Librarians' Choices 2011
1. Almond, David. 2011. MY NAME IS MINA. New York: Delacorte. ISBN 9780385740739 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-8]
2. Blumenthal, Karen. 2011. BOOTLEG: MURDER, MOONSHINE, AND THE LAWLESS YEARS OF PROHIBITION. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 978-1596434493 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
3. Blundell, Judy. 2011. STRINGS ATTACHED. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 978054221269 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
4. Boyer, Cecile. 2011. WOOF MEOW TWEET-TWEET. New York: Seven Footer Press. ISBN 9781934734605 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
5. Bragg, Georgia. 2011. HOW THEY CROAKED: THE AWFUL ENDS OF THE AWFULLY FAMOUS. Ill. by Kevin O’Malley. New York: Walker. ISBN 9780802798176 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-12]
6. Bray, Libba. 2011. BEAUTY QUEENS. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780439895972 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
7. Brosgol, Vera. 2011. ANYA’S GHOST. New York: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 9781596437135 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]
8. Burleigh, Robert. 2011. NIGHT FLIGHT: AMELIA EARHART CROSSES THE ATLANTIC. Ill. by Wendell Minor. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978141697330 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]
9. Cardillo, Margaret. 2011. JUST BEING AUDREY. Ill. by Julia Denos. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061852831 [Suggested Grade Levels 1-3]
10. Carson, Rae. 2011. THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS. New York: Greenwillow. ISBN 9780062025484 [Suggest Grade Levels 9-12]
11. Casanova, Mary. 2011. THE DAY DIRK YELLER CAME TO TOWN. Ill. by Ard Hoyt. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9780374317423 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-3]
12. Castellucci, Cecil. 2011. FIRST DAY ON EARTH. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780545060820 [Suggested Grade Levels 8–12]
13. Cerrito, Angela. THE END OF THE LINE. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 9780823422876 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
14. Chayll, Eishes. 2011. HUSH. New York: Walker. ISBN 9780802720887 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
15. Christensen, Bonnie. 2011. FABULOUS! A PORTRAIT OF ANDY WARHOL. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 9780805087536 [Suggested Grade Levels 3–6]
16. Clement-Moore, Rosemary. 2011. TEXAS GOTHIC. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780385736930 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]
17. Cofer, Judith Ortiz. 2011. IF I COULD FLY. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9870374335175 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-10]
18. Couloumbis, Audrey. 2011. LEXIE. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375856327 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]
19. Deedy, Caarmen Agra and Wright, Randall. 2011. THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT: A DICKENS OF A TALE. Ill. by Barry Moser. Atlanta: Peachtree. ISBN 9781561455959 [Suggested Grade Levels 3–6]
20. DiPucchio, Kelly. 2011. CLINK. Ill. by Matthew Myers. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061929281 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK–2]
21. Evans, Shane W. 2011. UNDERGROUND. New York: Roaring Book Press. ISBN 9781596435384 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-4]
22. Frazier, Craig. 2011. BEE & BIRD. New York: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 9781596436602 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
23. Frost, Helen. 2011. HIDDEN. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. ISBN 9780374382216 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
24. Gal, Susan. 2011. INTO THE OUTDOORS. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0375869587 [Suggested Grade Levels K-5]
25. Galbraith, Kathryn O. 2011. PLANTING THE WILD GARDEN. Ill. by Wendy Anderson Halperin. Atlanta: Peachtree. ISBN 9781561455638 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-3]
26. Gantos, Jack. DEAD END IN NORVELT. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 978-0374379933 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-10]
27. George, Kristine O’Connell. EMMA DILEMMA: BIG SISTER POEMS. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. New York: Clarion. ISBN 978-0618428427 [Suggested Grade Levels K-5]
28. Gier, Kerstin. 2011. RUBY RED. Translated by Anthea Bell. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 9780805092523 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-10]
29. Goodrich, Carter. 2011. SAY HELLO TO ZORRO! New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781416938934 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
30. Greenwald, Tommy. 2011. CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING. Ill by J. P. Coovert. New York: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 9781596436916 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]
31. Hall, Michael. 2011. PERFECT SQUARE. New York: Greenwillow. ISBN 9780061915130 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK–2]
32. Handler, Daniel. 2011. WHY WE BROKE UP. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316127257 [Suggested Grades Levels 9-12]
33. Helquist, Brett. 2011. BEDTIME FOR BEAR. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060502058 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
34. Henderson, Kathy. HUSH, BABY, HUSH!: LULLABIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD. New York: Frances Lincoln. ISBN 978-1845079673 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
35. Herrera, Nicholas. 2011. HIGH RIDERS, SAINTS, AND DEATH CARS A LIFE SAVED BY ART. Photos by John T. Denne. Toronto: Groundwood Press. ISBN 0780888998545 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-12]
36. Hopkins, Lee Bennett (Ed.) I AM THE BOOK. Ill. by Yayo. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 978-0823421190 [Suggested Grade Levels 1-5]
37. Humphrey, Anna. 2011. MISSION (UN)POPULAR. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 9781423123019 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]
38. Janeczko, Paul B. 2011. REQUIEM: POEMS OF THE TEREZIN GHETTO. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763647278 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-10]
39. Johnson, Maureen. 2011. THE NAME OF THE STAR. New York: Putnam. ISBN 9780399256608 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
40. Juster, Norton. 2011. NEVILLE. Ill. by G. Brian Karas. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375867051 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]
41. Klassen, Jon. 2011. I WANT MY HAT BACK. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763655983 [Suggested Grade Levels K-2]
42. Lai, Thanhha. 2011. INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0061962783 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]
43. Lamb, Albert. 2011. TELL ME THE DAY BACKWARDS. Ill. by David McPhail. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763650551 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
44. Lee, Dora. 2011. BIOMIMICRY. Ill. by Margot Thompson. Toronto: Kids Can Press. ISBN 9781554534678 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]
45. Macy, Sue. 2011. BASKETBALL BELLES: HOW TWO TEAMS AND ONE SCRAPPY PLAYER PUT WOMEN’S HOOPS ON THE MAP. Ill. by Matt Collins. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 9780823421633 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]
46. Maloney, Peter and Zekauskas, Felicia. 2011. ONE FOOT, TWO FEET: AN EXCEPTIONAL COUNTING BOOK. New York: Putnam. ISBN 978-0399254468 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
47. Manna, Anthony L. & Mitakidou, S. 2011. THE ORPHAN: A CINDERELLA STORY FROM GREECE. Ill. by Giselle Potter. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375866913 [Suggested Grade Levels 1-6]
48. Marcus, Kimberly. 2011. EXPOSED. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375966934 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
49. Marrin, Albert. 2011. FLESH AND BLOOD SO CHEAP: THE TRIANGLE FIRE AND ITS LEGACY. New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780375868894 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
50. McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. 2011. UNDER THE MESQUITE. New York: Lee & Low. ISBN 978-1600604294 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
51. McClafferty, Carla Killough. 2011. THE MANY FACES OF GEORGE WASHINGTON: REMAKING A PRESIDENTIAL ICON. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner. ISBN 9780761356080 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-6]
52. McDonnell, Patrick. 2011. ME... JANE. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316045469 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
53. McKissack, Patricia C. 2011. NEVER FORGOTTEN. Ill. by Leo & Diane Dillon. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375843846 [Suggested Grade Levels K-8]
