First Day Critter Jitters

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
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Hilarious, fun book to soothe first-day-of-school nerves.

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Educational Value

Shows school setting wth details like taking a backpack to hold your books, bringing your lunch, riding the school bus, etc. 

Positive Messages

Being nervous about the first day of school is completely normal! Be kind to others and yourself. Include others, even when they are different from you. Do your best to help people succeed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A variety of animals -- some small, some large, some predators, some prey, some slow, some fast, some tired, some super energetic -- each with their own challenges and unique strengths, face the first day of school together. They model collaboration and support as they make new friends and help one another have a successful first day.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that bestselling author Jory John has turned his witty eye to the first day of school in First Day Critter Jitters, with pictures by acclaimed illustrator Liz Climo. Sloth, Snake, Mouse, Bunny, and other critter friends are all nervous about the first day of school: Sloth worries about being slow, mouse frets about being the smallest, Bear would rather just hibernate through it all. Young readers will see that kindness, working together, and including others help the animals have a successful day. A variety of critters stand in for human differences (prey/predator, fast/slow, shy/social, etc.), and they model using unique skills and abilities to support one another. This is a perfect pick for young kids as they head back to school.

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What's the story?

FIRST DAY CRITTER JITTERS opens with young animals sharing their worries about school. Parrot is afraid the tendency to repeat what others say will annoy new friends, Mole can't imagine being able to see the chalkboard, and Snake can't figure out how to carry a backpack. After a jittery ride on the school bus, a surprise awaits them in their classroom: a nervous armadillo teacher who rolls into class and takes a while to unfurl. In their rush to comfort their teacher, they discover that together, they can have a great first day of school after all.

Is it any good?

This funny, charming picture book capitalizes on each animal's hallmark attribute to reveal worries most young kids share about the first day of school. Kids will giggle and see themselves in the story as Sloth worries about being late to school ("I probably should have left yesterday"), Kangaroo longs for another year in mama's pouch, and Bunny fears that the need to hop, hop, hop will get them in trouble. The twist of the nervous teacher is a reassuring bonus, and the ending is as rewarding as it gets. With John's typical lively dialogue and Climo's expressive yet uncluttered illustrations, this book is especially great as a read-aloud. Perfect for families and classrooms, this is a standout in the back-to-school genre.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the first-day-of-school anxiety the animals feel in First Day Critter Jitters. How do you feel about the first day of school? How do you deal with feelings of nervousness or fear? Who can help you?

  • What words would you use to describe this book? Why did you choose those words?

  • What lessons can you learn from this book? How might you apply these lessons to your life?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love back-to-school books and funny stories

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