Whether you're a preschooler, an elementary school student, heading off to a school for the arts, feeling exam pressure already, ready to tackle college or university or the world beyond it, and especially if you're a teacher, we've got a back to school title for you.
A+ for Big Ben, by Sara Ellis and Kim LaFave
About the book: His sister is a big kid in grade five. His brother is a big kid in grade three. Ben is a little kid in preschool. He can’t swim; he can’t use chopsticks; he can’t even see out of the car window. If only he could bring home a real report card like the older kids do, then Ben would be happy. But there are no report cards in preschool. Sometimes older siblings remember what it was like to be little, however, and Ben’s brother and sister are about to present Ben with his very own report card, grading him on all the activities that little brothers do best.
Award-winning author and illustrator Sarah Ellis and Kim La Fave team up to produce a book that is a triumph for little siblings everywhere. The engaging text, lively illustrations, and board book format are perfect for eager readers with little hands, big hearts, and bigger dreams.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: You don't have to go to school to know it's back to school. Here is a great title for the preschool set and also worthwhile for older siblings who could be inspired to find creative ways to include their little brothers and sisters in all the fun.
The Way to School, by Rosemary McCarney and Plan International
About the book: Minimal text and stunning photographs from around the world describe the remarkable, and often dangerous, journeys children make every day on their way to and from school. No simple school bus picks them up each day, but rather children travel through disaster zones, cross rapids, climb mountains, and maneuver on ziplines daily to get to the classroom. Some of them even carry their desks!
In this beautiful picture book for young readers, every image and spread speaks to the desire for an education and the physical commitment the children make each day as they journey to school.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: We love the books in this series by McCarney and Plan International (including Every Day is Malala Day—check out our interview with Rosemary McCarney). The Way to School underlines the importance of education for children all over the world.
Dojo Daytrip, by Chris Tougas
About the book: The six little ninjas of Dojo Daycare are back and rowdier than ever during a field trip to the farm. From the moment the ninja boys and ninja girls step off their minibus, mayhem ensues.
Farm activities like feeding a pig, milking a cow and plowing a field dissolve into chaos as the master slips into the slop trough, is chased by a bull and then is dragged through the hay. YIKES! YEE-OW! It’s a barnyard disaster. Meanwhile, the mischievous ninjas run rampant, setting chicks free and splitting fences, until they remember to shape up and honor their creed: Always help someone in need.
Chris Tougas’s digitally rendered ninjas pop off the page once again in this laugh-out-loud story. Told in rhyming verse with a playful rhythm, accompanied by hilarious illustrations and big sound effects, Dojo Daytrip makes for a riotous read-aloud with a kindhearted message.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: Tales out of school! Tougas's first title, Dojo Daycare, was called "a face-paced rhyming tale" and "amusing" by the New York Times. This sequel promises just as much fun.
Stanley at School, by Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin
About the book: Every day, Stanley the dog watched all the children in his neighborhood walk down his street and into their school, where they stayed until the afternoon. And every day he got more and more curious. "What did the kids do in that school all day?" His dog friends at the park didn't know any more than he did. So they decided to find out, and together they made their way to the bottom of the stairs in front of the school. "And that's when Stanley got an idea. A big idea. A bold idea! An idea so daring, it made his fur stand up. “Why don't we go inside?' he said." What could be more fun than four dogs running loose in an elementary school? Not much. Until they get caught, that is! Small children love stories about things in their world getting turned upside down, and this story delivers in a big way. This sixth book in the bestselling series from the multi-award-winning team of Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin will have children roaring with delight, as the dogs are shown in hilarious detail making their way through lunch boxes, chasing basketballs and upending instruments and paint jars before eventually getting marched out by the principal (the "top dog" at the school). This book is a natural for a lively read-aloud, but it could also spark a discussion about seeing things from another's point of view, in this case a dog's.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: There was a period of time in which my eldest daughter would not go to sleep unless she had a Stanley book in bed with her. Dogs: kids are mad for them. And this latest in Bailey and Slavin's series is a great story in a school setting, Stanley and his pals wreaking hilarious havoc.
West Meadows Detectives: The Case of the Snack Snatcher, by Liam O'Donnell and Aurélie Grand
About the book: Meet Myron: a third-grade detective who loves logic, facts and solving mysteries. He does not love new things. Unfortunately, everything is new this year: Myron has a new baby sister, his family has moved across town, and now he’s starting his first day at a new school. But when the school kitchen is burgled, leaving the morning snacks nowhere to be found, Myron gets his chance to crack the case with help from his classmates from Resource Room 15.
Myron’s unique perspective from the autism spectrum makes him a top-notch sleuth. Similarly, the other kids in his resource room demonstrate creative problem solving and unique talents that come in handy for the case. Together with his detective partner, the hyper-energetic Hajrah, and tech-savvy Danielle, known as "Glitch," Myron gets to the bottom of the mystery—all while trying to avoid the school bully, Sarah “Smasher” McGuintley, who’s intent on sabotaging their efforts.
