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It’s back to school time! Both my kids started school last week. My son is in kindergarten and my daughter is in half-day 2’s preschool a few days a week.

My son on his first day of school
My daughter on her first day of school

This week I’m featuring reviews of five great back to school books from Penguin Random House. My kids enjoyed reading all of them, and these books were a big help getting them prepped and excited for the start of the school year!

Today we’re reviewing If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen, The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, Raise Your Hand by Alice Paul Tapper, I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton, and Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! by Cori Doerrfeld.

As an added bonus, I have an extra copy of The King of Kindergarten (which I reviewed in July) to giveaway! Read The King of Kindergarten review below for more information on how to enter to win!

If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen | STEAM Book Review

In last week’s post I shared a short review of this book, and what kind of school my kids and I would build if we built a school. This week I’m sharing a few more details about the book, and a quick STEAM activity you can try with your kids to bring this book to life.

If I Built a School is written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. It is the third in his “If I Built…” series. The other two titles are If I Built a Car and If I Built a House. I plan on looking for these two at our next library visit, especially since my kids love If I Built a School so much!

The book follows the main character Jack who explains to his teacher all the details of his dream school. This is no ordinary school. This is the most extraordinary school that expanded my kids’ (and my own) imaginations.

Jack dreams of things for his school I would have never even considered. Like glass tubes to take you from class to class, or a robochef that makes you anything you want for lunch. Maybe one day Jack (or the kids reading the book) will be a part of a STEM team that will create something similar to the things he imagines.

At home, after I asked my kids what they would put in their school, we did a STEAM activity to build a school. I asked them to build their dream school using their Legos, Duplos, or magnetic blocks.

My son chose Duplos because he had chairs and students (Minnie and Daisy). Below is the school he created. He said that at the front of the room there is a calculator; the students can fly up to it and do math equations. 🙂

My daughter loves to build with the magnetic blocks, but also loves to knock it down before I can get a picture. 😉

Building with blocks is such a great STEAM activity. It allows kids to think in 3 dimensions, learn about gravity (when it gets too tall it will fall over), and think about structures and shapes. We play with our magnetic blocks, Duplos, and/or Legos almost everyday, but it is nice to have a focused activity like this to make them think about what they are building and why.

If you are interested in purchasing If I Built a School, here is my amazon affiliate link to buy it.

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes | STEAM Book Review

We love The King of Kindergarten! If you recall, I reviewed it on the blog back in July. The main character’s confidence is contagious. It is so fun to read and see the illustrations of him taking on his first day with confidence, excitement, kindness, and grace.

I think reading it and re-reading it over and over for the last two months really helped my son with his confidence before he entered kindergarten.

***I have exciting news! I’m giving away my extra copy of The King of Kindergarten to one reader! You may enter here by leaving a comment about what is your (or your child’s) favorite thing about kindergarten at the bottom of this post, or on my Instagram post. The giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, September 8, 2019.***

Be sure to click here to go back to my previous post with the full The King of Kindergarten review with lots of pictures!

If you are interested in purchasing The King of Kindergarten, here is my amazon affiliate link to buy it.

Raise Your Hand by Alice Paul Tapper | STEAM Book Review

This was one of my son’s favorites of all five back to school books. I’ve been reading this to him at least five times a day every day since we got it.

I told my son it was written by the girl in the story, Alice Paul Tapper, and she is only 11 years old. He was shocked. I asked him if he thinks he could write a book when he is 11 years old and he said he didn’t know, but maybe I planted the seed for him to want to try. 🙂

Raise Your Hand is colorfully illustrated by Marta Kissi. Alice wrote the book based on her personal experience of learning to be brave and raising her hand.

Alice is an 11 year old Girl Scout. She noticed she and her girl friends often felt shy or embarrassed to speak up and raise their hand in classes, but the boys didn’t seem to have the same problem. She helped create a Girl Scout badge encouraging girls to be brave in class and raise their hand.

In school, and in STEM careers, regardless if you have the correct answer or solution to a problem, it’s important to make sure your voice is heard and you participate. I think this book sends such a positive message to all kids, girls and boys, about the importance of participation, believing in yourself, and not being afraid to fail.

I have noticed in my career as an engineer that the women engineers (including myself), were less likely to speak up in meetings. It seems Alice has tapped into a cultural problem in girls, where we often can be afraid to share our thoughts or opinions for fear of being wrong or people laughing at us. These are usually unfounded fears, as I was never chastised in my career for speaking up or being wrong.

Speaking up and raising my hand is something I am always working on doing more often, so I am glad Raise Your Hand is teaching my kids from a very young age that they have no reason to be afraid to raise their hand.

If you are interested in purchasing Raise Your Hand, here is my amazon affiliate link to buy it.

I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton | STEAM Book Review

I’m Trying to Love Math was written for kids who are scared of math or don’t like math. No one like that exists in my family, but I’m sure they are out there somewhere… ;).

This funny and entertaining book by Bethany Barton is written from the perspective of a kid who doesn’t like math, and an alien enlightens this child on why math is important and wonderful to learn.

My kids and I are already fully on the alien’s side. We don’t need any convincing about how great math is. But it was fun to read about all of the cool and amazing math facts the alien shared.

I’m Trying to Love Math points out how math is an important part of our daily lives and used for more everyday tasks than we think. Things like buying groceries (calculating the total and change), cooking and baking (measuring ingredients), and music (reading measures and notes) all involve math.

I’m Trying to Love Math is also interactive, a couple times the kids are asked to shake the book to remove too complicated math equations. That part was really fun for both my kids.

We really loved all the math facts and cute illustrations in this book. Bethany made math seem very interesting and fun, which is something I can always get behind. This is a great book for both those who don’t like math and those who do. Either way, by the end of the book you’ll end up loving math even more than you did before. 🙂

If you are interested in purchasing I’m Trying to Love Math, here is my amazon affiliate link to buy it.

Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! by Cori Doerrfeld | STEAM Book Review

Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! is about the bittersweetness of change and transitions. It inspires optimism by pointing out how every goodbye leads to a new hello. It is sweetly written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld.

The book follows the Stella as she starts school. She says goodbye to her mom getting on the bus, which can be difficult and sad. But at school she quickly meets a new friend, which starts with a happy hello.

Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! follows the friends through their blooming friendship, as they experience many new situations with goodbyes that lead to new hellos together.

Then Stella’s best friend moves away and she has to figure out how to navigate that goodbye, and we find out that even through hard times, you will eventually come out to a new hello.

I found the book sweet and uplifting. It definitely sends a positive message about optimism to the kids, which is an important trait. My kids really adored this book. The illustrations are so sweet and fun to look at and the message is positive.

While nothing in Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! is specifically related to STEAM fields, I tied this into STEAM by telling my kids that throughout STEAM education and in STEM careers there will be many situations of one door closing, which will lead to a new door opening.

It is important for kids to know from an early age the importance of resilience and knowing that just because one chapter may be ending in their life, a new and even greater one will be opening up to them.

If you are interested in purchasing Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend!, here is my amazon affiliate link to buy it.

These are five wonderful book to give to a child starting school this fall. All of them have positive messages that help reinforce to our children that learning is important and fun! They also focus on the theme of learning to be brave, confident, and independent at school.

Have you read any of these books yet? Which of these five books interests you the most? Which one would your kids like best?

I’ve provided the Amazon links to all five of the books below for your convenience if you are interested in purchasing any of them. I appreciate you supporting my site if you found my reviews helpful. 🙂


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