Poems with Perfect Pictures

under the sunday tree

What is it? Under the Sunday Tree, by Eloise Greenfield, with paintings by Mr. Amos Ferguson

Who is it for? Perfect for kindergarten to adults

Why should I read it? This collection of poems is filled with both rhyming and free verse poems, and paintings that will make you feel like you’re in the Bahamas. Some of the poems in Under the Sunday Tree are funny, others are heartwarming, and many (like “HerDreams”) will inspire you no matter your age. A perfect collection of poetry for kindergarteners to adults.

What is it? Langston Hughes, Poetry for Young People, edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad

langston hughes

Who is it for? This poetry collection has a Langston Hughes poem for every age.

Why should I read it? Even if you already have many collections of Langston Hughes’ poetry, you’ll want this one for the amazing illustrations by Benny Andrews (1930-2006). One of my favorites is the exuberant, joyful painting that accompanies the poem “I, Too”. A perfect painting for a perfect poem. (Coretta Scott King Honor Award)

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Series and Sequels!

Are you looking for a new graphic novel series, or hoping for a sequel to one of your favorites?  You’re in luck! Here are some brand new series, plus a few sequels to series we already know and love:

red's planetWhat is it? Red’s Planet, by Eddie Pittman

Who is it for? Fourth grade and up

Why should I read it? You’ll love the fun, colorful, and quirky illustrations of Red (a ten-year old orphan who is mistakenly taken by aliens into outer space), and all the different creatures she meets during her planetary road trip adventure. With themes on family, home, and belonging, the story has both heart and adventure.  I can’t wait for the sequel (October, 2017) Continue reading

Power to the Underdog!

We all love rooting for the underdog!  Here are a few books with characters, seemingly powerless, who overcome through hard work, resourcefulness, and sheer determination:




What is it? Ghost (Track 1), by Jason Reynolds.

Who is it for? Fifth graders (and strong fourth grade readers) through middle school (book level 4.6)

Why should I read it? Castle Cranshaw (aka Ghost) is a seventh grade boy who first learned he was a fast runner when he and his mother had to run from their home in terror while being chased by his abusive father. By chance, Ghost ends up on a track team being coached by a former Olympian who recognizes his potential. In order to stay on the team, Ghost has to stay out of trouble. You will keep turning the pages of this book hoping, and rooting, for him to make it to that first race. This is the first book in a series of four. National Book Award Finalist

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Say Hello to “Goodbye Stranger”

IMG_1139Rebecca Stead has done it again –  written yet another perfect novel.  Somehow she is able to write books that on the surface are fun page-turners with suspenseful mysteries, but underneath have such deep and complex themes that you’ll want to read them again as soon as you’ve finished.

Her writing is accessible to middle school students, but could also be discussed for hours in a college literature class.  If you haven’t read her Newbery Award winning book, When You Reach Me, or the more recent Liar & Spy (who knew a pointillism painting metaphor could be so mind blowing?!), start with those.  But once you’ve finished reading (and re-reading) her previous novels you should definitely say hello to this one:

What is it? Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead

Who is it for? a perfect book for eighth graders and up – especially eighth grade girls.  Level W – sixth grade reading level

Why should I read it?  Goodbye Stranger has a compelling story, relatable characters, and a beautiful theme that is woven through the book in the form of a question: “why are we here?”. I didn’t really expect, or need, Rebecca Stead to answer this weighty question by the end of the book; it was enough to just enjoy the story and contemplate the question.  But somehow (how does she do it?!), without sounding trite or cliche, she answers it.

If you’ve ever woken up with a feeling of listlessness and wondered, “what is the purpose of all this?”, or experienced a pang of existential angst, however fleeting, you really should read this book.  There are a lot of books out there that are fun to read in the moment, but then are quickly forgotten. The question (and answer) from Goodbye Stranger will be swirling around in your thoughts long after you’ve read it.



Secret Gadgets, Dragon Slayers, and Road Trip Adventures!

If you’re looking for a graphic novel series to get your New Year off to a good start try one of these:

IMG_1101What is it? Bird & Squirrel – On the Edge!, by James Burks

Who is it for?  This series is so funny, and the colorful artwork is so appealing, that it’s great for any age.  Strong second grade readers and up can read it on their own.

Why should I read it? Those of us who read the first two in this series have been waiting (and hoping) for the next one – and the wait is over!  Fearful, anxious Squirrel, and enthusiastic, optimistic Bird are off on yet another hilarious adventure, only this time the roles are reversed.  (If you haven’t read the first two books, start with Bird & Squirrel – On the Run!, and Bird & Squirrel – On Ice!)

IMG_1054What is it? The Secret Science Alliance – and the Copycat Crook, by Eleanor Davis

Who is it for? Level O – great for third grade and up.

Why should I read it? This is a perfect book for anyone who enjoys reading graphic novels.  There’s so much going on in the illustrations that you could read it again and again, and still find something new.  Julian (tries to hide how smart he is), Ben (loves science, but can’t seem to pass a test), and Greta (always coming up with new inventions) join together and form the “Secret Science Alliance”.  The action revolves around recovering their stolen invention notebook, and stopping a museum theft – it will leave you wanting a sequel!

IMG_1055What is it? Giants Beware!, by Jorge Aguirre, and its sequel, Dragons Beware!

Who is it for? Level N – third grade reading level

Why should I read it? These graphic novels are a great twist on the “dragon slayer” theme. You’ll love the art, the humor, the characters, and the adventure! If you read the first two you’ll be ready to follow Claudette into another book. I hope it’s coming soon!

Secret Codes and Hidden Passages

At first glance these books seem like they have nothing in common (one is set in modern day San Francisco, the other in London in the 1600’s), but they both have characters racing to decipher secret codes and uncover hidden treasure.

IMG_1065What is it? The Blackthorn Key, by Kevin Sands

Who is it for? Fifth graders and up (some of the scenes in the book are pretty intense – best for older readers)

Why should I read it?  This is a great book to read on a cold, stormy day.  It’s a murder mystery set in the 1600’s that gives enough historical detail to make you glad you don’t live in the 1600’s! Christopher Rowe, a young apprentice to a Master Apothecary, has to decipher codes, solve riddles, and follow secret passages to discover the truth that will save his life.  It’s one of those books that keeps picking up speed as you go, until you’re racing down a tunnel with Christopher and you can’t bear to put the book down. Continue reading

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

If you don’t think you’re a storyteller, “read” a wordless picture book-  you’ll be amazed at your storytelling skills!  A toddler flipping through the pages of a wordless picture book will effortlessly begin to create a story.  Open up one of these books, and you will too:

IMG_1058What is it? Tuesday, by David Wiesner

Who is it for? Everyone – especially if you like science fiction

Why should I read it? This is my all-time favorite wordless picture book.  It has mystery, wonder, suspense and humor.  What would happen if one night frogs rose up on their lily pads and started to fly?  It’s easy to see why this one won a Caldecott Medal. Continue reading