New beginnings: 5 books about feeling nervous about the start of school

As summer ends and the new school year begins, it’s important to recognize just how big this transition is for kids (and families, too!). So many feelings come with these transitions, no matter how old we are. Share these 5 books, name some of the feelings the characters are going through, and talk about how they’re coping. 

Becoming Vanessa, by Vanessa Brantley-Newton: Vanessa is nervous about her first day of school, and plans the perfect outfit — feather boa, tutu, shiny shoes, her special hat. But frustration takes over when other kids don’t appreciate her special outfit and writing her name is hard work. I especially appreciate the way Vanessa discovers the special meaning of her name and realizes that how she feels inside will make her shine.

El Cucuy Is Scared, Too!, by Donna Barba Higher: Ramón can’t sleep — everything is different in his new house. He is nervous for his first day at a new school. It turns out that El Cucuy, the monster who lives in Ramón’s cactus pot, is scared, too! Kids will laugh at the way Ramón and El Cucuy remind each other about how strong and brave they are, defusing their fears. El Cucuy is a scary Mexican legend, but portrayed here in a cute way to encourage laughs alongside the shivers.

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson: “What did you do last summer?” can be a loaded question. As children share about summer travels, Angelina remembers the days spent at home caring for her little sister, and feels very alone at school. In this gentle, beautiful story, Woodson speaks directly to readers, encouraging all of us to find friends who will listen to our stories, a new friend who “has something a little like you–and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.” 

My First Day, by Phùng Nguyên Quang and Huy’nh Kim Liên: A young Vietnamese boy sets out alone in a wooden boat across the Mekong Delta, heading to his first day of school. Captivating illustrations and beautiful, poetic language will make this a delight to read aloud. I especially appreciate the metaphors that encourage readers to see how similar our feelings can be, even though our experiences may be vastly different.

School’s First Day of School, by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson: Have you ever stopped to think if the school might be nervous about the new year? Even though Janitor says, “Don’t worry–you’ll like the children,” school does worry. Young readers will appreciate the way this picture book brings a fresh angle to the familiar story, sharing warmth and empathy, and helping all of us consider a new perspective. 
The review copies came from both my public library and from Penguin Random House Publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support. 

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books