54. Meloy, Colin. 2011. WILDWOOD. Ill by Carson Ellis. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062024688 [Suggested Grade Levels 4–8]
55. Metzger, Steve. 2011. DETECTIVE BLUE. Ill. by Tedd Arnold. New York: Orchard. ISBN 9780545172868 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
56. Moss, Marissa. 2011. NURSE, SOLDIER, SPY: THE STORY OF SARAH EDMONDS, A CIVIL WAR HERO. Ill by John Hendrix. ISBN 9780810997356 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-5]
57. Myers, Walter Dean. 2011. WE ARE AMERICA: A TRIBUTE FROM THE HEART. New York: Collins. ISBN 978-0060523084 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-10]
58. Nelson, Kadir. 2011. HEART AND SOUL. THE STORY OF AMERICA AND AFRICAN AMERICANS. New York: Balzer + Bray. ISBN 978-0061730740 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-12]
59. Ness, Patrick. 2011. A MONSTER CALLS. Ill. by Jim Kay. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763655594 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]
60. Okorafor, Nnedi. 2011. AKATA WITCH. New York: Penguin. ISBN 9780670011964 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-8]
61. Ostlere, Cathy. 2011. KARMA. New York: Penguin. ISBN 9781595143389 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-11]
62. Ottaviani, Jim. 2011. FEYNMAN. Ill by Leland Myrick. New York: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 9781596432598 [Suggested Grade Levels 8–12]
63. Perez, Ashley Hope. 2011. WHAT CAN(T) WAIT. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda. ISBN 9780761361558 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]
64. Raczka, Bob. 2011. LEMONADE AND OTHER POEMS SQUEEZED FROM A SINGLE WORD. Ill. by Nancy Doniger. New York: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 9721596435414 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-10]
65. Raschka, Chris. A BALL FOR DAISY. New York: Schwartz & Wade. ISBN 978-0375858611 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-3]
66. Rocco, John. 2011. BLACKOUT. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 9781423121909 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
67. Roth, Veronica. 2011. DIVERGENT. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062024022 [Suggested Grade Levels 8–12]
68. Russo, Marisabina. 2011. I WILL COME BACK FOR YOU: A FAMILY IN HIDING DURING WORLD WAR II. New York: Schwartz & Wade. ISBN 978-0375866951 [Suggested Grade Levels K-5]
69. Salas, Laura Purdie. 2011. BOOKSPEAK!: POEMS ABOUT BOOKS. Ill. by Josee Bisaillon. New York: Clarion. ISBN 978-0547223001 [Suggested Grade Levels K-6]
70. Santat, Dan. 2011. SIDEKICKS. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780439298193 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-6]
71. Savage, Stephen. 2011. WHERE’S WALRUS? New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780439700498 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
72. Say, Allen. 2011. DRAWING FROM MEMORY. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780545176866 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]
73. Schmidt, Gary D. 2011. OKAY FOR NOW. New York: Clarion. ISBN 978-0547152608 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-12]
74. Selznick, Brian. 2011. WONDERSTRUCK. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 978-0545027892 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-9]
75. Sepetys, Ruta. 2011. BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY. New York: Penguin. ISBN 9780399254123 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]
76. Shapiro, J. H. 2011. MAGIC TRASH: A STORY OF TYREE GUYTON AND HIS ART. Ill. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781580893855 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-5]
77. Sidman, Joyce. 2011. SWIRL BY SWIRL: SPIRALS IN NATURE. Ill. by Beth Krommes. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780547315836 [Suggested Grade Levels 1-4]
78. Sloan, Holly Goldberg. 2011. I’LL BE THERE. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316122795 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-10]
79. Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. 2011. THE CHRISTMAS COAT MEMORIES OF MY SIOUX CHILDHOOD. Ill. by Ellen Beier. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 9780823421343 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]
80. Srinivasan, Divya. 2011. LITTLE OWL’S NIGHT. New York: Penguin. ISBN 9780670012954 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-K]
81. Stephens, John. 2011. EMERALD ATLAS. New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780375868702 [Suggested Grade Levels 5–8]
82. Stevens, April. 2011. EDWIN SPEAKS UP. Ill. by Sophie Blackall. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375853371 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
83. Stiefvater, Maggie. 2011. THE SCORPIO RACES. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 978-0545224901 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
84. Sweet, Melissa. 2011. BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY: THE TRUE STORY OF THE PUPPETEER OF MACY’S PARADE. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0547199450 [Suggested Grade Levels K-6]
85. Taylor, Laini. 2011. DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316134026 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
86. Thompson, Holly. 2011. ORCHARDS. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780385739771 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]
87. Trottier, Maxine. 2011. MIGRANT. Ill. by Isabelle Arsenault. Toronto: Groundwood. ISBN 9780888999757 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-5]
88. Tullet, Herve. 2011. PRESS HERE. San Francisco: Chronicle. ISBN 978-0811879545 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-6]
89. Van Draanen, Wendelin. 2011. THE RUNNING DREAM. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375966675 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-10]
90. VanHecke, Susan. 2011. RAGGIN’ JAZZIN’ ROCKIN’: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MAKERS. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. ISBN 9781590785744 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
91. Wardlaw, Lee. 2011. WON TON: A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 978-0805089950 [Suggested Grade Levels K-5]
92. Whaley, John Corey. 2011. WHERE THINGS COME BACK. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 9781442413337 [Suggested Grade Level 8-12]
93. Wild, Margaret. 2011. HARRY & HOPPER. Ill by Freya Blackwood. New York: Macmillian. ISBN 9780312642617 [Suggested Grade Levels 1–3]
94. Winter, Jonah. 2011. BORN AND BRED IN THE GREAT DEPRESSION. Ill. by Kimberly Bulcken Root. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375861970 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]
95. Wolf, Allan. 2011.THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT: VOICES FROM THE TITANIC. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 978-0763637033 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
96. Yaccarino, Dan. 2011. ALL THE WAY TO AMERICA: THE STORY OF A BIG ITALIAN FAMILY AND A LITTLE SHOVEL. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0375866425 [Suggested Grade Levels K-5]
97. Yee, Lisa. 2011. WARP SPEED. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780545122764 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]
98. Young, Ed. 2011. THE HOUSE BABA BUILT: AN ARTIST’S CHILDHOOD IN CHINA. New York: Little Brown. ISBN 9780316076289 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-7]
99. Yum, Hyewon. 2011. THE TWINS’ BLANKET. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9780374379728 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
100. Zimmer, Tracy Vaughn. 2011. COUSINS OF CLOUDS: ELEPHANT POEMS. Ill. by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy. New York: Clarion. ISBN 978-0618903498 [Suggested Grade Levels K-7]
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Almond, David. 2011. MY NAME IS MINA. New York: Delacorte. ISBN 9780385740739 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-8]
This prequel to SKELLIG is both a visual and literary delight. Written in an undated journal format with different sized fonts, white space, and even white words on black at times, Mina’s first words are “My name is Mina, and I love the night.” After a run-in with her teacher, Mina asks to be homeschooled and her mother agrees and thus begins a time of almost “unschooling” where Mina is allowed to explore her feelings, her emotions, and subjects that interest her. This unstructured time and a blank journal give rise to a wonderfully introspective view of an intelligent young girl who needs time to figure life out on her own terms as she deals with the death of her father. With forays into an alternate school, meeting neighbors, and reuniting with old friends, Mina’s journey becomes the episodic plot. Nine-year-old Mina has the voice of a much older child which makes it accessible reading for both discerning elementary readers and thoughtful middle schoolers.
Use this as an introduction to journal writing or writing description. Read sections aloud to the group and encourage students to write about what Mina is writing about in their own journals.
