2023 Children's Books · Children's Book Recommendations

Back-to-School Picture Books–2023

Back to school picture book recommendations are by Angela Ferraris, The Retired School Librarian.*

Kindergartners with all sorts of big heads stading around a large teacher's desk looking at a sandwich that has two olive pierce through a toothpick on top that look like eyes and bologna sticking out the side that sort of looks like a tongue

Mr. S: A First Day of School Book

by Monica Arnaldo (Author, Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Katherine Tegen Books. 2023. K-3. Hardcover picture books. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 0063003953.

Brief summary: The kindergartners of 2B arrive on the first day of school to find a missing teacher. Their first clue is the desk has a ruler, a steaming cup of coffee, and a giant sandwich. They notice “Mr. S” has been written on the chalkboard. They wonder if their teacher could be Mr. Sandwich. They immediately create an alphabet of different sandwiches. They continue their day doing school-related activities without the supervision of an adult. Suddenly, the door opens, and a man hurries inside the classroom. Is this their teacher?

This was one of my favorite back-to-school books. Great mystery. A subplot is also going on in the window frame throughout the story. Clever. Well done. I can’t wait to read more imaginative stories like this from Monica Arnaldo.

Rating: 5/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

First day of school and there is no teacher in the classroom with students standing around the room

9 Kilometers (Stories from Latin America)

by Claudio Aguilera (Author), Gariela Lyon (Illustrator), Lawrence Schimel (Translator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Eerdmans Books for Young. 2023. Grades 1-4. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 0802856004.

Brief summary: A young Chilean student begins his nine-kilometer walk to school in the darkness of dawn while counting his steps and animals he sees along the way.

Young readers will follow his journey as he goes under a barbed-wired fence, through a forest, across a river, etc., until he is FINALLY to school.

This book could spark some interesting classroom conversations. What was the longest you’ve ever walked? How much is a kilometer? Why did the boy walk so far? Why didn’t a yellow school bus take him? Was it essential for him to go to school? Dangerous?

The back of the book has brief stories of other children worldwide and how they walk to their schools. There is also a section on the birds seen during the boy’s walk.

The front pasted-down end pages have a map of the beginning of the walk, with it continuing onto the back end pages.

Rating: 4.5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—1/2

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

Translated and printed to English in 2023.

Marker 

by Anna Kang (Author), Christopher Weyant (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Two Lions. 2023. PreK-3. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 1542039614.

Brief summary: Red Pen welcomes the teacher supplies to getting ready for the first day of school. Pinking Shears is accepted as a new member and is placed in the superpower mug on the desk, displacing Permanent Marker to a canister. The supplies are creating back-to-school posters and lists when Marker, which is always used for the class rules poster, makes a mistake but cannot fix it, causing her anxiety as everyone will see it day after day. Will Red Pen come up with an idea to help everyone realize it’s okay to fail?

What a fun read for the beginning of the school year. Cute illustrations and a humorous storyline will help students with any first-day jitters. I’ll not be looking at the supplies on my desk ever the same.

Rating: 3.5/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“— 1/2

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

If you like this book, you may also enjoy Anna Kang’s Eraser, published in 2018.

And Then Comes School 

by Tom Brenner (Author), Jen Hill (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Candlewick. 2023. PreK-1. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 1536209139.

Brief summary: Two young girls enjoy the last summer days with their friends. A list of school supplies is received. They sort through clothes that are too small, pick up back-to-school supplies, and play on the last day of summer vacation. They prepare for the first day of school by picking out an outfit, filling a backpack, and going to bed, imagining what the first day will bring.

Rating: 3.5/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—1/2

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

This is one of the series of And Then Comes by Tom Brenner. I like this series as they share little rituals before a holiday or event that young readers can understand. Nice, lyrical text.

Shy Robin and the First Day of School 

by Jaime Kim (Author, Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Candlewick. 2023. Hardcover picture book. PreK-1. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 1536209295

Brief summary: Robin is usually brave and energetic at home but not in public. Her mother gives her a purple headband on the first day of school to help her feel confident.

While at school, Robin notices another student who is also shy and withdrawn and is wearing purple bracelets. After temporarily losing her headband, Marco offers Robin one of his bracelets while they all look for the hair accessory.

This would be a nice back-to-school story to share with preschoolers and kindergartners to let them know that students may feel shy.

Rating: 3/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

We’re Going to School 

by Tammi Salzano (Author), Morena Forza (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Tiger Tales. 2023. PreK-K. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 166430021X.

Brief summary: Young readers will wake up early with various kids returning to school. Once inside the school, the day begins with introductions, new routines, and friend-making.

This book would be suitable for preschool or kindergartners who have never been to school to get a general idea of what happens on the first day.

Rating: 3/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

Giant-Sized Butterflies On My First Day of School 

by Justin Roberts (Author), Paola Escobar (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. 2023. PreK-2. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 0525516433.

