“A Mighty Woman with a Torch”- and a Mighty Woman with a Magic Pencil

What is it?  Her Right Foot, by Dave Eggers

Who is it for? A timely read aloud for all ages; anyone who is visiting the Statue of Liberty; a great book for your coffee table

Why should I read it? I had the thrilling experience of visiting the Statue of Liberty not that long ago. I walked around her, climbed up to her crown, but didn’t even notice her right foot. Dave Egger’s book is filled with fascinating, and little known, facts about the Statue of Liberty.  I wish I had read this book before I visited her! Egger’s book has wonderful illustrations (Shawn Harris), and a timely message about what the Statue of Liberty represents, as revealed by her right foot.

What is it? Malala’s Magic Pencil, by Malala Yousafzai

Who is it for? A wonderful read-aloud for first grade and up; third graders and up will love to read it independently.

Why should I read it? Malala Yousafzai’s inspiring, well-known story is perfectly told to young children in this beautifully written book. I was so impressed with how simply and clearly Malala Yousafzai tells her story. Her words, and the wonderful illustrations that accompany them, will keep you turning the pages, and leave you feeling hopeful and inspired.


Against all Odds

rooting for rafael rosalesWhat is it? Rooting for Rafael Rosales, by Kurtis Scaletta

Who is it for? strong fourth grade readers through middle school (perfect for baseball fans, future scientists, future journalists)

Why should I read it? Rafael is a struggling minor league player from the Dominican Republic. Maya lives in Minnesota, worries about the declining bee population, and begins rooting for Rafael after watching one of his games with her aspiring sportswriter sister. Maya learns about the power of words to connect people across borders and languages when she helps her sister with her sports blog. Somehow Kurtis Scaletta combines baseball, bees, and a sports blog (along with a shifting timeline), and ends up with a wonderful story about friendship, hope, and perseverance. He also includes some beautiful descriptions of the Dominican Republic.

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A Talking Tree

wishreeWhat is it? Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate

Who is it for? Fourth graders through middle school (lexile 590)

Why should I read it? The main character in Wishtree is a tree. I didn’t know if I could read a whole book narrated by a tree – how do you make a tree a believable character? But after reading just a few pages I completely forgot that trees can’t talk. People in the town where Red (the Wishtree) lives, write their dreams and wishes on scraps of paper and tie them to Red’s branches. Red tells us, “A blessing and a burden it has been, all those wishes, all those years. But everyone needs to hope.”  Katherine Applegate does an amazing job, not only with the voice of Red, but also with the way she handles the theme of her book. When the people in the town realize that, although the voice of hate is loud, the voice of love and  acceptance is stronger, her writing is neither too heavy-handed, nor too simplistic. A beautiful book.

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.