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WHAT WE’RE READING

NOW FEATURING

End-of-Summer STORIES

(CLICK EACH AGE GROUP TAB FOR OUR RECOMMENDED TITLES)

Greenlights

by Matthew McConaughey


We have always been fans of Matthew McConaughey; but after reading his book, we fell in love with him even more! He made it clear, at the beginning of the book, that this is NOT a memoir. Instead, he shares his life’s adventures, lessons, and so much more! We are not deterred by our orange or red lights anymore… bring on those greenlights!

BONUS: If you are a fan of audiobooks or want to try an audiobook, this is a MUST! His buttery voice (hubba, hubba!) and natural humor will grab a hold of you instantly and will not let you go!

Some other great books we have read and audiobooks we have heard recently (read by the authors) that should also not be missed: 

Taste by Stanley Tucci (BOOK)

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris (BOOK & AUDIOBOOK)

Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon (BOOK & AUDIOBOOK)

Grown

by Tiffany D. Jackson


Enchanted always dreamed of being a famous singer; and after being spotted by Korey Fields, a legendary R&B artist, her dreams just may come true! Enchanted is ready to soar into stardom, until she wakes up with blood on her hands and realizes Korey has been murdered. The worst part?  She cannot recall what occurred the evening prior. Tiffany D. Jackson delivers another thriller that has endless twists and turns in this gripping and gut-wrenching novel! 

A few other superb suspense novels by Tiffany D. Jackson are:

Monday’s Not Coming (BOOK & AUDIOBOOK)

Allegedly (BOOK & AUDIOBOOK)

White Smoke (BOOK & AUDIOBOOK)

We have also recently finished reading:

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart (BOOK & AUDIOBOOK), which is a prequel to We Were Liars (BOOK & AUDIOBOOK) as well. They are both filled with endless suspense, twists, and turns too!  

Pet

by Akwaeke Emezi


Jam and her best friend, Redemption, were taught that there were no more monsters; but that all changes, when Jam accidentally drops some of her blood on one of her mother’s paintings. Pet, a creature of claws and horns, has come to hunt a monster at Redemption’s house. Not only does Pet have to fight to protect Redemption, but also has to find answers to various questions. This debut novel presents many difficult and philosophical questions throughout the story too. No wonder why it received endless recognition and accoladesThis riveting and one-of-a-kind middle school (great for high schoolers too!) should not be missed. 

If you are looking for another book that asks worldly questions throughout the plot, How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino (BOOK & AUDIOBOOK), will be perfect!

A Secret Shared

by Patricia MacLachlan


With beautiful language and gentle imagery, Patricia MacLachlan tells a story of a very loving family, with a mom who’s a writer and a photographer dad. Little sister Birdy sneaks her own DNA sample into a kit being sent out by her mother, and her siblings are shocked to later learn a secret about Birdy’s adoption. This book will  provide great inspiration for conversations about family, love, and truth.

Also by Patricia MacLachlan:

When Grandfather Flew (BOOK – themes of loss and hope)

White Fur Flying (BOOK – themes of friendship and kindness)

Caring for Gramma Dove: A Story of Love

by Essie Laflamme


When a family finds itself having to explain the death (or decline) of a grandparent, this book is a lovely and gentle way to start or continue the conversation. We see the many, many ways that Gramma shows care for others, and as she declines we see the ways that others rally around her. It does mention in the end that Gramma goes to be with Grandpa in Heaven, though that religious aspect is treated with a light touch.

This is one book in a series of books written by a preschool teacher who is also a hospice and palliative care volunteer for children. Books in the series include losing a mom and a grandpa. More resources for dealing with grief and children can be found on her website: sweetechostories.com

Let’s Do Everything and Nothing

by Julia Kuo & Illustrated by Quim Torres


We love this book because it celebrates some of the best times of being together: when you just do everything and nothing. In our family, we used to call them “lump-a-bump” days. Julia Kuo shares this sweet single mom-and-daughter family doing simple things like cloud watching, hiking, and swimming as their imaginations build their own adventures. It’s so soothing at the end as mom puts daughter to bed…you’ll want to drift off, as well.

Similar sweet books:

Today by Julie Morstad

Me and Mama by Cozbi Cabrera

Let’s Find Momo

by Andrew Knapp


This series of board books isn’t new, but it’s so classically engaging and sweet that it should be in every child’s book collection. Each book is designed to build language skills as you and your child search for 3 items and Momo, hidden on every page. That dog’s eyes are so endearing as he looks up from the page, you just want to give him a cuddle right there. Momo is definitely a keeper!

We also recommend:

Let’s Find Momo Outdoors

OTHER FAVORITES

INSPIRATIONAL SPRING STORIES

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

by Dave Grohl


Dave Grohl truly is a storyteller and keeps the reader intrigued from beginning to end. The way he weaves his music adventure with his family (both growing up and present (almost) day) journey is intriguing and entertaining. We’ve always been big fans of David Grohl, but find our ears perking up even more now every time we hear him on WXRT (or some other music station)!

Since we enjoyed his book so immensely, we decided to read a book by another musician and recently started reading Broken Horses: A Memoir by Brandi Carlisle!

