Summer Solstice

The month of June brings about the summer solstice. The summer solstice occurs on June 20th, 2024, and is known as the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. For this month’s S-Collection blog we are highlighting books that feature the summer solstice, nature’s rhythms, and the beauty of our earth. This collection of picture books and young adult novels feature anthologies of poems, arts, and crafts for the summer, and instructional picture books on the summer solstice. Summer is a wonderful time to read picture books on the beauty of our surroundings and these books with breathtaking illustrations will make you appreciate summer and the summer season.


Filippucci, Laura
The Universe is a Tree. 2018. Picture Book.
Trees are teachers, healers, protectors, creators. They keep secrets. They bring peace. This rich anthology of stories, proverbs, and poems about trees from around the world reveals that a tree’s roots not only go down deep into the earth, but its branches also reach up and out into the universe, connecting us all, across time and space. May we peer through the forests of our imaginations to see the beauty and experience the awe that still arches over our world.
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Cook, Fiona
The Wheel of the Year: An Illustrated Guide to Nature’s Rhythm. 2023. Young Adult.
You are magic… and so is the world around you, transforming with each new season! The Wheel of the Year is a way to learn about nature’s rhythms – for noticing and celebrating the seasons as they come and go. The spokes of the Wheel mark important turning points: the Winter and Summer Solstices, the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, and the festivals of seeding, growing, and harvesting that arrive in between. Through themed activities, crafts, and rituals, discover old and new ways of honoring the seasons – and create your own!
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Hakala, Marjorie
Mermaid Dance. 2009. Picture Book.
As the sun sets on the ocean, the sky turns pink, then purple, the spring becomes the summer, and a celebration begins. Mermaids arrive, ready to greet the new season by playing, feasting, and dancing in the high tide. Mark Jones’ pastel illustrations capture an enchanting and mysterious world sure to delight the imagination of all readers.
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Henkes, Kevin
Summer Song. 2020. Picture Book.
Bees buzz, birds sing, and children roll in the grass and feel the heat of the summer sun. With striking verbal imagery, repetition, and alliteration, Kevin Henkes introduces basic concepts of language and the summer season. Laura Dronzek’s glowing paintings beautifully illustrate the wonders of summer.
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Ignotofsky, Rachel
What’s Inside a Flower?: And other Questions about Science and Nature. 2021. Picture Book.
Budding backyard scientists can start exploring their world with this stunning introduction to these flowery show-stoppers — from seeds to roots to blooms. Learning how flowers grow gives kids beautiful building blocks of science and inquiry. In the launch of a new nonfiction picture book series, Rachel Ignotofsky’s distinctive art style and engaging, informative text clearly answers any questions a child (or adult) could have about flowers.

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Jackson, Ellen B
The Summer Solstice. 2001. Picture Book.
Accompanied by a summer tale designed to be read aloud, recipes, and craft activities, this beautifully illustrated picture book celebrates the universal appeal of the sun and the abundance of light and warmth it provides.
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Klepeis, Alicia
Secrets of the Forest: 15 Bedtime Stories Inspired by Nature. 2023. Picture Book.
Every forest contains a thousand secrets… In this charming anthology of stories by Alicia Klepeis, readers will be guided into forests to meet the amazing animals that live there. In one story a squirrel hunts for an elusive acorn it buried earlier in the year, while another looks at an Alaskan wood frog as it freezes itself alive to survive a harsh winter. Children will be thrilled by the tale of a reindeer that gets separated from its herd in the snowy woods of Scandinavia, and marvel at a chameleon changing color in the forests of Madagascar. Other stories feature elephants, wild cats, pangolins, badgers, foxes, monarch butterflies, otters, walking fish, a tree that can live for thousands of years, and even forest-dwelling penguins! All these creatures and their habitats are brought to life with impressive skill by illustrator Kristen Adam. Each story in Secrets of the Forest is based on the real biology and behavior of these amazing wild animals, and at the end of each tale readers will find out more about the science that inspired the story.
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Pfeffer, Wendy
The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice. 2010. Picture Book.
In this fourth and final book in a series about seasons, Wendy Pfeffer turns her attention to summer, when butterflies emerge from silky cocoons and daylight hours stretch longer and longer. With lyrical prose and vibrant illustrations, The Longest Day takes us on a journey through the history and science behind the summer solstice, with a focus on summer celebrations from various cultures around the world. Teachers and students alike will treasure the varied and accessible knowledge, and activities in the back let everyone in on the festivities.
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Pourquie, Bernadette and Gambini, Cecile
Strange Trees and the Stories Behind Them
. 2016. Picture Book.
Have you ever heard of the Strangler Tree? The Bubblegum Tree? The Upside-Down Tree? How about trees with horns, bottles, sausages, crowns, and ones that walk or even explode? Crazy, maybe, but true. Find out more about these, and many others, in this colorfully illustrated collection of the most bizarre—but real—trees from around the world, once again reminding us that the art of nature is far stranger than fiction. The perfect book for inquisitive naturalists with imaginations, Strange Trees also includes a map of the world showing where the trees grew.
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Singer, Marilyn
Footprints on the Earth: Poems about the Earth. 2002. Picture Book.
This provocative anthology of poems ranges from such lofty subjects as an astronaut’s view of Earth to the burrows of worms and little creatures within the earth, “where I try to tread softly: a quiet giant leaving only footprints on the roof.” Marilyn Singer’s lilting free verse offers visual images that give us fresh new insights and respect for the mighty power of volcanoes, fens, islands, deserts, dunes, and natural disasters. Singer’s easily accessible poems also include some of the lighter moments of childhood, such as sliding on ice and playing in mud. Meilo So’s distinctive India ink drawings on rice paper provide an especially handsome showcase for these buoyant nature poems.
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National Latino Books Month

This May we are celebrating Latino Book Month where we are highlighting incredible and inspiring Latino/a picture books. This month’s blog is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with Latino authors and Latino stories depicting themes of bilingualism, food, activism, cultural heritage, and folklore. Through a combination of biographical, auto-biographical, fictional, and non-fictional picture books we want to share the stories of Latino authors and the profound impact on children’s literature.


Aguilera, Claudio
9 Kilometers. 2023. Picture Book.
9 Kilometers is set in the beautiful landscape of southern Chile. It tells the story of a young boy who travels 9 kilometers (over five and a half miles) through the mountains and rainforests of Chile to get to school. The young boy on his long walk encounters butterflies, lizards, and passes the time counting his steps all 15,000 of them. This compelling story by Claudio Aguilera exhibits the perseverance of this young child and the realities many children face in their journeys to get an education.
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Engle, Margarita
Water Day. 2023. Picture Book.
In this insightful picture book Margarita Engle spotlights a young girl’s community in Cuba where the entire community rejoices in the arrival of the water man who visits the town weekly to distribute water to her village. Water Day is an exemplary tale on the global water crisis affecting communities such as this small village that no longer has access to water. In order to access a water supply, the village must get help from the water man whose visits to the village are a celebration for the presence of water.
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Fernandez Nitsche, Melisa
Cantora: Mercedes Sosa, the Voice of Latin America. Picture Book. 2023.
This biographical picture book tells the story of Mercedes Sosa a prominent Argentinian singer whose folk music about justice and human rights resonated with Latin America. Sosa’s passion in her music gave voice to the voiceless and became a symbol of resistance for not only her native country of Argentina but also of Latin America. Unfortunately, her music grabbed the attention of Argentinian government officials that led to her exile in the 1970’s by the Argentinian dictatorship. This picture book is an inspiring tale of the life of Mercedes Sosa. The author does a tremendous job through illustrious colorways and evocative language to display a figure in history that became a beacon for freedom and justice.
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Genhart, Michael
Spanish is the Language of my Family. 2023. Picture Book.
Michael Genhart in Spanish is the Language of my Family reveals his own cultural experience through stories told by his mother on the experience generations of Latinos went through by being punished for speaking Spanish at school. This story centers around a young boy who is preparing for his school’s Spanish spelling bee and asks his grandmother how to pronounce certain Spanish words that he is having trouble trying to spell. As his grandmother helps him study, she begins to express how differently her life was during school when she was a little girl where she was only ever allowed to speak English at school. Hearing his grandmother’s story motivates and inspires the young boy to make his family proud. Genhart’s picture book highlights an inter-generational story on cultural pride, the heritage we share with our family, and the ties that bind each generation. This story highlights how new generations of Latinos and Spanish speakers are finding inventive ways to rejuvenate the language.
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Kemp, Laekan Zea
A Crown for Corina. 2023. Picture Book.
It is Corina’s birthday, and she has the special privilege of picking out beautiful flowers from her abuela’s garden to make the biggest flower crown. Corina’s abuela helps her pick out flowers that each have a special meaning and symbolize members of her family who she holds dear. From sunflowers to morning glories, and coneflowers Corina’s flowers represent a story of love and tradition. This beautiful story demonstrates the symbolism behind Mexican flower crowns and Corina’s self-discovery as she takes part in her family’s tradition.
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Liu-Trujillo, Robert
Jugo Fresco. 2023. Picture Book.
Follow Art and his father as they journey around the neighborhood in the search for fresh ingredients to help make a juice that can heal his father from a cold. Art and his father learn by the end of the book that the secret and most important ingredient to any fresh juice is “community” alongside carrots, cayenne, and collards. Robert Liu-Trujillo brings a warmth and vitality to Jugo Fresco and emphasizes the importance of community through the celebration of mixed families.

