by Dan Gemeinhart Year Published: 2019
My last book pick of the year is my favorite book I’ve read this school year, and I’ve read a lot of good ones! The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is one of the most fun, interesting, heartbreaking, and soulful books I’ve read for middle grade (I would say 4th grade and up) students. It follows Coyote and Rodeo, a father and daughter who have lived for the past few years in a converted school bus and drive around the country. When Coyote discovers she needs to get back to California to retrieve a treasure of hers, she works to convince her father to get back to where this whole journey started. A cast of fantastic characters, a beautifully written narrative, and a profound (but gentle) story about the nature of grief, this is a book that is going to stay with me for years. Also, surprise! It’s a Battle book for next year! Find it at your local library or bookstore and enjoy this phenomenal book!
by Gordon Korman Year Published: 2017
What if you had a chance to start your life all over? What if you woke up one day with no memory of who you used to be? Would you fall back into your old habits and personality? Or would you be someone different? In the middle grade novel Restart by Gordon Korman, all of these questions are addressed. Chase wakes up in a hospital after falling off of a roof and does not remember anything about his life. The story takes several surprising (but realistic) turns from there. This is probably my favorite Gordon Korman novel since Swindle. It is a great story of how you can change things about you, how perceptions change, and what it truly means to get a second chance. A Battle of the Books selection and a Rebecca Caudill 2020 nominee, Restart is fantastic for all of those tweens who are gearing up or living the middle school life. Check it out today!
by Veera Hiranandani Year Published: 2018
This week’s book pick is a historical fiction novel set in the time of the partition of India in 1947. Told in journal form, Nisha comes from a family that is torn between their mother and father’s side. A story of survival, it portrays the migration of refugees during this time of upheaval. It is a fantastic book for fourth grade and up and is a Rebecca Caudill nominee for next year! Please check it out today!
by Marilyn Singer Year Published: 2013
This week’s book pick of the week is one of my favorite poetry books and styles. Follow, Follow by Marilyn Singer is a collection of ‘reverso’ poems - poems that show two different viewpoints based on whether you read it from top to bottom or bottom to top. They are an excellent discussion on perspective and viewpoint. This is the second book in the series and the first one, Mirror, Mirror is also awesome. We also have Echo, Echo which is a collection of Greek mythology told in reverso form. Check out out Follow, Follow today!
by Jennifer Chambliss Bertma Year Published: 2015
The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is a fun mystery and adventure rolled into one. It follows two tweens, Emily and James, as they cavort around San Francisco, trying to solve a mystery left by an ultimate game master, Garrett Griswold. A fast-paced story with plenty of puzzles to solve throughout, this book (and series) is perfect for those who love Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and The 39 Clues. Great for grades three and up!
by Gene Luen Yang Year Published:
This week’s book pick is not a specific book, but a challenge! A former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang, has established the Reading Without Walls challenge. In it, students are challenged to read about people different than them in a multitude of ways. This helps to broaden their perspective and try something outside of their comfort zone. You can read more about it here.
I’ve touched on it with fifth grade students, but any grade can participate; it’s a great way to approach reading for fun differently and ask students to try something new!
by Kerascoët Year Published: 2018
I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët is a wordless treasure. It follows two girls; one who is threatened and teased by a boy, and the bystander who turns into an upstander. Perfect for all ages, but geared towards primary students, this book will provoke a lot of conversation about what’s happening, why, and what your student can do in similar situations. We have a copy in our new books section-- Check it out today!
by Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi Year Published: 2018
I’ve been going on and on with my fourth and fifth graders this week about Alex Honnold, the focus of this year’s Oscar for Best Feature Length Documentary. In the movie Free Solo, Honnold works to become the first person ever to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan without a rope, harness, or any other equipment except climbing shoes and a chalk bag. Because fourth and fifth graders rock climb, and because we’re studying National Parks, they go to watch the first video below, which is an AWESOME 360-degree filmed vignette of the movie. I am fascinated and horrified by it all as I watch this determined man decide to risk his life in pursuit of what is perfection to him. His backstory is interesting, his mindset is interesting, and his decision making process leaves me in awe. I’ve included four clips below that wrap it all together. While I don’t necessarily think this is all going to interest your students, I found it to be a can’t-look-away set of videos that really capture the technical nature of not only Alex’s climb, but how in the world they filmed it. It blew me away, and I haven’t been able to stop talking about it with everyone I run into. If you enjoy even one of these clips, I highly recommend watching Free Solo (it’s PG-13 for.. danger? Not quite sure…) Anyway, enjoy!
by Gordon Korman Year Published: 2008
An oldie but a goodie comes back to my book pick this week. Swindle by Gordon Korman is fun. It follows a group of boys who have been cheated out of a very valuable baseball card and their quest to get it back. Part Ocean’s Eleven, part Sandlot, sometimes we just need a book that takes us on an adventure! It’s the first in the series and we have several copies of each. Check them out today!
by Caron Lewis and Charles Santoso Year Published: 2016
BRING ALL THE TISSUES. If you have someone that’s experiencing loss, then do I have the book for you. Though I can’t see myself doing this book as a read aloud, Ida, Always by Caron Lewis and Charles Santoso chronicles the story of two polar bears who live out their days at the zoo. When one becomes sick, the other cares for her, and (yes, I’m spoiling it) when she dies, the polar bear learns to cope with the loss. A beautifully touching story about remembering those we have lost and it is treated so gently, I feel that it belongs everywhere. Please check it out and put it in the hands of a student (or grown-up!) who needs it!
by Sarah Mlynowski, E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle Year Published: 2016
This week’s book pick of the week is Upside Down Magic by a trio of authors. To be honest, when I looked at this cover, it looked way to cutesy for me. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and thoughtfulness this book captured. Nory desperately wants to get into the best school for her magic powers, but they tend to go...wonky. When she’s sent to a school for students who have problems with their magic, she’s crushed. Can she find a way to make the best of her situation? In the first of the series, Nory meets her classmates and discovers there’s a whole group of people that struggle just like her. Check it out today!
by Julia Finley Mosca Year Published: 2017
This week’s pick is The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca. It is the story of Dr. Temple Grandin and it is a great introduction to her and to be confident in who you are. Told in rhyme, this literary nonfiction piece follows parts of Dr. Grandin’s life and talks about how our differences can make us better and help all. Check it out today!
by Peter Reynolds Year Published: 2018
Peter Reynolds has had a wonderful career as an illustrator and author. He continually inspires students to reach further, persist, and believe in themselves. Often told through a simple story and cartoon-like illustrations, this author of The Dot, Ish, and Going Places is a automatic add to our library. In The Word Collector, Reynolds crafts a story about sharing the power of your voice and words that is ultimately fueled by kindness? What are some of your favorite words? Check it out today!
by Katherine Applegate Year Published: 2017
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is our (very unsurprising) Book Pick of the Week. In it, Red, a 200 year-old tree interacts with animals and observes humans. When someone upsets the peaceful neighborhood with an unkind word, Red feels like he needs to help. What will Red do? How will the animals help the humans? This is a beautifully written and illustrated story to confront anger with love. It’s one of the most critically-acclaimed books of 2017 and I’m delighted that it’s our selection this year for One Book, One School. Enjoy the first chapters today!
by Blue Balliet Year Published: 2004
This week, we look at a mystery! One of my favorite stand-alone mystery novels for middle grade (4th-7th) students is Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet. Set in Chicago, two friends are determined to solve both a centuries-old mystery, as well as a new one when a painting goes missing from The Art Institute. Lots of puzzles, discussion of art, and the value of friendship keeps this story moving. In the tradition of The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Chasing Vermeer is a thoughtful, delightful, and creative story. We have two copies in the LC - check them out today!