I Must Betray You

by Ruta Sepetys


Ruta Sepetys has done it again! This time, she writes about Romania in the late 1980’s. As always, Ruta does her research and dives into history that tends not to be discussed at great length. Christian is blackmailed by the secret police to be an informer and begins to lose trust for others around him. He begins to find his voice and takes a stand for what he believes in with others.

We were on the edge of my seat, once again! High schoolers (older middle schoolers and grown-ups too!) are sure to thoroughly enjoy other books by her too, such as Between Shades of Gray, Salt to the Sea, Out of the Easy, & The Fountains of Silence (to name a few!).

Music for Tigers

by Michelle Kadarusman


Louisa, a passionate violinist, is shipped to Australia to spend the summer with her mom’s eccentric family members. She is prepared to be upset, but begins to fall in love with the family’s remote camp in the Tasmanian rainforest. Not only does Louisa find the camp intriguing, but also wants to save the last Tasmanian tiger in the camp by luring it deeper into the forest. She believes she can win the tiger’s trust by playing her music. This book has been recognized for several book awards and should not be missed!

This middle school book is fantastic for readers who are interested in reading about ecology and preservation. Here are a few other titles for readers who would like to read other preservation books, as well: Fuzzy Mud, Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers, and You Go First.

The Swag Is in the Socks

by Kelly J. Baptist


Xavier Moon is pretty content to focus on video games and a life under the radar, until his great uncle gives him some wild socks and a challenge to wear them. Will wearing the socks be the first step toward taking other chances and finding his own voice?

Endearing characters and relatable details (like learning to tie a bow tie on You Tube) will make this a hit for grades 3 and up. You may find yourself shopping for new socks after this one!

We are HUGE fans of this author, who works in urban schools by day and writes incredible books for kids, as well.

Do You Speak Fish?

by DJ Corchin & Illustrated by Dan Dougherty


The boy is annoyed that the animals don’t respond when he speaks to them. A wise tree reminds him that not everyone speaks “kid,” so perhaps he should learn to speak fish if he wants to make a new friend? With a little humorous give-and-take, the boy and his animal friends figure out how to communicate, “and their world got a whole lot bigger.”

Kids will be fascinated with the concept behind this book! We predict some parents will spy their kids trying to speak fish on their next trip to the beach. 🙂

Sweet People Are Everywhere

by Alice Walker & Illustrated by Quim Torres


This book shares a reassuring message at a time of unrest: every place has people who are sweet and their presence can bring hope when the world seems scary. A simple map of the world is at the back of the book, which will prove helpful as children are sure to ask questions about the people on the pages and their home countries.

The wonderful author Alice Walker shares this quote in the end notes: “I want children reading this book to become familiar with the idea that other places exist.

I Sleep In A Big Bed

by Maria van Lieshout


Big Kid Power Series:

Bye-Bye Binky

I Use the Potty

We chuckled when we saw the titles in these sweet books, picturing who might be celebrating harder over these milestones:  the child or the parent? The ups and downs of reaching these milestones are captured well, and should both reassure and empower the littles in your life to have “big kid power!”

MORE INSPIRATIONAL SPRING STORIES

All the Names Given

by Raymond Antrobus


Raymond dives into his surname and examines the history carried within it. His poems take the reader to America, England, Jamaica, and South Africa and offer a wide variety of topics, such as adolescence and marriage. The poems are easy to get lost in and are full of passion.

No matter how busy you are, this is a great way to still get some reading in!

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


Ari is trying to hide who he really is and is trying to stay invisible to everyone around him. All of this changes when he falls in love with Dante. Ari begins to find his voice when he establishes new friendships and stands up to bullying.

This sequel is just as heartfelt and beautiful as Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and these two books should be read by grown-ups too!

Pony

by R. J. Palacio


After Silas’ dad is taken by three dangerous horsemen, Silas is alone and afraid and embarks on a journey to find him. Silas only has Mittenwool, a ghost, and a pony for his trek to help his dad. No matter what obstacles Silas stumbles upon, he remains courageous and stops at nothing to locate his dad.

This beautiful book about family and not giving up sucks you in instantly and is difficult to put down. Another marvelous gem from R. J. Palacio!

Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma

by Joanna Ho and Teresa Martinez


This HarperCollins book is a great example of a picture book that has plenty to offer older readers. It recounts the true story of Yo-Yo Ma playing at the border (“…feet planted on the soil of one nation, eyes gazing at the shores of another”). The back pages of the book will inform readers about Yo-Yo Ma, his Bach Project, the music, his instrument, and how the purpose of this project was his simple message, “Let us all build bridges, not walls.”

Intriguing and inspiring for this age group...

A Year of Everyday Wonders

by Cheryl B. Klein & Quin Leng


Celebrate the fresh start of good firsts (first wake up, first hot chocolate, first stories) and the not-so-good firsts (first cold, first missed bus, first sunburn). With sweet illustrations, this book brings great appreciation for the little things in life that comprise those 365 days of each year.

The perfect way for families to keep their New Years resolutions going all year!

Shine Like A Unicorn

by Shelli R. Johannes


We all shine in our own way, including unicorns! There are many giggles in these pages as the author celebrates the good (unicorns are very polite), the bad (unicorns sometimes “toot”) and most of all, the unique.

We know many young friends who are captivated by unicorns, so this HarperCollins book will be a huge hit with them!