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Menendez, Juliet
Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers. 2021. Biography.
In this collection of short biographies discover 40 influential Latin women from all over Latin America and the United States. Juliet Menendez reveals the paths these influential women took to get to where they are today. Through vibrant hand-painted illustrations Menendez celebrates these famous women and the triumphs they have achieved in their lives. The book features a variety of women across all disciplines from artists and scientists, to activists. You can expect any reader to feel encouraged to follow their dreams.
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Norman, Lissette
Plátanos go with Everything. 2023. Picture Book.
Platanos go with Everything by award-winning poet Lissette Norman is a lighthearted dedication to plátanos the star of Dominican cuisine. In this story Yesenia’s favorite food is plátanos. Plátanos can be sweet and sugary, or they can be savory and salty. Plátanos are a part of every dish in her Dominican household and through heartwarming language and warm colors you will find out why plátanos go with absolutely everything, especially with love!
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Otheguy, Emma
Martina Has Too Many Tías. 2003. Picture Book.
This charming and animated picture book reimagines the classic and beloved Caribbean folktale of “La Cucaracha Martina.” In this reimagining a quiet girl by the name of Martina is overwhelmed by her boisterous and loud family. Martina does not enjoy parties because parties are usually full of her tías wearing bold clothing and bellowing laughs; it can be too much for a quiet person like Martina. When Martina wanders into a pot of hot guava she is whisked away to a magical island where she can finally be in solitude and enjoy her peace. However, is she really at home? Follow Martina as she discovers what it truly means to feel at home and how introverted kids can still belong, even in a family full of extroverts.
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Trejo, Jesus
Papa’s Magical Water-Jug Clock. 2023. Picture Book.
Papa’s Magical Water-Jug Clock focuses on little Jesus who is extremely excited to spend the day with his papa’s family business in landscaping. Little Jesus loves to ride in his Papa’s cool truck and see all the tools he gets to use during his workday. His Papa even lets him oversee the magical water jug which also acts as a clock! Papa tells little Jesus that once the water-jug is empty that signals the workday is over. With being entrusted with the magical water-jug Jesus wants to make sure that he executes his job to perfection. However, Jesus cannot help but give water away to all the thirsty animals he encounters such as the dog in the sweater, elderly cats, and a flock of peacocks. Before he knows it, he has given away all the water and the workday is not over, so Jesus begins to panic that he may be fired! Jesus begins to wonder if the magical water-jug is even all that magical. This mischievous tale of Jesus Trejo’s life lesson as a kid will be sure to warm your heart and have you giggling.
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Robotics and AI Galore

In this month’s April blog post we are highlighting robotics and artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence has become an increasingly hot topic within the digital landscape. This month the young adult fiction novels will consist of robots, cyborgs, humanoids as protagonists, and artificial intelligence as a major figure or theme in the plot. The selection of young adult novels is a great starting point for sci-fi fans interested in finding novels with all thing’s robots and AI.


Bow, Erin
The Scorpion Rules. 2015. Young Adult.
The Scorpion Rules follows Greta, a duchess and crown princess who is held hostage in the name of peace. Greta’s world follows the rules where if you want to lead you must give up one of your children as a hostage. If you are to go to war your hostage dies. Greta hopes to make it to her eighteenth birthday when she can finally be free. In the meantime, she lives in the Precepture school with all the other sons and daughters of the world’s leaders. In the Precepture school she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. However, things take a turn when a new hostage arrives named Elian who refuses to play by the rules and defies everything that has been taught to Greta. Elian is able to open Greta’s eyes to the brutality that they live under and as both Greta and Elian’s nations come closer to all-out war Greta must find a way to break the rules of the game in order to survive because if not, it will end up killing the both of them.
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Curtis, Simon
Boy Robot. 2016. Young Adult.
Isaak’s life is turned upside down in a single night when his adoptive parents are killed, a mysterious girl saves him from a group of soldiers, and he learns of his own dark origins. Isaak learns he is a robot, a government made synthetic human produced for the sole purpose of becoming a weapon and who is now being hunted and is marked for termination. Isaak, with another band of robots, finds a haven in the underground which is home to a secret network of robots and humans coexisting and working together to ensure a future with both species. However, to be protected by the underground Isaak must make it there first, which proves to be deadly when there is a lethal military force tasked with finding him at any cost. Isaak must face whether to relinquish his humanity to survive or hold on to his humanity and face death.
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Kaufman, Amie and Kristoff, Jay
Illuminae. 2015. Young Adult.
The Illuminae Files is a striking series which begins with Kady breaking up with her boyfriend Ezra, believing that would be the hardest moment of her life although it is quickly diminished when her planet is invaded by lunch time. In the year 2575 two rival mega corporations are at war over a planet and with enemy fire raining down on Kady’s planet she, along with her now ex-boyfriend, is forced to evacuate with a hostile warship on their tail. Just when things go from bad to worse a plague strikes and mutates with terrifying results on the fleet and the fleet’s AI may be their enemy. With secrets all around Kady hacks into the web of data to find out the truth and the only person that would be able to help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she would never speak to again. With the narrative including hacked documents, emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more, The Illuminae Files is sure to be an enthralling read.
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Kincaid, S.J.
The Diabolic. 2016. Young Adult.
Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter named Sidonia. Nemesis and Sidonia have grown-up alongside each other, and Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia if necessary. Nemesis is also tasked with taking as many lives as possible necessary to keep Sidonia safe. When the emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the galactic court where she is to serve as a hostage. The only way to protect Sidonia is for Nemesis to become her. This leads Nemesis to travel to the galactic court disguised as Sidonia, a humanoid killing machine masquerading in a place full of corrupt politicians and deceitful senators’ children. With threats on every side Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything. As the rebellion looms closer and the empire begins to weaken Nemesis finds within herself a humanity purer than the humans she has faced and realizes her humanity may be the thing that saves her life and the empire.
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Kristoff, Jay
Life L1k3. 2018. Young Adult.
In the first book in the Lifelike series, we follow Eve who finds the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls her home. When this happens, her entire world comes crashing down. Follow Eve with her robotic sidekick and her best friend in tow as she and Ezekiel trek across deserts of irradiated glass, battle cyborg assassins, scour abandoned megacities to save the ones she loves, and to unravel the dark secrets of her past.
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Meyer, Marrisa
Cinder. 2012. Young Adult.
Cinder is a Cinderella retelling that focuses on Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg who lives in New Beijing where humans and androids coexist. Cinder is a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, she is reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. Cinder’s life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai when she finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle and forbidden romance. As a deadly plague ravages the population, Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty, and betrayal. She must uncover the secrets about her past to protect her world’s future.
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Oliver, Ben
The Loop. 2020. Young Adult.
Luka Kane is celebrating his sixteenth birthday, and he has been inside The Loop for over two years. The Loop is a futuristic death row for teens under eighteen experiencing one long repetitive purgatory. Every inmate inside The Loop is serving a death sentence with the option to push back their execution date by six months if they participate in “delays,” scientific and medical experiments for the benefit of the elite on the outside. When rumors begin to swirl of an impending war on the outside it begins to spread to all inmates and their torturous routines become disrupted. The government issued rain begins to stop, strange things begin to happen with the guards, until all the inmates are left alone inside the prison. Luka must now try to survive and break out of The Loop to save his family and figure out who is responsible for the chaos that has been unleashed upon the world.
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Rothenberg, Jess
The Kingdom. 2019. Young Adult.
The Kingdom is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests can soar on virtual dragons, bioengineered species roam free, and castles loom over the park like giants. Ana is one of seven fantasists. Fantasists are beautiful princesses engineered to make the guests’ dreams come true. When Ana meets a park employee named Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including first-time love. However, this fairy tale soon becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting a trial of the ages. Through courtroom testimony and interviews, Ana’s memories of Owen emerge as a narrative of love, lies, and deceit. At the center we learn what it truly means to be human.
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Shusterman, Neal
Scythe. 2016. Young Adult.
The Arc of a Scythe series explores a world with no hunger, no disease, no war, and no misery. Humanity has become so advanced that is has conquered all things, even death. Scythes are now the only ones who can end a life and their duty is to end lives to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentices to a scythe, a role that neither of them wants to have. These two teens must master the “art” of taking a life or risk failing and losing their own.
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Skrutskie, Emily
Hullmetal Girls. 2018. Young Adult.
When Aisha Un-Haad’s brother catches the plague, Aisha would do anything to save him and that means volunteering to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the fleet, a collective of starships they call home to fund her brother’s treatment. If Aisha can survive the agonizing modifications and earn an elite place among the Scela ranks she may be able to save her brother. Meanwhile Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with little to no memories of her life before. All Key knows is she is from the privileged end of the fleet and has no recollection as to why she decided to relinquish a life of comfort and luxury to become a burly cyborg soldier. If Key can make it through her training, she may be able to recover some of her memories. In a unit of new recruits all vying for top placement, Key and Aisha’s paths collide and the two must learn to work together. A rebellion is brewing among the fleet with those yearning for independence from the fleet against a government that is struggling to maintain unity. With violence brewing at every turn, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties and putting aside their differences to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.
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Wells, Dan
Partials. 2012. Young Adult.
After a war with the Partials, humanity is all but extinguished. Partials are engineered organic beings identical to humans who have destroyed the population. When all that is left of humanity is tens of thousands of humans, with only a fraction who are immune to a deadly virus, the survivors in North America have been able to keep each other safe and isolated on Long Island. Sixteen-year-old Kira is determined to find a solution and save what is left of her race. She discovers that the key to their survival rests in her attempts to answer questions about the origins of the war against Partials and humans that no one ever thought to ask.
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Youth Art Month

