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Books to ease the first-day jitters

As the start of preschool approaches, characters in picture books help kids cope with their separation anxiety and learn about friendships.

"Llama Llama Misses Mama" (Viking Juvenile, 2009) written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney. It's Llama Llama's first day of preschool, but when it's time for Mama Llama to leave, Llama Llama is distraught. Mama Llama reassures Llama Llama she will come back.

"The Kissing Hand" (Tanglewood Press, 2006) by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak. Chester Raccoon doesn't want to go to school. His raccoon mother shares a special family secret: the Kissing Hand. She spreads her son's little fingers into a fan and kisses his palm. Then, "Chester felt his mother's kiss rush from his hand" and into his heart. Whenever he feels lonely at school, all he has to do is press his hand to his cheek to feel his mommy's love.

"I Love You All Day Long" (HarperCollins, 2002) by Francesca Rusackas and illustrated by Priscilla Burris. When Owen the pig frets about starting preschool, making it for one whole day without his mother, she reassures him that her love goes wherever he goes. The mommy pig imagines him at various points of his day, from making friends to banging cymbals to making messes.

"Wemberly Worried" (Greenwillow Books, 2000), written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. Wemberly, a shy white mouse with gray spots, worries. As her first day of nursery school draws near, she's even worrying about the playground equipment. And: "What if no one else has spots? What if the teacher is mean?" Luckily, her teacher introduces her to a friend on the first day. As Wemberly plays with her new friend, she still worries, but maybe just a little less.

"I Am Too Absolutely Small for School" (Candlewick, 2004) A "Charlie and Lola" book written and illustrated by Lauren Child. Charlie's little sister Lola has decided that while her parents think she is "nearly almost big enough to go to school," she is "absolutely not big." As her brother tries to coax her into starting school, she has lots of excuses. Charlie eventually comes up with a reason Lola cannot deny - her imaginary friend is starting school and will be lonely without Lola.

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