children’s book recommendations

All posts in the children’s book recommendations category

The Secret Shortcut, by Mark Teague

Published September 20, 2015 by Dagmar

Have you ever beSecretShortcuten late for school or work and no one believed your excuse? Wendell and Floyd have the worst luck.  The first day they go to school, they are nearly captured by space creatures.  Their teacher doesn’t believe them.  The second day, pirates are loose in the neighborhood.  The teacher does not believe them again.  On the third day, there is a plague of frogs.

Determined to finally get to school on time, they leave extra early one day and take Wendell’s secret shortcut.  This shortcut goes through a thick jungle, quick sand, sleeping crocodiles, a deep gorge and finally a big mud puddle.  It’s amazing, but they actually get to school on time, if a little muddy.  Their teacher, happy that they’re finally at school on time, decides that maybe she doesn’t really want to know why the boys are all muddy.

This is a fun read aloud that my second graders really loved.  It was a CA Young Readers’ Medal nominee in 2000.

Blackout, by John Rocco

Published September 20, 2015 by Dagmar

blackoutIt’s summer.  It’s hot.  Everyone is busy – too busy to play a game with a little boy.  Mom is working.  Dad is cooking.  Older sister is on the phone.  So, the boy ends up playing video games by himself.  Until…the lights go out.

Huddled together with flashlights and candles, the family plays games.  When the apartment gets too hot, the family goes up to the roof and looks at the stars.  The whole neighborhood ends up on the rooftops – and down in the streets.  It may be a blackout, but it’s a party, too.  When the lights come back on, the family turns the lights right back off. 🙂

This book makes you feel good.  It has great colorful, playful illustrations and was a real hit with my students.  Enjoy!

Going Places, by Peter and Paul Reynolds

Published September 17, 2015 by Dagmar

I’m a rule follower, excellent at following directions and getting things done on time, but I’ve always admired people that take a different path – who have minds so creative, ingenious and unafraid that they feel comfortable completely departing from the norm to create something new.  I think the best projects take a combination of rule followers and dreamers to be successful.
going places

In Going Places, Rafael is just like me. He is so excited when his class receives go-cart kits.  All the students are to build the kit and then have a race.  Rafael goes home and builds the kit, following the directions to the letter.  His go-cart looks exactly like the picture.  He decides to check on his friend and next door neighbor, Maya to see how she is progressing.  He sees her sitting in her yard staring at a bird on a tree and then at a bird flying.  When she builds her go cart, it doesn’t look at all like the picture on the kit.  It looks more like an awkward flying machine. When Rafael asks Maya why she didn’t building a go-cart, she says that no one said she had to build a go-cart. Rafael sees where Maya is going with her project and asks if they can team up. Nothing in the rules says that they can’t team up.

The result?  A plane!  As they roll up to the start line, other kids laugh.   It’s clear that everyone else in the class has followed the directions exactly, just as Rafael had. When the race starts, the go-carts take off.  The plane doesn’t move; but, then it does move…past all those go-carts.  Rafael and Maya fly to the finish line well ahead of their competitors.  As they roll to a stop, Maya sees a frog jumping off a rock in the lake. She turns to Rafael and smiles. He smiles back. Guess what they build next? 🙂

This is a wonderful book that makes you cheer for all your dreamers and the rule followers can spot a great idea and help bring it to reality.

Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke

Published July 2, 2015 by Dagmar

This graphic novel might just rank with Amulet as my favorite in my library.  Zita the Spacegirl has characters you’ll love, evil villians, wonderful drawings and a plot full of suspense.  It is a huge favorite with my students.

Zita the SpacegirlZita and her friend Joseph are surprised when a small meteor hits the earth where they are playing. Zita is adventurous.  She goes into the small crater and finds an interesting object that looks like a button. As all adventurous girls are wont to do, Zita pushes the button. Off goes Joseph onto another planet. Zita quickly presses the button again and finds herself on the same strange planet, just in to see Joseph kidnapped.

Zita meets new creatures that soon become friends, a large creature she names Strong Strong, another called Mouse and Piper.  She learns that this new planet is just about to be destroyed by an enormous asteroid.  Everyone is trying to get off the planet before the asteroid hits.  Zita is determined to find her friend.  She learns that he has been taken prisoner by the original creatures to inhabit the planet, Scriptorians.  The Scriptorians think that sacrificing Joseph will stop the asteroid.

Zita sets out with her new friends to find Joseph and save him. Will they be successful? Who will try to stop them? Will the planet survive? Read Zita and the Spacegirl to see how one strong, adventurous girl can team up with friends and make things happen.

