15 Picture Books For Back To School

Where did the summer go? I’ve been so busy this summer that it seems to have flown by! I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that it’s time for Back to School posts already, but I do have fifteen wonderful picture books for the Back to School season to share with you today!

As always, these titles will have inclusive characters (think racial and cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ representation, diverse family structures, disability representation, and more), and fall into a range of genres in both fiction and nonfiction categories.

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Tomatoes in My Lunchbox by Costantia Manoli, Illustrated by Magdalena Mora

“A moving picture book from a debut author about the first day of school, layered with themes about the immigrant experience and the universal experience of feeling out of place.

A child, newly arrived in another country, feels displaced, lonely, and a little scared on her first day of school. Her name doesn’t sound the way she’s used to hearing it. She knows she doesn’t fit in. And when she eats her whole tomato for lunch, she can feel her classmates observing her―and not quite understanding her.

But sometimes all it takes is one friend, one connection, to bring two worlds together, and gradually the girl, her tomato, and her full name, start to feel at home with her new friends and community.”

This Is a School by John Schu, Illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison

“A moving celebration of school and all it may signify: work and play, creativity and trust, and a supportive community that extends beyond walls

A school isn’t just a building; it is all the people who work and learn together. It is a place for discovery and asking questions. A place for sharing, for helping, and for community. It is a place of hope and healing, even when that community can’t be together in the same room. John Schu, a librarian and former ambassador of school libraries for Scholastic, crafts a loving letter to schools and the people that make up the communities within in a picture book debut beautifully illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison.”

That’s Not My Name! by Anoosha Syed

“A debut picture book about loving your name, finding your voice, and standing up for yourself from the critically acclaimed illustrator of Bilal Cooks Daal and I Am Perfectly Designed.

Mirha is so excited for her first day of school! She can’t wait to learn, play, and make new friends. But when her classmates mispronounce her name, she goes home wondering if she should find a new one. Maybe then she’d be able to find a monogrammed keychain at the gas station or order a hot chocolate at the cafe more easily.

Mama helps Mirha to see how special her name is, and she returns to school the next day determined to help her classmates say it correctly–even if it takes a hundred tries.”

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

“A confident little boy takes pride in his first day of kindergarten, by the Newbery Honor-winning author of Crown.

The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets. It sits and shines behind your head–like a crown. Mommy says that today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten!

Starting kindergarten is a big milestone–and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He’s dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can’t wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he’s up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can’t wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements–and then wake up to start another day.
Newbery Honor-winning author Derrick Barnes’s empowering story will give new kindergarteners a reassuring confidence boost, and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s illustrations exude joy.”

The Queen of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

“A confident little Black girl has a fantastic first day of school in this companion to the New York Times bestseller The King of Kindergarten.

MJ is more than ready for her first day of kindergarten! With her hair freshly braided and her mom’s special tiara on her head, she knows she’s going to rock kindergarten. But the tiara isn’t just for show—it also reminds her of all the good things she brings to the classroom, stuff like her kindness, friendliness, and impressive soccer skills, too! Like The King of Kindergarten, this is the perfect book to reinforce back-to-school excitement and build confidence in the newest students.”

I Color Myself Different by Colin Kaepernick, Illustrated by Eric Wilkerson

“An inspiring story of identity and self-esteem from celebrated athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick.

When Colin Kaepernick was five years old, he was given a simple school assignment: draw a picture of yourself and your family. What young Colin does next with his brown crayon changes his whole world and worldview, providing a valuable lesson on embracing and celebrating his Black identity through the power of radical self-love and knowing your inherent worth.

I Color Myself Different is a joyful ode to Black and Brown lives based on real events in young Colin’s life that is perfect for every reader’s bookshelf. It’s a story of self-discovery, staying true to one’s self, and advocating for change… even when you’re very little!”

Sam’s Super Seats by Keah Brown, Illustrated by Sharee Miller

A joyful picture book about a disabled girl with cerebral palsy who goes back-to-school shopping with her best friends, from #DisabledandCute creator and The Pretty One author Keah Brown.

Sam loves herself, learning, and making her family and friends laugh. She also loves comfortable seats, including a graceful couch named after Misty Copeland and Laney, the sassy backseat of Mom’s car.

After a busy morning of rest, Sam and her friends try on cute outfits at the mall and imagine what the new school year might bring. It’s not until Sam feels tired, and the new seat she meets isn’t so super, that she discovers what might be her best idea all day.

With hilarious, charming text by Keah Brown and exuberant illustrations by Sharee Miller, Sam’s Super Seats celebrates the beauty of self-love, the power of rest, and the necessity of accessible seating in public spaces. Includes narrative description of art for those with low/limited vision.”

Amy Wu and the Warm Welcome by Kat Zhang, Illustrated by Charlene Chua

Amy Wu does her best to make her new classmate feel welcome in this warmhearted and playfully illustrated follow-up picture book to Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao and Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon.

Amy’s class has a new student from China! Amy tries hard to make Lin feel included, but she can’t draw him out of his shell. Then she sees Lin chattering happily in Chinese with his family. The gears in her head start to turn, and a plan blossoms. Step one: invite Lin to her dumpling party…

​With a little help from her grandma and a shiny new banner, can Amy give Lin the warmest welcome?”

The New Kid Welcome/Welcome the New Kid by Suzanne Slade, Illustrated by Nicole Miles

When read forward and backwards, this clever and thought-provoking flip-it story demonstrates that there’s more than one way to think about someone who might seem “different” at first glance.

