26 January 2016 | Children's Fiction, Picture Books

Books for starting school and kinder

So, I’ve had a great break from the usual rhythm of life, and we’ve moved house. Our ‘real’ house is now a shell of its former self – and I mean that literally! The back has been demolished and there are holes in walls where new doorways will fit. I’ll tell you more about that in a later post. I’ve had sporadic internet access for two weeks so I’ve had a longer blogging break than I expected. But now I’m set up at my new desk – a lovely long desk that spans the length of our dining room with more storage than I’ve had before. So it’s time to start blogging again, and what better way to start than to discuss books about starting school?

We have a small collection of picture books about starting school, and I have read them to each of my three kids during the January holidays before they started their first day at school. I think it’s quite comforting to know (as an adult or kid) that there are other people going through similar experiences to you, regardless of whether those people are real or characters in a book. Below is a list of a few picture books where the main theme is starting school. I’ve also included a picture book about starting kinder and a couple of chapter books where the protagonist is starting a new school for older readers.


  • Tom and Small, written and illustrated by Clara Vulliamy – a lovely picture book about a boy called Tom who is starting his first day at school. He confesses all his worries to his soft toy mouse, Small. He doesn’t sleep very well that night and falls into a dream where he becomes as small as Small, and they have many adventures, including flying a toy plane to Tom’s school, where he tells Small, ‘”I can see my peg with my name on it, all ready for me … and where I’ll sit, and a special place for all my things.”‘ Tom manages beautifully at school the next day, and sees a tiny sign that perhaps his adventures with Small were more than a dream. The illustrations are sweet and I love the combination of real life fears mixed in with magic and adventure.


  • Starting school, written by Jane Godwin and illustrated by Anna Walker – Jane and Anna are a talented author/illustrator combination and have collaborated on quite a few books together. This gorgeously illustrated picture book tells the story of five children starting school, with different headings for each page like ‘getting to know people’, ‘in the playground’ and ‘snack time’. Like any wonderful picture book, the illustrations and text work in tandem, and it’s hard to describe one without the other. I love the picture of Sunita writing on a blackboard in front of her soft toys – ‘”Is everybody listening?” Sunita asks.’ I can imagine this book appealing to all kids starting school – Mr 6 pulled it off the pile on my desk to read it again – ‘even though I don’t need it ‘cos I’m in grade one now!’  The five characters have the universal fears and hopes of all kids, but are different enough in their personalities to be interesting.


  • Splat the cat, written and illustrated by Rob Scotton – Splat is a larger than life character and fills the page both visually and with his personality. He is starting cat school and doesn’t want to get out of bed. ‘If I hide from the day, maybe it’ll go away, he thought. It didn’t.’ Put your hands up if you can identify with Splat now – yes, we have all wanted to hide from the day! Splat comes up with one excuse after the other, but his mum drags him to school, along with his pet mouse, Seymour. Splat’s teacher teaches all the cats in her class that cats chase mice – a big problem when the class discovers Seymour. Luckily, Splat and Seymour save the day, and Splat doesn’t need any excuses to avoid school the next day. A funny, funny book with memorable illustrations and a great character.


  • Just Jack, written and illustrated by Jane Tanner – this one is about a boy starting kinder. To alleviate his fears, Jack dresses up in his superhero costume. It makes him feel fearless, and he has a great first day at kinder, coming home covered in water and sand. Mum wants to wash his superhero costume – Jack refuses. Jack eats birthday cake, makes mud pies and paints over the next few days at kinder in his superhero costume and refuses to let mum wash it, despite all the mess. Eventually mum wins the battle and Jack has to go to kinder as ‘just Jack’ with no superhero costume. He realises that he can still have fun at kinder as ‘just Jack’. I think this story is for every parent who has eventually washed a food or dirt covered dress-up costume after a battle to put it in the washing machine!


  • Truly Tan, written by Jen Storer, illustrated by Clare Robertson – this chapter book is for 7-10 year-olds. Tan has moved house with her family and faces life at a new school in the country. Her new teacher is called Miss Dragone, her first show and share with a cat skeleton did not go down well and she was kept in at recess for sticking out her tongue at a boy. Tan ‘stares out the window. The sun is shining and the sky is blue and I wonder what they are doing back at my old school. I bet they’re not doing long division. Or stupid carnivores. Or being kept in at recess. Oh, yes, it was a nice old school, my old school …’


  • The naming of Tishkin Silk, written by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Caroline Magerl – this is the first book in one of my favourite series. This chapter book for 7-10 year-olds is not all about a new school but because the main character, Griffin, faces a hard time at his new school, it is worth mentioning here. Griffin is a boy with long hair, his clothes aren’t right and he’s been homeschooled by his Mama, who is now in hospital. I love how Griffin remains absolutely himself, despite the taunts from the class bully.

I hope that these books are useful for you if you have a little one starting school or kinder. I’m always happy to lend out our books to local readers – let me know if you’d like to borrow a book. And I hope that you had a lovely summer holiday break and found time to read some wonderful books. I’m looking forward to writing blog posts about the books I’m reading, the books my kids are reading, my writing and editing projects, and the odd post here and there about life in general. I did a little bit of blog planning over the holidays and have mapped out some ideas. If there are any bookish topics you’d like me to cover – craft, parenting, cookbooks, helping kids to read or write, writing for yourself – please let me know in the comments. Thank you for following my blog!

Author interview – Victoria Carless



Welcome back Karen. Looking forward to 2016 and your “adventures” A new school for you.

January 26, 2016 at 9:31 am


Lovely to see you back, Karen. Looking forward to reading more about you reading…and writing, and editing. I read Mothers Grimm over the holidays (enjoyed that) and have Hope Farm, which is excellent, on the go at the moment. Enjoy the last moments of the holidays!

January 26, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Nicole Melanson

Great list! First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg is really cute, too. I’ve been reading it with my soon-to-be-kindy boy, although being 4th out the door, he’s well ready. On another note, enjoy your new space – the writing / storage wall sounds awesome!

January 26, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Karen Comer

    Thanks for your suggestion, Nicole – don’t know First day jitters – will look out for it. Hope your boys settle into school and kinder – and you have a somewhat peaceful house soon!

    January 26, 2016 at 9:23 pm

Terri Dixon

Good Luck Karen with the year ahead.

Always love to read your reviews of new fiction. I am going to start reading “The Women in Black” by Madeleine St John hoping to finish before I see musical on Friday.

Good luck to all school kids starting or returning to school or pre-school.

Wasn’t it great to see Jackie French rewarded for all her literary efforts?

January 26, 2016 at 7:31 pm

Karen Comer

Thanks, Terri. I enjoyed ‘The women in black’ – I’m curious to know whether it is different from the musical? Yes, good to see Jackie French receive an Australian Day Honour!

January 26, 2016 at 9:29 pm

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