Don’t miss the next two books in this trilogy, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl and Return of Zita the Spacegirl. Look for Ben Hatke’s new book, Little Robot, to be released on September 1, 2015.

Big Nate, by Lincoln Peirce

Published June 30, 2015 by Dagmar

The Big Nate series shares three things in common with Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries: it flies off the library shelf, it appeals to all Big nate 4types of readers and is written with text and pictures.

Nate Wright is a sixth grader.  He’s not the best student.  In fact, he’s trying to avoid having to go to summer school. He has two best friends and a crush on a girl.  Sounds like he’s 12, right?  Wait until you hear Nate talk about his teachers!  Mrs. Godfrey, his social studies teacher, is the worst. “When a teacher snaps and starts screaming, it’s called a Full Godfrey. (When Mrs. Godfrey does it, it’s called Monday.)”

The day Nate gets a fortune cookie that says he “will surpass all others”, turns out to be the worst day ever.  He tries lots of different things to “surpass all others.” Whether it’s getting caught trying to set the world record in speed-eating green beans (from the school cafeteria – ick!) or wearing Coach John’s shorts stuffed with paper towels (long story), everything seems to earn Nate detention – everything.

Big Nate hits home with so many of my students.  My son read six Big Nate books on one trip.  I think it’s because Lincoln Peirce captures a 12 year old’s snarky voice so well.  It’s sure to be a hit.

If your students like Big Nate, they’ll also love Lincoln Pierce’s Big Nate comic books.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace, by Jeanette Winter

Published April 20, 2015 by Dagmar

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd, I highly recommend Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa.  I shared this book with my swangaritudents from first grade to fourth grade.  We started our discussion with things we could do to protect the earth. We talked a lot about litter clean up and the 4 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot).  This book gave me the opportunity to introduce the importance of trees.

Each page in Wangari’s Trees of Peace has just a sentence or two accompanied by a colorful, simple picture.  The book’s simple format makes it accessible to students of all ages and leaves time for questions. The story shows students how deforestation hurt Wangari’s country of Kenya and the value of trees.  Trees not only provide oxygen for us to breathe, but also provide fertile soil, protected from erosion, firewood, and habitat for birds.

My favorite part of the book is the way it shows my students that one person can take action and make change.  Wangari’s determination, even going to jail to protect the trees, made a big impression on my students.  At the end of each class, students clapped for Wangari’s Trees of Peace.

Wangari Maathai was born in 1940 in Kenya.  After seeing the cost of deforestation in Kenya, she enlisted women to plant indigenous trees.  Her Green Belt Movement resulted in the planting of over 30 million trees by 2004.  Maathai won the Nobel Peace Price in 2004.

Happy Earth Day, everyone.  I hope we can all make an impression on children that the Earth needs our protection not only on Earth Day but everyday.

Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni

Published March 22, 2015 by Dagmar

There are so many incredible books to share during African-American History Month.  This compelling book made a real impression on me and on my fourth graders.

rosaRosa is a dramatic retelling of Rosa Parks’ story.  It begins with Rosa going to work at her job as a seamstress in the alterations department.  She is good spirits, and her supervisor has let her leave work early.  When Rosa gets on the bus, she sits in the neutral section, the area where both blacks and whites can sit.  As she sits, she thinking about the meal she’ll prepare for her husband that evening.  Suddenly, she hears the bus driver yell, “I said give me those seats!”.  This exclamation, coming after such a peaceful beginning to the story is a jolt, to the reader, to the listeners, and, you can imagine, to Mrs. Parks, daydreaming after a day’s work.  The other black people in the neutral section slip back to the crowded black section of the bus, trying to avoid trouble.  Mrs. Parks watches them go but decides that she will just sit.

Nikki Giovanni wraps the story of Rosa Parks in the history of the time: the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education that stated that separate was “inherently unequal” and the death of Emmet Till, a fourteen-year-old boy who was lynched in Mississippi, shortly after the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling.   It was these events and Mrs. Parks’ courageous action and arrest that led supporters band together with the Women’s Political Council, the NAACP and local churches.  The people gathered selected Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as their spokesman.  Together, they chose to stay off the buses of Montgomery.  They walked in every kind of weather, at all times of day, every day.  On November 13, 1956, a year after Rosa Parks’ arrest, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was also illegal.

“Rosa Parks said no so that the Supreme Court could remind the nation that the Constitution of the United States makes no provision for second-class citizenship.  We are all equal under the law and are all entitled to its protection.”

Giovanni’s retelling of this important moment in African-American history is presented with the incredible illustrations of Bryan Collier.  This book won the Caldecott Honor in 2006.

Please don’t miss this great book.  African-American history month is over now; but, as a friend of mine correctly said, sharing the messages of this book is important all year long.