Brief summary: A young girl has a nervous stomach going back to school and is reassured by her mother that everything will be okay. The mother shares a time when she had butterflies in her stomach and how she let them go.

Teachers and parents could share this book with students about the first day of school to let them know that sometimes we are nervous doing or going places for the first time.

Rating: 3/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

Mina Belongs Here 

by Sandra Niebuhr-Siebert (Author), Lars Baus (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Floris Books. 2023. PreK-2. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 1782508112.

Brief summary: Mina attends kindergarten and needs help understanding what anyone is saying or asking. Mina hugs the teddy bear and is quiet all day until she returns to her home and tells her mother about her day.

The next day of school, Mina makes a friend with a girl named Ava even though they do not speak. She returns home to tell her mother all about her day at school.

Each day, Mina learns new words and becomes more relaxed. Her dreams parallel her feelings and become more vivid and bright.This German translation from 2020 was published in the USA in 2023.

Rating: 3/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

A cartoon backpack hanging onto the closet door nervous about going back to school

Back to School, Backpack! 

by Simon Rich (Author), Tom Toro (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2023. PreK-2. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 0316628344.

Brief summary: A backpack going back to school has the first day jitters but soon fits in the new environment.

This would be a good book to read during the first day or week of school to help those with any nervousness. Cute and humorous.

Rating: 3/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

A Smart, Smart School 

by Sharon Creech (Author), Anait Semirdzhyan (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž HarperCollins. 2023. PreK-4. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-10 โ€ : โ€Ž 0063059614.

Brief summary: Mr. Keene, the principal of Fine Elementary School, loves his school as he strolls through the hallways watching the students drawing, painting, reading, and singing. He immediately has to leave for the hospital. Tillie, one of the students, worries about his recovery.

Mr. Tatters takes over as the principal and notices all of the get-well banners, cards, and artwork the students do for their beloved sick principal and does not like it. He insists that to be a smart, smart school, they must have tests every day that week, causing everyone to have stress and boredom. The students visit their principal at the hospital on Saturday, bringing all their get-well gifts.

Tillie talks to Mr. Keene upon his return on Monday about all the tests. He gathers everyone into an assembly and announces how they will be a smart, smart school again.

What a great book to anonymously leave on each principal’s, board member’s, and central office administrator’s desk. *wink*

Rating: 4.5/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—1/2

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

Companion book to A Fine, Fine School, written in 2001.

*(This content contains Amazon affiliate links. When you buy through these links, I may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you).

2023 Children's Books · Children's Book Recommendations

Garden Picture Book Recommendations

Garden picture book recommendations are by Angela Ferraris, The Retired School Librarian.*

Children playing in a garden

Garden Walk 

by Virginia Brimhall Snow (Author). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Gibbs Smith. 2023. PreK-2. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-1423662525.

Brief summary: Grammy and her four grandchildren walk through the forest and to the garden, learning about plants, animals, and insects. They place a blanket on the ground and picnic while Grammy reads to them. Narrated by one of the children.

Blue ink illustrations with the plants, animals, or insects highlighted with full-colored words that match the subject.

Picnic recipes are in the back.

Rating: 4/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

If you enjoy this book, you may be interested in Virginia Brimhall Snow’s Seasonal Walks series. For more details or to buy, click here.

A grandfather giving his granddaughter a pot of peonies

Love Makes a Garden Grow 

by Taeeun Yoo (Author, Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. 2023. Prek-2. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-1534442863.

Brief summary: A young girl and her grandfather tend a garden together until he moves to an apartment where he brings some of his plants.

She grows up and lives far away, but her grandfather sends her a gift of peonies. When her daughter grows, the granddaughter visits the man showing her little one how to tend the house plants and flowers like he taught her.

An Author’s Note in the back explains how this story is based on her relationship with her grandfather.

Rating: 3.5/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“— 1/2

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

 A girl in a polka dot dress on the rooftop garden gathering fruit and fegetables for her basket while a cat is chasing butterflies

Linh’s Rooftop Garden (Where In the Garden?) 

by JaNay Brown-Wood (Author), Samara Hardy (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Peachtree. 2023. PreK-1. Hardcover picture book.

Brief summary: Lihn needs to find blueberries for their brunch and walk around the rooftop looking at all the fruits and vegetables. The girl describes what a blueberry looks like and compares those characteristics to each plant methodically until she finds them.

There is a blueberry and banana pancake recipe in the back.

Rating: 3.5/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“— 1/2

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

If you enjoy this book, you may be interested in the other three books of the Where in the Garden? series:

A child with flowers all around them wearing a necklace of daisies.

Watch Me Bloom: A Bouquet of Haiku Poems for Budding Naturalists 

by Krina Patel-Sage (Author, Illustrator).Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Lantana Publishing. 2023. PreK-3. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-1913747992

Brief summary: A collection of twenty-four haikus about different flower species, all illustrated with lovely bright colors, including the paste-down end pages.