It
isn’t
easy to say hi to someone new,
is
it?

Told from the perspective of a student, The New Kid Welcome (or Welcome the New Kid when flipped) presents readers with two versions of what happens when a “new kid” joins the protagonist’s school. 

In the first half of the book, the student tells us that they don’t want to be nice to the new kid or welcome them into their group simply because they seem different. In the second half, the same lines of the story are placed in reverse order. When read this way, the student encourages us to say hello to someone new, saying they will share their table and snacks.
 
With a simple flip of the story, feelings of intolerance give way to those of inclusion and kindness. Precise, thoughtful text and inclusive illustrations combine to create a perfect tool for promoting acceptance and a kinder world.”

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Get ready to go back to school with this inclusive, empathetic story that will help kids new to the classroom transform from timid caterpillars into beautiful butterflies who love exactly who they are!

On Vanessa’s first day of school, her parents tell her it will be easy to make friends. Vanessa isn’t so sure. She wears her fanciest outfit so her new classmates will notice her right away. They notice, but the attention isn’t what she’d hoped for. As the day goes on, she feels more self-conscious. Her clothes are too bright, her feather boa has way too many feathers, and even her name is too hard to write.

The next day, she picks out a plain outfit, and tells her mom that her name is too long. She just wants to blend in, with a simple name like the other girls–why couldn’t her parents have named her Megan or Bella? But when her mother tells her the meaning behind her name, it gives her the confidence she needs to introduce her classmates to the real Vanessa. Perfect for readers of Alma and How She Got Her Name and The King of Kindergarten.

All Are Neighbors by Alexandra Penfold, Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

“When a new family moves in, the whole neighborhood comes together to celebrate their diverse community in this uplifting new book from the bestselling creators of All Are Welcome!

Let’s go walking down our street.
Friends and neighbors here to greet.
There are oh so many folks to meet.
We all are neighbors here.

Moving to a new place can be hard, but when your neighbors welcome you with open arms, there are so many things to discover and celebrate. Come along with the kids from the bestsellers of All Are Welcome and Big Feelings as they introduce the new kid to a community where everyone has a place and is loved and appreciated—no matter what.”

Can Sophie Change the World? by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Illustrated by Aura Lewis

This is Pay It Forward meets the #BeKind movement, as seen through a Jewish principle.

It’s Grandpop’s birthday, and all he wants is one little thing: for Sophie to change the world.

He wants Sophie to do a mitzvah—something kind for others. But what exactly does that mean?

As Sophie shares, teaches, helps her friends, takes care of birds, and picks up litter, she wonders which of these acts, if any, might change the world. By performing this sequence of poignant mitzvahs with an open heart, unending empathy, and a big imagination, Sophie’s about to discover that what sounds like an impossible task just might be the best way to live life.

In this exploration of an essential part of Jewish traditional teaching, Sophie’s efforts to grant Grandpop’s wish show that the smallest acts of kindness are what truly change the world.”

Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules! by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller, Illustrated by Joe Cepeda

When a sassy drummer starts kindergarten, the rules of school cramp her style. What’s a young rock star to do?

When Lupe Lopez struts through the doors of Hector P. Garcia Elementary in sunglasses with two taped-up Number 2 pencils—drumsticks, of course—poking from her pocket, her confidence is off the charts. All day, Lupe drums on desks, tables, and chairs while Ms. Quintanilla reminds her of school rules. Lupe has her own rules: 1) Don’t listen to anyone. 2) Make lots of noise. ¡Rataplán! 3) Have fans, not friends. But with her new teacher less than starstruck, and fans hard to come by, Lupe wonders if having friends is such a bad idea after all. Can it be that true star power means knowing when to share the spotlight? With its spirited illustrations and a simple text threaded through with Spanish words, this picture book is proof positive that being a strong girl moving to her own beat doesn’t have to mean pushing others away.”

Lunch from Home by Joshua David Stein, Illustrated by Jing Li

What happens when a child’s favorite packed lunch is met with disparaging comments at the school lunch table?

In a classroom of sandwiches, four students stand out with their homemade, culturally-specific lunches. But before they can dig in and enjoy their favorite foods, their lunches are spoiled by scrunched noses and disgusted reactions from their sandwich-eating classmates.
 
Follow each of the four students as they learn to cope with their first “lunch box moments” in this picture book that encourages empathy and inspires all readers to stand up for their food! Inspired by the “lunch box moments” of four acclaimed chefs, Ray Garcia, Preeti Mistry, Mina Park, and Niki Russ Federman, this heartwarming story reminds us all that one’s food is a reflection of self and an authentic celebration of culture.”

School Is Wherever I Am by Ellie Peterson

“From Ellie Peterson, the author-illustrator of How to Hug A Pufferfish comes a timely new picture book about learning, exploration, and the ever-expanding definition of school.

Is school only one place?
Are there other classrooms?
Different teachers?
New Lessons?

In this charming, thoughtful picture book, author-illustrator Ellie Peterson explores learning, adventure, and the thousands of the things you can discover outside of a classroom―about the world, about your family, about yourself. Because school is truly wherever you are.”

I hope these titles bring a bit of fun to a time that can be stressful for both parents and little ones. Here’s hoping your Back to School goes smoothly, and be sure to share your favorite Back to School titles in the comments below!

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