Lots of parents are interested in looking at laptop/notebook computers for their chidren, and I do have my opinions but will defer to another source instead of making things up from scratch. Look at How To Choose The Best Student Laptop? By Titus Hoskins and then go look at bizwaremagic.com's comparison of 6 top brands and models.
Another thing you might consider is the new array of subnotebooks, offshoots of the "100 Dollar Laptop" development. I'm particularly intrigued by the Asus EEE PC. See a detailed comparison of currently available ones at ITReviews from Merry Olde England.
My general advice for parents is to purchase a notebook with the fastest processor, the most RAM, and the devices you know you will need. DVD player? Integrated webcam? These are decisions each family needs to make for themselves. With a student laptop, I believe weight is also an important factor. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we'll be moving to completely digital textbooks any time in the near future: The textbook lobby is too powerful. 1 or 2 pounds saved in the backpack can help the already overloaded child.
Best of luck in your shopping!