Cookie Truck

by Caroline Wright


Winter into early Spring is a great time for family baking activities, and this HarperCollins board book is perfect for little ones. The focus on shapes makes it a learning activity, and the focus on baking together is just plain fun. The cookie shapes are configured into different scenes, which will appeal to every little one who has ever played with the food on their high chair tray!


WINTER TALES OF FAMILY BONDS

The Secret of Snow

by Viola Shipman


After being replaced by a virtual meteorologist in southern California, Sonny reluctantly returns to her northern Michigan hometown. Not only is she humiliated about having to move back in with her mother, but also is forced to deal with her past. As she throws herself into her new job, she begins to make peace with her past choices and reconnect with her family and home. 

We could not put this book down and got completely lost in Sonny’s journey… A fantastic winter holiday read!

Yolk

by Mary H.K. Choi


Jayne and June are sisters who are complete opposites and are usually inseparable, until they move to New York. They do not want anything to do with one another; but when June gets cancer, Jayne is the only person who can help her. Jayne and June learn about family secrets and rely on each other, as a family, while trying to grasp what is occurring in Jane’s life.

This raw and real book (Thank goodness for the humor that is sprinkled throughout!) is difficult to put down and is a must read for young adults and grown-ups!

Frankie & Bug

by Gayle Forman


During the summer of 1987, Bug wants to hang out with her brother, Danny, and go to the beach as often as possible. Since he would rather hang out with his friends, Bug is stuck with Frankie. Bug isn’t too excited to spend time with Frankie, but they begin to form a bond. Not only do they learn lessons about themselves, but about the world and life too.

This beautiful and timely book not only focuses on family you are related to, but also people you choose to have around you as your family!

Dear Sister

by Alison McGhee

(Illustrated by Joe Bluhm)


There’s always an adjustment to having a baby in the house (the sibling arguments, the sibling alliance against “the wardens” (parents), the demands for privacy, and even handwritten “sibling report cards” that surface). The big brother heads to college in a sweet and tender ending…

Anyone with a sibling relationship will connect to this endearing book. It’s told in a unique way, through a series of letters and graphics, written by a brother to his younger sister over the years. 

We can’t say enough good things about this book… it will absolutely make you chuckle as it touches your heart.

A Home Again

by Colleen Rowan Kosinski

(Illustrated by Valeria Docampo)


Can a home be a home without its occupants? The house is the narrator in this story, and it tells an emotional tale of change, when the family that has grown up within its walls moves away. The house clings to the memory of what is familiar and tries to push away the new owners, who gently persist to care for it. In the end, hope and love make the world right again.

Wren

by Katrina Lehman

(Illustrated by Sophie Beer)


Wren is a young child with a big and boisterous family. When his family gets even bigger with the arrival of a new baby sister, he decides he’s had enough noise and moves in with Grandma and Grandpa into the quiet countryside. He eventually misses his family and discovers that he and that new baby sister might have more in common than he thought...

Such a charming book to highlight gratitude for what we have.

Sweater Weather

by Matt Phelan


Father Bear bundles up seven cubs for an evening of stargazing with tremendous effort. The bear family has a happy and satisfying evening, and so will young readers.

This sweet story is perfect for a cozy night under the covers and will strike a chord for every parent who has bundled up a child for cold weather! 


FALL (& Spooky season) TALES OF PERSEVERANCE

The Lost Apothecary

by Sarah Penner


How often do you get to read about a female apothecary who is living in a male dominated world during eighteenth-century London? Is she a murderer or heroine? Then, Caroline, an inspiring historian, is in present-day London and is forced to come to terms with her husband…

The perseverance and strength of these two women is inspiring and the alternating voices of the characters (and setting) adds to this dark and twisty plot.

Perfect way to kick-off the Halloween season! Talk about a spook-tacular debut novel!

Iron Widow

by Xiran Jay Zhao


Zetian, a concubine-pilot, will stop at nothing to avenge her sister’s death. Whether she kills through a psychic link or in person, her perseverance is unstoppable. Others know her as “Iron Widow”, a much-feared pilot who can (and has no problem) sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises.

This epic YA novel has the perfect combination of Chinese history and science fiction and is perfect to get lost in during this Halloween season!

(Content Warnings: physical abuse, torture, rape, and sexism)

The Jumbies

by Tracey Baptiste


Corinne claims she is not afraid of anything and is convinced jumbies are not real. She believes they are made up by parents to scare their children. But, is that true?

Severine, a beautiful stranger, plans to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must be brave and persevere, in order to stop Severine and save her island home.

The perfect creepy book (with Caribbean folklore sprinkled throughout) for this time of the year!

When You Trap A Tiger

by Tae Keller


When Lily and her family move to California to care for her Halmoni (grandmother), she embarks on a journey of self discovery filled with magic, hope, persistence, and believing.

Readers become immersed in Korean folklore and must decide what is real and what is imagined.

We love this quote: “I think that’s how you figure out who you are. You do new, brave things, and you find out who you is in non-you situations.” What a great family conversation starter for perseverance and courage.

Three

by Stephen Michael King


This little three-legged dog (appropriately named “Three”) is a heart-melting example of perseverance.