Use in middle school or high school with students interested in creative writing.
Almond, David. SKELLIG. ISBN 9780385326537
Henkes, Kevin. SUN AND SPOON. ISBN 9780061288753
By Janet Hilbun
Blumenthal, Karen. 2011. BOOTLEG: MURDER, MOONSHINE, AND THE LAWLESS YEARS OF PROHIBITION. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 978-1596434493 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
This award winning nonfiction author gives readers another well-researched and lively look at a fascinating topic: the role of alcohol in our society, particularly during the Prohibition years in the 1920’s. Her balanced writing offers insight into the motivations behind the movement to ban public drinking and the ramifications of the Constitutional amendment to do so. How could good intentions go so wrong? What is the role of government in socializing behavior? She offers lively anecdotes and archival images in a well-organized presentation of a multi-layered issue. BOOTLEG was named a Kirkus Best Teen Book of the Year and School Library Journal Best Nonfiction Book of 2011
In her final chapter, Blumenthal raises questions about how other illegal substances (such as marijuana) affect society. There are excellent discussion points for older readers to consider in a pro/con debate. In addition, she provides extensive source notes and bibliographic references which tweens/teens can pursue for more photos, stories, and details. Check out Ken Burns’s documentary on Prohibition for more background building.
Other nonfiction books by Karen Blumenthal:
STEVE JOBS; THE MAN WHO THOUGHT DIFFERENT. ISBN 978-1250014450
LET ME PLAY: THE STORY OF TITLE IX. ISBN 978-0689859571
SIX DAYS IN OCTOBER: THE STOCK MARKET CRASH OF 1929. ISBN 978-0689842764
By Sylvia M. Vardell
Blundell, Judy. 2011. STRINGS ATTACHED. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 978054221269 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
Set in the early 1950s, Blundell's newest young adult novel is a gritty page-turner fraught with mystery, intrigue, romance, and danger. Kit, one of a set of triplets raised by her widowed father and her aunt, has dated the unpredictable Billy for several years and known him even longer. Billy's father is alleged to have "mob" connections and when Kit leaves Rhode Island and flees to NYC to find work as a showgirl, he helps her. Billy’s gangster father also helps her when the musical closes and she needs work. The novel reads like a film noir with gangsters, murder, and cover-ups. Kit is a strong character, although not always likeable, and the twists and turns of her involvement with Billy's father make the book a page-turner. The story goes back and forth from the "present" to the flashbacks to Kit's life and her involvement with Billy. While this can make the story a little disjointed, it mostly works. The book will especially appeal to the older young adult reader who is not quite ready for adult books but wants something a little edgy with mature characters.
Not only is this a great selection for a teen book club, but it can also be used to explore post-WWII US history or organized crime.
Use in an English classroom to introduce the device of the flashback, role of setting, and character development.
Blundell, Judy. WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED. 9780439903467
Cushman, Karen. THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN. ISBN 9780618504559
Korman, Gordon. SON OF THE MOB. ISBN 9780786815937
By Janet Hilbun
Boyer, Cecile. 2011. WOOF MEOW TWEET-TWEET. NY: Seven Footer Press. ISBN: 9781934734605 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK and up]
“Do you know how to tell the difference between a dog, a cat and a bird?” Well, do you? This is how the book WOOF MEOW TWEET-TWEET begins. The simple story compares and contrasts the habits of each of the creatures and what typically happens when they encounter one another.
The book’s twist is in the illustrations. Instead of drawn figures of the animals who make these specific sounds, we are presented with onomatopoetic text in their place; the words WOOF MEOW and TWEET-TWEET appearing in place of the creature. A fun play in text alignment has WOOF showing its tricks by sitting, begging and lying down, while MEOW appears on rooftops and lounging on a comfy chair. TWEET-TWEET appears on power lines and in trees.
The message is simple and straight forward and the text representation of the animals act in a rebus-like fashion. Simple illustrations run throughout in a retro color pallet dominated by oranges and green. Back matter includes the names of the fonts representing the animals and their creators, including the font for MEOW which was specifically created for this book.
Add some noise making creatures to the story and carry it forward. Maybe the house pets will go on a car ride to the country. Who will they see? How will they appear? Create a story board, and don’t forget to draw your sounds!
Additional books that push the boundaries of page and text:
Tullet, Herve. THE BOOK WITH A HOLE. ISBN 9781854379467
Tullet, Herve. PRESS HERE. ISBN 9780811879545
By Marianne Follis
Bragg, Georgia. 2011. HOW THEY CROAKED: THE AWFUL ENDS OF THE AWFULLY FAMOUS. Ill. by Kevin O’Malley. New York: Walker. ISBN 9780802798176 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-12]
Highlighting the deaths of nineteen famous people, this fun and informative book achieves just the right mix of morbidity and humor. The cartoon portraits of each subject and the frank treatment of facts surrounding their deaths will appeal to general readers, not just history buffs. Some chapters detail the dying process—for example, Napoleon’s undiagnosed stomach cancer was treated with chemicals that he ingested causing massive diarrhea and vomiting. Other chapters emphasize post-death trivia– a rogue pathologist secretly removed Einstein’s brain and kept it in a jar in his basement for years. Yet, much information is drolly provided about the life of each subject, both their accomplishments and failures.
A final chapter emphasizes that these individuals became icons because of their hard work and devotion to their goals. They provide examples for young people of individuals who make the most of their lives, while realizing that no one escapes the ultimate end.
Discuss how many of the causes of death listed in the book could be avoided. Identify medical advancements or societal changes that would result in different outcomes today. Invite teens to watch the TV series, “1000 Ways to Die.” Collect some of the causes of death to use in creative writing exercises.
Other fun and intriguing collective biographies for young adults:
Jacob, Matthew & Mark Jacob. WHAT THE GREAT ATE: A CURIOUS HISTORY OF FOOD AND FAME. ISBN 9780307461957.
Pouy, Jean-Bernard, Serge Bloch, & Anne Blanchard. THE BIG BOOK OF DUMMIES, REBELS, AND OTHER GENIUSES. ISBN 9780592701032
Welden, Amelie. WITH A BANJO GIRLS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD: HEROINES FROM SACAGAWEA TO SHERYL SWOOPES. ISBN 1885223684.
Various authors, WICKED HISTORY series.
By Rebecca S. McKee
Bray, Libba. 2011. BEAUTY QUEENS. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780439895972 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
Libba Bray’s latest novel offers another humorous look at teen relationships and angst, this time in the form of beauty pageant queens. When their plane crashes on a supposedly deserted island, the surviving Miss Teen Dream contestants struggle to acquire basic necessities while maintaining their pageant practice regime. Using the tools available, the teens gather rainwater with an evening gown, spear fish with straightening irons, and attempt to signal passing planes and ships with discarded sequins. As days turn into weeks and rescue seems unlikely, the girls gradually leave their pageant world and its expectations behind to discover what they really want in life.
Bray’s hilarious, and often sarcastic, look at beauty invites readers to look beyond the surface to the true heart of teens. Readers will enjoy the girls’ superficial pageant platforms as much as their more sincere journeys of self-discovery. Between rescuing sexy reality show pirates and escaping from an evil corporation smuggling illegal weapons, the resourceful Miss Teen Dreamers have their hands full, but they rise to the challenge. In the words of Miss Texas Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins, “This is an opportunity for growth and the establishment of your personal brand. Everybody loves a survivor!”
This title would make an excellent addition to a study about satire. Teens could compare examples from the girls’ interview answers to their more personal conversations later on the island.