For this month’s blog, we are promoting youth creativity and the inner artist inside us all! The month of March marks the recognition and promotion of Youth Art, an annual event administered by the Council for Art Education. In this March blog we highlight creativity, imagination, and expression in art through fiction books. The month of March encourages the widespread adoption of visual arts. Read along with us as we display graphic novels, picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction books where we will celebrate the arts!


Baer, Marianna
Wolfwood. 2023. Young Adult.
Wolfwood follows Indigo and her mother, the once famous artist Zoe Serra. Indigo’s mother suffered a mental breakdown and ever since then they have been barely scraping by in life. When a gallery offers Zoe a revival show for her blockbuster series Wolfwood, Indigo knows it is their chance to be financially stable again. However, Zoe refuses to continue painting Wolfwood, which leads to Indigo secretly taking up the paintbrush herself. Indigo then finds out the real reason why her mother never wanted to paint Wolfwood again and it was because painting Wolfwood submerges the artist into the dangerous fantasy. As the lines between reality and fantasy blur for Indigo it becomes a struggle to continue the balancing act.
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Brennan-Nelson, Denise and Brennan, Rosemarie
Illustrator: Moore, Cyd
Willow. 2008. Picture Book.
Miss Hawthorne is Willow’s art teacher and Miss Hawthorne emphasizes tidiness, structure, and reinforces coloring inside the lines. However, when Miss Hawthorne is met by an imaginative and creative child such as Willow that colors outside the lines and draws from her imagination Miss Hawthorne does not know what to do with Willow! It is not until Christmastime when Willow gifts Miss Hawthorne her beloved art book that transformation begins to occur within Miss Hawthorne. A once rigid woman begins to doodle and then to paint and then suddenly, her home is filled with art. When the students come back to the classroom after winter break, they come to find Miss Hawthorne usually prim and proper to have paint smeared jeans and smock who then invites them to help paint their classroom into a work of art. With soft toned watercolors and nature imagery the artwork culminates to a painting of a Willow tree as a tribute to Willow and Miss Hawthorne along with the rest of the students learn the intense power of imagination.
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Epstein, Gabriela
Claudia and the New Girl. 2021. Graphic Novel.
Claudia from the Babysitters Club has always been the most creative and artistic person in her class. That is until Ashley Wyeth enters the picture. Claudia thinks Ashley Wyeth is the most amazing artist she has ever known. When Ashley mentions how she thinks Claudia is a fantastic artist too and is wasting her talent by being at the Babysitters Club meetings, Claudia begins to miss BSC meetings instead of hanging out with Ashley. It then becomes clear to Claudia she will have to choose between Ashley or the Babysitters Club.
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Esperanza, C. G. (Charles George)
Illustrator: Tegen, Katherine
Boogie Boogie, Y’all. 2021. Picture Book.
Boogie Boogie, Y’all is a distinguished picture book that has received numerous accolades including ALSC Notable Children’s Book of the Year, Odyssey Award winner, Pura Belpré Honor Award winner, New York City Book Award winner, and Audie Award finalist. Boogie Boogie, Y’all is an ode to graffiti art. Three children in the Bronx stop to admire the dazzling and wondrous art around their community only to realize the art that surrounds their community is often ignored and unappreciated. The three children then find it is up to them to display to the world how beautiful art is and inspire a newfound appreciation for the urban art around us and the special opportunity of living in diverse cityscapes and communities.
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Kannan, Malavika
All the Yellow Suns. 2023. Young Adult.
Maya Krishnan is the main protagonist who is fiercely protective of her friends, immigrant community, and single mother although living in the conservative Florida suburbs does not make it easy and she tries her best to never cause rifts. Her classmate Juneau Zale, a white wealthy playboy, however, is the opposite who evades consequences. Juneau invites Maya to join the Pugilists, a secret society of artists, vandals, and mischief makers whose main drive is to fight for justice at their school. Joining the Pugilists inspires Maya to confront her own challenges in life.
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Linka, Catherine
What I Want You to See. 2020. Young Adult.
Winning a scholarship to a prestigious art school in California seems to be a fairy tale dream for Sabine Reye. After losing both her mother and her home Sabine is hoping for a fresh start and a place that will make her feel at home again, where she belongs. However, she did not anticipate how cutthroat art school could be, and it seems like the renowned faculty member Colin Krell does not agree with her talents and believes if she does not improve, she will be kicked out of her merit scholarship. What I Want You to See is an engrossing narrative that will leave you on the edge of your seat when reading a journey of deception, moral ambiguity, and attraction.
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Slade-Robinson, Nikki
Anywhere Artist. 2018. Picture Book.
“I don’t need paint or paper. I can make art anywhere. My imagination is all I need.” In this delightful picture book Slade-Robinson illustrates a young artist whose creativity propels her and emphasizes the message that anyone can be an artist with the help of their imagination. This picture book will inspire all young artists to use their imagination and creativity to bolster their artistic creations. Anywhere Artist is a useful tool in helping springboard lessons of found object art projects and how to use your imagination to create art anywhere and with anything!
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Smith, Nikkolas
The Artivist. 2023. Picture Book.
When a young boy discovers the inequalities in the world, he feels the urge to do more. He decides to combine his skills of artistry and passion for activism to be renamed as an artivist. Once he completes a mural that goes viral, he finds his purpose in one painting at a time to shed light on the injustices in the world. Nikkolas Smith presents young readers with an enthralling tale to urge young readers to acknowledge the injustices in their world and provide art and creativity as healing for the broken world we live in.
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Soontornvat, Christina
Illustrator: Davenier, Christine
Simon at the Art Museum. 2020. Picture Book.
Simon at the Art Museum is a delightful picture book that follows Simon and his first time visiting an art museum. He realizes just how much art he must look at and decides to take a break by sitting on a bench. When Simon sits on the bench and begins to observe others, he realizes the several types of people that come to visit a museum and how each person has a different reaction to viewing the art. Some people smile, some people are in groups, some people shake their heads, and others shed a tear. Simon at the Art Museum focuses on new experiences and learning about seeing things from an unfamiliar perspective.
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Yamasaki, Katie and Lendler, Ian
Everything Naomi Loved. 2020. Picture Book.
Naomi’s home is on 11th street. It is characterized by the honking cars, pizza by slice, the hair by Carmen, the corner bodega, and where her best friend Ada lives. However, the 11th street Naomi loves and recognizes begins to change, the shops begin to close, buildings are torn down, Naomi’s neighbors are being pushed out and must move. Naomi’s once beloved 11th street becomes unrecognizable which leads her to pick up a paintbrush inspired by her neighbor Mister Ray’s words that “when something we love goes away, we paint it on the wall so it’s always with us.” Naomi then creates an 11th street mural detailing all the intricacies and facets of the precious things that make 11th street special. Everything Naomi Loved is an inspiring tale of a celebration of community and friendship with threads of social justice that will remind us of all about how special home can be to each of us.
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World Braille Day

In honor of World Braille Day on January 4th, 2024, we want to celebrate the origins of Braille and highlight fiction and non-fiction books that focus on children with visual disabilities, the origins of Braille, and guide-dogs. World Braille Day is a reminder of the importance of accessibility and independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. We would like to raise awareness on the importance of Braille as a means of communication but also strive for accessibility and rights for blind and visually impaired people.