As Three wanders from city to country, he thinks about what he sees (“He was thankful that he didn’t have more legs than he could count…”) and eventually he winds up with a home that completes his heart.

A great story to inspire conversations about gratitude, even when something in your life is missing.

Change Sings

by Amanda Gorman

(Illustrated by Loren Long)


With the visual metaphor of a joyful musical band, it shares the central message that common goals and kindness can bring communities together for positive change. “I don’t fear change coming, and so I sing along…”

It has the soaring poetic imagery and lyrical quality that Amanda Gorman is known for, paired with the colorful vibrancy of Loren Long’s art.

We’ve been excitedly waiting for this book to arrive and it didn’t disappoint!

How Big Is Love?

by Emma Dodd


Like love, this book is shiny and sweet. The text has beautiful language and concepts that you hope stay with your child over the years: “Love is all around you every single day. And even when life gets hard, love never goes away.”

The illustrations of mama and her ducklings are adorable and there are unique shiny gold accents that will draw the youngest ones’ eyes and hands to the pages.

We can picture this book being read at bedtime by many parents in rocking chairs!


END OF SUMMER & EARLY FALL TALES OF PERSEVERANCE

The Guncle

by Steven Rowley


When Massie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick becomes the primary guardian for his niece and nephew. No matter what the family has to endure and overcome, they support each other (as much as possible) and refuse to give up. 

No wonder this book is included on several “must read” lists!

I laughed, cried, and wanted to hug every character in the book. If you are looking for a late summer read with loss, love, and humor, this is the book for you

Walls

by L.M. Elliott


Drew lives in West Berlin because his dad is one of the soldiers that hold an outpost of democracy against communist Russia. Matthias, Drew’s cousin, lives in East Berlin and has to live in the wreckage of Allied war bombing and deal with the secret police. Due to the unexpected and unwanted events, the boys bond during the turbulent year leading up to the surprise raising of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. The story and real-life photographs (included throughout the book) showcase the perseverance everyone embodied during the heroic and tragic events of the Cold War.

A poignant YA novel that both teens and grown-ups are sure to enjoy!

Ikenga

by Nnedi Okorafor


Nnamdi vows to avenge his father after he is murdered, but is only 12. He stumbles upon a magical object, Ikenga, that gives him super powers, which he uses for good and solving his father’s murder. Nnamdi perseveres and refuses to give up, no matter what obstacles lie before him.

This magical book is a must-read for all middle schoolers (high schoolers and grown-ups too!) and it is no surprise that it is an “NPR Best Book of the Year” and an “Amazon Best Children’s Book of 2020”!!

Loretta Little Looks Back

by Andrea Davis Pinkney


This is a completely unique book that tells a story of courage and persistence through generations. It is composed as a series of monologues, told in the voices of children who lived across many decades (1927-1968).

These theatrical vignettes with rich dialogue make you feel that you have met the children and they have shared their civil rights stories with you first-hand. This is a powerful, beautiful, and important book to inspire thoughtful conversations.

Be Strong

by Pat Zietlow Miller


A perfect book for this time! As many kids return to school campuses after a year of isolation, they may need to call upon their own inner resilience. This book describes so many examples of resilience: doing something hard physically, standing up for what’s right, taking small steps toward an overwhelming goal.

A gentle theme woven through the book is “get a little help from a friend (or give a little help to someone else!).”

We predict that this book will draw kids into some great conversations with their families as they talk about circumstances that require persistence in the book and their own lives.

The Power of Yet

by Maryann Cocca-Leffler


“Yet” is a concept that is pretty well understood by this age group (as in, “Are we there yet???”). In this book, the word takes an important twist: when something is hard, remember that you can’t do it YET… but if you keep trying, it can happen!

This is a great book to read and talk about with kids who are stepping into new territory such as riding a bike, reading, writing, and playing on teams. Instead of kicking that new bike when they fall, maybe they’ll say, “I can’t do it… YET. But I will!”

Crash! Boom! A Math Tale

by Robie H. Harris


This is such an engaging book for the littlest ones on so many levels! When they are very tiny, you will hear those baby giggles when you read “Crash!  Boom!” When they are a little older and have had some experience with blocks, they will like the story about the elephant who is frustrated when his lovely tall tower comes crashing down. When they are learning to count, this book gives lots of opportunities for counting the blocks.

The illustrations will draw them in, too: big, vivid photos of the blocks are mixed with cheery crayon drawings of the elephant.

Keep those blocks handy: this book will inspire tall towers and conversations about patience and navigating frustration.

FEATURED BOOK FOR GROWN-UPS

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

More Great Reads: Grown-Ups – A Little Life

SUMMER – JUNE & JULY 2021

SUMMERTIME STORIES ABOUT COMPASSION

Exit West

by Moshin Hamid


This magical book starts out in a country that is on the brink of a civil war. Nadia and Saeed meet during this time of unrest and begin a loving relationship. As violence begins to escalate, they hear about doors that can take them to other lands far away and they decide to step through one. The compassion and kindness of various characters on the other side of these doors offer love and hope...

This book was the winner of the LA Times Book Prize for Fiction and The Aspen Words Literary Prize and should not be missed. Such a timely and beautiful book!

