7 “Stepping Up” Books for the Young Grads in Your Life | Milestones

ABCs. 123s. The first year of school has come to an end, and it’s graduation time. These seven titles are the perfect picks for celebrating this monumental milestone.

ABCs. 123s. The first year of school has come to an end, and it’s graduation time. These seven titles are the perfect picks for celebrating this monumental milestone.

That’s Life! by Ame Dyckman. illus. by Cori Doerrfeld. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316485487.
K-Gr 3–A cute and fluffy gray creature, Life, guides a child through the unexpected and wonderful experiences that life has to offer. There are many important messages shared: life is weird; life goes on; life knocks you down, but if you shake it off, life can be sweet again. The illustrations of Life and the child are vibrant and adorable. This title could be shared as a read-aloud featuring other inspirational message books like Peter H. Reynolds’s Say Something. Sure to be a choice for graduation gifts, this sweet story offers an alternative to Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go.

Sábado/Saturday by Jorge Garza. illus. by Jorge Garza. Lil’ Libros. ISBN 9781948066105. BL.
PrS-Gr 2–A family prepares for their daughter’s graduation in this practically wordless picture book. On Sunday, they go to the seamstress. On Monday, they order the cake. On Tuesday, they order the flowers. Each day counts down to a very special celebration on Saturday. The story is told mostly through images of the errands taking place on the assigned day that will eventually lead to the party scheduled at the end of the week. Garza was inspired by Aztec (Mexican) art, specifically the codices. The trim size is smaller than most picture books, making it ideal for gift-giving, especially during the graduation season. While most of the days get only one spread, Saturday takes up five spreads, highlighting the importance of the accomplishment and the family’s pride and joy. A lovely work inspired by Aztec art and perfect for gift giving or back-to-school read-alouds. 

Graduation Groove by Kathryn Heling & Deborah Hembrook. illus. by Addy Rivera Sonda. Little Bee. ISBN 9781499810653.
PreS-Gr 1–In this celebration of the transition from kindergarten to first grade, snappy, rhythmic text follows a group of kindergartners who are diverse in race and ability as they express their exuberance and readiness to move on to the next grade. The illustrations show the students preparing for a graduation ceremony, complete with blue caps and gowns. The tone is ebullient, at least until one of the children crosses the stage, experiencing a moment of nervousness and reluctance about moving on. The vignettes, often in the form of scrapbook pictures depicting the highlights of the year, are merged with swirls of dots, stars, and musical notes. A great addition to the topic of entering first grade, even more so because it features students and teachers of many races, ethnicities, and abilities, in an engaging and joyous school environment.


Zen Happiness by Jon J Muth. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338346022.
PreS-Gr 2–This tiny book is filled with suggestions for young readers to achieve happiness and make the world a better place. Throughout, Muth's favorite panda, Stillwater, engages in activities with children, such as drawing, dancing, and playing. His friendly and playful demeanor and warm smile add a comforting touch to the artwork. The perspective changes throughout the narrative, which gives the artwork a realistic, camera-panning effect. Each scene depicts the characters immersing themselves in and enjoying the wonders of the natural world. Readers will be drawn to the text, which magnifies the meaning of the images on each page. Though simple, this title holds powerful messages. A book that encourages mindfulness, self-love, and self-awareness. This would also make for a lovely graduation gift in the vein of Dr. Seuss's Oh the Places You'll Go

Graduation Day! by Candice Ransom. illus. by Ashley Evans. Random. ISBN 9780593643655.
PreS-K –A young brown boy is getting ready for his last day of school. He still does not know how to tie his shoes, but he knows how to clean up his cubby and collect his art from the wall. Graduation day is most exciting, especially when thinking about starting first grade. This charming, easy-to-read story has one to four lines of text per spread, set in a big black font for children ready to engage in independent reading. The rhyming narrative has few vocabulary words and is accompanied by picture clues that connect the main character to his happy family, classmates, and home and classroom environments. This story features a diverse classroom with a Muslim teacher and children of different ethnicities; this detail may connect with children during story time in the library or at home. Kids who are beginning to read will feel the excitement of a new school adventure with this delightful easy reader.

Dear Black Child by Rahma Rodaah. illus. by Lydia Mba. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780063091979.
K-Gr 2–Black children (and the occasional adult) with various skin tones, hairstyles, abilities, and body types populate this upbeat and inspiring missive. The language is poetic and metaphorical, and the illustrations uplifting. There are classroom and library scenes, as well as outdoor settings, and a final spread shows the cast of characters in royal blue graduation caps and gowns, diplomas in hand. Below the final line, “This is just the beginning,” four children seem to be dancing and high-fiving in the grass, their shadows stretching long before them in the sunset. A triumphant mirror book for Black children everywhere, providing encouragement, validation, and joy.

Celebrations by Brook Sitgraves Turner. Little Feminist Pr. ISBN 9781734182484.
PreS–This book features celebrations of all kinds for small children, including Adoption Day, Lei Day, Ramadan, Passover, Preschool Graduation, Diwali, and more. Each celebration is presented in an age-appropriate way, with a single photo featuring a child or children, and sometimes an adult, with one to four words underneath. For example, Day of the Dead shows a small child and an adult holding a framed photo; the words at the bottom of the page say, “and remember.” All the photos lend themselves to discussion between children and adults. The discussion questions are broken down for babies and toddlers. This well-organized, beautifully photographed title is highly recommended as a way to introduce small children to diverse celebrations. It is also an excellent tool to spark discussion in families.


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