Skip to content
Posted by Tom, September 6, 2011

The best of back-to-school reading

Of everyone at Nosy Crow, I am in some ways the least qualified to be writing a blog of back-to-school books: I am not a parent and have never taken a child back to school. But on the other hand, I have also been back to school myself more recently than anyone else, so perhaps it evens out, and here we are.

Some of the books we’ve chosen are reassuring books that a parent might choose to ease a young child into going to school for the first time, while others reflect the challenges and excitements of an older child going to a new school.

Our own contribution to the back-to-school/new-school genre is Olivia’s First Term, by Lyn Gardner. Poor Olivia and her little sister, Eel, are abandoned by their father one rainy September morning at Olivia’s grandmother’s stage school, the Swan Academy of Theatre and Dance.

Camilla was quick to nominate the first in the greatest school story series of recent decades, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, though I suspect I am not alone in thinking that ultimately, Harry Potter was not a force for good in preparing me for school every September: the books only reinforced how much better Hogwarts was than my state school comprehensive (which seemed a little too much like Stonewall High for my liking). But I loved the book anyway.

Camilla’s other suggestions include another Jill Murphy classic, The Worst Witch, Antonia Fraser’s Autumn Term, and Malory Towers, by Enid Blyton.

Kirsty’s suggestion is very much “one for the parents, and only really for the title”, Peace at Last, by Jill Murphy.

Adrian has nominated Roald Dahl’s Matilda, I am Too Absolutely Small for School, by Lauren Child, and The Fifth Form at St Dominic’s, by Talbot Baines Reed.

Steph suggested Claire Vuillamy’s All Aboard the School Balloon.

Dom’s choice is Molesworth.

By the time this game reached my desk all the best ideas had gone, so I was left with a few slightly left-field books to nominate. First is Face, by Benjamin Zephaniah, which certainly deals with the trauma of going back to school, just not after the summer holidays. Second, for teenage readers, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, which begins with a back-to-school anxiety that permeates the entire narrative. And thirdly (not really leftfield at all, but poetry rather than prose), the sublime Please Mrs. Butler, by Allan Ahlberg.

Now, what are your best back-to-school books? As ever, please leave your suggestions in the comments below or on Twitter!