Jada Jones Rock Star (as in graphite…quartz…granite…)

What is it? Jada Jones Rock Star, by Kelly Starling Lyons

Who is it for?  strong second grade readers, and third/fourth grade readers

Why should I read it?  Jada loves collecting and studying rocks, and is trying to make new friends now that her best friend (and fellow rock enthusiast) has moved away. This is a perfect book for students new to chapter books, who need a story that moves quickly, with characters they can relate to.  So far Kelly Starling Lyons has two books in the series. (Jada Jones Class Act is the second book).  My students love these books, and so do I!  I’m hoping there will be many more in the series.

**It really frustrates me that books like the Jada Jones series are not prominently displayed in more bookstores. I would love to walk into a bookstore and find them displayed on a table, and stocked on the shelves.  (How is it possible that the  Dyamonde Daniel series, by Nikki Grimes isn’t stocked on bookstore shelves?!)  Kelly Starling Lyons also writes on the blog “The Brown Bookshelf” (thebrownbookshelf.com) which is “designed to push awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers”.  It’s an excellent resource if you want to find more books that are authentically diverse like Jada Jones.



“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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