by Shannon Hale Year Published: 2017
Probably one of the best books I’ve read this year, Real Friends by Shannon Hale documents the trials and tribulations of making friends in elementary and high school. Written as a partial memoir, the graphic novel follows Shannon, a girl with anxiety-related issues, as she navigates the tricky world of making friends. It is honest, real, heartbreaking, and sometimes raw. If you have a student or a child in your life who wants to know that they are not alone with their struggles, this is the book for them. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is fantastic and great for fourth grade and up!
by Max Brallier Year Published: 2015
It’s hard enough to be a tween and teen in our world today. Throw in a monster apocalypse and the struggle feels even more real. In The Last Kids on Earth series, written by Max Brallier and illustrated by Douglas Holgate, Jack, a 13-year old boy, has finally found purpose in life- slaying the monsters that have taken over his town. With the help of his friends, he is determined to rescue June, whom he believes will be forever grateful for it. Perfect horror-lite for 4th and 5th graders, this series is up to four books and is a great transition for those who enjoy Diary of Wimpy Kid and Timmy Failure. The Highlands library has all four books in the series available… come check them out today!
by Jess Keating Year Published: 2018
Cute as an Axolotl is the third book in Jess Keating’s World of Weird Animals series and much like Pink is for Blobfish and What Makes a Monster? the books teach us a lot about the unusual animals that people may not know about. Great for students (and adults!) the format is very adaptable for all grade levels. We currently have one copy of this book available (and hopefully a few more to come!) Check it out today!
by Tom Watson Year Published: 2012
With absolutely zero surprise, our book pick of the week is Stick Dog by Tom Watson. In an age where students are reading more complex texts with even more complicated storylines (which are great!), it’s sometimes nice to have a palate cleanser like these books. If your students enjoy Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or the Thirteenth Story Treehouse series, they will certainly enjoy the story of Stick Dog and his friends. Very accessible, very gentle, and very funny, these books appeal to students at all levels. We have an extensive collection in the library, and don’t forget that you can order them to get personalized for your classroom (or a holiday gift!) Thanks for joining us in the hilarious adventures!
by Yuyi Morales Year Published: 2018
My book pick of the week is the sparse and powerful Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. Told in stunning art and collage, the two main characters come to America and discover the power of libraries. I can almost guarantee that this book will be on the Monarch list of the next year. However, I believe this story can be read in ANY classroom, especially around Thanksgiving as we are a nation of immigrants. The power of books and the library winds through this story and the author’s note and reading list at the end are great for the older students. If you have ever doubted the power of books, please take a look at this beautiful story. We currently have one copy in the building; I’m sure we’ll have more in the spring. PLEASE COME LOOK AT THIS BOOK!
by Alexandra Penfold Year Published: 2018
All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold is a simple book that’s perfect for a restart in your SEL curriculum. Each set of pages ends with the simple phrase “all are welcome here.” In a world where things can get really confusing for students, it is so important for us to remind them that school is a safe place for them to be themselves. Our first graders are working on a good surprise for everyone else to share how we can be more welcoming. We have one copy in the library-- it is great for the primary classes!
by Jacqueline Woodson Year Published: 2018
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (and illustrated beautifully by Rafael Lopez) is a non-linear story that shows different scenarios about children who feel differently because of their race or language barriers in the classroom. It is a perfect book for embracing yourself and accepting others and I expect it to be on all sorts of SEL and award lists for our younger readers. However, I believe it has a great message that needs to be heard in the classroom. We have one copy (for now) on our new book display. PLEASE take a look at it! :)
by Suzanne Collins Year Published: 2003
Let’s go back to an “oldie” but a goodie for this week. Making its return appearance on the Battle of the Books list after 10 years is Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (of Hunger Games fame). Set in the present day, Gregor and his sister Boots fall down into an immense world underneath New York City known as the Underland. Animals the size of people and people who have never seen the sun. It’s definitely a fantasy lover’s series, with five books total. I love the action and the way Gregor tries to put family first in everything he does. It’s great for fourth and fifth graders (and some precocious third graders as well.) Check out one of our three copies today!