Other books for teens featuring satire:
Benway, Robin. AUDREY, WAIT. ISBN 9781595141910
Headley, Justina Chen. NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (AND A FEW WHITE LIES). ISBN 9781428725270
Nelson, Blake. DESTROY ALL CARS. ISBN 9780545104746
By Kimberly C. Kinnaird
Brosgol, Vera. 2011. ANYA’S GHOST. New York: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 9781596437135 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]
Anya is a Russian immigrant girl who, like most teens, is trying to assimilate. Her mother’s precautions and “”old ways” annoy her, her younger sibling is both endearing and an irritant, and she longs for a romantic relationship. When she falls down a well, she literally stumbles upon a piece of the past – a ghost who at first promises to fill a niche for Anya. The girl ghost helps Anya make good grades, she finagles a match-up between Anya and a popular boy, and she seems to “understand” Anya. When Anya realizes the ghost’s ulterior motive, the story takes a mysterious turn and Anya must decide just how much she is willing to sacrifice for her newfound popularity.
The black, white, and gray graphic illustrations set the appropriate tone, yet the roundness and clarity of the figures give a child-like quality. Thus the reader is left with an impression of both innocence and darkness, which is the perfect complement to the text. This is a classic example of what appeals to graphic novel fans – the aura of the story is achieved with precise coordination between text and pictures.
The antagonist in this story is a ghost from the past. Ask teens to analyze the roles of ghosts in other stories – both graphic novels and even in classic literature. What are some advantages to writing stories with a phantom villain as opposed to a mortal one? Why are ghost stories appealing to young readers? What makes a good ghost story?
Other graphic novels with a supernatural antagonist:
Kibuishi, Kazu. THE STONEKEEPER (AMULET series). ISBN 9780439846813
Kim, Susan. BRAIN CAMP. ISBN 1596433663
Tennapel, Doug. GHOSTOPOLIS. ISBN 9780545210287
By Rebecca S. McKee
Burleigh, Robert. 2011. NIGHT FLIGHT: AMELIA EARHART CROSSES THE ATLANTIC. Ill. by Wendell Minor. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978141697330 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]
“Everything she has ever learned courses through her blood.
Now or never. All or nothing.”
Many books written about Amelia Earhart chronicle her fateful and failed last journey. This strikingly illustrated account details Earhart’s lengthy, daunting, thrilling and successful trans-Atlantic flight in May, 1932. Minor’s gouache and watercolor paintings perfectly capture the essence of the journey—from the thrill of adventure at take-off, to the anxiety, danger and even terror during the storm-ridden flight, to the exuberance of a safe landing in an Irish field. Colored pencil drawings on the end pages show both a map and timeline of this flight, as well as a rendition of Earhart’s Lockheed Vega airplane, nicknamed “The Little Red Bus.”
Though the basic story is told clearly through the illustrations, the simple and straightforward text expands upon the details, offering more insight into both the particulars of the flight and to Earhart herself. A bibliography, Internet resources, and a list of pertinent quotes from Earhart are also included.
Readers may well be interested in learning more about Amelia Earhart or other women who accomplished extraordinary things, after this introduction. Additionally, this social studies/history book could be combined with a science lesson on thrust, air pressure, and lift culminating with children designing their own paper airplanes.
More picture book nonfiction about adventurous women:
Ryan, Pam Muñoz. AMELIA AND ELEANOR GO FOR A RIDE. ISBN 059096075X
Adler, David A. AMERICA’S CHAMPION SWIMMER: GERTRUDE EDERLE. ISBN 0152019693
By Sarah C. Dornback
Cardillo, Margaret. 2011. JUST BEING AUDREY. Ill. by Julia Denos. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061852831 [Suggested Grade Levels 1-3]
Audrey Hepburn was a movie star and fashion icon. But, she was also a caring person who strived to treat others kindly and to make a positive difference in the world. After surviving the Nazi occupation of Europe, she went on to star in some of Hollywood’s biggest films. She became an inspiration through her work ethic, her personal style, and her charitable work for UNICEF.
Cardillo skillfully tells the inspiring story of Audrey Hepburn emphasizing the star’s lifelong perseverance and individuality in text that is accessible to young readers and of interest to life-long Hepburn fans. She effectively highlights childhood experiences, such as the way Audrey was teased because “she was too tall, her neck was too long, and her eyes seemed too big.” The author goes on to show that these “were precisely the things that made her beautiful as an adult.” Denos’s gentle watercolors are the ideal complement to the text; she gets Audrey’s elegant, doe-eyed je ne sais quoi just right. Cardillo and Denos capably show how one celebrity made a true impact in the world by “just being Audrey.”
This biography touches on many topics - ballet, World War II, the United Nations, Broadway, UNICEF - and can lead to further exploration and discussion of any of these subjects. Children can also map the different places Audrey lived around the world.
Audrey said children were like flowers; readers can discuss what she meant by this comparison and brainstorm ways they are like/unlike flowers. They can also illustrate themselves as flowers.
More books about trendsetters:
Corey, Shana. YOU FORGOT YOUR SKIRT, AMELIA BLOOMER! 9780439078191
Matthews, Elizabeth. DIFFERENT LIKE COCO. 9780763625481
By Jill Bellomy
Carson, Rae. 2011. THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS. New York: Greenwillow. ISBN 9780062025484 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
Sixteen-year-old Elisa is the chosen one, a princess, the possessor of the Godstone, the one about to be married. She is also the younger daughter, slightly overweight, not particularly pretty, the one who has never done anything special. And now she is to become the “secret wife” of a king whose country is in turmoil, in an attempt to salvage his reign and strengthen her father’s power in her country. When she arrives at her new home she is confronted by distrust, intrigue, jealousy, and revolution—all of which eventually lead to her kidnapping and her questioning all she has ever believed. This marvelous story goes far beyond the usual young adult fantasy with its wonderful world building, strong characters, romance, and its observations about family, duty, religion, and culture. Elisa is an especially strong character who is not beautiful or independent and part of the charm of this book is the growth of her as a character. The book, which can be read on many levels, is the first of a trilogy that can be enjoyed as a simple fantas, but is richer and more dynamic for the discerning reader.
This novel would be wonderful for a girls’ or mother and daughter book club as it addresses issues such as body image, gender and societal issues, and religion.
Other fantasy with strong female characters:
Bunce, Elizabeth. STARCROSSED. ISBN 9780545136051
Dixon, Heather. ENTWINED. ISBN 9780062001030
O’Neal, Ellis. FALSE PRINCESS. 9781606840795
By Janet Hilbun
Casanova, Mary. 2011. THE DAY DIRK YELLER CAME TO TOWN. Ill. by Ard Hoyt. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9780374317423 [Suggested Grade Levels Pre-K-3]
Notorious outlaw Dirk Yeller comes to town, looking to sooth his cat scratch fever symptoms, and fearful townsfolk send him without success to the general store, the trading post, and the saloon to find relief. Young Sam follows him throughout the town and finally thinks of the place that will calm Dirk Yeller down and bring him peace – the library. Miss Jenny has just the cure for Dirk– books with stories that capture the outlaw’s attention and ultimately his heart. Dirk leaves town, vowing to return to check out more books and the librarian.
Larger than life illustrations promote the tall tale quality of the story, with pictures of Dirk Yeller filling an entire page. Caricatures in soft pastels help to create a sense of harmony, not terror, illustrating Dirk’s true nature once he is converted by books. Clever end page drawings both set the stage for the story with wanted posters and close the tale with a wedding announcement. The text, full of colloquialisms and humor, presents a tale of redemption through reading.