Adler, David A.
Illustrators: Wallner, John C.; Wallner, Alexandra.
A Picture Book of Louis Braille. 1997. Picture Book.
A biographical picture book on the origins of Braille and its creator Louis Braille. This picture book delves into the life of Louis Braille, a nineteenth-century Frenchmen accidentally blinded when he was a child, and how he invented the raised dot system known as Braille for reading and writing used globally for the blind.
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Almada, Ariel Andrés
Walking Through a World of Aromas. 2012. Picture Book.
Walking Through a World of Aromas, a winner at the International Latino Book Awards, tells the story of Annie, a girl who was born blind. Annie has the gift of being able to sense other people’s deepest emotions. She can bring those emotions to life through her cooking. Annie spends her days in the kitchen with her grandmother and helps the townspeople overcome their ailments physically and emotionally with her culinary creations. That is until Annie meets someone new who awakens a boundless affection in her that will introduce her senses to a whole new world. Walking Through a World of Aromas is an enchanting story about Annie trying to mold her place in the world and finding love and acceptance along the way.
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Glaser, Edie A.
Illustrators: Burgio, Maria R.; Paraschiv, Doina.
All Children Have Different Eyes: Learn To Play and Make Friends. 2007. Picture Book.
All Children Have Different Eyes is an empowering book for children with visual impairments. The book teaches children how to respond to social issues, how to respond to bullies, how to address in confidence their condition, and how to manage mistakes being made. Activities are featured in the back of the book for teachers and parents on tools for how to develop these social competencies. When reading this book all kids will understand how to play with others and be better playmates with children that have visual disabilities.
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Hall, Becky
Illustrator: Ettlinger, Doris.
Morris and Buddy: The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog. 2007. Picture Book.
A biographical story of Morris Frank, a man who lost his sight in 1924 when he was sixteen. Morris learned from his father there was an American dog trainer in Switzerland which later allowed him to meet Buddy who became the first seeing-eye dog. Morris eventually became the co-founder of the first guide-dog school in the United States, traveling across the US and Canada to promote the use of guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired.

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Keats, Ezra Jack.
Apt. 3. 1971. Picture Book.
Apt. 3 explores two brothers who hear the sweet sounds of a harmonica float through the halls of Sam and Ben’s tenement. The melodies inspire the two brothers to go in search of who is playing the music. They encounter the blind man who is the source of the beautiful music, and who “sees” with his ears. The search for the music ends with a new friendship between the brothers and the blind man.
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Lang, Glenna
Looking out for Sarah. 2003. Picture Book.
In this story we explore the lives of Sarah and her guide dog Perry. Perry helps Sarah go shopping, to the post office, and take the train from school. Sarah, who is a blind musician and teacher tells the story to her students of how she walked from Boston to New York with her guide dog to show the world how much someone can accomplish with the help of a guide dog like Perry.
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Lebeuf, Darren
Illustrator: Barron, Ashley.
My City Speaks. 2021. Picture Book.
This picture book details the life of a young girl who is visually impaired on her way to her violin recital where she senses all types of noise and rhythms from her city as she walks with her father through the streets, markets, the playground, and the community garden. In her city it “rushes and stops and waits and goes.” It “pitters and patters, and drips and drains.” Its “echoes” and “trills,” and is both “smelly” and “sweet.” With Ashley Barron as the illustrator, you can expect brightly and richly colored collage illustrations that add mesmerizing details and depth to the story. My City Speaks captures the essence of living in a concrete jungle, inspires kids to listen to their own towns and cities, all the while emphasizing a character study on adaptability.
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Liao, Jimmy
The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination. 2006. Picture Book.
An enriching tale of a young woman who is losing her sight and trying to find her place in the world. It is an English language translation originally published in Chinese. The young woman sets out to explore the world and discover one step at a time with her walking stick and dog to help guide her. The story is imaginative, courageous, full of heart, and hope as the young woman begins her emotionally healing journey.
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Rau, Dana Meachen
Illustrator: Weissman, Bari.
The Secret Code. 1998. Picture Book.
The Secret Code follows Oscar and Lucy. Oscar is blind, and during reading time in class Lucy notices that his book is different from the one she is reading. Lucy notices it has bumps all over the pages that Oscar is able to read with his fingers. By the end of the book Oscar teaches Lucy how to read Braille so they can read together. This picture book is a great introduction to Braille and displays the Braille alphabet as well for readers.
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Winkler, Henry
Everybody is Somebody. 2019. Middle Grade Braille Book.
This Braille edition of Everybody is Somebody tells the story of Hank Zipzer who, when a well-known author visits his school, is given the opportunity, along with two friends, to be her guide for the day and introduce her at the school assembly. The situation, however, forces Hank (who has dyslexia) to find imaginative ways to hide his struggles with reading. Will everyone be able to tell what is fact from fiction? This story features a common theme on being true to oneself and remaining your most authentic self.
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Yolen, Jane.

Illustrators: Charlip, Remy; Maraslis, Demetra.
The Seeing Stick. 1977. Picture Book.
The Seeing Stick, an original fairy tale story from Jane Yolen, explores the life of Hwei Min the only daughter of the emperor of China who has been blind since birth. Her father the emperor offers a reward to anyone that can cure her blindness, however to no avail. Magicians to physicians are unable to cure her. That is until one day when a mysterious old man appears carrying a stick to visit the princess. The old man tries to teach Hwei Min that there is more than one way to see the world. In this imaginative and rich story, it highlights the power of perception and the importance of human connection in our lives.
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Online Resources

Alt Text as Poetry

Alt Text as Poetry is an amazing resource for students and educators to learn about alt text and the innovative ways to incorporate it into a classroom. This project is a collaboration between Bojana Coklyat and Shannon Finnegan, both visually impaired, who created this project in order to “to put alt text on your radar (if it wasn’t already), to get you thinking about it creatively, and to explore a few of the key questions that come up when translating images into text.” The projects website contains a workbook on alt text and alt text as poetry as well as writing exercises.

National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled

The NLS is a free national library program that provides Braille and recorded materials to people who cannot see regular print or handle print materials. The online NLS site is filled with online educational resources for children.

Bookshare

Bookshare is an accessible online library for people with print disabilities. The online library helps people with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers to customize their experience in order to suit their learning style. Through Bookshare they can find any book they may need for school, work, and reading for pleasure.

Paths to Technology

Paths to Technology developed by Perkins School for the Blind is a website designed to assist educators, families, and students on the latest technology for students with low vision and blindness. According to their website the site was “Created as an interactive site, Paths to Technology is a resource for defining and disseminating best practices, training, and support for teachers of students with visual impairments, braille transcribers, other education professionals, parents and students themselves.”

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All Things Austenesque

In celebration of a beloved author’s birthday this December we are rejoicing in all things Jane Austen to commemorate her legendary oeuvre and birthday. Austen was born on December 16, 1775, and her books remain a staple in classic literature and have become a foundation for retellings galore. From Clueless to Bridget Jones’s Diary, this month we want to give a spotlight to all adaptations and retellings of Jane Austen’s work. This post will feature picture books on the life of Jane Austen, manga, middle grade novels, and young adult fiction.

