Start sharpening those pencils. It's that time of year again, when summer days shorten, and kids need to focus on going back to school. Here are five 2011 starred picture books that will help make that transition an easy one for parents, students and teachers alike.

See our complete 2011 back-to-school picture-book roundup.

Substitute Creacher

Chris Gall

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In this cautionary tale that combines humor and a touch of magic, good behavior is the lesson of the day when a particularly naughty class of students has a substitute teacher.… Gall’s illustrations use speech bubbles that drip with green slime and graphic-novel elements…creating artwork that pops of the pages and appears almost three-dimensional.…Great for both Halloween and the start of a new school year, this is certain to provide more than a few laughs to kids who have seen through Viola Swamp’s disguise. (Picture book. 6-10)

ten rules Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the School Bus

John Grandits, illus. by Michael Allen Austin

Gradits’ latest is a hilarious tongue-in-cheek look at the perils of riding the school bus.  Kyle is a little nervous about his first-ever bus ride. Luckily he’s got his older brother James to teach him the rules.…And when Kyle survives the experience, he realizes that maybe he could give his older brother a few pointers.…Austin’s acrylic artwork is amazingly lifelike. He is at his best when he illustrates scenes from Kyle’s vivid imagination, which has a tendency toward metaphor.…Worthy of being shelved next to Jon Scieszka’s funniest. (Picture book. 6-12)

eddie Eddie Gets Ready for School

David Milgrim

That age-old struggle of getting kids off to school in the morning goes to new extremes in this howler from Milgrim. Written entirely in the form of a checklist, this is the morning routine of one overly enthusiastic and fiercely independent boy…As he waves from the bus, his final item is checked off:  “Give myself 3 cheers!  I did it!” Milgrim’s hysterical illustrations tell the bulk of the story…Parents who have been there and kids who are still struggling with independence will find it hard not to root for Eddie. (Picture book. 4-7)

louise Louise the Big Cheese and the Back-to-School Smarty-Pants

Elise Primavera, illus. by Diane Goode

That indomitable diva Louise is back, this time showing kids that hard work is its own reward. Louise’s latest woe is the fact that…Mrs. Pearl never gives A’s…“You can do better, Miss Cheese.” After imagining all sorts of tragedies befalling her tough teacher, Louise is pleased one morning to see a substitute. But [when] Miss Sprinkles does not push Louise to do better…she actually misses Mrs. Pearl. Goode’s watercolor illustrations perfectly capture Louise’s sass and attitude…[P]arents and teachers alike will cheer at Louise’s resolve to do her best…A timely message for readers on both sides of the desk. (Picture book. 5-10)

few blocks A Few Blocks

Cybèle Young

Young’s latest attempts to be many things—a foray into a child’s imagination, a touching tale of siblings and a stage for the author’s elaborate paper sculptures—and it succeeds masterfully in doing all three. Viola must somehow get her reluctant younger brother Ferdie to walk to school…[T]he creative older sister uses the props around her to spin an adventure for Ferdie. His coat and boots suddenly become a cape and rocket blasters as the two set off into a suddenly full-color scene filled with shapes. When the adventure peters out, Viola again draws on her imagination to get him that much closer to school… And when Voiola’s font of ideas runs dry, Ferdie takes over. Young’s paper sculptures are a visual feast…Amazing. (Picture book. 4-8)