Theme: Kindness and Friendship
Best for: 7 to 9
“The little girl peered out of the carriage and saw two bears lumbering quickly ahead, pulling the carriage through patches of twisting trees and over hills dotted with early blooms.” This book weaves the magical and unreality together in a way that you begin to feel you are reading an old-fashioned fairy tale, which in some ways it is.
Theme: Resisting Prejudice
Best for: 10 and up
“I’d been taught that our Bamarre were lucky to be ruled by us. Otherwise they would have been conquered by others, who would have killed them all. With us, they were safe and had duties and food.” A great and timely fantasy children’s book exploring the injustice of nations dominating nations, and the ill consequences of prejudice…
Best for: 9 and up
“Until now, except for occasional gut-wrenching pangs of homesickness and loneliness, I had by and large managed to keep my spirits up. But not anymore. My beacon stayed obstinately damp.” I was immediately struck with the clarity, simplicity, and beauty of the writing, and wondered how the tale would unfold…
Theme: Norse Myth
Best for: 9 to 10
“He clambered onto the bear’s back, holding his crutch with his left hand and clutching the bear’s fur with his right. The bear stood up slowly, making sure the boy was on, then set off at a fast lope…” It’s wonderful to see contemporary authors make good use of imagination and the wealth of possibilities from the Norse stories…
Theme: WWII Resistance and Courage
Best for: 9 to 12
“A few days later, I was one my way to meet Katrin for school when the German office cornered me at the end of the path. “Where’s the dog, Fraulein?” Meme and I should have decided to what to say to him…” It seems important for children to know that resistance is not just for history, or adults, but is something that even young people can participate in.
Published: 1955, republished 1960
Theme: Fairy and Other Tales
Best for: 7 to 12
“The Goldfish stopped jumping, because his joy had been damped by doubt. “How can the world be more than I can see?’ he asked the Ship. ‘If I am really in the world, I ought to be able to see it all…'” Each tale in this children’s book is a literary work, complete with sometimes difficult language, almost always a moral, and something to think about…
Theme: Religious Tolerance
Best for: 12 and up
“Louis of France is not yet thirty, and already he is the greatest king in Europe. His armies have never been defeated. This war is different… He is fighting three children. And their dog.” I don’t know how he pulled it off, but along with the historical description, Gidwitz adds contemporary outrage, and humor as well, giving perspective on the bizarre behavior of the human race!
Theme: Puzzles and Books
Best for: 10 to 13
“Garrison Griswold here to welcome you to the wonderful world of Book Scavenger. We are a community of book lovers, puzzle lovers, and treasure hunters. Are you, too?” This is a very well-written children’s book, which combines literary information, puzzles, and a bit of a mystery to solve…
Theme: Illustrated Book
Best for: 2 to 5
In this very unique children’s book, the author has placed images of her exquisite needle-felted scenes that really invite the children to live into the pictures, as they listen to the words.
Theme: Heroes and Villains
Best for: boys age 10 and up
“My name is Danny Daley, but no one calls me “Danny” anymore. These days, I’m know as “Stink.’ Before you laugh, let me tell you how I got that nickname, because it’s not what you might think.” Three cheers for a children’s book series called Guys Read, a fabulous way to grab the attention of middle-school boys.
Theme: Healing Relationships
Best for: 10 and up
“I felt like I was speaking a part in some out-of-date play. Who in the world calls their grandmother “Grandmother?” But “Grandma” didn’t seem to fit.” This children’s book is about relationships – between parents, children, grandparents, and friends, showing the way that misunderstandings can create distance, and communication can create love and warmth.
Theme: Be yourself
Best for: 10 – 12
“Sometimes I wonder if I was born into the wrong family. Being onstage makes me nervous, and I’m not a fan of working backstage either.” There are two themes interwoven here: responsible science, and finding your own way…
Best for: Girls 7 – 9
“Did Mom know she hired a witch as a babysitter?” In this second children’s book in the Backyard Witch series, we watch a young girl grow into her own qualities, which are different from her mother’s expectations.
Theme: Words as Weapons
Best for: 10 and up
“It was that moment. That terrible, blood-freezing, ashy-mouthed moment when you suddenly realize that sixty eyeballs are fixed on you, deciding what to do about you, where you fit in.” Bullies, abusive words, cliques, middle school – a realistic look at what our children may face, unless we change our cultural norms and say no to bullying.
