• Picturebook Snob

How to be a brave grown-up

Don't go to School by Máire Zepf and Tarsila Krüse, Futa Fata

What's it about?

It's Benno the bear's first day at school and he can't wait! Unfortunately, Mama Bear is not as excited as Benno. She wishes he could stay at home with her and pleads with Benno not to leave. When they arrive at school, Benno, his mother, the other young animals and their grown-ups all get a tour. When it's time for the adults to leave, Benno's mother is distraught and wants to stay with Benno. Luckily, Benno is kind and patient with Mummy whenever she gets upset. He comes up with a clever way for him and Mummy to feel close, even when they aren't together. Originally published 'as Gaeilge' (in the Irish language) as Ná Gabh ar Scoil, this is the English translation.

What can we learn?

This wonderful story explores apprehension about starting school, to which most children will relate, but instead of the new student being anxious, it's their parent. The role reversal is reassuring as well as extremely amusing. In addition to gently introducing little readers to what a typical day in a classroom entails, this story shows that it's natural to be afraid of new experiences. We see that even adults get scared sometimes, that there's nothing wrong with this, and that we can all find ways to help us cope with and manage our fears.


What makes it stand out? Don't go to School is a fresh take on a familiar subject, with lots of humour and tender moments. This story is uplifting and comforting, and the illustrations are fabulous.

About those illustrations...

It's no secret that we are huge admirers of Tarsila Krüse, who designed our gorgeous logos. Tarsila's work is always incredibly cheerful with endearing characters and this, her first ever children's book, is no exception. There are so many adorable details, like Benno's cute little outfit. I love the pawprint-shaped window on the door of their home and the pawprint on his bed too. The characters are brilliantly brought to life. Benno's mother is fantastic and her facial expressions are hilarious. It's so funny to see her getting stuck in at school and sitting in (and breaking) a tiny chair. There's lots happening in the background of each scene, especially at school. My kids love discussing what the young animals are doing and spotting the variety of delectable treats in the backgrounds on the way to and from school. I was delighted to see a babywearing mother pulling off an impressive back carry in a pawprint sling in the playground!


Why we love it...

I love practical this story is. It's brilliant how it helps to prepare children for school, and Benno's technique for calming Mummy is excellent. We love its highly original and light-hearted approach, and of course, the beautiful illustrations I've already mentioned.

Why you need it...

Don't go to School is a fantastic way for children to explore feelings of separation anxiety. Although this is ideal if anyone in your home has reservations about going to school, it's also an entertaining, warm and affectionate story which can be enjoyed in any circumstances.


About the author: Máire Zepf was the first Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland, based at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at QUB (2017-19). The Co. Down author has written 11 books for children, from picture books to a young adult novel told in verse. Máire has won two Children’s Book Awards from the Literacy Association of Ireland (2017 & 2019), an IBBY Honour Award (2018) and two Oireachtas Awards for Fiction (2016 & 2018). Working in both Irish and English, Máire's books have been translated into several languages worldwide. A keen workshop-creator, collaborator and co-conspirator across numerous genres and artforms, Máire is on a sworn mission to inspire children to write their own stories.

About the illustrator:

Tarsila Krüse is an award-winning and self-taught artist who was born in Brazil but is Irish at heart. Tarsila loves languages, books and stationery, and carries a sketchbook with her everywhere she goes. She lives in a house with a bright yellow door in the fair city of Dublin with her husband, their son and two happy dogs, Pixel and Tag. Her experience as a primary school teacher comes in handy when Tarsila visits libraries & schools and facilitates workshops at various events. Tarsila is a true children's book champion and reviews new titles for Inis Magazine. Tarsila also designed our amazing logos and you can read more about her work on this project as our fairy blogmother here.


Don't go to School was published by Futa Fata in 2015 and is also available in the Irish language as Ná Gabh ar Scoil - see this book on the publisher's website

Read our review of 100 Days of Dogs by Tarsila Krüse


Read our review of My Little Album of Dublin by Juliette Saumande and Tarsila Krüse


Read our review of Percy Péacóg by Gemma Breathnach and Tarsila Krüse

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