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

by Tom Burns

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 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 perfect, age-appropriate gift books to mark the occasion.

  • Unstoppable Us, Volume 1: How Humans Took Over the World

    by Yuval Noah Harari, illustrated by Ricard Zaplana Ruiz

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    Graduating from elementary school is a big step in any child’s life, and this book celebrates the significant milestones in humanity. Kids are naturally curious, and this book will answer many of their questions about where people came from, how society formed, and how technology shaped our world. This fascinating book is a must-have!

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  • Never Grow Up

    by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

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    What if you never had to grow up? People who grow up have to deal with boring, not-so-fun things, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Take Roald Dahl’s advice and “just look at all the very smartest, scientists and famous artists…Ignored the sign that said NO WAY, and went & did it anyway.” Dahl’s message reminds kinds of all ages to remain curious and foster a lifelong commitment to learning.

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  • Catch a Crayfish, Count the Stars

    by Steven Rinella, illustrated by Max Temescu

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    Whether your kid loves the outdoors or you want to encourage them to get outside, this book can help. Renowned outdoorsman Steven Rinella shows young readers many activities they can do in nature, from spearing frogs to building a shelter. It’s the perfect gift for any kid with an adventurous spirit!

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  • Black Boy Joy

    edited by Kwame Mbalia

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    Gift your kid a heavy dose of happiness on their graduation day with this collection of stories about Black boyhood from critically acclaimed authors. The stories range in subject from realistic fiction to science fiction, making it an excellent gift for any reader. The short, upbeat stories make this bestselling book a favorite with young readers everywhere.

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  • Start Now!

    by Chelsea Clinton

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    Kids who want to make a difference in the world will appreciate this informative book from the #1 New York Times bestselling author, Chelsea Clinton. From helping endangered animals to dealing with bullies, this book answers kids’ questions about growing up and finding their purpose.

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  • Seuss-isms!

    by Dr. Seuss

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    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.

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  • Patchwork

    by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Corinna Luyken

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    Beloved author Matt de la Peña inspires young readers in this story told in verse, showcasing the diverse and intricate nature of children. Highlighting who they are today has the potential to shape their future in powerful ways.

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  • The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

    by Laura Shovan

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    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.

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  • Honest June

    by Tina Wells, illustrated by Brittney Bond

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    In this precious story, June is starting Middle School and aims to be the perfect student and friend. So much so, her fairy godmother decides to cast a spell for her to only tell the truth! In hopes that she will learn to go by her own will and not only please those around her. The pressure starts to build for June as figures out how to attend to her new responsibilities and also tend to herself.

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  • Graduation Mad Libs

    by Roger Price

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    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.

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  • Last Day Blues

    by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love

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    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.

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  • Rad Girls Can

    by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

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    Commemorate their most recent of many more accomplishments with Rad Girls Can, a compendium of fifty stories about girls and young women who made a remarkable difference in the world by the time they turned twenty. Featuring familiar names like Anne Frank and Misty Copeland paired with names we should all learn — like Trisha Prabhu, who invented an anti-cyberbullying app — this collection inspires both big ideas and everyday heroics.

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  • Merci Suárez Changes Gears

    by Meg Medina

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    Merci is starting the sixth grade, and although she is confident and determined, she begins to face numerous challenges when she realizes how different she is from other students at her private school. Follow along as she navigates the complexities of friendships, family, and societal pressures. Also available in Spanish Merci Suárez se pone las pilas.

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  • My Book About Me by ME Myself

    by Dr. Seuss, illustrated by Roy McKie

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    Moving from elementary school to middle school is a big deal! Why not create a book that perfectly captures this moment in time? With My Book About Me by ME Myself, kids will love filling in their own answers to all of the silly prompts from Dr. Seuss, and parents will love having a record of their child at this very fun age!

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  • The Golden Compass Graphic Novel, Complete Edition

    by Philip Pullman

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    There are few literary worlds as fascinating as those that Philip Pullman created in his Golden Compass trilogy, and now young readers can fully immerse themselves in Lyra’s epic journey through the full-color graphic novel adaptation that contains all three volumes in one. Visually stunning and accessible without losing any of Pullman’s masterful storytelling, this book sets an appropriately adventurous tone for young readers looking to the next step of their journeys.

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  • Flights of Fancy

    by Various

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    Now’s the perfect time to fan the flames of your child’s creativity, and who better to encourage young writers and artists than some of the most legendary authors and illustrators in today’s children’s literature scene? In this exciting anthology, readers learn tips from the likes of Quentin Blake (the illustrator of Roald Dahl’s books), Lauren Child (of Charlie and Lola fame), and more. Show your graduate just how much you admire their creative spirit!

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  • Positively Pooh: Timeless Wisdom from Pooh

    by A. A. Milne

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    For fans of the infinitely lovable Pooh Bear (which is to say, all of us), give them the gift of the timeless wisdom gathered in Positively Pooh. Titles like “For When You’re in a Tight Spot” and “For Those Bothersome Days” evoke the classic, unflappable mindset we all know and love, and the original quotes and whimsical illustrations come together with the comfort of a hot cup of tea — or a warm jar of honey, whichever you prefer.

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  • Calling All Minds

    by Temple Grandin

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    In Calling All Minds, world-famous inventor and autism advocate Temple Grandin invites young readers to approach the world with a curious mind, a perpetual sense of wonder, and a willingness to fail — and then try again, with an extra oomph of imagination. With twenty-five project ideas, fascinating stories from Grandin’s life, and scientific facts they won’t believe, this book is a cleverly disguised guide to living that will steer new grads toward a path of success.

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  • Puffin Hardcover Classics Box Set

    by Various

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    A glorious box set fit for the most auspicious of occasions, this Puffin Hardcover Classics collection is an elegant token for the sophisticated reader (I use that adjective lightly). Including six childhood favorites — A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Secret Garden, The Wind in the Willows, and Peter Pan — the neatly bound spines evoke those hallowed halls of middle school that await after another long, book-filled summer.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2024.