The best books about school

34 authors have picked their favorite books about school and why they recommend each book.

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Each Kindness

By Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. Lewis (illustrator),

Book cover of Each Kindness

“Mommy, do I have to sit by her?”

My kid can be a real jerk. He picks a genre of child and decides they’re terrible. He’s been horrified by the existence of girls, boys, toddlers, big kids, and human babies. It’s straight-up bigotry, and it’s not okay with me. I’ve preached and preached on sharing space and being nice. Each Kindness doesn’t preach. We stand in the main character’s shoes as she decides who deserves kindness and who doesn’t. We feel the consequences.

Who am I?

I’d been a preschool teacher and a children’s author for years before I decided to become a mom. I was pretty sure I’d kill it at motherhood, I mean, I knew all the songs and I had lots of books. I was always up for giving advice to the caregivers at my school, heck, I was the perfect parent before my son was born. I knew everything then. Not anymore. Thank goodness for books. Over the years, my child has asked some tough questions, read on…you’ll see. Do they sound familiar? If so, these books might help you find your footing as you go looking for answers. 

I wrote...

Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice

By Sarah Warren, Monica Mikai (illustrator),

Book cover of Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice

What is my book about?

Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice follows Stacey's life from her girlhood to the present, but it also portrays the ordinary people that Stacey fights for—the beautiful and diverse America that shows up to stand with one another. Backmatter includes a timeline of changes in US voting-rights law from the Constitution through the present day, demonstrating both how far the country has come and how far we have to go. With its spirited text and vivid illustrations, Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice will inspire readers to take their own steps forward.

Six Months Later

By Natalie D. Richards,

Book cover of Six Months Later

Again, the amnesia thing! Imagine waking up in class and realizing six months have lapsed—and you have no idea what happened. Six Months Later reminds me of the high-school version of The Bourne series—suspects are everywhere, people know too much but say too little…you don’t know who to trust but something is majorly off and you have to figure it out—despite not being able to remember…

I think adult readers often write off (pun intended) Young Adult fiction as being juvenile, but some of the best thrillers I’ve read have had high-school/college-age characters. I adore reading books where characters are not merely analytical—they are deeply emotionally intelligent.

Who am I?

I love studying the ins/outs of humanity and our interactions, but especially, EI (emotional intelligence). A lot of emphasis is put on being “smart” and analytical (think IQ), but EI is largely ignored. Relationships thrive (and die) on EI! In the novels I write, I explore the emotional side of relationships and how, if we pay attention to this other side of intelligence, beautiful interactions happen. Typically, I don’t find riveting EI in books—and so when I do, I gobble the book up once, then twice, and possibly a third time, then tell everyone I know to GO READ THAT BOOK!

I wrote...


By Ashley Nikole,

Book cover of Fallout

What is my book about?

Four months of torture in an undisclosed location. Four months of silence. Four months of praying she won’t lose her mind and give away secrets she’s fought so hard to keep.

Avery Kent escapes with her life, but she is pursued deep into the heart of the British Columbia wilderness by the men who almost took her life—and shattered her mind. After wandering for two days in the mountains, she stumbles upon a cabin—but little does she know that the man inside is not the sheltering protector he claims to be.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds,

Book cover of The Dot

A familiar favorite, The Dot by author-illustrator Paul Reynolds tells the story of a young girl named Vashti who believes she cannot draw. Her art teacher, seeing Vashti struggle, helps her develop confidence in herself by telling her to try drawing just a single dot and to sign her name at the bottom. The next day, Vashti finds that her dot had been hung up above her teacher’s desk, inspiring her to try painting another dot, and then another, and then another. Soon she has created an entire collection of many different dots. And in a moving twist, Vashti’s artwork inspires children who also think they cannot draw to give it a try.

The Dot by Paul Reynolds is one of our favorite books to teach the SEL themes of self-confidence and growth mindset; showcasing all that can happen when we choose to believe in ourselves and persist in the…

Who are we?

Caroline and Katherine Brickley are twin sisters, award-winning children’s book authors, and content creators who specialize in producing literature and media that inspire children to believe in themselves and their ability to make the world a kinder, more inclusive place for everyone. Inspired by their mother, who made up stories for them each night, the sisters spent their childhood coming up with stories of their own and bringing them to life. The sisters made storytelling their full-time job in 2017 by founding Blossom Children’s Media Group from their shared college dorm room. Blossom continues to bring children, families, and educators from around the world together through wholesome stories and inclusive community experiences. 