Made In Korea

by Sarak Suk


Valerie and her cousin, Charlie, run V&C K-Beauty and are the most successful student-run business at the high school. Wes, a new kid at the school, wants to chase after his music dream, but his parents disapprove, so he stumbles upon entrepreneurship and begins to sell K-pop beauty products to his classmates. Valerie does not approve of the business competition, but notices a spark between her and Wes. While some characters struggle with compassion for Valerie and Wes, many characters care about and support their dreams and goals. This book is the perfect feel-good rom com!

Thanks A Lot, Universe

by Chad Lucas


Brian is anxious a lot of the time and tends to be introverted with his classmates and other peers. Even though his dad tries to have him stand up for himself, Brian begins to have panic attacks after his life begins to unravel. Thanks to the compassion Ezra and some of his other classmates provide, Brian is able to take a stand and be more comfortable in his own skin. A beautiful and honest read for all middle schoolers!

The Water Bears

by Kim Baker


This charming book has a lot of elements to capture the attention of kids in grades 3-5: a bear attack, a statue that seems to grant wishes, a lake monster, and a chance for an entirely fresh start for the main character. As the protagonist learns about his own resilience and voice, the plot is revealed through his inner thoughts and outward actions. Readers will want to cheer on Newt through this crossroad in his life.

Jabari Jumps

by Gaia Cornwall


This book has been around for a few years, but it’s one of my very favorites as a teacher and a parent. It celebrates the little tests of courage that enter everyone’s life. In this text, the example of Jabari and the diving board is absolutely relatable for this age group. He reaches deep with the gentle encouragement of his dad and we cheer him on together.

We also highly recommend the sequel: Jabari Tries.

Swim Swim Sink

by Jenn Harney


This is just outright fun to read aloud to kids of this age group. The rhythm and rhyme will have kids joining in at the beginning and then WHAT???? Suddenly everything changes when one of the ducks can’t yet swim like the others. With humor and resilience, this little duck solves his own problem and everyone laughs. I can imagine that there will be many kids chanting this rhyme with their rubber ducks in the bathtub. So cute!

Leo Can Swim

by Anna McQuinn


For every child who has gone (or will go) to grown-up & child swimming classes, this book will bring smiles. Leo’s experiences with getting ready for the pool with daddy and splashing his feet in the water will ring true for anyone who’s been there… and might prepare young ones for their first swim class experience.

We recommend the other books in this sweet series as well: Leo Gets a Checkup and Leo Loves Baby Time.

SUMMERTIME STORIES ABOUT COMPASSION CONTINUED

Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers & the Sport That Changed Their Life Forever

by Kareem Rosser


Kareem and his brothers lived in West Philadelphia, a city that was ravaged by poverty and violence. Leslie Hizner, the founder of The Work to Ride stables, offered an after school job in exchange for riding lessons. After learning to ride, the love and passion for polo was born. Leslie’s compassion and the boys’ hope and strength not only helped them in establishing a bright future, but also assisted them with overcoming many obstacles. Such an inspiring book!

Hot Dog Girl

by Jennifer Dugan


Lou will do anything to have the “perfect” summer of her life, but there are a handful of hurdles in her way. She is trying to figure out who she is and what relationships she wants, while trying to save the amusement park she has been going to for years and is presently working at. With the help of her dad and friends, Lou is able to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with various avenues of her life. Such light-hearted, coming-of-age story with humor and heart!

They Call Me Güero

by David Bowles


Güero (Spanish nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo) is entering seventh grade and is learning how to cope with school and life, while living as a border kid. Not all of his fellow students are kind nor helpful. He learns about what it means to be compassionate and why it is such a positive attribute to possess. I was instantly captivated by the poems and could not put it down. No wonder this book was recognized and won various awards!

The Cardboard Kingdom: Roar of the Beast

by Chad Sell


We are big fans of the first book in this series, The Cardboard Kingdom, and this BRAND NEW sequel doesn’t disappoint! It’s perfect for building conversations around the concept of compassion with kids in this age group because the story shows kids their age, navigating neighborhood life with a community of friends. Of course there are moments of conflict that arise, along with kid-friendly examples of big and small moments of compassion. The characters are diverse and complex and the plot is lively. Our students were so excited to see this sequel be released… it’s a perfect summer read for this age group!

Maddi’s Fridge

by Lois Brandt


This is such a beautiful, kid-friendly book about challenging subjects: hunger and poverty. Sofia notices that her best friend, Maddi, only has milk in her fridge, while Sofia’s fridge at home is full with healthy food. Maddi makes her promise not to tell, so Sofia attempts to solve the problem herself with some humorous consequences. Sofia is compassionate and empathetic, and Maddi is strong and resourceful… an empty fridge doesn’t diminish her character. This book will prompt great discussions about when it’s OK to tell an adult about a friend’s secret, and how kids can be compassionate problem-solvers.

Mel Fell

by Corey R. Tabor


This book will fascinate young readers, as the pages present in a very unique order. As a young bird, Mel, makes his first attempted flight from the nest, he falls… hard and fast.  On his way down, all of the tree animals compassionately try to save him. Readers will see him land in the water and then will turn the book and follow the pages to see him make a remarkable recovery back up the tree. Readers will learn something new about this type of bird and will cheer for Mel on his maiden flight. Such a sweet book for this age group!

