First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

Sarah Jane Hartwell does NOT want to get up for the first day at her new school. She wants to stay home, safely in her bed, but her dad insists she go. On the way, Sarah is very nervous; in fact, she starts to feel sick. Her dad lovingly pushes her out of the car, and the school principal is there to show her to her room. The dreaded moment comes at last, the principal introduces her to her class…. Sarah Jane is the new teacher!

I loved this book from start. It’s so cleverly done, my kids never guessed that Sarah Jane was a grownup. They were simply tickled by the idea that a grownup could be nervous about meeting THEM! I can easily see this as a jumping-off point for helping a child who is fearful of starting school — what better way to conquer your nerves than by helping someone else with theirs?

As far as readability, First Day Jitters sits squarely in the middle of the bookshelf. The book is aimed at slightly older children, so it has no infectious rhyme or meter. Perhaps the best aspect of the text is the complete familiarity of Sarah Jane’s excuses and complaints — and of course, her dad’s predictable response to them! The illustrations are attractively done, but very chaotic-feeling. They suit the mood of the story well, but can be a bit overwhelming.

A book well-suited to a nervous or uncertain child; a nice change from the common “everything will be okay and you’ll make lots of friends” type of first-day-of-school book.

Available on Amazon

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000.

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Emily’s First 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells

Emily races off to her first day of school “too excited to cry”. Once there, she learns that her class will be making “number friends” – learning one new number every day, all the way up to 100. Frankly, Emily and her friends don’t believe they’ll EVER get to 100.

Emily’s First 100 Days of School is a book that’s a bit hard to catalog. It’s about school, true. It’s also about finding numbers in the everyday world surrounding us. It’s about a lot of small vignettes of life that may be new to children, such as lost luggage, Route 66, friends moving away, vegetable Jell-O, and ice fishing. It’s this latter aspect that provides the greatest amount of repeat-reading interest. I found it difficult to read through two whole pages without stopping to explain some new item. In fact, it took us several days to get through all 100 Days. That’s okay, though, as it makes good practice for getting ready for chapter books. I could also see Emily’s First 100 Days making a good bedtime book, because of that continuity.

The text isn’t scintillating, but it is effective and clear. The illustrations are recognizably Rosemary Wells, with colored pencil drawings of animals in human guise.

My favorite aspect of this book is the way it places “going to school” directly into a child’s familiar daily routine. School isn’t a strange new place full of scary new things, but it’s a new extension of what is comfortable and familiar. For every brand-new activity or idea, there is one that is so common as to be unnoticeable, like picking vegetables from the garden, big sisters, birthday flowers, and cookies.

Even better, Wells’ stated aim is to make children aware that math isn’t a boring subject that’s restricted to the schooldesk. The point of the book is to make children aware of how useful, indeed vital, numbers are to our life. In that, it succeeds admirably.

Available on Amazon

Emily’s First 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells. Hyperion Books, 2005.