We wrote...

The Friendly Bookshelf

By Caroline Brickley, Katherine Brickley, Daniela Pérez-Duarte (illustrator)

Book cover of The Friendly Bookshelf

What is our book about?

Once upon a time, in a library like any other, there lived a little bookshelf named Bibli who carried a BIG question on his shelves: “Could there be a story somewhere about a bookshelf like me?” Bibli is told that bookshelves are supposed to hold stories, not have ones of their own. But everything changes when he meets Cassie, a girl longing for a friend just as much as Bibli longs for a story to relate to. 

The Friendly Bookshelf is a social-emotional learning (SEL) research-based book and the first-ever picture book about a bookshelf. Written to build self-confidence and self-esteem as well as encourage inclusivity, Bibli’s story empowers children to be brave, be a friend, and always be your-shelf! Readers will be inspired to go beyond the final page of the book and share their own stories, as well as be the pioneers of a kinder, more inclusive world where everybody (and every bookshelf!) belongs.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

By Louis Sachar, Adam McCauley (illustrator),

Book cover of Sideways Stories from Wayside School

This is a humorous collection of thirty related short stories that intertwine and connect to tell a story of a group of kids and teachers from Wayside School, which was built sideways. All the stories are a bit strange and silly. I love the distinct personality traits of each character and the direct, objective writing style which adds comicality as well as wit to the overall voice and tone of the book.

Who am I?

I admire the way children tell stories—how their imagination veers here and there, how fantasy and reality intertwine, and how magic can happen at any moment. I wrote stories like this when I was a kid and, fortunately, saved many of them. When writing The Kids of Cattywampus Street (my twentieth book), I went through these stories and recreated this narrator’s voice as the 8-year-old me with absurdity and confidence. I wanted to show a range of characters in a diverse world where kids believe in themselves, have the power to use their imagination, can get into and out of trouble on their own accord, are resilient, adaptable, strong, and just plain funny.

I wrote...

The Kids of Cattywampus Street

By Lisa Jahn-Clough, Natalie Andrewson (illustrator),

Book cover of The Kids of Cattywampus Street

What is my book about?

In this delightful chapter book, you'll meet Lionel, Lindalee, Hans, Matteo, Evelyn, Ursula, and others – the kids who live on Cattywampus Street, not far from the Waddlebee Toy Store.

Each of the eleven stories in this magical, mysterious, silly, scary, happy, and sometimes sad chapter book tells an utterly unforgettable tale about one of these kids. Whether it's about Lionel and his magic ball, which knows how to find him after it’s been stolen away; or Charlotta, who shrinks so small that she can fit inside her dollhouse; or Rodney, whose pet rock becomes the envy of all the kids on Cattywampus Street, here are stories sure to charm, captivate, and engage all readers of chapter books and anyone interested in the slightly absurd.

Into the Labyrinth

By John Bierce,

Book cover of Into the Labyrinth: Mage Errant Book 1

Into the Labyrinth by John Bierce is another academy-fantasy tale where the main character, Hugh, studies magic alongside others. This is a great story for emotional development and plot twists! At first, things seem like they don’t add up, but by the end, you get a satisfying sense of “ah-ha!” as most of your questions are answered (not all, though!).

This is a great coming-of-age story where Hugh finds great mentors, deals with his first love, and struggles with magic where others excel. It’s a great entry point for younger readers, too. Just well worth the read.

Who am I?

Ever since I was young, I’ve loved fantasy novels, movies, and video games. When I got to high school, I finally met people who played Dungeons and Dragons, and it was all downhill from there! I started Dungeon Mastering at a young age, but everyone said I had a real talent for it. The stories I created always caught the imagination of the players, and more than once, people told me I should write books. Well, here I am. I love escapist fantasy, epic adventures, wonderful characters, and terrible villains. I can’t get enough of them, and every day I immerse myself in the fantastical, whether it be reading another book, writing another story, or booting up another Final Fantasy game.

I wrote...

Knightmare Arcanist

By Shami Stovall,

Book cover of Knightmare Arcanist

What is my book about?