Black-and-white spot illustrations accompany the text in this fun and accessible page-turner for independent readers.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: It's a fun back to school title for those who are finally ready for chapter books. It's also first in a new series, and series are certainly a fine way to get kids hooked on books.
Upside Down Magic, by Sarah Mlynowski, Emily Jenkins, Lauren Myracle
About the book: Nory Horace is nine years old. She’s resourceful, she’s brave, she likes peanut butter cookies. Also, she’s able to transform into many different animals. Unfortunately, Nory’s shape-shifting talent is a bit wonky. And when she flunks out of her own father’s magic academy, Nory’s forced to enter public school, where she meets a group of kids whose magic is, well, different.
From Canadian author Sarah Mlynowski, and authors Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins, this offbeat new series chronicles the misadventures of Nory and her oddball friends, who prove that upside-down magic definitely beats right side up.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: Another book about school from an alternative point of view, and a neat twist on the supernatural theme. Mlynowski is well-known for her Whatever After series.
Raising the Stakes, by Trudee Romanek
About the book: It’s the start of a new season for Harrington High’s improv team—and Chloe is determined that this will be the year they make it all the way to the top. Her teammates (who also happen to be her closest friends) are a talented bunch, and she knows they can do it. They have to. Because getting to nationals is Chloe’s best chance to prove—to her parents, to the improv scouts and, most of all, to herself—that she has what it takes to succeed. Chloe is doing everything she can to help her teammates perform better. So why are they all mad at her?
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: The premise of the Orca Limelights series is so fantastic—a series for readers 11–14 with a focus on the performing arts. Other new titles out this fall are At Ease, by Jeff Ross (classical violin) and Shimmy, by Kari Jones (belly-dancing).
Study Smarter, Not Harder, by Kevin Paul
About the book: At work and at school, requirements rise higher and higher as competition grows fiercer. We are constantly challenged by having to acquire new skills and ideas as those we’ve learned become obsolete. By mastering the seven basic elements of complete study skills included in this book, it’s possible to tap into hidden potential for maximum performance and increased learning power. This positive guide is ideal for high-school students, post-secondary students, and anyone aiming to achieve new career goals by upgrading or learning new skills. Practical exercises and motivational quotations make the “work” of homework efficient and immediately useful.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: A great resource for when things start getting serious. This Fourth Edition of Paul's book focuses on study skills, but also on how to use technology for your own purposes (rather than be distracted by it) and how to handle academic pressure from family.
How to Succeed at University (and Get a Great Job!), by Thomas R. Klassen and John A. Dwyer
About the book: Going to university is exciting. But for many, getting a university education is also a source of stress. What courses should I take? What program should I get in to? Will I get a job after graduation? This book shows that the best preparation for success on the job, and in life more generally, is succeeding at university. Teamwork, meeting deadlines, overcoming challenges, writing well, and dealing with people are essential in any professional job. These same skills are also vital to become a strong student. This practical guide shows you how to master the critical skills and strategies for success at school, work, and in life.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: This book's title makes great claims (the part in parenthesis in particular!) but its authors' authors multi-disciplinary backgrounds and focuses on the humanities and business makes them well placed to dispensing advice in this area.
Critical Condition: Replacing Critical Thinking with Creativity, by Patrick Finn
About the book: Should we stop teaching critical thinking? Meant as a prompt to further discussion, Critical Condition questions the assumption that every student should be turned into a "critical thinker."
The book starts with the pre-Socratics and the impact that Socrates’ death had on his student Plato and traces the increasingly violent use of critical "attack" on a perceived opponent. From the Roman militarization of debate to the medieval Church’s use of defence as a means of forcing confession and submission, the early phases of critical thinking were bound up in a type of attack that Finn suggests does not best serve intellectual inquiry. Recent developments have seen critical thinking become an ideology rather than a critical practice, with levels of debate devolving to the point where most debate becomes ad hominem. Far from arguing that we abandon critical inquiry, the author suggests that we emphasize a more open, loving system of engagement that is not only less inherently violent but also more robust when dealing with vastly more complex networks of information.
This book challenges long-held beliefs about the benefits of critical thinking, which is shown to be far too linear to deal with the twenty-first century world. Critical Condition is a call to action unlike any other.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: This book is provocative, accessible, and terrific. Check out our excerpt, "What Both Elvis and Othello Knew."
Learning and Teaching Together: Weaving Indigenous Ways of Knowing Into Education, by Michele TD Tanaka
About the book: Across Canada, teachers unfamiliar with Aboriginal approaches to learning are seeking ways to respectfully weave Aboriginal content into their lessons. This book introduces an indigenist approach to education. It recounts how pre-service teachers immersed in a cross-cultural course in British Columbia began to practise Indigenous ways of knowing. Working alongside Indigenous wisdom keepers, they transformed earth fibres into a mural and, in the process, their own ideas about learning and teaching. By revealing how these students worked to integrate Indigenous ways of knowing into their practice, this book opens a path for teachers to nurture indigenist cross-cultural understanding in their classrooms.
Why it's worth tucking into your backpack: This title will be released in November. The way toward reconciliation is this one, and our schools are where change can truly begin.