the trailer and head for the great outdoors. But they get more than they bargained for when a curious bear finds their campsite! I’m a huge Chris Van Dusen fan and this book does not disappoint. The rhymes are energetic and the hand-painted illustrations are vivid and detailed.

Picture Books Around the World: Mexico

17 Sep

The eighth and final installment in the Picture Books Around the World series is our first stop in North America… we’re heading to Mexico!

Picture Books about Mexico

What was your favorite stop on the picture book world tour? Was there a country you wish had been included? Let me know in the comments!

Tortilla FactoryThe Tortilla Factory

This is the story of the people who make tortillas; from the farmers who work the soil and plant the corn, to the factory workers who operate the machinery. Featuring rich oil paintings, this book is not only a lovely portrait of Mexico, but a delightful lesson on where food comes from.

Saturday MarketSaturday Market

This book tells the story of a Mexican Saturday market, with each page introducing a new vendor and what they are selling. Throughout the story, readers are introduced to many Spanish words. The illustrations, full-page acrylic paintings, capture the rich culture of the people and the energetic atmosphere of this weekly event.


This sparsely-worded, bilingual story shows of group of children preparing for a birthday party. This book is perfect for very young readers.

Cinco de MayoCinco de Mayo

With cartoony, kid-friendly illustrations, this book is a wonderful first look at the history of the Mexican Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo. The book also has lots of great information about the food, music, clothing, and customs of Mexico.

Off We Go To MexicoOff We Go to Mexico

Vibrantly illustrated and featuring entertaining rhyming text, this book is an excellent introduction to Mexico. It includes a map, a fact sheet, and plenty of Spanish vocabulary.

Book FiestaBook Fiesta!

This energetic book introduces readers to two Mexican holiday (both celebrated on April 30) Children’s Day and Book Day. The colorful painted illustrations are absolutely stunning and make this book a must-read!

Excerpt from "Book Fiesta!"

Excerpt from “Book Fiesta!”

I hope you enjoyed our trip around the world!

Picture Books Around the World: Africa

15 Sep

Today we are paying a visit to the diverse continent of Africa!

Picture Books about Africa

Africa is the world’s second-largest continent, and it is made up of 53 different countries. The books on this list highlight seven African countries: Kenya, South Africa, Malawi, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, and Uganda.

One HenOne Hen

[Ghana] When Kojo’s father dies, he must leave school to help earn money for his family. One day Kojo receives a small loan, which he uses to buy a hen. He uses the money he earns from selling the eggs to buy more hens, and eventually earns enough money to return to school. This inspiring, beautifully-illustrated book shows how one small bit of aid – when put to good use – can make a huge impact.

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti PlainBringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain

[Kenya] This book is a retelling of a traditional Nandi folktale. The enchanting story and rhythmic text make this an excellent read-aloud. Painterly illustrations depict the picturesque landscapes of Africa’s Kapiti Plain.

Mama Panya's PancakesMama Panya’s Pancakes

[Kenya] Mama Panya is planning a pancake dinner for her and her son, Adika, but when Adika invites all of their friends in the village, Mama worries that she won’t have enough to go around. Kids and adults will enjoy the universal message about the rewards of generosity.

For You are a Kenyan ChildFor You Are a Kenyan Child

[Kenya] This lively and vividly illustrated book follows a day in the life of a Kenyan boy. While the book deftly demonstrates Kenyan culture (and even includes some Swahili words) it also illuminates the similarities between Kenyan children and children all over the world.

I Lost My Tooth in AfricaI Lost My Tooth In Africa

[Mali] A young girl who is visiting relatives in Africa hopes that her loose tooth will fall out so she can leave it for the African tooth fairy. The book’s vibrant illustrations are the work of the author’s father, a Mali native.

Beatrice's GoatBeatrice’s Goat

[Uganda] In this uplifting book, a girl and her family receive a goat which they use to dramatically change their lives for the better. This story is based on the real-life organization Heifer International, through which families in developing countries receive donations of livestock that can help them lift themselves out of poverty.

The Boy Who Harnessed the WindThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

[Malawi] When his village is nearly destroyed by drought, a teenager builds a windmill to produce electricity and pump water. This book is gorgeously illustrated using a stunning combination of oil paint and cut paper.

At the CrossroadsAt the Crossroads

[South Africa] In a small town in South Africa, children gather in anticipation of the return of their fathers, who have been away for months working in the mines. The love that these children have for their fathers is universally recognizable, allowing children from any part of the world to relate to this story.

The Butter ManThe Butter Man

[Morocco] While a young girl waits eagerly for dinner, her father passes the time by sharing a story of his childhood in Morocco, and the time he spent waiting for his father to return home with food during a famine. The story is based on the personal experience of one of the authors.


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