Media Reviews: School-Themed Books for Kids of All Ages

Five suggested titles and an interactive American history website from the Smithsonian, all recommended by the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Jude Virostko
Recommended school-themed books

My First Day

By Phung Nguyen Quang, illustrated by Kim Lien Huynh

The first day of school is often a daunting prospect for any young child. For young An, the hero of this picture book, his commute takes him on an epic boat journey through the Mekong Delta, where he navigates heavy storms, mysterious forests and massive waves. The book’s lush illustrations and rich, vibrant colors bring An’s world to life, and readers will be sure to cheer him on throughout his journey. It can be especially fun to leave An’s destination a surprise for first-time readers. FOR AGES 4-8

The New Kid Has Fleas

By Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Eda Kaban

Everyone at school agrees—this new kid in class is weird. They don’t dress, walk or talk like anyone else. Some classmates even say they have fleas! Yikes! Our protagonist dreads working on a project with them. But a visit to the New Kid’s home proves that the best of friends can come from unlikely circumstances. The illustrations are funny without making fun of the characters, and the text delivers a heartwarming story of friendship and acceptance. FOR AGES 5-8

Twins vs. Triplets: Back-to-School Blitz 

By Jennifer Torres

David has spent his whole summer being tormented by his neighborhood pranksters, the Romero twins. He thinks he’s finally escaped when he starts the third grade without them. But he finds himself in the middle of a trickster turf war when the equally mischievous Benitez triplets arrive. The pranks start flying fast and furious, and it’s up to David to get the school back under control. The illustrations are expressive and add to the humor of this very funny book. David’s voice provides sly observations and a relatable point of view for readers. FOR AGES 6-10

The Pack

By Lisi Harrison

Charm House might look like any other fancy boarding school, but it’s hiding a secret. All the students there have the powers of wild animals. New student Sadie just wants to fit in, and she thinks she’s made it when she’s invited to join the Pack. But it soon becomes clear that someone—or something—is trying to tear the Pack apart. Sadie must solve the mystery as she navigates the wild landscape of middle school. The story is action-packed and brimming with drama, but never loses sight of Sadie’s journey. FOR AGES 10-12

Dragon Hoops

By Gene Luen Yang

Gene is not a sports guy. He prefers the world of comic books, where there’s always big action, high drama and hard-won victories for his superpowered heroes. But at his new school, all anyone can talk about is basketball, especially as the Dragons fight their way to the state championships. As Gene gets to know the team, he discovers that heroic journeys can take many forms. Yang’s art brings the story of the Dragons to life with just as much action and style as a superhero comic book, and readers will stand up and cheer for the Dragons right along with Gene. FOR TEENS

Try This

Smithsonian’s History Explorer

This website, curated by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, allows users to explore American history through artifacts, documents and interactive media. You can filter by resource type, grade level, historical connections and even cross-curricular connections. Or simply browse through the historical artifacts and interactive section. This is a great resource for budding history buffs ages 10 and older.

Jude Virostko is the youth services librarian at the Franklinton branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

This story is from the Fall 2021 issue of Columbus Parent