I Have to Start at School Today

Books for Empathy, Fiction, Picture Books / Monday, July 27th, 2020

School’s have broken up officially, after a very strange period. But it’s still important to remember there are children preparing to start school for the first time in September, or even young children preparing to go back after a long period away. It’s a transition that still requires support and books are a wonderful way to allay children’s fears and bring light to an intimidating situation. I have to Start at School Today written by Simon Philip, illustrated by Ged Adamson and published by Simon and Schuster does this perfectly and was released just last week!

I had an older brother who filled my head with scary stories about school, and the character in this gorgeous picture book is much the same. Not only does she have sibling teasing to contend with, but she also has all her own crazy ideas and worries of what school might be like which niggle at her. Like many of us, the fear of the unknown, the fear of change are big worries to overcome, but this gorgeous picture book counteracts those in a sweet and funny way.

There are so many things that are right about this book. Firstly let’s look at the writing. If you’re at all familiar with author Simon Philip you’ll know of the “I Really Want’ trio of books which are just the most wonderfully written, frenetic rhyming stories, and I Have to Start at School Today follows a similar path. This one is a little more gentle a read, but Simon’s rhyming style of writing is the best I’ve come across. It flows and sings across the page brilliantly, making them SO easy and fun to read.

A host of silly animals inhabit the school in the girl’s imagination, and her loving Grandma helps her turn the scary situations she envisages into fun and friendly ones, a helpful rhino, a bear who likes to share and a talented baboon! It’s so different to the dry more ordinary starting school books, and is sure to get any child excited about going.

I’ve been a fan of Ged Adam’s illustration for a long time and he just gets better and better. He includes a diverse set of, just completely lovely, characters in this book. They’re full of personality, bright and bold. The focus here is definitely on expression and feelings, rather than loads of intricate details which is perfect for this story, helping children empathise and interpret the content in exactly the right, reassuring way.

When we worry about life changes, fret about some public speaking or a job interview, we can get so hung up on fears and potential problems, the things that could go wrong, and children are no different. But this book I Have to Start at School Today poses the important question but … what if it all goes right? an incredibly important life skill for children. This is an important, supportive book that doesn’t sacrifice anything at all in terms of fun, entertainment and visual appeal. An absolute winner from Simon and Ged.

I Have to Start at School Today is out now and available from all good bookshops and libraries. Please support your local, independent book shop.

Thank you to Simon for sending me a copy of this book and thank you for reading this Book Monster review.


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