Two more back to school stories to make the days a little brighter. And we can all use that.
It’s Not a School Bus, It’s a Pirate Ship, by Mickey Rapkin/Illustrated by Teresa Martinez, (June 2020, imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250229779
It’s the first day of school, and as the school bus rolls up to the bus stop, a young boy is nervous: who will he sit with? Who will talk to him? It looks really scary in there! But never fear! The school bus driver is there to let him in on a secret: it’s not a school bus… he’s boarded a PIRATE SHIP! The school bus transforms into a magical pirate ship, taking the kids on an adventure as they swashbuckle their way to school! This fun back to school story speaks to the fears some kids have, especially when boarding a school bus by themselves for the first time: as he walks in, the artwork shows a scary interior with childlike drawings of stick figure bullies, snakes, sharks, and ghosts! All it takes is an empathetic driver to put our main character at ease by encouraging him to think of the trip as a pirate adventure, and the artwork becomes a riot of imagination and color, with a school bus pirate ship sailing the high seas of the neighborhood, with street signs like “Yo Ho Ho” and cross streets called “Shiver” and “Me Timbers”. Dogs go past in rowboats; flying fish and dolphins play in the water, and the bus passengers all become fast friends, trading pirate jokes and singing pirate songs. By the time they drop anchor at school and head into their classroom, the kids are ready for their next adventure… announced on the last page. Childlike drawings of mermaids with backpacks, crabs waving hot dogs, and shark with sunglasses decorate the endpapers.
A companion to 2019’s It’s Not a Bed, It’s a Time Machine, this is a fun adventure that takes a little bit of the fear out of that school bus ride, and adds a spark of imagination to your day.
Mila Wants to Go to School, by Judith Koppens/Illustrated by Anoukh Nijs, (Sept. 2020, Clavis Publishing), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1605375694
Mila is a little girl who can’t wait to go to school! Why is Daddy taking SO LONG to get her there? This adorable story of a little girl who can’t wait to start school reaches out and touches the hearts of every parent who has the hardest time letting go, especially on that first day. While Mila is full of get-up-and-go, we see Daddy take a little extra time… he has to tie his shoe before he leaves; he makes sure to greet a neighbor on the way out; and look, there’s the playground! Maybe Mila wants to have some playtime on the swings before school? Mila wonders why Daddy is being so dilly-dally, but we parents know why: it’s right there, on Dad’s face, when they arrive at school and he goes from a small smile to an uncertain frown. He even asks Mila if she’s sure she doesn’t want to go back home with him. After Mila reassures her Daddy that she may make new friends, but he’ll always be her Daddy, she heads in to enjoy her first day at school and we know that Daddy will be waiting for that clock to let him know when to get her.
Mila and her dad are characters of color. The illustrations are warm and humorous; colors are bright but not overpowering, letting the story speak for itself and providing context with body language and facial expressions. For every parent who’s heart hurts letting go, Mila Wants to Go to School is for you. Mila Goes to School is the companion to Mila Has Two Beds, published earlier this year.
When We Stayed Home, by Tara Fass, LMFT & Judith A. Proffer/Illustrated by Yoko Matsuoka, (Sept. 2020, Huqua Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781-7353844-0-5
This is a different kind of back to school book, but it’s a different kind of back to school year. When We Stayed Home is a look at one boy’s experience with being home. Pictured on the cover wearing a spotted mask, he’s posing with his dog who’s wearing a dog-snout mask. In straightforward, uncomplicated text, he tells us about when he and his family stayed home “to help the helpers… when a scary virus traveled all over the world”. It’s a story kids and adults will be able to relate to, as he details all the things he’s done in quarantine: washing his hands (“All. The. Time.”), building forts, doing crazy things with his hair, and having screen time with family and friends. He thinks about everyone he misses, and admits that “even super-helpers are sad every now and then”, letting readers know that it’s okay to have mixed emotions in the middle of this global malestrom. He enjoys being a super-helper superhero, but sometimes, the mask gets annoying to wear; he misses his friends, his school, and going to the playground. An uplifting and honest story to everyone, especially those children who are attending school remotely so far this year, When We Stayed Home is a gentle book that stands as a witness to these challenging times, and will be an interesting book to look back on when this is in our past.