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WHAT WE’RE READING

NOW FEATURING

SUMMERTIME STORIES ABOUT COMPASSION

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+)

OTHER FAVORITES

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.


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.


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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