Children’s Book Recommendations

All posts tagged Children’s Book Recommendations

Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier

Published June 28, 2015 by Dagmar

Sisters, Telegemeier’s third graphic novel in her autobiographic series that begins with Smile and Drama.  Fans of the graphic novels Smile (click the link to see my review) and Drama, won’t be surprised that Raina Telgemeier has another huge success on her hands.

I had the feeling this would be the case, after loving Smile and Drama, myself, and made sure I had no less than three copies on the shelves when I started the school year.   All three books were, in fact, checked out for the entire year (I replaced lost cosisterspies, twice), leaving me waiting with anticipation for my turn to read the book. When I closed the library on May 15th to finally retrieve all the missing books from my students and take inventory, I was able to check out all the books I’d been wanting to read all year. It was my chance to finally read Sisters.

So, here I sit, curled up on a couch in beautiful Lake Tahoe on summer vacation with a big stack of my students’ recommended books on my end table.  This moment encapsulates one of the best parts of being a school librarian – catching up on a big pile of books that your students have urged you to read.

I just finished Sisters.  What a great read.  Raina Telgemeier takes me right back to middle school, my own relationship with my sister, that middle school feeling of not fitting in – but wanting to – and feeling scared thinking that my parents were going to break up (they did).  Raina Telgemeier writes in an authentic voice that students (from 4th-middle school) can really hear and appreciate.  She touches on real issues, in just the right way.

So, if you’re looking for a sure fire hit, and you’ve managed to find a child that hasn’t already read this book, pick it up.  It’s a great summer read.  You won’t regret it.

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.

The Case for Loving, by Selina Alko

Published March 16, 2015 by Dagmar

I love looking for new books to share with my students during African-American history month.  This year, I found quite a few that I really enjoyed for all ages.  This book really resonated with my the case for lovingfourth and fifth graders.

The Case for Loving is the story of the marriage of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, an African-American woman.  The Lovings lived in Central Point, Virginia.  In 1959, interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia and 16 other states; so, the Lovings went to Washington, D.C. to get married.  Upon return to their home in Virginia, the Lovings were arrested for illegal cohabitation and sent to jail.  (I heard gasps from my students.  It does make you gasp, doesn’t it?)  They were told to move out of Virginia if they wanted to live together.  The Lovings moved to Washington, D.C. and had three children; but, they were not happy with their new urban life.  The Lovings wanted to return to Virginia where they could live in the countryside.  “By now it was 1966, and the times they were a changin’.”  The Lovings moved back to Central Point and filed a lawsuit, Loving v. Virginia.  The Loving case went all the way to the Supreme Court.  Richard and Mildred did not attend the Supreme Court hearings.  Their lawyers read Richard’s words to the justices, “Tell the Court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”  These words were so plain and so honest, they resonated with all my students.

The Lovings were victorious in their battle and nine years after marrying, they were able to legally move back to Virginia to live.

When I finished reading this book, my students all asked if this book was true.  I found the author’s note at the end of the book particularly poignant.  Selina Alko, a white, Jewish woman, married Sean Qualls, an African-American man and one of the illustrators of this book, in 2003,  having benefitted from the Lovings fight for justice so long ago.

How to Hide a Lion, Helen Stephens

Published February 5, 2015 by Dagmar

I love it when I find a great book for my preschool and TK students.  How to Hide a Lion is a sweet book with endearing illustrations.

how-to-hide-a-lionLion comes to town looking for a hat.  Everyone is scared of him, so he runs away.  He ends up in the backyard of a strong and very brave girl named Iris.  Iris finds Lion in  her playhouse.  Lion is much too big to hide in her playhouse.  So, Iris takes him inside her house.  First, she grooms him and puts a bandage on his hurt paw.  Then, she tries to hide him.  Iris succeeds for a while, but while reading a story to Lion, he falls fast asleep.  It happens that lions are very hard to wake up.  Lions that are hard to wake up are unable to hide quickly.  Needless to say, disaster strikes.  Iris’ mom discovers Lion, screams, and Lion is on the run again.  He decides to hide in plain site, sitting still, between two statues next to the Town Hall.  Unfortunately for two crooks, and fortunately for Iris’ town, Lion’s hiding place is the perfect place to catch crooks leaving the Town Hall with the mayor’s candlesticks.  The towns people, no longer scared of Lion, honor him and present him with a …hat.  Of course.

