Children’s Book Recommendations

All posts tagged Children’s Book Recommendations

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.

Dork Diaries, by Rachel Renee Russell

Published June 30, 2015 by Dagmar

This fiction series is always in demand in my school library.  I finally sat down to read the first book in the series this summer, right after I replaced all the missing copies from my library shelves and pre-ordered the 9th book in the series, due out on June 2, 2015dork diaries. Dork Diaries has that magic that began with Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Humor + drawings = appeal to just about every kind of reader.  I didn’t think I’d like it, but I loved it.

Dork Diaries is the story of Nikki Maxwell, eighth grader at Westchester Country Day.  She is the daughter of the school’s exterminator, there on scholarship. Nikki is having a tough time. New to the school, she is trying to fit in with the “CCP” (Cute, Cool & Popular) group at school.  The group, led by the impossibly mean and snobby Mackenzie Hollister, has all the best clothes, cell phones and get invited to the best parties.

At first, I worried that I wouldn’t like Dork Diaries.  In the beginning, as Russell sets the scene, the CCP’s mean girl talk is a little much for me.  It is actually really mean.  I didn’t want to read a book where the humor was all self-deprecating and the mean girl has all the power.  Russell seems to know just how far to go, because then Nikki’s humor kicks in.

There are lots of funny parts in the book.  I thought it was funny when Nikki’s parents try to cheer her up by putting positive messages around the house, saying things like “Be you OWN best friend.” and “Invite YOURSELF for a sleepover.”  Unfortunately, those two notes were put in the toaster slot and ended up starting a small kitchen fire. The best part of the book, I think, is when Nikki writes about her interactions with people in her diary. As she describes a scene, she’ll “say” something that makes you say to yourself…”OMG, she did NOT just say that out loud…”. Then, it’s followed immediately by “But I just said that inside my head, so no one else heard it but me.” Those moments totally cracked me up, because even though they happened throughout the book, they always surprised me.

Nikki goes through a lot of trials during her first year at Westchester, but ends up ending the year with grace and with Mackenzie jealous of her.  Go Nikki.

This book is most popular with my tweens and so could fit in an elementary school or middle school library.

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.