Carbone, Courtney.
Darcy Swipes Left. 2016. Young Adult.
Have you ever wondered how Mr. Darcy would text? Look no further at this clever modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice where Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy have social media and smartphones and a love story arises between them. Find yourself giggling at the text messages of Mr. Bennet and prepare yourself for a novel where all the characters text each other with emojis, take selfies, and update their relationship statuses.
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Eulberg, Elizabeth.
Prom & Prejudice. 2011. Young Adult.
Eulberg’s spin on Pride and Prejudice is based on Lizzie Bennet who attended the prestigious high school of Longbourn Academy on a scholarship. When all the girls at the academy are becoming enthralled about the prospect of prom, Lizzie does not seem interested in the designer dresses or shoes. However, Lizzie’s best friend Jane is excited due to Charles Bingley being back from a semester in London. Lizzie is happy about Jane’s prospective romance with Bingley although Lizzie cannot find it in herself to like Will Darcy, a boy she finds to be a pretentious, snobby jerk. Even though she finds Darcy to be a pompous jerk, why does she seem so drawn to him?
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Frederick, Heather Vogel.
Pies & Prejudice. 2010. Young Adult.
Right before the start of her freshman year Emma unexpectedly moves to England. Emma’s life becomes a whirlwind when the mother-daughter book club is faced with a challenge. However, the resourcefulness of all the friends in the book club finds a way to continue meeting and discussing Jane Austen’s, Pride and Prejudice, a fitting parallel to Emma’s life. The novel centers around four childhood best friends Emma, Jess, Megan, and Cassidy. Told through each of the fifteen-year-old girls’ perspectives, Frederick takes you on a journey of teen romance, growing pains, responsibility, and issues that come with growing up. Each reader will come away with a character they relate to the most and through Frederick’s clever writing she blends the life of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice beautifully and ties it all together in the mother-daughter book club.
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Going, K.L.
The Next Great Jane. 2020. Middle Grade.
Meet Jane Brennan, a girl that wants nothing more than to become a famous author like Jane Austen. All she needs to do? Figure out how to be a literary success, of course! Her chances of figuring out how increase when J.E. Fairfax visits her hometown of Whickett Harbor, Maine. However, when a hurricane rolls in Jane ends up stuck with the author’s snobby son named Devon and, worst of all, her mother Susan and her mother’s fiancé Erik have flown from Hollywood to Maine to file custody and ship Jane off to California. All she needs to do now is find her marine biologist dad a romantic partner and figure out what is the most important thing to her about Whickett Harbor to convince her mother she is meant to stay in Maine.
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Harrison, Cora
Illustrator: Hellard, Susan
I was Jane Austen’s Best Friend. 2010. Young Adult.
Timid Jenny Cooper is sent to stay with her cousin Jane Austen. Jenny does not know the world of dresses, dances, gossip, and romance that Jane seems all too familiar with. Amid her visit Jenny falls madly in love with the dashing Captain Thomas Williams and who better to help her with the heart of the man than Jane? But will that all be possible when Jenny has been keeping a desperate secret? If this secret were to leak it would bring a huge scandal to the doorstep of not only hers but the entire Austen family and what is an orphan girl meant to do in this predicament? Cora Harrison explores the fictional life of a young Jane Austen in this novel and balances between fictional and true elements on the author’s life as a teen based on biographies, critical studies, and family letters.
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King, Stacy
Artist: Po, Tse
Manga Classics: Pride & Prejudice. 2014. Graphic Novel.
In Pride & Prejudice we get a peek into the lives of the Bennet household with five daughters and no male heirs. Excitement ensues when an eligible bachelor visits the nearby estate. In this charming adaptation by Stacy King and illustrator Tse Po, the wonderful tale of Pride & Prejudice is told through manga. The illustrations are beautiful and retain all the narrative elements of the original classic with a twist. This graphic novel is a wonderful way to introduce readers to a beloved tale through sumptuous illustrations and storytelling.
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King, Stacy
Artist: Po, Tse
Manga Classics: Sense & Sensibility. 2016. Graphic Novel.
In Jane Austen’s first novel two sisters, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, are true opposites where Marianne is impulsive and Elinor is cautious. When Marianne and Elinor’s father passes away both sisters are overcome with the grief and financial strain of their father’s passing. Both sisters move to a cottage in Devonshire where they battle love affairs with Edward Ferrars and John Willoughby. Follow the two sisters in a story filled with romance, social critique, and redemption in this modern manga adaptation.
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MacColl, Michaela
Secrets in the Snow: a Novel of Intrigue and Romance. 2016. Young Adult
Michaela MacColl brings us a historical fiction story centered around Jane Austen. Jane Austen’s family is eager to marry her off to secure her future. However, Jane has other plans including drafting her novels and finds no interest in any of the male suitors that come her way, that is until Mr. Lefroy enters the picture, and she struggles between choosing her family or true love.
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Sánchez Vegara, Ma Isabel (María Isabel)
Illustrator: Wilson, Katie
Jane Austen. 2018. Picture Book.
This picture book tells the biographical tale of Jane Austen, exploring her childhood in the English countryside, being born into a large family with seven siblings, and the heartbreak that she experienced that led to the creation and inspiration for Pride & Prejudice. Told through quirky illustrations it also features extra facts at the end, and includes a biographical timeline accompanied with historical images and an author profile. Little People, Big Dreams picture book series is perfect for babies and toddlers due to its narration being told through simple sentences that will inspire even the youngest of readers.
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Shulman, Polly
Enthusiasm. 2006. Young Adult.
Julie and Ashleigh, best friends, high school sophomores, and Jane Austen fans, both seem to have fallen for the same Mr. Darcy type boy and struggle to hide their true feelings from one another. Enthusiasm brings out themes of self-discovery, familial relationships, teenage feelings in boys, and creativity. Any Jane Austen fan will adore this sweet tale on friendship and trying to find your own Mr. Darcy.
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Smith, Rebecca
Where’s Jane? 2018. Picture Book.
In this beautiful, illustrated book readers are introduced to Jane Austen’s regency and Georgian-era world. Children can spot the main characters of the famous novels such as Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility, etc. The reader can first read the snappy synopsis of the story, explore key stages of the narrative as you meet the main characters, and next, as you peruse through the gorgeous illustrations, try searching for the main characters and elusive author through the expansive and buzzing artwork.

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Taslim, Priyanka
The Love Match. 2023. Young Adult.
The Love Match, a Jane Austen meet Bengali cinema mashup, follows teenager Zahra Kahn who’s amma (mother) believes she needs to find a good match, Jane Austen style. Which leads to her mother setting her up with handsome and wealthy eighteen-year-old Harun. However, Zahra feels a much deeper connection with her coworker Nayim. When Zahra and Harun decide to fake-date to appease their parents, trouble ensues when Zahra’s feelings begin to get mixed up.
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Watson, Kate (Katherine)
Off Script. 2020. Young Adult
Off Script is a Jane Austen retelling of Emma centered around nineteen-year-old actress Emma Crawford whose favorite job is to play matchmaker to her friends. Although, after reuniting with Liam Price and discovering the darker sides of Hollywood, she begins to question the glamorous world she has always known.
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Diwali: Festival of Lights

Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights with variations in other Indian religions. Diwali symbolizes the spiritual triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Diwali is celebrated across India with variations across the region. It is also celebrated and enjoyed by non-Hindu communities such as Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. Diwali is one of the largest and most important festivals that takes place over five days. The name the Festival of Lights is given due to the celebrants illuminating their home, temple, and workspaces with candles, lanterns, or oil lamps which serves to symbolize the inner light that defends against the darkness. This year Diwali takes place on Sunday, November 12, 2023. Throughout this blog we highlight the celebration of Diwali and introduce readers to picture books that feature Diwali and Hinduism culture at the forefront. Within these picture books you will find a range of topics from recipes customary during Diwali, craft ideas, family traditions, to the quintessential child going through Diwali preparations.

