Elem. – That’s Not My Name

Syed, Anoosha. That’s Not My Name. Viking, 2022. 978-0-593-40517-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

In That’s Not My Name readers meet Mirha who is extremely excited for her first day of school, but it doesn’t turn out the way that she thought it would. No one can pronounce her name, and she is too shy and unsure to correct anyone. Mirha thinks maybe she should change her name into something that everyone can pronounce, and she goes home and tells her mom that she wants to do just that. Her mother teaches Mirha where her name comes from and tells her that she should be proud of her name, and Mirha decides that she will correct everyone at school the next day. Mirha ends up making a new friend, and learning how to tell people who pronounce her name incorrectly, “that’s not my name,” and learning about her classmates and what their names mean.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful read aloud for the first week of school to teach students about empathy. This would also be a great read aloud before an ice-breaker type activity. 

Picture Book          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Becoming Vanessa

Brantley-Newton, Vanessa. Becoming Vanessa. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-0-525-58212-0 p. 40. $17.95. Grades K-3. 

The first day of school still gives most of us butterflies in our stomachs. We most likely remember the anticipation, the excitement, and the desire to put our best face forward in making a good impression. Vanessa, the main character in Becoming Vanessa, written by Vanessa Brantley-Hewton, feels all of these emotions on her first day of school as well. Vanessa puts on her fanciest outfit and her best smile for her first day of meeting her new classmates; however, she receives the attention she wasn’t expecting. Vanessa definitely stands out and begins to feel that her clothes are too bright, her boa has too many feathers, and her shoes are too shiny. Her classmates don’t seem to appreciate her bold outfit choice as much as she was hoping. Vanessa’s self-confidence begins to dwindle, and she begins to believe that she should blend in with her classmates and not stand out. 

After a tough day at school, Vanessa has a conversation with her mother that helps rebuild her confidence and gives her a new perspective on how to be herself AND share her fabulous self with others. Becoming Vanesa is inspired by the author’s real childhood and is full of self-love. 

THOUGHTS: Vanessa Brantley- Newton has become a favorite author (and illustrator too!) of mine! She is the author and illustrator of Grandma’s Purse and Just Like Me, two other fabulous picture books for young readers. Her stories burst with positivity by lifting up young girls around the world with her stories and placing girls of color at the center of the story. I cannot wait for more beautiful work from her! 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – A Thousand White Butterflies

Betancourt-Perez, Jessica. A Thousand White Butterflies. Charlesbridge. 978-1-580-89577-4. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

Isabella has just moved to the United States from Colombia. She’s about to begin school, but an unexpected blizzard cancels her first day. She feels trapped by all the unfamiliar snow, and she misses her friends and her Papa who is still in Colombia. While looking out the window, Isabella sees a girl slip and fall into the snow outside. She bundles into her puffy coat and boots and hurries outside to see if the girl is alright. The pair end up spending the afternoon making snow angels, snowballs, and a snowman. Despite the language barrier, they laugh and play and make the most out of their surprise meeting and unexpected day off from school. Two Author’s Notes describe how the co-authors met and the real-life inspiration behind this book. Additionally, a “More Info” section defines “immigrants” as people who leave their original country to live permanently in a new place. It also includes a brief history of immigration to the United States. Lastly, a glossary defines each Spanish word or phrase used in the story. 

THOUGHTS: Hope, resilience, and friendship are central themes in this immigration story, as is the idea that children are able to make connections with each other despite language and cultural differences. These ideas will make good talking points during morning meetings or when welcoming a new student into a classroom. Share this title with guidance counselors and ESOL teachers. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – 1, 2, 3 Off to School

Dubuc, Marianne. 1, 2, 3 Off to School. Kids Can Press, 2021. 978-1-525-30656-3. $17.99  unpaged. PreK-3.

This whimsical picture book conveys the excitement of the first day of school. Pom, a young girl, wants so badly to start kindergarten, though she will not be a student herself until next school year. Off she goes to explore how the school day goes for different animals in the forest including the frogs for their music lessons and the wolves in library class. Early elementary students will find much to pore over as dozens of animals on each page are engaged in observations and conversations about their school day activities. The detailed illustrations are reminiscent of Richard Scarry’s children’s books.

THOUGHTS : A good choice for first read aloud of the school year. 

Picture Book          Nancy Summers, Abington SD