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Mentor Text Monday: Back to School

As far as many publishers are concerned, Back to School could be considered a yearly holiday! If the target market is school and library, then they will want to intrigue parents and readers with a new and interesting take on this subject/event.

My own Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, out-of-print after 15 years, deals with this same topic -- but my focus was narrowed to finding a school bus buddy:

It's the first day of kindergarten and little hedgehog Spike is AFRAID to ride the BIG BUS to school all alone. He needs a buddy to make the ride a bit less SCARY.

But no one wants to sit next to Spike's SHARP quills on the BUMPY BUS RIDE. Will he ever find someone to share his seat?

Here are some examples I have found in fairly recently published books (as recent as I could find in my reading pile, due to varied dates - I read anything and everything):

Notably this is an author/illustrator book and quite cute and cleverly presented, with crayon colors and colorful, kid-drawn fonts and illustrations. Don't go by the cover which is quite plain in comparison, likely to show that Monkey feels small and is not filled with much hope of being ready for Kindergarten.

Monkey is not ready for kindergarten. And it's only a week away. Can Monkey's family ease his worries -- and get him excited for the Big Day?

Despite the efforts of family and friends, and even upon admitting that "Kindergarten doesn't sound too bad," Monkey is STILL not ready for Kindergarten. But once Monkey arrives, it clearly appears that he is ready, after all.

This book will encourage little ones who are struggling like Monkey, and will encourage them to trust they will be fine, too! So, it was engaging and had great takeaway value -- telling the child it will be okay :)

This is such an important book about finding your own way to shine!

Wrapped in Eastern and Western dragon lore, this fantasy tale celebrates perseverance, cultural inclusion, and self-discovery.

It's the first day of Dragon School, where all the young dragons must learn how to harness their fire breath. Today's lesson? Using it to cook food! All the dragons are excited to test their powers . . . except Long.

Long is from the East and can only breathe out water. No matter how hard he huffs and puffs, he isn't sure he can match his fire breathing classmates. But will he be discovered? Or will Long find his own unique path to cooking-and to fitting in?

This unusual main character provides an intriguing door into the perennial back-to-school book! Incorporating dragons and Chinese culture provides unique twists and fabulous layers! And it incorporates Chinese food, too! So much to love in this sweet book!

Here's another new one! Mr. S: A First Day of School Book by Monica Arnaldo. Katherine Tegen Books / Harper Collins, 2023.

It was the first day of school. But even the kindergartners of room 2B could tell something was seriously wrong...where was the teacher? And who left this sandwich on his desk?

The only clue, written neatly on the chalkboard, was the name: Mr. S.

There have been a number of books focused on the teacher (My Teacher is a Monster, Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten and More) and this is the newest! It was also manufactured in Italy, which is cool :). As a parent / adult, I found it a bit silly (although very clever in parts), but I can see the value of reading it to nervous little ones and making them laugh and forget their fears. So it definitely checks off the boxes of focusing on a universal problem (first day of school jitters) and a unique treatment (a sandwich as a teacher).

Whether these books become your favorites or not, it's clear to see that these books approached a timeless topic from different angles -- one primarily by suggesting social emotional learning, another with a fun and interesting cultural layer and another by being silly! And notably, all three used some amount of humor in telling the story!

Try writing a back-to-school story after reading 50-100 books and seeing what's been done and what hasn't been done -- what will you bring to the story?


Remember, there's always something to be learned from any mentor text we read, whether excellent or poor, whether a comp to our current WIP or not. As a reminder, I don't always have the time to go into each book in-depth, but feel free to post any questions or discussion points in the comment section.

COMMENTS: I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on these books! If you did please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. Feel free to click on the titles of the books to buy them! All proceeds go toward books for our Mentor Text Talk Book Chats on Sundays on Zoom - you can join us here: Mentor Text Talk by | Facebook! Happy reading and writing!


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