Plant A Kiss

by Amy Krause Rosenthal


This book has been around for a few years, but it is such a lovely board book for little ones! Amy Krause Rosenthal’s work is enduring, charming, and absolutely good for the soul. Peter Reynolds’ illustrations illuminate the beautiful message of the text: that love and compassion beget more love and compassion. What a beautiful message this book plants in the heart of a little one!

MORE GREAT READS: ALL AGES – PRIDE MONTH (LGTBQIA+)


Mother’s Day – MAY 2021

Celebrating the Ties That Nurture

Girl, Woman, Other

by Berndardine Evaristo


An interconnected group, twelve central characters, intersect in shared aspects of age, race, and sexuality. The Black British women paint a vivid picture of contemporary Britain, while they look back at Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean. The multi-voiced novel is passionate, quick-witted, and humorous.  This unique and intriguing book will keep you fully engaged, in regards to family and friends (other relationships too), from beginning to end. It makes complete sense that the author, Bernardine Evaristo, was a Booker Prize winner for this stellar novel!

What I Carry

by Jennifer Longo


Since Muir has one more year until she ages out of the foster care system, she is used to being on her own and having no family. When she moves in with Francine, she begins to learn about what it means to have someone to care about, as well as someone who cares about her and the idea of having a true family and friends. This powerful and touching book is full of love and hope – I could not put it down!

Blackbird Fly

by Erin Entrada Kelly


Apple has been struggling with being different, since she and her mom moved to Louisiana from the Philippines. Her so-called friends, who are backstabbers, are not helping with the transition of the move nor the situations at school. As Apple begins to realize who her true friends are, she begins to embrace her mother more, and celebrates who she is and where she is from. Such a sweet and delightful book about identity and family!

Added bonus? References to various Beatles’ songs!

How to Spot A Mom

by Donna Amey Bhatt


Motherhood is definitely not a one-size-fits-all endeavor and this book celebrates that! It’s a picture book for older kids that is full of information and tidbits that can stir memories and spark conversation about what makes them feel nurtured. There are pages dedicated to exploring motherhood in different cultures and the “skill sets” that moms bring to the job. This would be a great gift for a mom or grandma, with little notes handwritten on the pages about their own mom (hint, hint!).

Your Mama

by NoNieqa Ramos


If the Aretha Franklin song RESPECT was a children’s picture book, this would be it. This story celebrates the joy and strength of mamas everywhere, featuring a mama that does it all with style and flare… and yes, we see her tired sometimes too! It’s real, it’s funny, it’s a love song to enjoy together. I guarantee you can’t read this without smiling! 🙂

You Hold Me Up

by Monique Gray Smith & Daniella Daniel


This book celebrates nurturing in many forms, so it’s a perfect launch to parent/child conversations. Who holds you up and how do they do it? How do you hold other people up? Spare prose and large, vivid illustrations invite the reader in. The author (of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish ancestry) states that “This book was written in the spirit of Reconciliation” for the Indigenous children of Canada. Holding each other up with respect and joy is an important family and societal goal, indeed.

Families Can

by Dan Saks


This simple board book is a gentle ode to the ways that families might look different AND love with the same joy. The rhyme and rhythm makes this a cozy read aloud: “A family can look the same or maybe not… Dad’s from somewhere cold, Mom’s from somewhere hot.” The bold colorful graphics will intrigue little ones, too!

MORE GREAT READS: ALL AGES – MOTHER’s DAY: CELEBRATING THE TIES THAT NURTURE


EARTH Month – APRIL 2021

STORIES INSPIRED BY OUR ENVIRONMENT

The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage & A Girl Saved by Bees

by Meredith May


Because of the struggles with her family, Meredith May found solace in her grandfather and the art of beekeeping. Not only did she gain strength, but also learned about the beauty of family through the lives of bees. This lyrical memoir may not be focused solely on environmental issues, but is a gem of a book that should be added to any Earth Day reading list or any other TBR reading list (for high schoolers too)!

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines

by Paul Fleischman


This book about global warming is welcoming for all high schoolers, thanks to the approachable layout and endless references. It addresses climate change in a straightforward manner and sparks teen inquiry. There are even various websites included throughout the book for further light research. What a great book for teens to get their toes wet, in regards to environmental issues!

Dig Too Deep

by Amy Allgeyer


Liberty Briscoe has to leave Washington D.C. and move to Ebbottsville, Kentucky, since her mother is facing prison time for a violent political protest. Ebbottsville is different than Liberty remembers. Not only do a lot of people seem to be sick in the town and the drinking water is bright orange, but Liberty’s granny seems to be getting sicker too. Liberty decides to investigate what is taking place at the coal mine and stumbles upon secrets, lies, and threats. Such an interesting and intriguing book – no wonder it won two book awards in 2017!

The Last Straw

by Susan Hood


When Dr. Jane Goodall says, “I encourage everyone to read this book,” you know it’s going to be good… and she’s absolutely right.

Susan Hood highlights the work of real children and the ways they are combating this huge problem for the Earth they will inherit. While it’s written in very kid-friendly ways, even adults who think they know most everything about our plastic pollution problem will learn a few things.

It’s engaging, lyrically written, compelling,  and most of all important. We want to hand this book to every teacher and parent we can find, so they will hand it to every child they know. Inspiring, indeed!

