The beginning of the school year is one of the most exciting times of the year, but it can be one of the most anxiety-provoking as well! We’ve put together a list of the best back-to-school books to help your Mighty Girls make sense of these emotions and to show them that they’re not alone. These books speak to the range of school experiences, from first-day jitters to dealing with bullying to struggling to find one's own voice.
You can view the complete list of Mighty Girl school stories in our Back to School Special Feature or browse through a few of our favorites highlight below for students in different age groups, including new students, elementary school (grades 2 – 5), middle school (grades 5 – 9), and high school (grades 9 – 12).
New Students: Preschool to First Grade Students
These books address the universality of nerves on the first day of school to help new students transition smoothly, and show that a classroom needs unique students in order to thrive.
First Day Jitters: Everyone understands the jumble of feelings that the first day of school brings – especially if it’s the first day at a new school. Children and adults will love the surprise ending!
Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine: Shy Rosie competes with Violet to grow the best pea plant in class, but she feels terrible when the pressure gets the best of her and she sabotages Violet’s plant. When Violet gets the chicken pox, Rosie shows that she is a good friend and a good gardener by taking care of both plants with love and care.
The Name Jar: Unhei is about to start school in the United States, and she worries that no one will be able to pronounce her Korean name. She asks her classmates to fill a glass jar with American names, but after she tries out Suzy, Laura, and Amanda from the jar, Unhei’s classmates learn the special meaning of her real name and she embraces it with the support of her friends.
Thank You, Mr. Falker: At first, Trisha loves school, but her difficulty learning to read makes her feel inadequate until a new fifth grade teacher helps her understand and overcome her problem. Trisha shows that learning difficulties can be managed with a lot of support and determination.
Chrysanthemum: Before she starts school, Chrysanthemum loves her name, but when her classmates tease her about it she begins to wish she had a shorter name – until the music teacher shares a secret about her own name that changes everyone’s perspectives.
Elementary School Students: Grades 2-5
Books about dealing with bullying and unexpected circumstances show students the power of a good teacher, a strong group of friends and classmates, and the incredible world of books.
The Hundred Dresses: Wanda Petronski tells the girls in her class that she has one hundred dresses at home so they will stop teasing her, but instead they follow her everywhere just to taunt her about how poor she is. When Wanda and her family move away, the girls realize how hurtful words can be, and resolve to speak kindly to everyone.
Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends: Dealing with Bullies and Bossiness and Finding a Better Way: There is no right way to deal with bullying, so this book provides options and advice for girls to learn how to address a number of different bullying situations in a way that feels most comfortable to them. Girls will learn how to stand up for others, speak out against bullying, and how to be a good friend in an age-appropriate, digestible way.
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan: Nasreen refuses to speak after her parents disappear, so in desperation her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. There, Nasreen learns how to overcome her sadness with the help of her dedicated teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she finds in books.
The Lemonade Club: Miss Wichelman’s fifth-grade class teaches best friends Traci and Marilyn how to make lemons into lemonade, even when Marilyn gets leukemia and faces a long road of treatment ahead of her. In a heartwarming twist, the whole fifth grade class figures out how to show Marilyn that they care.
Matilda: Matilda is not your average five-year old: in addition to her uncanny reading and math abilities, she also discovers that she can harness her thinking power in an unexpected way when she stands up for the people she loves.
Middle School: Grades 6 – 8
These books focus on the challenges of friendship and the pressure to succeed during these transitional years. We’ve highlighted a career-focused biography as well that will help students to dream about their own future careers without limitations.
A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friendship Troubles: From backstabbing to bullying to being excluded, this book provides advice for girls on a number of friendship problems through tips, quizzes, and real life stories that will help tweens address a number of friendship problems.
Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson: Rachel is a straight-A student, a gifted musician, and a good friend who is being eclipsed by her older brother’s charm and good looks. Rachel learns how to enjoy 7th grade and lighten the pressure she places on herself in this novel that shows that perfection isn’t everything.
Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange: This captivating portrait of the photographer weaves together Lange’s own words and photographs to present the story of Lange’s success despite economic limitations and sexual discrimination during the 1930s and 1940s.
Stargirl: Stargirl’s new classmates adore her non-conforming ways until her individuality threatens to disturb the status quo. Stargirl’s best friend Leo is forced to choose between his first love and popularity, and their relationship highlights the wonders and complications of friendship.
High School: Grades 9 – 12
The fiction books featured here emphasize the importance of being true to yourself and finding your voice amidst the pressures and trials of being a teenager in high school. We’ve also picked out some non-fiction biographies to encourage teens to pursue the careers that interest them regardless of the restrictions they may feel.
The Skin I’m In: Maleeka’s classmates taunt her about her dark skin and she struggles with insecurity and a lack of self-esteem until a new teacher, whose face is blotched with a striking white patch, shows Maleeka how to love the skin she’s in.
Speak: Melinda uses her art to heal after a traumatic sexual assault at a high school party that left her friendless and isolated, and in the process she learns how to speak up for herself. This believable heroine gives a voice to the disenfranchised teenager as she copes with the seemingly impossible challenges of high school.
Life in a Jar: The Irena Sandler Project: During World War II, Irena Sandler, a Polish Catholic social worker, rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto, but after the war the communist Polish government suppressed her heroism and she remained unknown until three high school girls discovered her rescues and turned the forgotten history of her good deeds into a play called “Life in a Jar.” Now performed across the globe, their project sustained Sandler’s legacy of tolerance and respect for all people.
In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Amazing Careers: This excellent reference guide explores a myriad of career choices from the women who live them with “Day in the Life” segments, career profiles, and valuable tips to help girls find the right career for them. Inspirational advice from women at every stage of their careers provides a solid foundation for further career research.
Isadora Duncan: The Graphic Biography: This biography reflects Duncan’s complex and passionate life, from her pioneering dance career to her tragic death on the French Riviera, in a unique dance of words and images sure to inspire dancers and artists to follow their hearts.
Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World: This exciting biography examines how Trudy Ederle shattered centuries of stereotypes and opened doors for generations of women to come when she became the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926.
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream: Even though the thirteen women profiled in this book did not make it to space, these pioneers paved the way for a future for women in NASA by proving that they were as tough as the strongest man and even brave enough to challenge the government.
To view additional Mighty Girl school stories, visit our Back to School Special Feature.
This post was written by Rachel Johnston, A Mighty Girl Special Project Intern.