There are Floral Fun Facts in the back of the book.

Rating: 3.5/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“— 1/2

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

A word on a rock with quilled plants growing beside it

Just a Worm 

by Marie Boyd (Author, Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Greenwillow Books. 2023. PreK-3. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-0063212565.

Brief summary: Worm begins its day crawling through the garden when two humans cause it to have self-doubt. The worm crawls through a garden talking with each insect and creature it comes across, asking what it can do. Will the worm realize its importance to a garden and regain self-confidence?

The back pages include Make Your Own Quilled Butterfly, Earthworm Facts, and a Glossary. Illustrated using quilling techniques to make the plants.

I recommend that this picture book be read to supplement a quilling unit.

Rating: 4/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

George Washington Carver as a young man with a moustache holding a large pot of white flowers

George Washington Carver: More Than “The Peanut Man” (Bright Minds): More Than “The Peanut Man” 

by Janel Rodriguez (Author), Subi Bosa (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Children’s Press. 2023. Grades 3-6. Hardcover narrative nonfiction hardcover. ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-1338864205.

I’ve only known George Washington Carver as the “peanut man” and updated my education when reading this narrative nonfiction about this knowledgeable and talented man nicknamed “Plant Doctor.”

Brief summary: This book begins with his life as a child who studied plants and painted them. It continues with his young adulthood of going to college, learning, and experimenting with plants. The book tells of his adulthood of going around in a Jesup wagon, educating farmers on improving their crops and livestock. Readers will learn about many of his inventions and personal life too. I enjoyed reading about this remarkable man.

This book is full of a variety of nonfiction text features. The back sections include Your Turn!, Glossary, Index, and Further Reading.

Rating: 4/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

A child tending a garden with plants and animals. Geese are flying overhead.

Little Land 

by Diana Sudyka (Author, Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2023.

Brief summary: This is an ecological/environmental story from the beginning of the earth to its present of how the land and its inhabitant have changed and how to live in balance.

I included this book under gardening(although it could be under ecology or environmental) as it highlights how to tend a little bit of land.

Rating: 4/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

A little girl in a red hoody looking at a flower with her black and white dog. She has a box of seeds.

Every Little Seed 

by Cynthia Schumerth (Author), Elisa Paganelli (Illustrator).Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Sleeping Bear Press. 2023. PreK-2. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-1534112698.

Brief summary: A young girl with her mother and grandfather plant seeds in the spring garden and tend them to grow, observing how the seed changes to develop. Birds and bugs visit the garden. Soon fall comes when the plants begin to produce seeds they gather for the next planting.

A plant’s cycle.

A story in rhyme.

Facts about seeds are in the back of the book, including a seed diagram.

Rating: 4/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

A little mouse inside of a red tulip

A Flower is a Friend 

by Frieda Wishinsky (Author), Karen Patkau (Illustrator).Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Pajama Press; 1st edition. 2023. Prek-1. Hardcover nonfiction. ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-1772782806.

Brief summary: An animal/creature is paired with a flower in the garden, and readers are asked why they coexist so well. Answers are in the book of how they benefit each other.

Symbiosis.

Rating: 3/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

garden and flowers in a circle with a white picket fence with a city scape background

My First Garden: For Little Gardeners Who Want to Grow 

by Livi Gosling (Author). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž DK Children.2023. K-4. Hardcover nonfiction(80pages). ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-0744070866.

Brief summary: This nonfiction book is a beginning guide to gardening with step-by-step instructions. Everything one needs to know is covered with illustrations.

This is for the primary children to learn by looking at the lovely illustrations or for older elementary students who want to start a gardening club.

I usually stick to picture book reviews, but this nonfiction book’s illustrations make a difference with the covered topics by clarifying the lesson.

For more details or to buy, click here.

Ratings:4/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

A young girl and her mother with henna on their hands.

A Garden in My Hands 

by Meera Sriram (Author), Sandhya Prabhat (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2023. Prek-2. Hardcover picture book. ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-0593427101.

Brief summary: A little girl has her hands Painted by her mother for a wedding the next day. Her mother tells her memories as she paints a garden of flowers and decorations. She sleeps with gloves on over the henna to wake and brush the flakes off to reveal her red garden of stories and the fragrance of henna.

Facts about henna are in the back of the book.

Rating: 3/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

Children planting and tending a garden

G is for Gardening (A Gardening ABC Primer) 

by Ashley Marie Mireles (Author), Volha Kaliaha (Illustrator). Publisher โ€ : โ€Ž Familius. 2023. Baby-3. Hardcover board book. ISBN-13 โ€ : โ€Ž 978-1641707503.

Brief summary: Readers will learn their ABCs of gardening, discovering tools, plants, and animals in a garden.

Large and colorful illustrations. A good builder of garden vocabulary.

Rating: 3/5 ๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—

Continue reading for more details and buying options on this book’s Amazon page.

*(This content contains Amazon affiliate links. When you buy through these links, I may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you).