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

by Miranda Paul & Elizabeth Zunon


We’ve shared this book with students and they find it fascinating on so many levels.

First, there’s the inspirational story of a child who grows up to find a solution to a big community problem. Isatou Ceesay figured out a way to crochet the discarded plastic bags that littered her village and endangered the livestock and ended up selling her wares to bring money to her family and the village. Second, the illustrations are collages made from real shopping bags, along with photos of the real life people who lived this story. Finally, the resources in the back teach kids (and adults) about Gambia.

A rich book with a great, empowering message for this age group.

I Am the Storm

by Jane Yolen & Heidi E.Y. Stemple


While this isn’t an Earth Day book that sends a message about recycling or conservation, this IS an Earth Day book that speaks to the sometimes frightening power of nature and the resilience of humans.

Young children hear about the increasing number of disasters from forest fires, hurricanes, and floods and can feel overwhelmed (which is natural for adults too!). This book honors the power of those events, while offering some reassurance that those events don’t last forever and humans work together to rebuild what is lost.

As a parent and grandparent, it’s a good book to keep on the shelf for discussions about disasters of all types… nature and viruses, included.

Thank You Bees

by Toni Yuly


There’s something classic about this book. It feels like Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon,” in which the child is grateful for the things in their small corner of the world that give them comfort. In this case, this simple and colorful book is written as a love letter to the natural world. Dirt, trees, clouds, and, yes, bees all get a sweet “thank you.” A great tuck-in, sleep-tight book for this age group.

MORE GREAT READS: ALL AGES – EARTH MONTH


Women’s History Month – MARCH 2021

STORIES OF STRONG WOMEN

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

by Anna Malaika Tubbs


Tubbs tells the stories of three amazing women, Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little, while weaving in history that is not always discussed. She celebrates Black motherhood and discusses the importance of being a strong woman. What a riveting, groundbreaking, and timely debut novel!

Watch Us Rise

Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan


Since Jasmine and Chelsea are fed up with how girls are treated at their progressive high school, they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. These two creative teenagers decide to stand up and speak out through their artwork, blogs, and poetry. When their message goes viral online, the principal shuts the club down. Not wanting to be silenced, the young women risk everything, in order to be heard. Such a thought-provoking and powerful book – a MUST READ for all teenagers!

The Gusty Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure

by Caroline Paul


Caroline Paul shares her (She was full of fear at a younger age.) most exhilarating adventures, as well as other girls and women throughout history. Not only are there endless inspiring stories, but there are activities and “journal” opportunities offered throughout the book for middle schoolers as well. Such a wonderful book for preteens and young teenagers to channel their “gutsy” selves!

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

by Rita L. Hubbard


This woman IS history. Mary Walker lived through slavery, Emancipation, sharecropping, and  26 presidents. She dedicated herself to her family and responsibilities until, finally, at the age of 114 she learned to read. This book describes her obstacles and supports;  her persistence and patience. There is much to unpack in this biographical story and the photographs in the back help kids grasp her reality. “You’re never too old to learn” as Mary says!

Brilliant Ideas from Wonderful Women

by Aitziber Lopez


This book contains lots of factual information about 15 amazing women inventors and the everyday items that they created. It’s all presented in short snippets, sprinkled across generous 2-page illustrated spreads so it doesn’t feel overwhelming… but there’s a lot to learn! The inventions themselves (lifeboats! dishwashers! windshield wipers!) are interesting, and the obstacles the women faced to bring their ideas to reality were daunting. As you read these stories, you realize the old saying really is true: necessity IS the mother of invention!

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

by Justin Roberts


She noticed…she made a plan… she persisted. All great women in history have made change through the basic act of taking a stand. Young Sally McCabe, this book’s main character, is no different. She notices tiny details, like the 27 keys on the janitors ring, and she notices big things, like the bully who pushes a kid on the slide. When she stands up to protest (“I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. Stop hurting each other! This is enough!”), little moments of kindness begin to appear. With satisfying rhyme and sweet illustrations, this book could become an inspiration for those who feel small… but want to make waves of change.

AUTHOR FEATURE: ANNA MALAIKA TUBBS


Valentine’s Day – FEB 2021

MESSAGES FROM THE HEART

The Beauty in Breaking

by Michele Harper


A beautifully written true story about Harper’s journey toward the importance of allowing ourselves to make peace with the past and self-healing. No wonder why it has been mentioned on various shows, such as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and NBC Nightly News!

Love in English

Maria E. Andreu


Ana, a documented immigrant, struggles with finding herself and finding her voice, while getting over the obstacles as an English language learner. Her love for her family, Neo, and words helps her achieve her goals and dreams in this light-hearted and meaningful coming-of-age novel.

Never Evers

by Tom Ellen & Luvy Ivison


After being kicked out of ballet school, Mouse has to go on her new school’s ski trip. She barely knows anyone, but Jack catches her eye. Not only does this humorous, romance novel post questions (and answers!) about friendship and forgiveness, but include awkward misunderstandings and missed opportunities too.

