By RAMONA PRICE
Whether you’re a nervous 5-year-old starting kindergarten or a seasoned 50-year-old pursuing a new degree, August means back to school. No more lazy days at the beach, now we’re shopping for school supplies and sharpening our new pencils! Here are some back-to-school books to get you in that studious mood.
For that brand-new kindergartner in your life, “School’s First Day of School” by Adam Rex is the perfect book to help calm their fears. It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and no one is more nervous than the school building itself. It’s used to being mostly empty, with just the custodian for company. What will all the new children think of it? Will they be nice? Will they like the school? The first day of school starts off a little rocky, but as it goes on, the school starts to realize it isn’t the only one with first-day fears.
A modern classic of kids’ chapter books, “Frindle” by Andrew Clements follows Nick Allen, who, after studying how words are created in school, starts to question why things are named the way they are. What if we stopped calling pens “pens” and called them “frindles”? It starts off small, with just Nick’s friends using his new word, but soon frindle catches on. Now the school is in chaos and Nick is at the center of it all. His teacher wants Nick to put an end to all this nonsense, but Nick’s creation is beyond his control as frindle spreads across the country.
In the young adult novel “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks,” Frankie is starting her sophomore year at a prestigious boarding school and is finally ready to break free from her older sister’s shadow and her parents’ babying attitude. When her father mentions a secret society, The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, which dates back to his days as a student, Frankie goes in search of information. To her dismay, she discovers that her boyfriend Matthew is a member, and that the society is only open to boys. Tired of always being told “no” because she’s too young or a girl, Frankie embarks on a mission of fake identities and pranks to prove that she belongs with the Basset Hounds.
Like “Frankie Landau Banks,” author Tana French’s novel “The Secret Place” is also about a boarding school, but this time, there’s a murder to solve. It’s been a year since a boy was found murdered at St. Kilda’s girls’ school, when Holly Mackey, a student at St Kilda’s, shows up at the Dublin Murder Squad’s office with a picture of the boy with the caption “I know who killed him.” Detective Stephen Moran joins up with the detective on the original case to follow clues that lead back to Holly’s clique of friends, their rivals and the mysterious, private underworld of teenage girls.
“The Magicians” by Lev Grossman has often been called a “grown-up Harry Potter.” Instead of a magical boarding school, it’s a college in upstate New York where Quentin Coldwater finds himself being recruited into a magical world he never knew existed. An outcast obsessed with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a land called Fillory, Quentin thinks he’s finally found his place. However, magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. And when he and his friends discover that Fillory is real, it turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. Despite the resemblance to a certain boy wizard, “The Magicians” is definitely a book for adults, with all the drug and sex experimentation you would expect from a book about college life.
The La Mesa Library has everything you need for a successful academic year — regardless of your age! We have math coaching twice a week and can order textbooks in from local colleges and universities, potentially saving you some big bucks. Adults can even earn a high school diploma at the library with our Library High School Program, which is completely free. Visit sdcl.org or call 619-469-2151 for more information.
— Ramona Price is La Mesa Library’s children’s librarian.