Eliot, Hannah
Illustrated by: Sreenivasan, Archana
Diwali. 2018 (Picture Book)
In this colorful board book, a part of the Celebrate the World series Eliot focuses on Diwali. A perfect book for preschool and up that delves into the tradition and origins of the holiday and the festival’s importance. With colorful artwork it is sure to be a hit with introducing the holiday to all ages.
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Gilmore, Rachna
Illustrated by: Priestley, Alice
Lights for Gita. 1994 (Picture Book)
When Gita, the protagonist of this picture book, immigrates from her native home of New Delhi, India to the West, she looks forward to celebrating Diwali in her new home and enjoying the fireworks despite the gloominess of the weather in November. However, as Gita prepares for the holiday the weather has other plans through freezing rain. Her papa must postpone the fireworks, and friends cancel their visit due to the weather. Feeling dejected, Gita remembers the fond memories she has of Diwali in her native country in comparison to her celebration now in a foreign country. With the guidance of her mother and when all is going awry, Gita finds a new perspective in Diwali when, with the light from the lamps, she realizes Diwali can brighten up even the worst days.
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LaRocca, Rajani
Illustrated by: Sreenivasan, Archana
Where Three Oceans Meet. 2021 (Picture Book)
Although this picture book does not exclusively focus on Diwali it is a heartwarming story on intergenerational bonding and love. In this story three characters Sejal, Mommy, and Patil, Sejal’s grandmother, go on a trip to the southern tip of India where they share meals, bond, visit friends, and visit the markets. Each character carries a unique experience when visiting their native country. For Patil, Sejal’s grandmother, she is re-visiting sites she is familiar with, for mommy she is returning to the place she grew up, and for Sejal she is experiencing it for the first time and discovering where she comes from. As the family makes their way to Kanyakumari, where three oceans meet, the book highlights the beauty of India and the celebration of family and the enduring love we have for one another.
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MacMillan, Dianne M
Diwali: Hindu Festival of Lights. 1997 (Picture Book)
A part of the Best Holiday Book series, MacMillan explores Diwali, focusing on the history, traditions, and celebrations surrounding the holiday. Additionally, in this book it retells the stories told during the holiday about Rama’s return after the long exile and Krishna’s defeat over the evil Narakasura.
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Mathur, Sanyukta
Illustrated by: Pippin-Mathur, Courtney
Happy Diwali! 2021 (Picture Book)
In this radiant tale of Diwali this story follows a little girl from dawn to dusk as she prepares for the celebration of Diwali through drawing rangolis, welcoming guests, helping to prepare the food, dressing up in colorful clothing, participating in the Puja, and lighting the diyas (lamps) in honor of Diwali. The strength in this picture book lies in its ability to recognize the diversity and variations that families may have when observing the holiday and how Hindu families of all diverse kinds of backgrounds celebrate the festival.
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Mirchandani, Raakhee
Illustrated by: Kelkar, Supriya
My Diwali Light. 2022 (Picture Book)
In this Diwali story it follows Devi as she prepares to celebrate her favorite holiday. It is a special time where she can wear her red bindi, eat samosas, and celebrate with her loved ones. From making mithai, designing rangolis, and painting diyas, Devi and her family share their Diwali traditions through radiant illustrations. It shines a light on how Diwali is celebrated in so many ways from family to family!
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Pandya, Meenal
Here Comes Diwali: The Festival of Lights. 2001 (Picture Book)
Meenal Pandya uncovers the traditions and origins of Diwali through the eyes of a Hindu child. What separates this picture book is the stand-out crafts and food recipes it shares with the reader, along with suggestions on how to celebrate the special holiday with loved ones.
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Ruths, Mitali Banerjee
Illustrated by: Singh, Parwinder
Archie Celebrates Diwali. 2021 (Picture Book).
Archana, otherwise known as Archie, loves Diwali and her family’s annual party in celebration of the holiday. This year is different, she can invite all her friends from school and share the holiday festivities. However, as Archie prepares for the holiday through food preparations and decorations, crisis strikes as the party just begins and a thunderstorm knocks out the electricity from the house and drenches all the outside decorations. Archie begins to feel that everything is ruined, and the celebration will not be the same due to the storm. Follow Archie in a beautiful tale that touches on themes of friendship and trying to fit in during Diwali.
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Singh, Rina
Diwali: Festival of Lights. 2016 (Picture Book)
Diwali is recognized by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs where each celebrate the stories, legends, and symbolism of the holiday in which good triumphs over evil. Rina Singh explores her Indian roots through stories surrounding Diwali. Diwali: Festival of Lights shares insight into personal accounts of the Diwali traditions from stories to sharing the festive recipes known during the holiday. It takes the reader on a journey of how Diwali is celebrated throughout the world.
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Umrigar, Thrity N
Illustrated by: Chanani, Nidhi
Binny’s Diwali. 2020 (Picture Book)
Binny’s class is learning about different holiday traditions and each classmate is sharing their own holiday traditions. Follow Binny as she embarks on her day when she is going to share Diwali, the festival of lights. Although she is excited to share her favorite holiday, she is also nervous but as she finds her confidence, she begins to share the beautiful fireworks displayed throughout Diwali, the delicious pedas and jalebis, and the clay lamps, diyas, that light up and make all the children stunned by their beauty. Binny’s Diwali features a heartwarming story that encapsulates the spirit of Diwali from the dazzling illustrations by Nidhi Chanani to capturing the essence of what it means to be Hindu and celebrating a beloved holiday.
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EVS

Step Into the Pages of Magic…Magical Realism for All Ages

Magical realism is noted for its combination of realistic stories combined with fantastical elements. This narrative tool is widely popular and critically acclaimed through adult works such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude or Toni Morrison’s Beloved. However, magical realism in children’s literature breaks the barriers of what is “real” and creates an atmosphere of imagination that transcends our day-to-day life. It differs from the fantasy genre due to its grounding in magical elements infused with our everyday life.

The popularity of magical realism in children’s literature can be attested to how, as a literary device, it can guide the characters on emotional journeys with the help of magic, yet still maintain the nature of our reality. The non-existent explanation of said magic and fantastical elements separates magical realism from contemporary or urban fantasy. The magic in these stories is used to bring the character on a spiritual/emotional journey where, particularly for children, magical realism allows the characters to navigate difficult topics and ease readers as well into learning about complex topics such as death and divorce. In this list there is a combination of picture books, middle-grade fiction, and young adult fiction to guide any reader into the world of magical realism.

Bourne, Shakirah
Josephine Against the Sea. 2021 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Inspired by Caribbean mythology, Josephine Against the Sea takes place in a small village in Barbados where the main character, Josephine, discovers her father’s girlfriend, Mariss, is a vengeful sea creature planning on taking Josephine’s place as her father’s first love. With the help of her friends and her cricket skills, Josephine must find a way to save her father from Mariss. Josephine Against the Sea explores themes of grief, loss, healing, and familial bonds. With the atmosphere of Caribbean mythology filled with monsters and magic, it blends into a warm, enchanting story that will also give young readers a glimpse of the main characters making mistakes and overcoming obstacles.
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Jeffers, Oliver
How to Catch a Star. 2004 (Picture Book).
This beloved tale of How to Catch a Star tells the story of a boy on a quest to catch a star for himself and his imaginative plans to get one. Such as climbing to the top of the highest tree, later to find out it’s not tall enough! This heartwarming tale is about shooting for the stars and emerging with a friend.
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Kelkar, Supriya
That Thing About Bollywood. 2021 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Sonali, a Southern California tween, struggles with voicing her feelings until one day, she wakes up and breaks out into Bollywood-style dance and song stricken with “filmi magic.” Her genuine emotions and feelings are unleashed in personal Bollywood soundtracks. In this moving tale, Sonali learns to share her feelings, find her own identity, and learn how to cope during a time of parental separation.
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Keller, Tae
When You Trap a Tiger. 2020 (Young Adult Fiction).
In this imaginative story, When You Trap a Tiger, Keller brings Korean folklore to life. When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, Lily discovers family secrets where a magical tiger comes for retribution for what was stolen from the tigers long ago. The magical tiger makes a deal to return what was stolen from them, and Lily’s grandmother Halmoni will be healed; however, Lily must find courage in herself to face the tigers, and with the help of her sister and a new friend, she’ll discover the power of stories and the magic of family.
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LaRocca, Rajani
Midsummer’s Mayhem. 2019 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Midsummer’s Mayhem is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream middle-grade fantasy retelling, where Mimi, the main character, dreams of becoming a celebrity chef just like her idol, Puffy Fay. When a local café comes out with a baking competition, with the prize being an internship with Puffy Fay himself, Mimi sets her sights on trying to win. Meanwhile, Mimi encounters a boy named Vik when she ventures into the forest. Vik exposes her to the forest’s exotic ingredients, and she begins to make delicious and enchanting treats. However, once her father starts acting strangely, Mimi must discover the cause of the strange behavior lurking in her family. Although this retelling stays true to the spirit of Shakespeare, it also highlights familial dynamics and believing in oneself and explores children’s identity compared to a high-achieving family.
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Love, Jessica
Julián Is a Mermaid. 2018 (Picture Book).
Julian is a Mermaid is Love’s debut picture book. It tells the story of Julian, who, riding the subway with his abuela, encounters three costumed mermaids that leave Julian dazzled by their magic. He begins to daydream of dressing up as the mermaids he had seen. Julian is a Mermaid is lauded for its exploration of identity and gender expression.
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Ness, Patrick & Siobhan Dowd
Illustrated by: Jim Kay.
A Monster Calls: a Novel. 2011 (Young Adult Fiction).
Unlike the recurring monster that Colin had nightmares about when his mother was ill, Colin wakes up one night to find an ancient monster that has come into his life for a singular purpose, and that is to tell Colin three stories in exchange for Colin confronting his truth. A Monster Calls is a gripping tale of the realities of grief and coping with the loss of a loved one. It is an emotional tale that guides the reader through a commonly tender subject and evokes themes of catharsis and reflection.
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Ruby, Laura
Bone Gap. 2015 (Young Adult Fiction).
Outsider Finn, in his small town in Illinois, sees the abduction of his brother’s beautiful girlfriend, Roza, at the spring festival. When called in to view mug shots of potential suspects, Finn is unable to figure out who it was due to all faces looking similar. This story weaves together magical elements of secrecy and intrigue. The reader goes on a quest with Finn, trying to find out where Roza is and solve the mystery. Bone Gap is a unique tale on the emphasis we place on beauty in our society, the power of perspective, and how our views can impact others.
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Ryan, Pam Muñoz
Echo. 2015 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Echo begins with the journey of Otto, who is lost in the forbidden forest and encounters three sisters. Otto becomes embroiled in a quest for prophecy, destiny, and a harmonica. It isn’t until decades later that three children, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California, find themselves on the same quest of prophecy and promise with a harmonica at the center.
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Schachner, Judith Byron
Sarabellas’s Thinking Cap. 2017 (Picture Book).
Sarabella’s Thinking Cap explores the main character, Sarabella, and her daydreaming habits that take over her focus and attention in school. Luckily, Sarabella has an understanding teacher who can encourage her by showcasing who she is. The reader is given a peek into Sarabella’s thoughts, where the author Schachner creates sprawling mixed-media collages of beautiful illustrations and imagination. This picture book tells the tale of individuality and acts as a tribute to the power of a child’s imagination.
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EVS