I was charmed by this book as were my students.  Please enjoy.

The Book with No Pictures, by B. J. Novak

Published January 3, 2015 by Dagmar

the book with no picturesThere have been a few books in my library that have made students laugh and roll on the floor.  Not polite little “I’m using my library voice” laughing and rolling on the floor…happy, loud laughing and rolling on the floor. And, really, why not?  If you can make your usually quiet librarian say things like, “My best friend is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt,” just by asking her to read this book, wouldn’t you do the same? Not since their favorite “Pigeon” books, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems have my students found a book that is SO funny.  I wasn’t planning to read this book a second week in a row, but my students insisted. 🙂

Why is this book such a success?  Like Mo Willems Pigeon books, this book puts kids in control.  They get to tell you what to do, and they really love it.

I loved reading this book and seeing my students have a great time.

 

 

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper

Published December 21, 2014 by Dagmar

Of all the books my students read in our 4th and 5th grade book club this fall, Out of My Mind was their favorite.  Sharon Draper, who has a disabled daughter herself, tells a story of a disabled girl who is constantly underestimated and misunderstood but who is extraordinarily smart and determined.

outofmymindMelody is 10 years old and has cerebral palsy.  Her disability affects her in many ways. Melody is unable to walk and cannot balance when she sits up.  She sits, strapped into a wheel chair. She can’t feed herself, cloth herself or go the bathroom by herself.  Sometimes, she can’t control her body movements.  Far more frustrating for Melody, though, is the fact that she can’t talk.  But, don’t feel sorry for Melody.  Melody is brilliant.  In fact, she has a photographic memory.  If people knew how smart she was, they might not underestimate her so much.

Imagine knowing what’s happening around you and wanting to speak, but being unable to speak.  No one around her, not even her parents, fully understand how much Melody knows or what she thinks about.  It might make you go out of your mind, like a fish in a tiny fish bowl who just can’t stand those glass walls anymore.

At school, Melody is placed in a room for children with disabilities.  Unfortunately, there, having disabilities means that people also think you’re stupid and try to teach you the alphabet in third grade.

Luckily, Melody has champions who fight for her.  Her parents are constantly trying to explain that Melody is an intelligent child who needs people to teach her.  Ms. V., Melody’s neighbor who has taken care of her since she was a baby, while Melody’s parents work, needs no convincing about Melody’s intelligence.  She works with Melody, developing word cards so that Melody can communicate.  Catherine, Melody’s aide at school, works with Melody to find a machine that can help her speak.

When Melody gets her machine, she finds her voice.  It is an amazing gift.  Everyone learns just how incredibly bright Melody is.  Melody has opportunities that she couldn’t have dreamed of the year before, including joining mainstream classrooms.

This book does such a wonderful job of explaining Melody’s condition and limitations in away that doesn’t let you feel sorry for Melody.  Draper’s writing gives Melody an authentic voice that really speaks to students.  Melody’s disappointments and frustrations are easy to imagine.  Her victories make you feel great.

With great characters and plot twists right until the end, this book will really draw you in.  Don’t miss it!  For more information, please check out this interview with Sharon Draper about this book on her web-site. http://sharondraper.com/bookdetail.asp?id=35

The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer

Published December 14, 2014 by Dagmar

My niece is a big reader.  One of my favorite things to do is to talk about books with her.  The Land of Stories might be the most enthusiastic recommendation she’s ever made to me.  She went on Land of Storiesabout how much she loved the book, and she was so excited that there were sequels to the story.  A few weeks later I was in a hotel in San Francisco, when I overheard a girl, about the same age as Emma, telling her grandmother about a great book she was reading.  She was so enthusiastic that I couldn’t help interrupting and asking her what book she was talking about.  You’ve got it. It was The Land of Stories.

I ordered the book for my kindle the next night and began reading the book.  I see what they saw in the book.  The Land of Stories falls in the fairy tale fantasy genre for middle readers.  There have been a lot of these books published lately.  Luckily, they are not cookie cutter.  Each is clever and has its own merits.  My particular favorites are this book, A Tale Dark and Grimm, A Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom and Rump.  I’m terribly behind on reading the Sisters Grimm (incredibly behind, really, given that the series now has 9 books) but plan to read that book as well.  After reading it, I put it on my 4th and 5th Grade Fiction Book Club list.  My students raved about this book as well.