Best for: 11 and up
“This adventure really began on early spring morning when I was fourteen years old. I remember it all so clearly, from the moment I stepped out into the still dark yard and went to unlock the stable door.” Written like a page out of the Celtic past, the adventures of two young lads searching for their dad on a lost island is exquisitely crafted…
Best for: 5 to 8
“Once upon a time there was a bat–a little light brown bat, the color of coffee with cream in it. He looked like a furry mouse with wings.” This poetic little fable about animals, and one bat in particular, will be a sweet bedtime story.
Theme: Love the World
Best for : 5 to 8
“The boat docked in Africa, and Jules kissed the ground; the earth so precious, so fragile, so round” A simple, beautifully illustrated children’s book, that gently reminds us that all the creatures on earth need our protection and love.
Theme: Easy Reader Bedtime
Best for: 5 to 8
“Once there were three little dragons. They lived in a dark cave. The cave was in a dense forest. The forest was in a faraway kingdom. The poor little dragons were very lonely in their deep dark cave.” A must-have, read-aloud bedtime story that’s perfect for every child…
Theme: Welcoming Diversity
Best for: 5 to 7
“The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in.” A simple children’s book like this begins the process of opening hearts and minds to the beauty of diversity at an early age.
Theme: Child Labor, Doing Good
Best for: 12 and up
“The sounds of the sewing machines that masked the constant grumbling of my belly would surely mask the sound of ripping paper. The guard now had his head tilted back, his eyes shut…” This recently-published children’s book takes on child labor directly and dramatically, and how one person can make a difference for others.
Theme: Norse Myth
Best for: 8 to 11
“I had never been in the Great Hall of Asgard before. Even from outside, it was the most amazing building I had ever seen, vaster and grander than I could have imagined possible…” This children’s book is very easy to get through, and would make a nice complement to the third graders after they work with the original Norse myth…
Theme: Overcoming Bullies
Best for: 8 to 10
“Dreams,” he said, “is very mysterious things. They is floating around in the air like little wispy bubbles. And all the time they is searching for sleeping people.” If you are in need of a cheerful happy ending story, as a children’s book BFG is perfect…
Theme: Historical Fiction Coming of Age
Best for: 12 – 14
“I have escaped! I have achieved the first stage of my emancipation! In a little while I will go on to Baltimore–and from thence I will begin my new life.” This beautifully written historical fiction children’s book is quite hard to put down.
Theme: Historical Fiction Biography
Best for: 8 – 11
“All of these ill-informed scribblers seemed astonished at Ben’s great fund of information, at his brilliant decisions, at his seeming knowledge of all that went on about him. I could have told them, It was ME.” A biography like this is perhaps the best way to bring history to children without bringing tears of boredom..
Theme: WWII- Japanese Internment
Best for: ages 10 to 12
“Gila River was where I would turn thirteen, and live with my mama and my sister, while waiting for my papa to be brought bak from Fort Lincoln, North Dakota, where the FBI had sent him…” This historical fiction children’s book adds yet another new piece of history and humanness to the story of the internment of Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Best for: 10 – 13
“…The dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for…” This children’s book is first and foremost about the courage of ordinary people to do the right thing, even in the worst of times…
Theme: Greek and Roman Myths
Best for: 9- 12
“Humans have always loved telling stories, and to use them we tell words. Sometimes, however, the words themselves have stories to tell.” This children’s book is a delightful collection of brief stories from Greek and Roman mythology to illustrate the origin of common words and phrases in our vocabulary,
Theme: Learning Something New
Best for: 6 to 9
“My name is Juana. It is spelled J-u-a-n-a, and it is pronounced Who-Ah-Nah…Bogota is where I am. And where school is and where Mami and my abuelos and Lucas are…” This perfect multi-cultural children’s book introduces us to Juana, who needs to learn English for her trip to the USA, and resists it.
Theme: Civil Rights
Best for: 11 to 14
“I think a friend is someone who helps you change for the better. And whether you see them once a day or once a year, if it’s a true friend, it doesn’t matter.” This is a compelling and important book for today’s world, and yet, it was painful to read, because I wished none of it were true…
Theme: Civil Rights Movement
Best for: 8 and up
“Lawson taught us how to protect each other, how to survive. But the hardest part to learn–to truly understand, deep in your heart– was how to find love for your attacker.” This excellent trilogy of graphic novel is a first-hand account by John Lewis of the civil rights movement as he lived it…