Create a read-aloud experience by assigning characters to student volunteers (individually or to small groups). The teacher or librarian can read the commentary, with the readers chiming in when it’s their character’s turn to speak. Projecting the pages with a document camera will make this an easier task.
Other tall tale picture books include:
Isaacs, Anne. SWAMP ANGEL. ISBN 9787221082824
Kellogg, Steven. PECOS BILL: A TALL TALE. ISBN 9780688058715
Nolen, Jerdine. THUNDER ROSE. ISBN 780152164710
By Susi Parks Grissom
Castellucci, Cecil. 2011. FIRST DAY ON EARTH. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780545060820 [Suggested Grade Levels 8–12]
Anger, feeling misunderstood, isolated, and peer pressures are often the lot of a high school student. In Mal’s case, he appears to have the same issues as a normal high schooler, existing angrily on the fringes of the social scene. Yet appearances are not what they seem. For Mal, things are much worse, mirrored by his mother’s depression and drinking. Years ago he disappeared for three days after the abandonment of his father. Many theories are given but Mal knows that he experienced an alien abduction but how to be sure? At an abductees support group, Mal meets Hooper who seems to have some secrets that Mal can only guess at. Things quickly spiral into a road trip to the desert where Mal seeks to join Hooper into leaving planet Earth yet with the support of a few good friends, Mal realizes that he loves Earth and that it will be what he makes of it.
The writing may seem spare but is packed with emotions young adults will relate to. Even older readers will respond to Mal’s emotional journey and the complexity of his development as a character as he explores the new world of his making. The reader will be left wondering if Hooper really is an alien, if Mal was really abducted, but the reader will come away knowing that Mal has come to terms with himself and with the world at large. An excellent novel that grabs a reader by the heart.
An exploration into the myths and facts of Area 51 would be an excellent companion to this novel or research into abduction reports.
Dashner, James. THE MAZE RUNNER. ISBN 0385737947
Sagan, Carl. CONTACT ISBN 9780671004101
By Christine J. Rayl
Cerrito, Angela. THE END OF THE LINE. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 9780823422876 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
After killing his friend, Robbie finds himself locked in a room with a desk, chair, paper, and a pencil at the Great Oaks School, known as the end of the line. The thirteen-year-old boy makes lists that reflect who he is and what he has done. He earns basic privileges from his lists, moving from denial to the reality of his actions. His story is told in flashbacks that show the events leading him to murder his friend alternating with his struggles in the school to acknowledge his own role in it.
This gritty and horrifying novel provides a realistic and open ending for the boy who comes to accept his actions and moves back home to a changed life. Robbie’s story is at times funny and poignant, but the horror of his actions resonates as the actions leading to the murder are slowly revealed.
This book may be difficult to read, but it shows how easily young people can make the wrong decision and how the consequences must be paid. It is a book that may make teens think about choices and actions with consequences. This book would be a good choice for libraries serving at-risk populations or juvenile facilities.
Lead a discussion about the book which traces Robbie’s actions and identify at which points he could have changed the course of his life. Then have the teens make their own lists. Begin with “Who are you?” and choose other topics Robbie used to provide an opportunity for self-reflection.
Other books for young people about emotions and the consequences of their actions:
Mackall, Dandi Daley. THE SILENCE OF MURDER. ISBN 9780375868962
Feth, Monika. Translated by Anthea Bell. THE STRAWBERRY PICKER.
By Shirley Duke
Chayll, Eishes. 2011. HUSH. New York: Walker. ISBN 9780802720887 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]
Eishes Chayll (a pseudonym) prosaically examines incest in a closed community in this hard-hitting novel that is not for every teen reader. Gittel is thirteen in 2003 when she witnesses her best friend Devory being joined “under the covers” by a brother and “forced to do something,” something Gittel does not understand. Soon after, Devory commits suicide. Four years later as Gittel prepares for her arranged marriage—the negotiations with the groom’s family, meeting the groom, the actual ceremony, what happened to Devory begins to make sense, but Gittel knows that her standing as a desirable woman depends on her silence. While the external plot revolves around the marriage, early married life, and the birth of her first child, the internal plot deals with her struggle to make the community, especially the men who are the leaders, admit and accept responsibility for the incest and abuse of young girls. When Gittel decided she must confront the leaders of the community, only trouble ensues. This disturbing novel examines hard issues and is often difficult to read—but it is an important one and is written for teens from a teen’s point of view. Gittel is a strong, well-developed, unforgettable character.
This is an excellent book to share with school counselors and medical professionals who deal with abused teens. It is also a strong book club selection for your more mature and thoughtful readers who can handle difficult subjects. It is not a book for every reader, but it is an important book that should be available in high school and public libraries.
Other books dealing with abuse, incest, and sexual abuse:
Suzuma, Tabitha. FORBIDDEN. ISBN 9781442419957
Teller, Janine. NOTHING. ISBN. 9781416985792
By Janet Hilbun
Christenson, Bonnie. 2011. FABULOUS! A PORTRAIT OF ANDY WARHOL. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 9780805087536 [Suggested Grade Levels 3–6]
Coca cola bottles, Campbell’s soup cans, and Marilyn Monroe are just a few of our cultural icons that have been immortalized in the art work of Warhol. Christenson takes this enigma of an artist and brings to life the complex childhood and events of Warhol’s life that created the artist he became. As a child, he was the youngest of a poor immigrant family in the Czech ghetto, bullied by his peers, sickly, and called a sissy. Yet throughout, Warhol drew. Images of life around him filled his notebooks. He took free art classes at the Carnegie Museum and became an art student in college. Eventually he left Pittsburgh and traveled to New York where within two weeks he had a job as an illustrator and entered the society of artists. Awards and recognition soon followed, yet Warhol never stopped observing life around him, continuing to fill notebooks with images of life.
Christenson has not only written a superb biography of Warhol’s early years, she has also held true to Warhol’s artistic visions with her superb illustrations that support the story. Her mastery of oil painting over photographic collages is enticing, creating a complete, inspirational biography for young, aspiring artists.
This is a fascinating biography that supports a comprehensive look at American icons in the art world, as well as the immigrants who helped to create our country’s history. It can be used for art experiences in the classroom and library using charcoal, pastels, and watercolors.
Rodriguez, Rachel Victoria. THROUGH GEORGIA’S EYES. ISBN 9780805077407
Rubin, Susan Goldman. EDWARD HOPPER: PAINTER OF LIGHT AND SHADOW. ISBN 978-0810993471
By Christine J. Rayl
Clement-Moore, Rosemary. 2011. TEXAS GOTHIC. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780385736930 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]
Amy doesn’t expect much trouble when she agrees to house-sit at her aunt’s herbal farm for the summer, just herding some goats that periodically escape from their pen. Of course, the Goodnight Farm and its line of beauty and health care products aren’t exactly normal. Amy understands, “No matter what the label said, you could never assume anything only worked like magic.” Growing up in a family that practices magic, Amy is comfortable with household charms and friendly ghosts even as she tries to live a non-magical life. However when a powerful spirit crosses the farm’s protective spell to threaten Amy, she must embrace her own supernatural gifts to uncover the truth behind a local mystery.
Clement-Moore creates a modern gothic tale, complete with ghostly warnings, star-crossed lovers, and a long-hidden mystery. Amy’s older sister Phin enthusiastically drags her along to investigate rumors of a haunting on the neighboring ranch and they join a dig conducted by the UT physical anthropology department which leads to some dangerous situations sure to keep pages turning. Phin’s eccentric personality provides the perfect foil to Amy’s more cautious nature and readers will enjoy their banter. Sparks fly when Amy meets the brooding cowboy next door and their relationship adds another dimension to this engaging read. Teens looking for a good ghost story with a hint of romance will love this tale.