Knightmare Arcanist is set in a unique world where everyone gains magical powers based on the mythical creature they bond to. Phoenix arcanists have fire and healing, whereas hydra arcanists have poison and regeneration—the stronger the creature, the more amazing the powers. Volke Savan bonds with a creature of shadow—a knightmare—and soon learns that his magic progresses based on his training and spiritual cultivation. Volke wants nothing more than to be like his childhood hero, Gregory Ruma, so when he joins Gregory’s guild, the Frith Guild, he’s more than elated. But when it turns out Ruma might be a villain, things take an interesting twist…

The whole series is filled with epic fights, badass tournaments, and magical corruption. Definitely worth a read.

Harriet the Spy

By Louise Fitzhugh,

Book cover of Harriet the Spy

I love stories with kids in the sixties in New York City when a kid could pretty much roam at will. This is one, though that’s not the focus. Harriet M. Welsch, who likes to think of herself as a sort of spy is definitely a keen observer. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, including her classmates and her best friends. It is all truthful, but sometimes not so flattering. Then she loses the notebook! Will she find it before someone else does and keep all the secrets secret? Or will it end up in the wrong hands? And if it does, then what does Harriet do? 

Who am I?

I was an elementary classroom teacher for more than thirty years and my favorite thing to do with my students was “read alouds,” which of course meant I got to read a lot of books. Then I read them to my kids and now my grandkids. I always wanted to read the best because time is so precious in a classroom. My daughter was born very premature and only survived thanks to God and her innate feistiness. She is an overcomer and inspires me to share similar stories. Of the books I’ve written for kids, 2 of the 3 protagonists are girls!

I wrote...

Love Puppies and Corner Kicks

By Bob Krech,

Book cover of Love Puppies and Corner Kicks

What is my book about?

Change, while challenging, often drives personal growth, as 13-year-old Andrea discovers. When her father announces the family is relocating to Scotland for a year, Andrea fears her new schoolmates will uncover her secret: She stutters. At home in the States, Andrea’s stellar soccer skills and occasional use of her fists have enabled her to suppress her insecurities. At Dunnotar Academy, Andrea faces the dual stressors of new surroundings and social situations. A place on the Tough Girls Football Club soccer team seems a perfect opportunity for Andrea to rely on familiar strategies to conceal her speech issues. However, a blossoming friendship with a less popular girl and a fledgling romance give Andrea the courage to confront her anxieties. Andrea can literally stay quiet and fit in or risk all by speaking up for herself and others. 

We Don't Eat Our Classmates

By Ryan Higgins,

Book cover of We Don't Eat Our Classmates

Yes, kindness is essential. But it’s even better when served up with a huge side serving of humor.  A young T-rex named Penelope can’t understand why she’s unable to make friends. Perhaps if she didn’t find them so delicious, it would be easier.  The author takes a universal situation—going off to school for the first time—and turns it into a hilarious lesson (and I hesitate to even use that word) about kindness and empathy. It’s all done with an economy of word and a deadpan tone. Pitch perfect!

Who am I?

I am no expert on kindness—though more than twenty years at Sesame Workshop, working on a TV show that focuses on kindness, may give me a slight edge. And I am not unfailingly kind, though I try my hardest. But I am passionate about nurturing this quality in children. At the risk of sounding naive, I feel that it’s our last best hope of solving some of the world’s biggest problems.  

I wrote...

The Eight Knights of Hanukkah

By Leslie Kimmelman, Galia Bernstein (illustrator),

Book cover of The Eight Knights of Hanukkah

What is my book about?

It’s a Hanukkah story, of course! But it’s also about the importance of putting kindnesses out into the world, both spectacular brave deeds and those of the smaller, barely noticed variety. The book tells the story of eight knights who, at the request of their mother, the Lady Sadie, ride out into the countryside to perform acts of “awesome kindness and stupendous bravery.” All this while seeking out the ferocious dragon who’s getting in the way of the last-night-of-Hanukkah party scheduled at the castle that evening.  Gadzooks! What are eight knights to doeth?!

I Got the School Spirit

By Connie Schofield-Morrison, Frank Morrison (illustrator),

Book cover of I Got the School Spirit

This picture book gives off such a positive feeling that it’s impossible not to let it fill you to the brim with excitement and joy. It’s perfect to read with children at the end of the holidays for a gentle but enthusiastic introduction to the new school year. It made me want to go back to school!