The Land of Stories is terrific.  Two great characters go on a quest – but not just any quest. This quest combines humor, mystery, adventure and lots of familiar fairy tale characters who are probably quite a bit different than you might remember.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell pulls you right in.  It  begins as Queen Snow White enters a dark dungeon to speak with her step-mother, the Evil Queen.  Snow White begs the former queen to tell her why she never loved Snow White.  The Evil Queen tells Snow White that “a villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told.”

The book then turns to two characters, Alex and Conner Bailey, 12 year old twins who live with their mother.  They live in a small house, having had to sell their old house after their father passes away in a car accident.  Life is difficult for the twins.  Their mother, trying to pay the bills, has to work double shifts as a nurse.  They rarely see their mother, and Conner is struggling in school.  Their grandmother is a light in their life.  When she arrives for the twins’ birthday, she leaves them with her most prized possession, an old story book called, The Land of Stories.

The old story book turns out to be more than just a book of stories.  It vibrates and hums.  It keeps Alex, normally a top student, up at night.  While not many people would think to try to drop a book into the pages of a humming storybook, Alex is just the kind of kid that does.  She drops in several books and a pencil and then, a little predictably, is sucked into the book herself.  Her twin, Conner, horrified as he watches her disappear, jumps right in after his sister.  What do you do when you fall into a book?  You meet a magical creature – not a faun, as might happen if you’ve fallen through the back of a wardrobe – but a big frog who offers you tea with flies (if you like).  The only way to leave the enchanted land?  Fulfill the requirements of the Wishing Spell.

I don’t want to give away too much, because this book is truly worth your time.  You’ll learn the truth about Goldilocks (a villain on the run), Little Red Riding Hood, Jack in the Beanstalk and that Evil Queen and whether she actually is a victim. You’ll also learn whether Alex and Conner ever find their way home.

Honestly, it would not surprise me if this book won an award.  Please don’t miss this wonderful book.  I’m launching a fantasy book club, and my students have already asked me to put book two of this series on the list.  Hmmm.  They might have to just borrow that book from my library shelves – so many more great fantasy books and series to explore!

4th and 5th grade fiction book club

Published December 12, 2014 by Dagmar

We just wrapped our 4th and 5th grade fiction book club last week.  Last school year, I hosted a California Young Readers’ Medal book club.  I loved seeing our best readers bond as a group.  When I say these students are our best clients, I’m serious.  These kids really read.

outofmymindI chose five books for my students.  I started with these books: Al Capone Does My Shirts,  by Gennifer Choldenko; The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, by Chris Colfer; The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman; Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper; and What We Found Al Capone Doesin the Sofa and How it Saved the World, by Henry Clark.  I chose The Land of Stories, because my niece, a fifth grader, told me the Land of Stories was one of the best books she’d read.  I loved it, myself.

Not only did most of my students finish all five of the books I chose, they added books to my list and managed to finish most of those books, too – all while checking out library books to read each week.  Wow.

HLand of Storiesere’s what my students added to our reading list: A Stone in My Hand, by Cathryn Clinton; Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis; Island of Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell; Almost Home, by Joan Bauer.  Great choices.  I loved every one of these books myself.

At our party, I polled all my students on their favorite books.  Out of My Mind won by a mile.  My niece Face Timed me last week to tell me that she’d just read another great book…Out of My Mind. 🙂  I wish she could join my book club!

Look for reviews of these books soon.

Take Away the A, by Michael Escoffier

Published December 12, 2014 by Dagmar

Here’s my next entry in the “Clever Alphabet book” category.  I’m kidding, I don’t have a Clever Alphabet category on my blog, but I think I might need one now.  My first entry in this budding category, The Z was Zappedtake away the a by Chris Van Allsburg, is a fun, if dangerous, alphabet book.

Take Away the A takes each letter and removes it from a word to make a new word.  “Without the C, the Chair has Hair.” “Without the L, the Plants wear Pants.” Clever, right?  My second graders thought so and had a great time reading this book with me.  The illustrations, by Kris Di Giacomo, are lots of fun, too. I highly recommend this book to early readers who will love figuring out what happens as each letter disappears.

Stay tuned for my next clever Alphabet book, Oliver Jeffers’ Once Upon an Alphabet.