Head Back to School With These 10 HMH Classic Books

Going back to school is exciting and scary for children and their parents alike. Each year brings something new, even when the school building and the routines of the school day are familiar.

Writers have always loved telling stories about school. Here are 10 classics from the HMH catalog for educators and parents to share with K-12 students as they head toward the school year and all the new encounters it will bring.

For Younger Children:

Curious George’s First Day of School by Margret and H.A. Rey 

Do you have a child who is going to school for the first time? A familiar character from a favorite series may help ease the transition! Curious George spends a day in Mr. Apple’s classroom as a special helper. Of course, George gets into mischief—specifically when it’s time to paint some pictures. In the process, he shows how to mix red, yellow, and blue to make other colors.  

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: School Days by Erica Silverman

We commonly hear stories about a human being who is nervous about leaving an animal behind. In this book, Cocoa the horse is afraid Kate won’t be interested in hanging out with him once she makes friends in school. Kate does make new friends, but she still has time to be with Cocoa and needs Cocoa’s help when she writes a report for school on horses. 

Mr. Putter & Tabby Ring the Bell by Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard

Even though you may think Mr. Putter and his cat Tabby would seem too old to go to go to school, they find a way to do so when they, along with neighbors Mrs. Teaberry and her dog Zeke, take part in show-and-tell.

Second Grade Holdout by Audrey Vernick

Going to school can be scary even if you have already been there before. It isn’t school that the unnamed narrator is apprehensive about; he just doesn’t want to move on to a new grade. He’s familiar with the routines of first grade, and his best friend’s older sisters have been telling them horrible stories about what happens in second grade—so he’s going to refuse to move on. The girls eventually end up getting him excited about the new things he’ll be doing as a second grader.

Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the School Bus and Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the Cafeteria by John Grandits 

If older children are scaring the younger ones with tall tales about what happens in school, you may want them to read these two funny companion books. Kyle’s older brother is firm that if Kyle doesn’t follow these rules exactly, he will be disgraced. After some initial worry, Kyle quickly learns the valuable lesson that not every experience is the same for everyone—as well as the equally valuable lesson that your older siblings don’t know everything.

Rain School by James Rumford

Children go to school everywhere in the world, though their experiences are often quite different from one another. Thomas is going to school for the first time in his village in Chad. When he and the other children arrive, they find that first they and the teacher must build the school with mud bricks and a straw roof before they can start learning. After the school is constructed, they learn many new things, including that education is more important—and more lasting—than the school building itself.

For Older Children:

Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard and James Marshall

Discipline in schools can be a tricky but necessary issue. The unruly children in Miss Nelson’s classroom behave badly and are rude to their teacher. When she disappears, one of the great characters in children’s literature, Miss Viola Swamp, appears to help them find the proper way to behave in school.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

One issue that unfortunately has existed in schools for a very long time is the teasing of children who come off as different. This book was written in 1944 but addresses the very relevant issue of being a bystander to wrong behavior. The story is told from the perspective of Maddie, whose best friend is the ringleader in teasing Wanda. Other students say Wanda has a “funny” Polish last name and wears the same dress every day. After Wanda and her family move away in search of a more tolerant community in the city, her classmates learn that Wanda is a talented artist who won the school art prize with her drawings of the 100 dresses she said she had at home.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Playing sports can be an important aspect of school and a major part of many students' lives. In this book, twin brothers who are terrific basketball players navigate middle school, new interests in girls, and family issues. Basketball provides not only the backdrop for the story but also the rhythm, style, and music for Alexander’s poetry. It’s a book that begs to be read aloud—so, parents: Maybe this is one your child can read to you, because reading together as a family is one of the best ways to share feelings about what’s happening in our lives.

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Learn more about HMH’s new K-12 Into Reading and Into Literature programs.