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70 Years of Books that Celebrate the Back-to-School Season

The first day of school has long been a common topic of children’s books. A lot has changed in schools in 70 years, but the jitters, friendships, excitement, and concerns about new classes, new schools, or being a student for the very first time are largely the same.

In between soaking up the last days of summer and shopping for fresh folders and markers, check out these compelling back-to-school picture book titles from the last seven decades.


“Crow Boy”

by Taro Yashima

Chibi is scared and shy on the first day of school, and the other children think he’s strange. As the years pass, he remains an outcast among his classmates. In his sixth year of school, a teacher recognizes his uniqueness and strengths, and Chibi finds the courage to imitate the voices of crows at the school talent show.

His classmates are impressed at his skill, especially when they realize Chibi learned to do this on his extremely long daily walks to and from school. The other students affectionately give him the nickname Crow Boy, portraying a message of acceptance. The smudgy illustrations depict emotive characters and the striking Japanese countryside.

For further reading about acceptance and being different, check out “Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon” by Patty Lovell and “Yoko” by Rosemary Wells.


“Will I Have a Friend?”

by Miriam Cohen, Illustrated by Lillian Hoban

Pa is walking Jim to school. Although it’s Jim’s very first day, he has just one question for Pa: “Will I have a friend?” Pa assures Jim he will make friends at school. But as he plays with clay, eats a snack, listens to a story, and lies down on his mat to rest in the happy chaos of his new classroom, Jim keeps wondering who will be his friend.

After rest time, Paul shows Jim his toy car, and a friendship is born – a comforting message for any child concerned about making new friends. Lillian Hoban’s illustrations are charming and warmly hued, capturing Jim’s hesitation and fears as well as his quiet excitement.

For further reading about making friends at school, check out “The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig and “The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi.


“Miss Nelson is Missing!”

by Harry Allard, Illustrated by James Marshall

Though not about the first day of school, this book is a kid-pleasing back-to-school classic. Miss Nelson’s class simply will not behave. They begin to regret their spitballs and paper airplanes, however, when Miss Nelson is mysteriously absent for several days, and the mean substitute teacher, Miss Viola Swamp, attempts to set them straight.

The students are so happy when their beloved Miss Nelson finally returns that they behave better than ever. The kids in Room 207 never find out what happened to Miss Nelson, but readers might get a clue. Humorous ink and wash illustrations add to the book’s appeal.

For further reading about memorable teachers, check out “The Day the Teacher Went Bananas” by James Howe and “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate.


“Timothy Goes to School”

by Rosemary Wells

Timothy can’t manage to wear the right thing to school. Not the first day, not the second day, and not even on the third day.

Unfortunately, Claude, who sits next to him, always has to point it out and tease him about it. What’s worse is that Claude never falls down, makes a mistake, or gets stuck eating alone in the lunchroom. Claude seems to have all the friends while Timothy has none.

But then Timothy finds that he and his classmate Violet share a similar struggle. The relatable characters, a mix of pets and woodland creatures, are portrayed with watercolor, pen, and ink, gouache, pastels, and rubber stamps in charming home and school scenes.

For further reading about being teased at school, check out “Hooway for Wodney Wat” by Helen Lester and “Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Henkes.


“The Kissing Hand”

by Audrey Penn, Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak

Chester Raccoon does not want to go to school. Mrs. Raccoon tells him about all the playing, reading, and swinging he will do at school. But it’s the wonderful secret she shares with Chester that helps wipe some of his fears away.

Mrs. Raccoon places a kiss on her son’s palm and teaches him to press it to his face whenever he needs to feel love from home. Chester’s Kissing Hand instills him with the bravery he needs to head to school, but not before leaving his mother with a Kissing Hand of her own.

The book is reassuring in tone, and appealing woodland scenes that darken from day to night as the story progresses depict a loving mother-son relationship.

For further reading about separation, check out “In My Heart” by Molly Bang and “Owl Babies” by Martin Waddell.


“Wow! School!”

By Robert Neubecker

It’s Izzy’s first day of school, and she couldn’t be more excited! Everything she sees inspires a “Wow!”, from “Wow! Classroom!” to “Wow! Numbers!” to “Wow! Friends!” The text is brief but powerful, and even children too young to read will easily be able to chime in on the repetitive phrases.

Each spread contains bright and bold illustrations jam-packed with chaotic detail that show various aspects of the early childhood classroom. The different perspectives and orientations in the illustrations add to the energetic feel.

For further reading about first day excitement, check out “Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes” by Eric Litwin and “Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten!” by Hyewon Yum.


“School’s First Day of School”

by Adam Rex, Illustrated by Christian Robinson

School has just been built. He’s worried about his first day, especially when Janitor tells him he will soon be filled with children. Some of the children are bored, and one frightened, freckled girl has to be carried inside by her mom. School’s heart sinks. He must be an awful place.

But when the girl with freckles makes a glittery picture of School, he is proud and hopes the kids will come back the next day. By the end of his first day, School feels like a pretty lucky building. Kids will love the quirky perspective of the story. The familiar school day scenes are engaging with their cheerful acrylic and collage elements.