The High Holidays and Evaluating Jewish Representation in Children’s Literature

The holiest time of the year is approaching for members of the Jewish faith. The High Holidays will occur later this month, with Rosh Hashanah on September 15-17 and Yom Kippur on September 24-25. While books about Judaism published for children often focus on holiday traditions (specifically Hanukkah, a relatively minor Jewish holiday) or experiences of oppression (especially antisemitism and the Holocaust), it’s important to seek out stories that represent the fullness of Jewish life. The Association for Jewish Libraries has a rubric available for evaluating Jewish representation in children’s literature, which emphasizes that libraries and other institutions should share stories about Jewish main characters that highlight intersectional identities, Jewish joy, contemporary everyday experiences, avoid harmful tropes, and more. The books featured here exhibit a wide range of formats, themes, and subjects in Jewish life that indicate the broad array of children’s and YA books with high-quality Jewish representation. To find more titles, check out the Sydney Taylor Book Award lists, linked at the end of this post, along with the evaluation rubric.

Cohen, Paula
Big Dreams, Small Fish. 2022 (Picture Book).
In their new country, Shirley and her family all have big dreams. For instance, Shirley has great ideas about how to make the family store more modern, pretty, and profitable! She even thinks she can market the one food no one seems to want to try: Mama’s homemade gefilte fish. Shirley’s parents think she’s too young to help and they didn’t come to America for their little girl to work. “Go play with the cat!” they say. But this doesn’t slow down Shirley’s flow of ideas. One day, when the rest of the family has to hurry away and leaves her in the store with sleepy Mrs. Gottlieb, Shirley seizes her chance! Set in an urban neighborhood during the Great Depression, this story highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of a young girl and her Jewish immigrant community. Yiddish words are sprinkled throughout the text, with a glossary of terms at the end of the book.
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Hiranandani, Veera
How to Find What You’re Not Looking For. 2021 (Middle Grade Fiction).
This historical fiction novel follows middle schooler Ariel Goldberg as her life changes in the aftermath of her big sister’s elopement following Loving v. Virginia. At twelve years old, Ari feels like her life is deflated. Her family’s Jewish bakery has run into financial trouble, and her older sister has run away with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision that struck down laws banning interracial marriage. Ari is forced to grapple with both her family’s prejudice and the antisemitism she experiences as the only Jewish kid in school, all while she defines her own beliefs. As change becomes Ariel’s only constant, she’s left to hone something that will be with her always: her own voice. Written in the second person and loosely based on the story of Hiranandani’s parents’ marriage, this book tenderly examines social justice history, identity and disability, and love and honesty.
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Lamb, Sacha
When the Angels Left the Old Country. 2022 (Young Adult Fiction).
Uriel the angel and Little Ash (short for Ashmedai) are the only two supernatural creatures in their shtetl. They have been studying together for centuries, but violence and the search for new opportunities have pushed all the youth from their village to America. When one of those young people, Essie, disappears, they set off to find her. Along the way, the angel and demon encounter humans in need of their help, including Rose Cohen, whose best friend (and the love of her life) has left her to marry a man, and Malke Shulman, whose father died mysteriously on his journey to America. The obstacles in their path are as challenging as ever: medical exams (and demons) at Ellis Island, corrupt officials, cruel mob bosses, murderers, and poverty. With cinematic scenery and tender insights, Lamb presents a totally original drama about individual purpose, the fluid nature of identity, and the power of love to change and endure.
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Levinson, Cynthia
Illustrated by: Evan Turk
The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art. 2021 (Picture Book Biography).
As an observant young child growing up in Lithuania, Ben Shahn yearned to draw everything he saw. After witnessing his father’s banishment by the Czar for demanding workers’ rights, he also developed a keen sense of justice. When Ben and the rest of his family immigrated to America, Ben brought with him both his sharp artistic eye and his desire to fight for what’s right. During his life, he spoke up for justice through his art: from challenging classmates who bullied him for being Jewish, to resisting his teachers’ demands to paint beautiful landscapes in favor of painting stories about real human experiences, to using his art to urge the US government to pass Depression-era laws that helped people find food and security. In this moving and timely portrait, Levinson and Turk honor an artist and activist whose work still resonates today, as Ben was a true painter for the people.
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Lowe, Mari
Aviva vs. the Dybbuk. 2022 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Everything seems to be making sixth-grader Aviva’s life more difficult. Her isolation, the long ago “accident” that resulted in her father’s death, and not to mention a ghostly dybbuk, that no one but Aviva can see, causing mayhem and mischief that everyone blames on her. This story follows a girl growing up in Orthodox Jewish culture who seems to have lost everything, including her best friend Kayla, and a mother who was once vibrant and popular, and who now can’t always get out of bed in the morning. As tensions escalate in the Jewish community of Beacon when a swastika is carved into new concrete poured near the synagogue, discord grows between Aviva and Kayla and the girls at their school, and the meddling actions of the dybbuk get worse. Could real harm be coming Aviva’s way? This remarkable story is a compassionate look at grief, survival, community, and healing.
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Panitch, Amanda
The Trouble with Good Ideas. 2021 (Middle Grade Fiction).
Twelve-year-old Leah Nevins is not a fan of change. When her parents start talking about sending her beloved great-grandpa Zaide to an assisted living facility, she is very opposed to the idea. Zaide’s house, where her family gathers on Saturday afternoons, is the only place where Leah feels like she truly belongs. Luckily Leah remembers a story Zaide once told her. To protect their family from the Nazis in Poland, he built a golem: a creature from Jewish folklore made out of clay. Leah decides to make a golem of her own to care for her ailing great-grandfather. The directions he gave her were easy to follow, but there is one thing he never mentioned: what to do when a golem turns against its creator. This dark, exciting novel blends contemporary Jewish life with tradition and lore, highlighting lessons about friendship, family, and identity along the way.
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Pasternack, Sofiya
Black Bird, Blue Road. 2022 (Middle Grade Fiction).
It’s the eleventh century. As the daughter of a prominent judge of Khazaria, twelve-year-old Ziva doesn’t at all care about learning etiquette with the purpose of finding a good husband, like her family expects. Instead, she dedicates her time to her twin brother, Pesah, as they work to try to find a cure for his leprosy. Now Pesah’s health is declining, rapidly. The best doctors have predicted he has just weeks to live, and Pesah has an alarming premonition: the Angel of Death is coming to collect him on Rosh Hashanah, only one month away. Panicked, Ziva runs away with Pesah to the Byzantine Empire, home to hundreds of doctors, who must surely have a cure. But when Ziva accidentally frees a half-demon boy named Almas along the way, unintentionally binding him to her until his debt is paid, Almas tells her about the legendary city of Luz, where the Angel of Death is forbidden to tread. If the three of them can get there by Rosh Hashanah, they can save Pesah for good. This adventurous story, informed by Jewish folklore, is a heartbreaking look at life and death and the unbreakable bond between siblings.
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Samuel, Sigal
Illustrated by: Vali Mintzi
Osnat and Her Dove: The True Story of the World’s First Female Rabbi. 2021 (Picture Book).
This picture book biography shares the little-known story of the first female rabbi. Osnat Barzani, also known as Asnat or Asenath Barzani, was born almost five hundred years ago, during a time when few girls were allowed to read. Her father was a great scholar whose house was filled with books, and she convinced him to teach her. Osnat grew up to teach others, becoming a rabbi and a famous scholar in her own right. Beautiful illustrations depict the lore around her life and utilize colors, textile patterns, and Hebrew letters to adorn the pages of this enlightening story.
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Savit, Gavriel
The Way Back. 2020 (Young Adult Fiction).
This historical fantasy follows Eastern European teens Yehuda and Bluma on a journey through realms of dark folklore. For the people of the tiny village of Tupik, demons are everywhere: dancing on the rooftops at night, congregating in the trees, even reaching out to try and steal away the living townspeople. The demons conspire within a land of their own: a Far Country, governed by demonic lords and ladies. When the Angel of Death comes strolling through Tupik one night, Yehuda Leib and Bluma are sent spinning off on a journey through the Far Country. There they make pacts with ancient demons, declare war on Death himself, and try desperately to find a way to make it back alive.
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Walters, Eric & Kathy Kacer
Broken Strings. 2019 (Middle Grade Fiction).
A violin and a school musical unleash a dark family secret in this moving middle grade novel. The year is 2002. In the aftermath of the attack on the twin towers (and the death of her beloved grandmother) Shirli Berman is determined to move forward. As the best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but instead is cast as the old Jewish mother in the musical. The upside is that Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school, is playing the role of her husband. While exploring her grandfather’s attic for some props, she discovers an old violin in the corner, which is strange, since he has never seemed to like music. After she shows her grandfather the violin, he reacts angrily, and a long-kept family secret is revealed. In this moving story that examines the longstanding effects of historical trauma, Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.
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Additional Resources


