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Children's Nonfiction School & Education

Off to Class

Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World

by (author) Susan Hughes

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Sep 2011
School & Education, General
Recommended Age
9 to 12
Recommended Grade
4 to 6
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Download Teacher’s Guide

Download Teacher’s Guide

Where to buy it


Travel around the globe to visit some of the world's most incredible schools, and meet the students who attend them, in this best-selling and award-winning nonfiction pick for ages 9 to 12

When North American kids picture a school, odds are they see rows of desks, stacks of textbooks, and linoleum hallways. They probably don’t picture caves, boats, or train platforms — but there are schools in caves, and on boats and on train platforms. There are green schools, mobile schools, and even treehouse schools. There’s a whole world of unusual schools out there! But the most amazing thing about these schools isn’t their location or what they look like. It’s that they provide a place for students who face some of the toughest environmental and cultural challenges, and live some of the most unique lifestyles, to learn.

Education is not readily available for kids everywhere, and many communities are strapped for the resources that would make it easier for kids to go to school. In short, it’s not always easy getting kids off to class — but people around the world are finding creative ways to do it. In Off to Class, readers will travel to India, Burkina Faso, and Brazil; to Russia, China, Uganda, and a dozen other countries, to visit some of these incredible schools, and, through personal interviews conducted by author Susan Hughes, meet the students who attend them too. And their stories aren’t just inspiring; they’ll also get you to think about school and the world in a whole new way!

About the author


Susan Hughes
a étudié la littérature anglaise à l'Université de Toronto. Depuis, elle
écrit et publie des livres pour enfants, à la fois des fictions et des
documentaires. Elle habite avec sa famille à Toronto.


Susan Hughes studied English literature at the University of Toronto. She writes both fiction and non-fiction children's books. She lives with her family in Toronto.

Susan Hughes' profile page


  • Short-listed, Ontario Library Association Silver Birch Non Fiction Award
  • Short-listed, Atlantic Library Association, Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award
  • Commended, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Best Books for Kids and Teens, Starred Selection
  • Short-listed, British Columbia Library Association, Red Cedar Book Award
  • Short-listed, Canadian Children's Book Centre, TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
  • Short-listed, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-fiction
  • Short-listed, Saskatchewan Young Readers' Choice Awards, Diamond Willow Award
  • Winner, Skipping Stones Honor Award
  • Short-listed, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, Juvenile Non-fiction category

Editorial Reviews

Not only is this a great way to introduce tweens to how other kids around the world access learning, it is also a text to inspire them to look at their own communities and to see what creative site-specific solutions to local problems they can come up with.

A Life Sustained Blog

The book makes fascinating reading, and the upbeat narrative and successful projects cited allow youngsters to learn about the various challenges faced by kids around the a format that is forthright, immediate, and ultimately uplifting and empowering.

School Library Journal

Hughes's examples of grassroots education in action are inspirational and informative.

Publishers Weekly

I love this book...I love the inspiration it gives us to adapt, work hard, press on to meet the vastly differing needs of learners.

Orange Marmalade

Kids will find reading Off to Class enlightening...I highly recommend this interesting and eye-opening book.

Berger's Book Reviews

This wonderful book is like a window of the world...a must-have for the school or public library, the classroom social studies corner, the humanitarian's library, and the picture book lover's home library.

Picture Book Depot

...will amaze and inspire.

ReaderKidZ blog

I loved this book. It left me feeling proud of mankind for taking control over what looked like impossible situations and turning them around for the good of children and the future. It also made me thankful for the education we receive here in America. You will truly enjoy this learning book and perhaps it will nudge you to become involved in helping children all over the world that we all live in. Excellent, highly recommended, very well done.

MidWest Book Review

The strong emphasis on humanitarianism will move, excite, and inspire those reading...Off to Class will encourage them to help to 'be the change they wish to see in the world.'

School Library Journal

Fascinating stories accompany vivid photos and factoids...Packed with valuable lessons.

ForeWord Reviews exciting way to connect readers with children in classrooms around the world...the down-to-earth details capture both the excitement and the challenges students face in daily life.


Off to Class is a real eye-opener that might spur people to social action...A most inspiring read.

CM Magazine: Canadian Review of Materials

Off to Class is an easy-to-read yet detailed book that should, at the very least, be in every school library, if not every classroom and home.

Quill & Quire, starred review

Off to Class is a fascinating look at the different configurations schools have taken, offering hope to children, communities and the environment that might never have been imagined.

Canlit for Little Canadians

A rather inspirational look at schools...provides a wonderful opportunity for Canadian students to see the conditions under which children around the world study and learn.

Canadian Children's Book News

...another stellar entry into Hughes's pantheon of non-fiction wonders.

Monica Kulling

Unusual and useful.

Kirkus Reviews

Every school or system described will hold your attention and prove that change can be made...This is a book that begs to be read aloud, and shared at home and at school.

Sal's Fiction Addiction

An important resource for anyone who is interested in new ways to educate our children...It brings home the reality that even in the United States there is a need to rethink our classrooms.

Alaskan Book Cafe Blog

...shows in beautiful pictures and words how very different cultures live and look at life and learning.

Stacy's Books

...a fascinating look at the world and its cultures taken from a classroom's view.

All Voices

Amazing examples raise this book from standard non-fiction fare to a great book for browsing and sharing, and a strong starting point for talking about how people live.

Shelf Candy Blog

It's easy to be fascinated by other children's lives when they're as interesting as this book! ...The excellent layout of the book makes it accessible and intriguing.

Jean Little Library blog

This is the best across-the-curriculum book I've ever seen for upper elementary and middle school students.

Bonnie's Books blog

Librarian Reviews

Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World

This is a fascinating look at schools around the world and some of the innovative ways people have invented to get kids to go to school. Author Susan Hughes has looked at temporary schools that have been erected after hurricanes and earthquakes, others that have been built to be environmentally sustainable and yet others that use their environment to enable “schools to get to children.” She also looks at barriers that prevent children from going to school – sometimes those barriers are physical and sometimes they are people’s attitudes. Hughes shows us schools that are being built near dumps, in remote areas of the world, for orphans and in refugee camps. Finally, she looks at schools that are flexible and accommodate children who move around a lot, who live in remote areas, who live on the streets, who have multiple sensory impairments or who have chosen not to attend traditional schools in their hometowns. The book also includes personal anecdotes written by children around the world who attend some of these amazing schools and a world map that shows where each school is located.

This is a rather inspirational look at schools that have been built in some of the least likely areas of the world. It pays tribute to the people involved in getting these schools up and running, and to the children who attend them. It could be used as a teaching tool when discussing various parts of the world or picked up by interested students to read about schools or areas that are of interest to them. Appropriate for late primary and junior students, it provides a wonderful opportunity for Canadian students to see the conditions under which children around the world study and learn.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2011. Volume 34 No. 4 Sandra O’brien Is A Former Teacher With An M.ed. In Children’s Literature..

Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World

Readers will travel all over the world to visit some incredible schools and meet the students who attend them. People have come up with some innovative ways to get kids to attend school — from erecting temporary schools after natural disasters to building schools near dumps to holding school classes on boats, in the streets or in train stations. This book will have you thinking about school in a whole new way.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

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