Book Room: New Beginnings

by Dianne White on July 27, 2010

In many parts of the country, August is Back-to-School month.  Already!  That being the case, ReaderKidz thought we’d kick off the school year with a few recommendations for the K- 5 crowd.

You’ll find a little of everything here. A couple of new books, along with several that have been favorites for years. There’s something for all types of readers, too.  Early/chapter books, picture books for the primary grades, and an amazing novel for the older, confident reader.


Posey is nervous about starting school. She’ll have to get out of the car at the Kiss-and-Go Lane, and walk to her first grade classroom, past the “Monster of the Blue Hall,” all by herself. Worse, she’s not allowed to wear the pink tutu that turns her into Princess Posey, the Pink Princess, who can go anywhere, do anything.

We’re very excited about this first-in-a-brand-new-series-of-books for the transitional reader.  Any first grade teacher knows there are usually one or two students each year who are timid/afraid/shy/worried about the transition from kindergarten to first grade.

Even though – for many kids – kindergarten is at the same school, with many of the same, familiar faces, first grade *is* different. And moving up to first grade is a big deal.

Princess Posey is charming, honest, and brave enough to share her own wonderful way of dealing with her fears – a parade!  What could be better?  Kids and teachers will get a kick out of this book.  And the best news? More Posey adventures are on the way, with PRINCESS POSEY AND THE PERFECT PRESENT scheduled for release in March, 2011.


There’s a new student at Watertower Elementary School, and the school has never seen anyone like her. What other kid would come to school wearing the crazy outfits Gooney Bird does?

Gooney Bird Greene describes herself as “unique.”  Indeed, Gooney Bird is one unusual second-grader.  Who but Gooney Bird would arrive at school wearing cowboy boots and pajamas one day and a ruffled pinafore and high-top basketball shoes, another?

And, as her classmates quickly discover, Gooney Bird tells only “absolutely true stories” and she, like the main character in all her stories, likes to be “right smack in the middle of everything.”

In addition to the ingenious lesson on how-to write fiction embedded in the book’s plot, GOONEY BIRD GREENE is pure fun!  There’s loads of teacher humor, like the time Gooney Bird is in the middle of telling one of her stories about Napoleon, a large black poodle. At the mention of the word, “dog,” every hand in the classroom shoots up and Gooney asks Mrs. Pidgeon, the teacher, for help.

Mrs. Pigeon: “Every child who has a poodle, put your hand down… Now every child whose grandmother has a poodle? Hands down… Every child who knows a poodle who does interesting tricks, or who gets into trouble, or who ran away once? Hands down.”

You get the idea.  Lois Lowry captures the early primary grade classroom to a T! It’s almost as if a teacher had asked her to write a chapter book that would introduce the elements of narrative fiction in an entertaining way.  Lowry does just that in GOONEY BIRD GREENE.  And like so many books perfect for the emerging reader, there are more in the series. Check it out!


Dyamonde Daniel, third grader, may be new in town but that doesn’t stop her from quickly making a place for herself with her zippy attitude and awesome brain power…

There are many reasons to like Dyamonde Daniel.  She’s friendly, self-confident.  She takes matters into her own hands.  On top of that, Dyamonde’s learning to deal with big-time changes in her 3rd grade life.  Changes that lots of kids will recognize.

Not only has Dyamonde moved to a new apartment where she sleeps on a pullout sofa, but since her mom and dad’s divorce, life has seemed to be nothing but subtraction: “Two for breakfast instead of three. Monday night TV minus the football.”

She’s making the best of it, though, and learning how to deal, and when a new boy, Free, joins her class after his dad lost his job and his family moved in with relatives, she learns that she’s not the only one with problems.  The kind of real-kid problems many of today’s students will recognize.

THE ART LESSON by Tomie de Paola

Tommy can hardly wait to get to kindergarten so he can draw with a real art teacher. Then he discovers he won’t get to have art until first grade. Even worse, the art teacher tells him to copy what she draws. Copy! What’s a six-year-old artist to do?

THE ART LESSON is one of those books that’s stood the test of time and even today, many years after its initial publication in 1989, it still reminds teachers to honor and respect the creative process and the individual strengths of each student.

RUBY THE COPYCAT by Peggy Rathmann

On Ruby’s first day in Miss Hart’s class, she meets Angela with the red bow. Next thing you know, when Angela wears a sweater with daisies, so does Ruby. Will Ruby ever learn to be Ruby first?

Ruby’s a great character. Endearing, exuberant, full-of-spunk. One terrific thing about Ruby is the way that students who are listening to her story for the first time begin, little by little, to realize what she’s up to.

RUBY THE COPYCAT is an excellent read-aloud and another fine book about discovering one’s strengths and the wonder that lies within our everyday lives.  Even when, as in Ruby’s case, a pleasant weekend involved nothing more than hopping forward… hopping backward.. and hopping sideways with both eyes shut!

THE CHALK BOX KID by Clyde Robert Bulla

After 9-year old Gregory’s father loses his job and starts another in a different part of the city, Gregory finds himself beginning again in a new school, in a new neighborhood.

The change is hard for Gregory.  One of the boys in his class accuses him of bragging and it seems Gregory’s chances of making any real friends are slim. Worse, when he gets home, he finds his young Uncle Max has moved into his bedroom and taken over, hanging *his* posters over Gregory’s carefully drawn pictures.

This tightly-written story is both poignant and full of Gregory’s longing to find a place of his own, a way to fit in, and the gentle stirrings of new friendships in the making.

THE CHALK BOX KID is a perfect springboard into a discussion of new beginnings,what it’s like to feel alone at school, and how students might help one another learn empathy and acceptance of individual differences.


STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl. Magical, mysterious, strange, odd.  She arrives at Mica High with a ukulele on her back, a large sunflower-painted canvas bag slung over her shoulder, and huge, expressive eyes.  Leo Borlock is smitten.

But Stargirl’s one-of-a-kind magic pales quickly and the students of Mica High turn on her.  Leo’s attempts at remaking Stargirl into Susan, a normal, like-everybody-else girl, eventually fail, and Stargirl returns to share one, last, magical evening with the students of Mica High.

Readerkidz read STARGIRL some years ago, and came back to reread it again recently.  It’s no wonder it’s still on bookstore shelves and summer reading lists.  STARGIRL is a celebration of individuality that raises important questions about who we each are, how we perceive others, and how willing we are to accept those who are different from us. A MUST READ!!

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