Oh, The Places They’ll Go!
8 Gift Books for Elementary School Graduates

by Tom Burns

Photo credit: Swell Media, UpperCut Images/Getty Images

Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! is probably the most famous graduation gift book in history. For decades parents have been gifting copies at school graduation ceremonies, ranging from kindergarten all the way to college, because it couldn’t be more perfectly suited for the occasion. It’s the gold standard, for sure.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the only great graduation book — there are many other tremendous titles about moving onward and upward that are ideally suited for celebrating your child’s big graduation day, particularly their elementary school graduation. Because, make no mistake, moving from elementary to middle school is a BIG DEAL.

So, if you want to reward your fifth or sixth grade reader with a terrific book for their elementary send-off — and if your relatives have already bought them a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go! — here are eight perfect, age-appropriate gift books to mark the occasion.

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

    by J.K. Rowling

    Is there a more famous book about an 11-year-old getting ready to start (the equivalent of) sixth grade? I think not. Rowling’s first book is all about a kid moving on from elementary school and discovering there’s a big, scary, AMAZING world ahead of him. Yes, Harry’s first year in wizarding middle school is filled with Death Eaters and danger, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful or exciting.

  • Seuss-isms

    by Dr. Seuss

    For the kid who has grown up reading Dr. Seuss, this book is a wise and wonderful trip down memory lane. A collection of illustrations and Seuss snippets pulled from his most beloved titles, Seuss-isms offers life advice on topics like growing up, success, and love. Add a personal touch to this gift book by having family and teachers write in their own special advice for the graduate.

  • Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life

    by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park

    Admit it: The title alone makes this a hysterically funny gift option for your nervous elementary graduate, especially if you want to joke with them a little. But, beyond the torture benefits, your child will love reading about Rafe Khatchadorian’s struggle to “win” his fight against Hills Village Middle School and its sinister Code of Conduct. Reluctant readers will particularly adore this chapter book (the first in a popular series) for its skewed look at post-elementary life.

  • Graduation Mad Libs

    by Roger Price

    Looking for a light-hearted and silly gift for your graduate? Mad Libs are word-filled fun! From commencement speeches to party time, your new graduate will love filling in the blanks and cracking up at the hilarious stories.

  • Last Day Blues

    by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love

    If your elementary school grad is REALLY attached to their teacher, they’ll definitely connect with this sweet, good-humored picture book about a class that’s worried sick over how much their teacher, Mrs. Hartwell, will miss them after they leave for the summer. It’s a fun read acknowledging the emotions that surface at the finish of a school year, and a nice reminder that teachers have lives beyond their classrooms as well.

  • Yay, You! Moving Up and Moving On

    by Sandra Boynton

    A spiritual cousin to Oh, The Places You'll Go!, this goofy, inspirational gem was originally written by Boynton to honor her son’s graduation from high school. However, if you raised your elementary grad on Boynton’s gently absurd board books — like Moo, Baa, La La La! and But Not the Hippopotamus — this book will definitely make them smile as they prepare to face the unpredictable (but probably hippopotamus-free) world of middle school.

  • The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

    by Laura Shovan

    Many of the other books on this list offer optimistic wishes or funny sentiments on the occasion of a school graduation, but this soulful, perceptive wonder takes another approach, instead trying to capture the real emotions, aspirations, and anxieties of a group of fifth graders who just found out their beloved elementary school will be closing after they end their year — making them the school’s LAST-ever fifth grade class. Shovan’s text takes the form of a poetry journal the students keep throughout the school year, and their verses, all composed in distinct voices, speak volumes about each kid’s concerns about moving on to middle school. If your kid has poetry in their soul, this is the graduation book for them.

  • Only One You

    by Linda Kranz

    As a parent, it can be awkward to try to sit a child down and pass along all the knowledge and advice you wish someone had told you at their age. Fortunately, picture books like Only One You act as tremendous conversation starters for such occasions. Kranz accomplishes this by creating a beautiful, folk-art-inspired underwater world where two rockfish parents decide their eager son Adri could use a little inspiration. They offer up the kind of sage wisdom any parent would be proud to pass along on their kid’s elementary school graduation day — or any other day, for that matter.

Do you have any book recommendations for soon-to-be middle schoolers? Let us know in the comments section below!