Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

It's Back to School We Go: First Day Stories from around the world

It's Back to School We Go: First Day Stories from around the world

Ellen Jackson
Illustrator:  Jan Davey Ellis 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Millbrook Press, 2003   ISBN: 978-0761319481

No matter where you live, the first day of school is always an important occasion. In this book we are going to share first days with eleven children who live in eleven very different countries around the world. Achieng is an eight year old girl who lives in Kenya. Instead of sitting at a desk Achieng and her classmates sit on straw mats. All the students are expected to help take clean and tidy the school.

Nine year old Jessica, by contrast, lives in Australia. She has to wear a school uniform when she goes to school, and she and her classmates were invited to make up some classroom rules for the new school year. In the afternoon the students wrote emails to their foreign "keypals" in Germany.

In Russia Nadia's first day of school is a time for celebrating. Nadia wears a pinafore and a ribbon in her hair and she takes her teacher a bouquet of flowers. As the children gather at the school a band plays music to welcome them. After a brief time in school Nadia and her family go to the park to have some fun.

In this interesting and carefully crafted book the author looks at first days of school in Canada, the United States, Peru, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kenya, India, China, Russia, Japan, and Australia. For each child she tells a short story. She then goes on to describe some of the customs, foods, and school facts that exist in the countries in which the children live. Readers will discover that though there are big differences between the lives of the children, there are also similarities. Many of them feel nervous or excited. Many of them do something special for the first day of school. Children will be warmed to find so many lines of connection between themselves and children who live so far away.