10 books to combat back-to-school worries

10 books to combat back-to-school worries


Returning to school after the holidays can be an intimidating prospect for children of all ages. The classroom routine is a big adjustment after time away, and the start of a new term can bring all sorts of worry-inducing changes, from new classmates and seating arrangements to increasingly difficult classwork. Some students might even be starting at an entirely new and unfamiliar school.

Stories can be a great way to open up a discussion about this period of transition with your child or student, creating a space where they can talk through their concerns and find reassurance. So we’ve pulled together a list of our top recommendations that we hope will help to alleviate back-to-school anxiety for young people across all year-groups.


All our books have a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paperstock so that even more readers can enjoy them. And you can read a chapter sample by following the link for each book.


Sidney Makes a Wish by Lisa Thomson, illustrated by Jess Rose

If Sidney can just wish for exactly the right thing from the wishing well, surely Billy will want to be friends with him again? But as Sidney makes his wishes, what he doesn’t realise is that the friend he’s longing for has been beside him the whole time …

Perfectly capturing playground dynamics for this age range, Sidney’s story gently addresses worries around changing friendships at school.


FOR AGES 5+ / Follow Sidney and Carrie’s story in Carrie and the Roller Boots


Dimple and the Boo

Dimple and the Boo by Pip Jones, illustrated by Paula Bowles

Dimple the Gnome is having a very bad day and he just can’t find the right words to tell anyone how he’s feeling – until he finds the Boo. But the Boo’s rude words and naughty noises just get Dimple into trouble. Can Dimple find another way to express himself?

A funny and gentle look at dealing with change and learning to express the difficult feelings that come with it. 



The Broken Dragon

The Broken Dragon by Karen McCombie, illustrated by Anneli Bray

Tyra gets off to a tough start at her new school: she’s loud and different and nobody seems to be particularly friendly. She decides to bring her china dragon to class, hoping that people will think it’s interesting and talk to her, but disaster strikes and the beautiful dragon is smashed. Can she repair her treasure and make some new friends along the way?

A heartwarming story about starting at a new school, making friends and fitting in.




Crow by Nicola Skinner, illustrated by Rebecca Bagley

When lonely Hattie feels out of place at her new school, she creates a scarecrow to guard the den she finds in the playground – the only place she feels happy and comfortable. Poor Crow wants to have fun with the other children, but he takes his job for Hattie very seriously, and his behaviour gets scarier and scarier. Will Hattie realise that Crow is ruining her chance to make new friends before it’s too late?

A fantastical, unique take on the anxieties around starting at a new school, perfect for sparking discussion about big changes and forming friendships.



Hetty and the Battle of the Books

Hetty and the Battle of the Books by Anna James, illustrated by Jez Tuya

The library is Hetty’s favourite place in school, and since falling out with her best friends, she’s been spending even more time there. So she’s horrified when she learns that the library is going to be closed due to funding cuts. Can she repair her broken friendships and build support for her library campaign? Let the Battle of the Books commence!

A joyful love letter to books and libraries that addresses the difficult move from primary to secondary school with lots of heart and positivity.



Finding Her Feet

Finding Her Feet by Eve Ainsworth, illustrated by Luna Valentine

Shy and anxious, Lily finds school really hard, particularly as most of the other girls seem so confident. But during a game of football in PE, Lily’s teacher spots her natural talent and invites her to join the local girls’ team, where she starts to make friends. Finally, she thinks she’s found a place where she fits in, but will a vicious argument with one of her teammates put all her progress in jeopardy?

A gentle and relatable look at managing anxiety at school, set against the positive impact of women’s football.



The Small Things

The Small Things by Lisa Thompson, illustrated by Hannah Coulson

Anna’s anxious when she’s picked to befriend the new girl in her class. For a start, Ellie is ill and can’t come to school herself, so Anna has to communicate with her through a special robot. But Anna is worried that her life is too small and boring to be of interest, so when Ellie asks her a question, a little white lie pops out. Then another, and another. When Ellie finds out the truth, can their friendship survive?

A poignant story about growing up, new friends and learning to appreciate the small things in life. Inspired by real-life initiative No Isolation, which enables children with long-term illnesses to attend school through the use of telepresence robots. 



The Piano at the Station

The Piano at the Station by Helen Rutter, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

Lacey’s smart tongue and quick temper are constantly getting her confined to isolation at school. But there’s a lot more to her that people never see, and when Lacey gets sent to lunch-time music lesson lessons to keep her out of trouble, she discovers a love and talent for the piano that opens up a whole new world for her. Then her music teacher has to leave. Will she go back to her self-destructive ways, or will music offer her a way to save her from herself?

A sensitive look at the difference support can make for children both at home and at school, told with perfectly balanced humour.  



The Climbers

The Climbers by Keith Gray

Sully’s the best climber in the village. But when new kid Nottingham shows up, Sully’s status is under threat and there’s only one way to prove who’s best: they must race to climb the last unnamed tree. Whoever makes it to the top will become a legend. But something spiteful and ugly has reared its head in Sully … Is it worth losing everything just to reach the top?

Perfect for younger teens, Keith Gray’s acclaimed story about small town life subtly captures themes of belonging, growth and the inevitability of change.



The Mystery of Me

The Mystery of Me by Karen McCombie

Ketty doesn’t remember anything about the accident, or much from before. The doctors say her memories will come back, but in the meantime school is a frightening and confusing place. Otis seems to be her only friend – he’s kind and caring, funny too. And he may hold the key to remembering the old Ketty … But will Ketty recognise or even like the girl she used to be?

Karen McCombie explores identity, friendship and first starts in this touching school-based tale.


More books we recommend …

Mr Men and Little Miss Discover You: Worries

Mr. Men and Little Miss Discover You – Worries  (Farshore)

A sensitive and engaging Mr Men Little Miss story about worries, big and small, and how to manage them – perfect for helping children transition to their new year at school.

FOR AGES 3+ / Find out more about the ‘Mr Men Little Miss Discover You’ series