Compare this novel with Edgar Allan Poe’s works for a modern twist on gothic tales. This book would also make a nice addition to a supernatural collection.
Other gothic themed books for teens:
Clement-Moore, Rosemary. THE SPLENDOR FALLS. ISBN 9780385736909
Garcia, Kami. BEAUTIFUL CREATURES. ISBN 9780316042673
Morris, Paula. RUINED. ISBN 9780545042154
By Kimberly C. Kinnaird
Cofer, Judith Ortiz. 2011. IF I COULD FLY. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9870374335175 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-10]
Doris, the 15 year-old daughter of musician parents living in New Jersey, finds her world turned upside down when her ailing mother leaves for Puerto Rico to pursue her own career. With her father preoccupied with his band’s new singer, Doris seeks solace tending to homing pigeons, trying out different personas at school, and spending time with troubled friends. In a burst of independence, she flies to Puerto Rico to reunite with her mother and discovers that her real place is back home where she can learn to be herself. Like the birds she cares for, Doris learns to fly, declaring, “I have flown against the wind and only lost a few tail feathers. Viva, Doris!”
In this first person narrative, Doris tells her story in lyrical prose with a natural inclusion of Spanish phrases throughout the text. This journey of self-discovery celebrates Doris’ efforts to look both inside herself and outside to the external forces that complicate her life. Her friendship with gay free spirit Arturo and streetwise Yolanda frame the difficulties of teenage life in a tough urban setting, a backdrop for Doris’ exploration of how she, too, fits into the world.
To explore the art of first person narration, ask students to choose another character in the book and to write a scene from the new character’s perspective. Discuss how the scene changes with a new narrator.
Other books about teens exploring their cultural identity:
Ortiz Cofer, Judith. AN ISLAND LIKE YOU: STORIES OF THE BARRIO.
Resau, Laura. WHAT THE MOON SAW. ISBN 9780385733434
Alvarez, Julia. HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS.
By Susi Parks Grissom
Couloumbis, Audrey. 2011. LEXIE. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375856327 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]
Ten year-old Lexie sets off for the family’s cherished beach house for a week with her father, even though her parents’ recent divorce creates an unsettling feeling about this time together. The appearance of Vicky, her father’s new girlfriend, and her two sons only compounds Lexie’s confusion. With each new change in a beloved routine, Lexie reflects on her disappointment and resentment and then quietly navigates these new waters, sharing beach house traditions with the boys and exploring what it means to be part of a new family.
At most times appearing to be more mature than the adults in the story, Lexie narrates her story in a gentle, wistful, but straightforward voice. The book explores divorce, new relationships, and fitting in with candor and sensitivity through the voice of a protagonist who both observes and reaches out. Middle grade readers touched by the challenge of divorce and blended families may find a champion in Lexie.
Ask readers to write a narrative about a change that impacted their lives. How did they react to the change? Give the readers a chance to illustrate their narratives, if they wish. Then offer the opportunity to share their narratives in a small group.
Other realistic fiction about children dealing with divorce include:
Cleary, Beverly. DEAR MR. HENSHAW. ISBN 978068802406-2
Danziger, Paula. I, AMBER BROWN. ISBN 978039923180-3
Jackson, Alison. EGGS OVER EVIE. ISBN 9780805082944
By Susi Parks Grissom
Deedy, Carmen Agra and Wright, Randall. 2011. THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT: A DICKENS OF A TALE. Ill. by Barry Moser. Atlanta: Peachtree. ISBN 9781561455959 [Suggested Grade Levels 3–6]
Part historical fiction, part fantasy, THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT is an action-packed story with a little something for everyone. The book takes the reader back to the streets and alleys of 19th century London where a street cat named Skilley longs to live comfortably at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. When a cat is needed to handle the mouse infestation, Skilley becomes their mouser. Unfortunately for Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese he has a secret; he is a cheese-loving cat that has no taste for mice. An unlikely alliance forms between Skilley and the mice that reside there. Author Charles Dickens is a frequent customer to the establishment. He has a case of writer’s block, so instead of writing he has been observing the interactions between the cat and mice jotting down notes and theories in his journal. Another mouser is brought in to help alleviate the mouse problem. This tom, Pinch, is a vicious cat with a taste for blood. The mice are no longer safe and Skilley’s secret could possibly be revealed as well as what the mice are hiding in the attic.
Moser’s drawings are scattered throughout the book and add personality to the characters. Pages from Dickens’ journal are also included which show his suspicions and his humor.
Research the Tower of London and the myths of the ravens. Search YouTube for videos about the ravens. Hold a cheese tasting event and vote on the best tasting cheese.
Other books with a mouse as a main character:
King-Smith, Dick. A MOUSE CALLED WOLF. ISBN 9780375800665
Peck, Richard. SECRETS AT SEA. ISBN 9780803734555
By Jane Jergensen
DiPucchio, Kelly. 2011. CLINK. Ill. by Matthew Myers. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061929281 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK–2]
Clink is a rusty, squeaky robot that makes toast and plays music. Children aren’t interested in a robot that makes toast. They want the snazzier new models that can do everything from play baseball to bake cookies. The newer models tried to keep Clink’s spirits up, but that was a difficult task when he continually is passed up by the customers. Just when he was feeling like he was ready to give up, a boy enters the store that might be the one that can change his robot life.
Adults and children will enjoy this heartfelt, touching tale that DiPucchio has created. It reminds readers that there is someone for everyone. A person or robot doesn’t have to change who they are to have others notice or like them. Clink found this out the hard way when he tried to cut hair like the robot Blade and tried to play baseball like Zippy. When he was finally being himself by popping burnt toast and dancing to his old-fashioned tunes, the boy with the harmonica thought he was perfect.
Myers’ attention to detail is apparent in his illustrations. Every page is an explosion of fun and visually stimulating. Repeated readings of this book will inevitably reveal a treasure trove of wonder that was missed on previous readings.
Design a robot. What will it look like, what special features will it have? Research robots. What function do robots serve in our society? Discuss what children think robots will do in the future.
Other books that feature robots with feelings:
Lucas, David. THE ROBOT AND THE BLUEBIRD. ISBN 9780374363307
Oliver, Mark. ROBOT DOG. ISBN 9781561484898
By Jane Jergensen
Evans, Shane W. 2011. UNDERGROUND. New York: Roaring Book Press. ISBN 9781596435384 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-4]
“Escape,” “fear,” “crawl,” “tired.” These are words that Shane Evans incorporates into the minimal text describing passage on the Underground Railroad. The words expertly convey the silence and secrecy associated with this escape route for slaves. At the same time, Evans’ accompanying dark, mixed-media illustrations deftly reflect the emotions of its passengers, and his use of color further punctuates the reality of the fugitives’ passage from the darkness of slavery into the light of freedom.
While the simplicity of the text makes this an accessible choice for beginning readers, the deep symbolism reflected via the illustrations renders this picture book an appropriate selection for older and proficient readers as well.
For younger readers: Darken the room and gradually increase the amount of light. Encourage children to identify emotions they experienced throughout the process. Next, repeat the exercise but this time focus on the affect the light has on vision.
For older readers: Evans uses light as a symbol. Identify ways that darkness and light and color choice have been used as symbols throughout history, in literature, and in popular media.