For further reading about being nervous about school, check out “Wemberly Worried” by Kevin Henkes and “Chu’s First Day of School” by Neil Gaiman.

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Just because new moms aren't hitting the gym doesn't mean they aren't doing one of the most demanding workouts of all: It takes about 20 calories to produce one ounce of milk. So, with babies who down ounces upon ounces each day, that means breastfeeding mothers can easily burn hundreds of calories almost literally in their sleep.

All that hard work can result in quite an appetite, which can have new moms reaching for whatever is most convenient. But convenience doesn't have to come at the cost of good nutrition, taste and lactation-boosting powers—as proven by the delicious Booby Boons Lactation Cookies from Stork and Dove.

"Nourishing your body is just as important now as it was when you were pregnant. Not only are you recovering from pregnancy and birth, you are making milk to sustain your baby—and all the thousands of other things you do for them every single day," says Diana Spalding, Motherly's Birth Expert, midwife and pediatric nurse. "You are working so hard, mama. You deserve to fuel your body with the best—and it doesn't hurt when the best also happens to be delicious."

Here's why these little cookies are such lactation powerhouses:


The natural goodness of oats does so much more than make for tasty cookies. Considered to be a top galactagogue—or a substance that helps boost milk supply—oats are rich in iron, fiber and protein. Because low iron can reduce milk supply, mixing a scoop of oats into lactation cookies is a tasty way to give your body the boost it may need.

Nutritional yeast

For generations, nutritional yeast has been a remedy suggests to mamas looking to boost their milk supply. And for good reason: With protein, phytoestrogen and B12 found in fortified versions, nutritional yeast can provide nutrients to stimulate milk supply—while also offering a boost of energy.

Flax meal

Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed is good for the brain health of mothers and babies. Not to mention that with a nice nutty taste and great protein profile, they make nice additions to lactation cookies by helping you stay full longer.

Chia seeds

When it comes to lactation cookies and promoting brain development, varied sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are so helpful—and chia seeds deliver there. Found in some of the Booby Boons Lactation Cookies, chia seeds also deliver protein, calcium and magnesium.


Few things can take a toll on milk supply like when you're under the weather. Booby Boons+ Lactation Cookies provide a probiotic boost, keeping your immune system up and digestive health in check for better production—and a healthier-feeling mama.

Bonus: A sense of relaxation and ease is clinically proven to aid in milk production.

Even better, the cookies are wheat-, soy- and preservative-free! So grab a cookie, take a moment for yourself and boost that supply. Grab your cookies HERE or at Target and other fine retailers.

This article was sponsored by Stork and Dove. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.

During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.

They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

After feeling alone and suffering silently for years, Gabrielle Union has been very open about her struggle with infertility since her memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine, came out last year. She surprised many by writing about how she'd suffered "8 or 9 miscarriages" while trying to conceive with husband Dwyane Wade, and just over a year later the couple surprised the world again by announcing they'd just welcomed a baby girl via surrogate.

Union's story is incredible, and one so many women needed to hear, and that's why Oprah's OWN network just aired a sit-down interview special with Union and Wade: Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby.

(The audio version of the interview drops in two parts on 'Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations' podcast on Monday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 12.)

The interview, which first aired over the weekend, saw Union open up about how the years of IVF treatments and disappointment left her questioning everything she knew. "I've just always been of the mindset — because this is what people tell you: 'You work hard, you do the right things, you're a good person, it will happen for you,' eventually," Union, 46, told Oprah.

"I could not let go of this idea of creating this life within me," Union explains, adding that she felt the "need to be pregnant for everybody, including myself."

As the medical interventions escalated, Wade became worried. "I'm watching her do things to her body and to herself that it's getting to the point where it's not healthy," he told Oprah, adding that he always told Union that he wanted a baby as much as she did, but that he married her and that she was the most important thing to him.

"So it came to a point where, you know, I started to feel a certain way about that because I didn't want something to happen to her," Wade told Oprah.

So when the couple decided to explore surrogacy, Wade was pleased to see the medical part of his wife's journey come to an end.

When the couple surprised the world by announcing the birth of their daughter, Kaavia James, Union was puzzled by comments that insinuated the skin-to-skin photo she used in the birth announcement was an attempt to "act like" she'd been pregnant herself, or that she really had been pregnant herself.

She notes she never tried to make it seem like she'd been pregnant, as she explained her daughter was born via surrogate in the caption for that photo, which was taken after the surrogate had a C-section.

"Our surrogate went into recovery, and we were able to go immediately into another hospital room," Union told Oprah. "I had one of my New York & Company sweaters on, but skin-to-skin was kind of hard. And because the doctors kept coming in…it was easier to have skin to skin in a hospital gown."

Wade said he found the comments painful. "I think for me the most hurtful thing was once we had the baby, and everyone started talking about why is she in the bed holding the baby, why does she have a gown on, why is she acting that she just had a baby," Wade said.

Union and Wade say they hope talking about their story will help others tell theirs, and know that they are not alone. "So many people are suffering in silence and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah.

She may have felt alone during her journey to motherhood, but by telling her story, Union is making sure other mamas don't.

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