Who am I?

When I first started writing in English, which is my second language, I was reluctant to share my work with others. I was terrified they would find it lacking. It takes a lot of effort and research to write authentically for a foreign audience. I studied creative writing at different universities around the world to gain knowledge and experience. I published short stories and poems in online and print journals. Bit by bit, I gathered the courage to submit my first picture book manuscript.

I wrote...

The Pirate Tree

By Brigita Orel, Jennie Poh (illustrator),

Book cover of The Pirate Tree

What is my book about?

The gnarled tree on the hill sometimes turns into a pirate ship. A rope serves as an anchor, a sheet as a sail, and Sam is its fearless captain. But one day another sailor approaches, and he’s not from Sam’s street. Can they find something more precious than diamonds and gold? Can they find…friendship?

Invisible Emmie

By Terri Libenson,

Book cover of Invisible Emmie

This graphic novel literally illustrates many ways in which the average school day is challenging to introverts, from the bus, to school hallways, to the cafeteria, to navigating pre-class chatter. Emmie is very in tune with her feelings and able to focus on drawing no matter the noise all around, but still questions her own value: “Does anyone ever see me? Do I want them to?” When the author drew Emmie with a disappearing mouth to show how others view her as mute—ooh, I got goosebumps. I adore a book that makes me go back and read it again the moment I finish it. 

Who am I?

Every one of my books is centered around characters finding a place where they can be fully, unapologetically, joyfully themselves. If you had asked my child self where my happy place was, I would have told you it was my room, empty of other people but full of books. I am very friendly and would love to meet you, but I also delight in solitude, and my imagination sparks and cartwheels when I am quiet. It turns out there’s a word for this inborn trait of mine: introversion. I’m always looking for stories that celebrate the strengths of us quietly powerful introverts. 

I wrote...

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle

By Christina Uss,

Book cover of The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle

What is my book about?

One girl. Two wheels. Four thousand miles to go. Introverted Bicycle has lived most of her life quietly—and happily—at the Mostly Silent Monastery in Washington, D.C. When her guardian says she must attend a summer friend-making camp, Bicycle seeks a different path. She sets off on her bike for California to prove she can make her first friend her own way.

Who knew that a ghost would haunt her handlebars, or that she would have to contend with bike-hating dogs, a bike-loving horse, and bike-crushing pigs? Over the uphills and downhills of her journey, Bicycle discovers that friends are not such a bad thing to have after all, and that a dozen cookies really can solve most problems.

My Life as a Gamer

By Janet Tashjian, Jake Tashjian (illustrator),

Book cover of My Life as a Gamer

It’s always great when middle-graders find a series they like. The books in the My Life as… series are fast-paced, full of laughs, and not overwhelming. The text is large and the chapters are short, with little illustrations along the sides of the pages to explain vocabulary. The main character, Derek, doesn’t like to read, which makes him very relatable for reluctant readers. 

In My Life as a Gamer, Derek gets the chance to participate in a gaming company’s focus group and test new video games – a dream for any gamer.

Who am I?

I am a middle grade teacher who loves to read. Many of my students prefer to play video games. In fact, some of them have a real aversion to reading. Since I know reading ability is a huge factor in a student’s academic success, I’m always looking for great books to get students to put down their controllers and read. When I couldn’t find many, I was inspired to write the CROSS UPS TRILOGY. I’m confident that the books on this list will lure young gamers into their covers with gaming themes, humor, and relatable characters. 

I wrote...

Tournament Trouble

By Sylv Chiang, Connie Choi (illustrator),

Book cover of Tournament Trouble

What is my book about?

Cross Ups 1: Tournament Trouble is about Jaden, a twelve-year-old gamer who wants to prove he is the best at his favorite game, Cross Ups IV. Problem? His mom doesn’t know he plays this violent game – she’d never allow it. An invitation to compete at a tournament compels Jaden and his friends to hatch a plan to get him there. But his mom isn’t the only roadblock. Annoying siblings, bullies at school, and his best friend Cali’s family problems keep getting in the way.

The humorous, fast-paced novels in the Cross Ups Trilogy include illustrations by Connie Choi to keep reluctant readers engaged.

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