Other books for children about the Underground Railroad:
Edwards, Pamela Duncan. BAREFOOT: ESCAPE ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. ISBN 9780064435192
Hopkinson, Deborah. SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT. Ill. by James Ransome. ISBN 0679874720
Levine, Ellen. HENRY’S FREEDOM BOX: A TRUE STORY FROM THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. Ill. by Kadir Nelson. ISBN
Weatherford, Carole Boston. MOSES: WHEN HARRIET TUBMAN LED HER PEOPLE TO FREEDOM. Ill. by Kadir Nelson. ISBN 0786851759
By Maria Cahill
Frazier, Craig. 2011. BEE & BIRD. New York: Roaring Book Press. ISBN 9781596436602 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
With simple yet bold and colorful illustrations, Craig Frazier follows bird and bee on a journey from one animal’s home to the other’s. Throughout this wordless picture book, children will be delighted and surprised by the setting of the illustrations which are each revealed with the turn of a page.
Though ideal for very young children in one-on-one and small group readings, this book can also be used to inspire older children to tell their own surprise tales through images.
For young readers, consider taking a journey in or around a familiar setting. As you progress point out “surprises” along the way. For example, you might draw children’s eyes to notice a nest hidden within a tree.
Equip older readers with digital cameras and allow them to create their own hidden surprises by zooming in on certain features of photos they take. Compile the students’ creations into a digital class book in which the turn of the page reveals the full image of the zoomed-in picture of the previous page.
Other children’s books to delight the eye:
Lehman, Barbara. THE RED BOOK. ISBN 0618428585
Rosenthal, Amy Krouse, and Lichtenheld, Tom. DUCK! RABBIT! ISBN 0811868656
Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. FIRST THE EGG. ISBN 1596432721
By Maria Cahill
Frost, Helen. 2011. HIDDEN. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. ISBN 9780374382216 [Suggested Reading Levels 6-12]
When Wren was eight years old, she remained in the car while her mother went into the gas station to pay for gas and get a drink, not knowing that the station is being robbed. The robber flees by stealing the car with Wren in it and drives her to his house, not knowing she is hiding in the back. Once there, Wren is afraid to leave the safety of the car parked in the garage—until she hears him abusing his wife and daughter, a daughter who has discovered Wren and brought her food and water. Wren escapes and calls the police who arrest the man and send him to prison. Fast forward six years and Wren is at camp where she recognizes Darra, the abused daughter of her kidnapper. Wary of each other, eventually the two begin to talk about their shared experience and its repercussions. Helen Frost is a master of the verse novel and the alternating voices of the two girls are distinctive in their poetic styles. The twists and turns and secrets combined with the superb artistry makes this an appealing novel in verse.
Use this book to introduce dialogue in poetry. Pair students, give them a situation and have them write a verse conversation in alternating voices.
Verse novels for middle grade readers:
Frost, Helen. DIAMOND WILLOW. ISBN 9780374317768
Grimes, Nicki. PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL. ISBN 9781599902845
Howe, James. ABBIE ON THE INSIDE. ISBN 9781416913849
By Janet Hilbun
Gal, Susan. 2011. INTO THE OUTDOORS. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0375869587 [Suggested Grade Levels K-5]
This simple picture book works on several levels. A family is taking a camping trip and hikes through the woods having an adventure together. At the same time, the animals of the forest are having their own parallel adventure. Add to all that, the cleverest use of prepositions to help tell the story as the family travels UP a mountain, OVER a bridge, and UNDER a canopy of trees.
Susan Gal is also the illustrator for this charming story and captures both the beauty of the natural world and the playful family time in lush scenes with engaging characters. Young readers will enjoy identifying the parallel (and intersecting) storylines and predicting what will happen next with each page turn.
What a fun book to read and pore over multiple times as children join in on the rhythmic phrases that tell the story. They can act out the action verbs and prepositions (over, under, alongside)—a particularly useful exercise for those who are learning English as a new language. A fun follow up activity could focus on collaborating on a group book about a family’s walk through a city scene using prepositional phrases to describe the action.
Other picture books by Susan Gal:
NIGHT LIGHTS. ISBN 0375858628
PLEASE TAKE ME FOR A WALK. ISBN 978-0375858635
DAY BY DAY. ISBN 978-0375869594
By Sylvia M. Vardell
Galbraith, Kathryn O. 2011. PLANTING THE WILD GARDEN. Ill. by Wendy Anderson Halperin. Atlanta: Peachtree. ISBN 9781561455638 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-3]
This quiet, lyrical picture book introduces the many ways seeds are dispersed and planted through natural means in the wild. After an introduction to a farmer and her boy planting their own garden, the book follows seeds being moved and deposited by winds, birds, sun drying, water, animals, and humans. Onomatopoeia adds snap to the text, which also mentions the variety of ways different seeds are adapted to move.
Soft pencil and watercolor in muted colors tell their own story, adding details to the spare text. Illustrator Halperin uses a variety of squares and shapes to divide the art, accenting the seeds such as cockleburs and acorns in a row of boxes in different stages of development below the main art. The story follows a natural sequence through the seasons and weather. The final spread shows the results of the seed dispersal and the different elements and means of conveyance by which the seeds arrived and grew.
The book provides children an intimate peek into nature and the world of plants and animals often not seen in urban settings and opens the world of nature and adaptations by seeds.
Bring in or take a nature walk to gather acorns and observe growing plants or grasses that might have seeds. Use other books to read and find out seed needs and then plant the acorns in small cups. Care for the seeds until they sprout and observe their growth.
Other books for children about nature and seed dispersal:
Macken, Joann Early. FLIP, FLOAT, FLY: SEEDS ON THE MOVE. ISBN 9780823420438
Pascoe, Elaine. SEEDS TRAVEL (HOW & WHY). ISBN 9780836830125
By Shirley Duke
Gantos, Jack. DEAD END IN NORVELT. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 978-0374379933 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-10]
Jack Gantos’s irrepressible and off-kilter sense of humor was never more in evidence than in this autobiographical story of his summer in small town Norvelt, Pennsylvania in 1962. Grounded and bored, he suffers from chronic nosebleeds that are a source of both delicious gore and total hilarity. To keep him out of trouble his mother loans him to an elderly neighbor lady who writes the obituaries for the local newspaper. This leads to an odd and unlikely friendship, learning a lot about people in this utopian town, and a bona fide mystery to be solved. The eccentric characters abound and the dry, sly humor makes it a terrific book to read aloud—even to older students. Dead End in Norvelt won the 2012 Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.
The author himself narrates the audiobook adaptation of this book and it is hilarious! Play excerpts and discuss how his reading conveys his autobiography. Locate the actual town of Norvelt on a map and research the philosophy behind this “created” town of the New Deal. Look for more activities on the Educator’s Guide at JackGantos.com.
Other humorous novels by Jack Gantos:
Look for the JOEY PIGZA books and the JACK HENRY adventures all by Gantos
Other novels about growing up in the 1960’s:
Schmidt, Gary. THE WEDNESAY WARS. ISBN 978-0545105620
Schmidt, Gary. OKAY FOR NOW. ISBN 978-0547152608
Wiles, Deborah. COUNTDOWN. ISBN 978-0545106054
By Sylvia M. Vardell
George, Kristine O’Connell. EMMA DILEMMA: BIG SISTER POEMS. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. New York: Clarion. ISBN 978-0618428427 [Suggested Grade Levels K-5]
Kristine O’Connell George gives us a tender story-in-poetry told through 34 beautiful poems about the tangled, but loving relationship between two young sisters. Jess, being the older sister is often frustrated by her younger sister Emma, but is faced with a “dilemma” as she wants to be the best big sister she can be. But when Emma breaks her arm in her attempt to follow her big sister up a tree, Jessica is torn with guilt. As each poem story unfolds, one glimpses the emotional bond of the sisters, as well as the warmth and closeness of the family unit. The poet draws upon her own experiences as a big sister to give an authentic voice to her characters.