by Linda Ragsdale Year Published: 2018
Another great story by our visiting author is The Peace Dragon. In it, two friends, a boy and a dragon, overcome their initial wariness to become fast friends. But when they try to introduce Omani (the dragon) to the rest of the village, the villagers are worried. How will it play out? Kindergarten through second grade students will enjoy this story which makes sure students go beyond judging a book by its cover. Enjoy!
by Linda Ragsdale Year Published:
Second graders got to hear Alphabetter by Linda Ragsdale this week! It’s a great book about creating portmanteaus of positivity. Would you describe any of your students as charvelous? What about friendunderful? Sharing just a few parts of this book will spur lots of creativity in your students, K-5. The LC has one copy of Alphabetter, and will soon have two! Check them out today!
by Veera Hiranandani Year Published: 2018
In The Night Diary, (by Veera Hiranandani) it is 1947 and India has just gained independence from Great Britain. India is splitting into two countries, and Nisha, who has a foot in both the Muslim and Hindu world, is forced to leave her home. Told in diary form, the story of the journey mirrors the one that over one million refugees traveled. It is a great historical fiction novel for mature fourth graders and fifth graders who want to hear the stories that our history sometimes forgets. We have one copy in the LC; check it out today!
by Hena Khan Year Published: 2017
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan is a an excellent book for discussion about identity, finding yourself, and feeling like you have a foot in two different worlds. Amina is struggling with balancing her desire to stay true to her Muslim roots while also wanting to blend in at school. I really thought the main character was presented as realistic and I think all students in grades four and five could identify with her struggles of trying to figure out who she is. This is a Bluestem nominee for this year, so we have three copies in the LC. Check them out today!
by Sarah Levine Year Published: 2016
One of the most visually interesting books on the Monarch list this year is Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers. It has great illustrations that will get your students’ attention immediately and clamoring for the next page. The book is chock-full of information about animal teeth, including why different animals have different teeth, and why it is important that they do. If you’re looking for a different non-fiction format that will keep your 2nd-4th graders engaged, I highly recommend this book. We have three copies in the Monarch section. Check it out today!
by Barbara O'Connor Year Published: 2016
The stories of a child and their dog seem to be popular in every generation. Wish, by Barbara O’Connor (How to Steal a Dog, Greetings from Nowhere) is a Bluestem-nominated book that tells the story of Charlie, a girl who’s been sent to live with her distant relatives. As you might expect, Charlie has a hard time adjusting because she’s counting on her wish to come true. When she sees Wishbone, a stray dog, she decides she must have him, and it turns out that the bonds that are formed stretch beyond just Charlie and her dog. It’s a fun tale (tail?) that helps students see that new starts are possible, and family means more than just blood relatives. Wish is a warm-hearted story, and no worries, the dog stays safe!
by Gaia Cornwall Year Published: 2017
Jabari Jumps is one of my favorite Monarch nominees this year (and I like a LOT of them). A story about facing your fears, School Library Journal says, “Jabari has completed his swim lessons and tests and is ready to jump off a diving board. In his zig zag swim trunks and swim goggles, the boy tells his dad that diving looks easy. But when he stands at the ladder and looks up, up, and up at the diving board, he starts stalling for time, saying that he has other things to do before he can make the big leap. His father reassures him that it is OK to be scared, encourages him to take deep breaths, and tells him that he might just be surprised. With renewed determination, Jabari climbs the ladder and jumps into the pool. He's flying and splashing and sinking down and swimming back up and he's done it! Jabari is a great jumper. Just enough conversational text accompanies each illustration, including several smaller vignettes on a single page that help build suspense.”
by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead Year Published: 2018
In the spirit of The Adventures of Beekle and Crenshaw comes Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead. A ten-year old girl discovers her imaginary friend has been waiting in a closet for five years for her to come back to her grandmother’s house. Told from two perspectives (each author writes for one character) Bob is hilarious and sweet. We will have two copies of it as soon as they arrive—perfect for 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade classes!