Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World


Thank goodness for publishers like Owlkids Books! With their help, people the world over can keep their priorities straight and put value on the things that are most important in life. Like education…and the ease and abundance with which it is offered to us.

Case in point: Author Susan Hughes’s wonderful new picture book, Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World. Within its pages, readers learn about some of the most inconvenient, unconventional, and absolutely wonderful schools in the world.

From the very first page, Off to Class bombards picture book lovers with moving, full-color photographs that drag readers up mountains (village school in Nepal mountains), through rainforests (remote village school in the Brazillian rainforest), along rivers (boat schools), on train platforms (train station schools of India), and deep inside the very bowels of bat-riddled caves (Dongzhong cave in southwest China) to see how these resilient children from other lands do their learning. The book also tells about tent schools, schools with “edible” schoolyards, portable bamboo schools that follow migrant workers from location to location, and schools that rise up out of the neighborhood dumpsite!

This wonderful book is like a window of the world; it pushes curtains aside and allows us to peek inside unusual classrooms that, until now, we never even knew existed. And Hughes helps our imaginations along by including so many photographs of students, homes and buildings taken from so many angles, we feel we’re right in the thick of things, experiencing these children’s excitement at finally being able to learn.

Although the subject matter is important for learners of all ages, the book’s text is a bit complex for the K-3 crowd; however, upper-elementary students should have no problem following along. In fact, Hughes uncovers so many oddities and surprises, students and teachers will be “oooh-ing and ahhh-ing” long after they finish the last page.

This book is a must-have for the school or public library, the classroom social studies corner, the humanitarian’s library, and the picture book lover’s home library. There’s a neat world map in the back that gives the reader an “at-a-glance” view of these unusual schools around the world, and a detailed resource guide that shows students and teachers how to help more of these children go off to class, if they so desire.

Whatever you do, don’t miss this one. I usually pass on the wonderful books I receive from publishers, but…not this time. This one’s a keeper…and it gets 5 Stars!

Best wishes and happy schooling,

Rita Lorraine