Nancy Carpenter’s watercolor illustrations capture just the right amount of action and emotion in each scene. Together, the poems and art work together to tell a story, a mini “novel in verse” for the younger set. The free verse poems also stand alone and lend themselves to performance or discussion.
This book would be ideal for launching discussions about the ups and downs of sibling relationships: “What does your sibling do that really bothers you?” Share the poem, “Trespass” from the book and discuss the difficulties. Then turn the tables and share fun experiences involving siblings: “What does your sibling do that really makes you happy?” Then share the final poem in the book.
Other poetry books by Kristine O’Connell George:
THE GREAT FROG RACE AND OTHER POEMS. ISBN 978-0618604784
OLD ELM SPEAKS: TREE POEMS. ISBN 978-0618752423
LITTLE DOG POEMS. ISBN 0395822661
TOASTING MARSHMALLOWS: CAMPING POEMS. ISBN 978-0618045976
LITTLE DOG AND DUNCAN. ISBN 978-0618117581
HUMMINGBIRD NEST: A JOURNAL OF POEMS. ISBN 0152023259
By Sylvia M. Vardell
Gier, Kerstin. 2011. RUBY RED. Translated by Anthea Bell. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 9780805092523 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-10]
It’s always been about Gwen’s perfect cousin Charlotte. She was the one who would inherit the family’s time-traveling gene and had been preparing her whole life. So when Gwen turns out to be the time-traveler, it is a complete shock to the whole family … most of all Gwen. She finds the idea of visiting the past terrifying: “There was always some horrible thing lurking there. Plus, everyone had fleas.” And there is a lot more to deal with than fleas-- a secret society, 18th century dresses, a mysterious chronograph, family secrets, ghosts, and Gideon, her know-it-all, but incredibly handsome traveling companion. Readers are catapulted right along with Gwen into this suspenseful, exciting world, and all are in for a rollicking ride.
Originally published to great acclaim in Germany, RUBY RED is a fast-paced, entertaining adventure. The gems of the story are the eccentric characters, particularly the plucky heroine Gwen. Gier creates a distinct voice for this “normal” and hilarious teen that is pulled from a life of texts and telly and plunged into time travel. A few mysteries are left unsolved leaving the reader eager for the upcoming sequels.
Readers can research the historical figures mentioned such as Sir Isaac Newton, Anne Boleyn, and Jack the Ripper. They can also look up the London sites such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Temple Church, and Selfridges. Readers can design their own time machines or they can look up the twelve gemstones and illustrate their own Circle of Twelve.
More books about heroines thrust into unexpected circumstances:
Carson, Rae. THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS. 9780062026484
O’Neal, Eilis. THE FALSE PRINCESS. 9781606840795
By Jill Bellomy
Goodrich, Carter. 2011. SAY HELLO TO ZORRO! New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781416938934 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK-2]
Mister Bud leads a perfect dog’s life. He has his own things and his own schedule which includes “nap time,” “shift-position-and-nap-some-more time” and “greet and make a fuss time.” Everyone sticks to the schedule and things go just as they should until …. Zorro. When this bossy little pug moves in, Mister Bud’s schedule is completely disrupted. Eventually, the two find common ground and develop a pleasing new friendship.
Carter Goodrich combines delightful watercolor illustrations and tight, clever text to tell this amusing tale of cantankerous canines. The softly colored views of the dogs in their settings accented by the surrounding white space, sparse text, and glimpses of the owner’s arms and legs aptly show a pet’s point-of-view. The exaggerated features of the hilarious dogs take center stage while the owner’s attempts at direction and control are shown in the wings. Goodrich perfectly captures the endearing attributes and charm of dogs while also depicting the larger theme of the difficulty of adjusting to unwelcome change.
This book can be used to focus on schedules, time, and chronological order. Children can list and illustrate their own preferred schedule or order a provided list of typical daily activities. The book can also be used to prompt a discussion about pets and their unique personalities. Or, it can lead listeners to consider and discuss changes in their lives, such as the addition of a new sibling to the family, and ways to positively handle these disruptions.
Other books about unexpected change and new friendships:
Henkes, Kevin. JULIUS, THE BABY OF THE WORLD. 9780688089443
Marcus, Kimberly. SCRITCH-SCRATCH A PERFECT MATCH. 9780399250040
By Jill Bellomy
Greenwald, Tommy. 2011. CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO NOT READING. Ill by J. P. Coovert. New York: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 9781596436916 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]
Charlie Joe, a smart, self-effacing and endearing middle school underachiever, will go to any length NOT to read a book. This chronicle of his efforts to write the dreaded 7th grade Position Paper without actually cracking a book involves the strategic use of friends, cliques, deception, and romance. Revelations at the school dance demolish these well-laid plans, and Charlie has to choose between two punishments that truly fit the crime. Reading tips (“Never read a book by someone whose name you can’t pronounce”) interspersed throughout the book contribute to Charlie Joe’s case against reading and to the reader’s enjoyment.
Written in first person, Charlie Joe’s keen observations on middle school life are both hilarious and insightful. Clever line drawings and the 25 exclusive non-reading tips contribute to the story’s humor and energy. Avid and reluctant readers alike should find Charlie Joe’s account of his middle school year a thoroughly enjoyable story.
Think of book trailer possibilities! Divide readers into small groups and assign the task of creating a book trailer. Provide instructions on designing book trailers and sites to help with the design and music. Use the trailers as a reading promotion tool.
Other humorous books about middle school life:
Angleberger, Tom. DARTH PAPER STRIKES BACK: AN ORIGAMI YODA BOOK.
Korman, Gordon SCHOOLED. ISBN 9781439581711
Peirce, Lincoln. BIG NATE: IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF. ISBN 9780061944345
By Susi Parks Grissom
Hall, Michael. 2011. PERFECT SQUARE. New York: Greenwillow. ISBN 9780061915130 [Suggested Grade Levels PreK–2]
Michael Hall’s use of vivid colors draws the readers in and takes them on an out-of-the-box adventure with a perfect square. It all begins with a perfectly happy square. Each day the square takes what might be considered a bad situation and turns it into something beautiful. “On Wednesday, the square was shredded in strips. So it made itself into a park.” Readers are taken on a weeklong journey of endless possibilities that a perfect square and an imagination can bring. When the week ends, the square waits to see what will happen next, but nothing happens. The square feels “confined, rigid and cramped,” so it makes itself a window. This simple, yet inspiring book teaches readers not to sit around and wait for others to do something for you. You are in charge of your own destiny.
The author could have used simple vocabulary, but instead chose action words that will lead to discussions and a chance for even the youngest of readers to build their vocabulary. Vivid colors reminiscent of Eric Carle’s artwork fill each square page. Colors, shapes, days of the week and a word study of predicates are all wrapped up in this nice little square package.
Children can take a colored square and scissors then change the square into something else. Or they can pretend they are the square and act out the action words from the story. Introduce children to tangram puzzles. Invite children to move the tiles around to create a picture.
Other books for children with art concepts:
Hall, Michael. MY HEART IS LIKE A ZOO. ISBN 9780061915109
Saltzberg, Barney. BEAUTIFUL OOPS! ISBN 9780761157281
By Jane Jergensen