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

by Dan Gemeinhart


Coyote and her dad have been journeying across the US in an old school bus ever since her mom and sisters were killed in a crash. She learns that the park she loved as a child is being demolished and begins a secret quest to get back home, where a buried memory box awaits and a promise must be fulfilled. Along the way new people to love appear in her life and she thinks about the world with these beautiful words at the end:

There is so much happiness in the world. There is so much sadness in the world. There is just so much in the world.

An outstanding read-aloud to share with your middle-grade child.

Thank You, Helpers

by Patricia Hegarty & Michael Emmerson


Our collective hearts are so grateful to the nurses, doctors, medical support staff, first responders, and essential workers who have lifted up the rest of us over the last long months. This book puts those thoughts and images on the page for young children in simple rhyming text and vivid graphics.

If your child is making valentines for friends and family, this might inspire them to also remember those who have sacrificed to keep our loved ones safe.

A lovely pairing for this book…

Sincerely, Emerson by Emerson Weber

A true story about a child who reaches out in gratitude to all of those who support her in her community.

Then check out this sweet video clip of another little girl who celebrates distantly with her mail carrier each day. Good feelings in the heart for this special month!

Zero Local – Next Stop: Kindness

by Ethan Murrow


We love sharing books with young children that have deep meaning in the illustrations. Every time we revisit the book, we seem to see more detail so that the story developing in our heads becomes even richer…

This wordless picture book depicts a young girl and her mother on their daily subway rides, where they often witness both discord and harmony. They also encounter a stranger whose small gifts of art to the subway crew provide an example of kindness for the child.  And then she takes action herself!

Based on a true story, this is a great read for Valentines Day and it shows us that messages from the heart don’t (and shouldn’t) happen only on February 14.


WINTER 2020

The Beauty in Breaking

by Michele Harper


A beautifully written true story about Harper’s journey toward the importance of allowing ourselves to make peace with the past and self-healing. No wonder why it has been mentioned on various shows, such as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and NBC Nightly News!

On the Come Up

by Angie Thomas


Bri wants to be a famous rapper; and begins to find herself, with the help of her family. She comes across several hiccups along the way and finds her voice, both literally and figuratively. Such a fresh and riveting book!

This Moment is Your Life

Mariam Gates


This hands-on guide focuses on the here and now through meditation and mindfulness. There are even “Try It” exercises at the end of every chapter. This book can help alleviate any stress a middle schooler may be feeling during the school year or anytime of the year. This book is great for high schoolers too!

Sled Dog School

by Terry Lynn Johnson


Racing through the snow with a pack of amazing dogs… it’s a powerful image! This book features a kid who tries his hand at running a training site for sled dogs… and ends up solving problems and having fun at the same time. There is plenty in this book to pique readers’ interest as they learn about the world of sled dogs and entrepreneurship. Lessons about persistence and friendship are woven in, as well.

Other books on this topic:

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

Magic Tree House: Merlin Missions/ Balto of the Blue Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

Dogsledding and Extreme Sports: Nonfiction Companion to Balto of the Blue Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

Snow Globe Wishes

by Erin Dealey


My Midwestern heart loves the memory of snow days: waking up to a quiet world of white with no school, no vehicles, and no “to-dos” on my list. This beautiful book captures the joy of a dreamy snow globe day where the whole community pauses to just be together outside. In this world, the weather and the mood are peaceful and soothing. A magical wish for all children, indeed.

Keep the snowy joy coming…

Snow Day by Lester Laminack

Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper

Snow by Cynthia Rylant

The Snowy Nap

by Jan Brett


Such a perfect read for a snowy afternoon! I have been a Jan Brett FAN FOR-EVER, and this book packs every snowy day joy into one sweet story: snowmen, ice skating, sleigh rides, and cozy naps. Plus, it’s all centered around a hedgehog so cute and gentle, that little kids will want to nuzzle the page. Brett’s intricate illustrations are mesmerizing… can they find the story-within-a-story that she hides in the borders? She also puts a hedgehog (her real-life pet) in most every book. He’s the star this time!

Stay on a snowy theme and enjoy these other wonderful books by Jan Brett:

Cozy

The Three Snow Bears

Trouble with Trolls


FALL 2020

Oona Out of Order

by Margarita Montimore


Oona is living her life out of order, trying to figure out who she is and what life is all about. What a refreshing and whimsical ride!

What I Leave Behind

by Alison McGhee


Will is struggling with some problems and is having difficulty embracing his emotions and sharing how he feels. I instantly fell in love with the prose and Will’s story.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Jaqueline Woodson


Jacqueline Woodson talks about what it was like growing up as an African American during the 1960s and 1970s. Her poems are powerful and I had difficulty putting the book down. No wonder she won various awards for this book!

Saving Winslow

by Sharon Creech


For anyone who has loved Charlotte’s Web, but is looking for a fresh take on compassion for other creatures, this is charming. A quick read with very brief chapters that isn’t intimidating for kids who might find chapter books daunting.

Henry Is Kind

by Linda Ryden


When Henry’s class decides to do a “kindness project,” Henry worries that he hasn’t done anything kind. His classmates notice and name his kindnesses for him and he realizes that he’s been kind in many ways… and it felt good!

The Very Greedy Bee

by Steve Smallman


The Greedy Bee learns the consequence of having too much of a good thing. Lucky for him, the other bees are forgiving and help him recover. This book helps kids think about the phrase “that’s mine!” in new ways.

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