Association of Jewish Libraries – Evaluating Jewish KidLit Guide
[https://jewishlibraries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Evaluating-Jewish-Kidlit-Guide.pdf]
This free guide outlines criteria for evaluating Jewish representation in children’s literature by describing several important themes to seek out or avoid. Includes tips for evaluating collection goals and individual titles as well as further resources.

Sydney Taylor Book Award
[https://jewishlibraries.org/sydney_taylor_book_award/]
Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries, this award encourages the publication of quality Jewish literature by recognizing outstanding books for young people that “authentically portray the Jewish experience.” The yearly award covers three categories: Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult. The web page has a searchable list of all past award winners.

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Reading is FUNdamental: Exciting Early Readers and Beginning Chapter Books

Early reader books, known variously as easy readers, beginning chapter books, first chapter books, or primers, constitute a category of children’s literature that is often overlooked. These books facilitate young readers’ transition into reading independently. Some may think of easy reader books as bland, simplistic, didactic, or overly commercial. As a result, early reader books tend to not get the same literary attention as picture books or juvenile novels. However, in recent years, children’s authors and illustrators have experimented more with the form and content of early reader books to expand the possibilities of this type of children’s book. Early readers have also followed the broader trend in children’s literature towards representing more diversity in identities and cultural experiences. Enjoy reading some of these fun and exciting new beginning reader books to brush up on reading skills and get ready for the new school year.

Atinuke
Too Small Tola. 2021.
In a trio of stories, renowned Nigerian storyteller Atinuke introduces an endearing character who is not too small to do important things. Tola lives in an apartment in the busy city of Lagos, Nigeria, with her sister, Moji, who is clever; her brother, Dapo, who is fast; and Grandmommy, who is bossy. Tola may be tiny, but she is strong enough to carry a basket filled with groceries home from the market, and she is clever enough to count out Grandmommy’s change. When the faucets in the apartment stop working, it is Tola who brings water from the well. And when Mr. Abdul, the tailor, has an accident and can’t leave his room, only Tola can help take his customers’ measurements. Atinuke’s witty text evokes the urban bustle and multitude of cultures in Lagos through the eyes of a little girl with an outsized will, accompanied by Iwu’s lovely illustrations. This early chapter book uses plain language, simple sentence structures, and relatable narration to help readers transition from easy readers to chapter books. Don’t miss the sequels: Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls and Too Small Tola Gets Tough.
S. At481ts

Gravel, Elise
The Bat. 2020.
Early reader books can also be nonfiction! One of the final installments in Elise Gravel’s “Disgusting Critters” nonfiction early readers series (see others such as The Mosquito, The Cockroach, or The Spider), this book’s conversational text and silly illustrations will have readers up past bedtime learning about the only flying mammal on Earth. Gravel covers habitat (bats live everywhere except Antarctica), species (there are over 1,200 kinds of bats), conservation (don’t disturb a bat that is snoozing), echolocation, hibernation, and much more. By using graphic novel conventions such as speech bubbles and expressive line drawings, plus straightforward, concise paragraphs, Gravel has created fun and accessible informational books for newly independent readers.
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LaRochelle, David
Illustrated by: Mike Wohnoutka
See the Cat: Three Stories about a Dog. 2020.
What happens when the book gets it wrong? Max is not a cat. Max is a dog! But much to his dismay, this book keeps instructing readers to “see the cat.” How can Max get through to the book that he is a dog? In a trio of stories for beginning readers, author LaRochelle introduces the excitable Max, who lets the book know in charmingly emphatic dialogue that the text is not to his liking. Wohnoutka depicts the dog’s reactions to the narrator and to the wacky cast of characters who upend readers’ expectations as the three stories build to a satisfying conclusion. An innovative approach to metafiction (a story about fiction) in a beginning reader format, the simple speech-bubble text and reliance on information from the art makes this an excellent book for those still trying to feel confident about their reading skills. Enjoy a similar reading experience in LaRochelle and Wohnoutka’s follow-up title, See the Dog: Three Stories about a Cat.
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Kugler, Tina
Snail and Worm: Three Stories about Two Friends. 2016.
Combining deceptively simple art with clever wordplay, this tale will have young readers delighting in these friends’ silly antics, making this a perfect book for readers transitioning between picture books and chapter books. Told in three comical, episodic stories and ranging in topic from adventuring to having pets, this book follows best friends Snail and Worm through multiple adventures involving how one defines a good day, an encounter with a dragon, and musings on storytelling. Kugler’s subsequent books, Snail & Worm Again and Snail & Worm All Day, use the same structure and tell tales that are just as goofy and accessible for readers who are beginning to read on their own.
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Khan, Hena
Illustrated by: Wastana Haikal
Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun. 2022.
Meet Zara Saleem, the queen of the neighborhood. Zara is in charge of everything: she organizes the games, picks the teams, and makes sure all the kids have a fun time (and they always do). When a new family moves in across the street, Zara’s reign is threatened by Naomi, who has big ideas of her own about how everyone in the neighborhood can have a good time. To get her neighbors to notice her again, Zara decides she is going to break a Guinness World Record, but only if her little brother Zayd doesn’t mess everything up. When she finds herself increasingly alone in her endeavor to break the record, Zara starts to wonder if sharing the crown and making a new friend might end up being the best rule of all. This is the first book in a humorous beginning chapter book fiction series starring a young Muslim girl with an endless list of hobbies who searches for ways to maximize fun for her family and friends.
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Lyons, Kelly Starling
Illustrated by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton.
Rock Star (Jada Jones #1). 2017.
Young readers will enjoy engaging with science-loving Jada Jones in this easy-to-read chapter book. When Jada Jones’s best friend moves away, she dreads going to school. She would much rather wander outside looking for cool rocks to add to her collection, because finding rocks is much easier than finding friends. So, when Jada’s teacher announces a class project on rocks and minerals, Jada finally feels in her element. But nothing’s perfect, and soon she notices that a classmate doesn’t seem to like any of Jada’s ideas, or even Jada herself. Can Jada figure out a way to make a winning science project and make peace? This science-focused early chapter book bridges between leveled readers and longer chapter books for fluent readers adjusting to the format. With short chapters and art on almost every page, this story will draw readers in with Jada’s enthusiasm for science and the natural world.
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Medina, Juana
Juana & Lucas. 2016.
Juana loves many things: drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her canine best friend, Lucas. She does not love wearing her scratchy school uniform, math homework, or going to dance class. Juana especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that hardly makes sense? When Juana’s abuelos tell her about a special trip they are planning, one that will require speaking English, Juana begins to wonder whether learning the language might be a valuable endeavor after all. Hilarious, energetic, and utterly relatable, Juana will win over los corazones (the hearts) of readers everywhere in her first adventure. Follow along with the rest of the series, including Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas and Juana & Lucas: Muchos Changes.
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Pham, LeUyen & Mo Willems
The Itchy Book! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading). 2018.
The beloved characters Elephant and Piggie foray into the world of dinosaurs in this hilarious early reader book. Triceratops has an itch, so does Pterodactyl, Brontosaurus, and T-Rex! But Dino-Mo reminds them all of the big rule posted on a sign: Dinosaurs do not scratch! What should an itchy dinosaur do to find relief? Dino-Mo insists that he will not scratch, not even while wearing a wool sweater! True to the style and form of the other Elephant & Piggie books, with speech-bubble text and deceptively simple humor, The Itchy Book is a standout for its bold colors and will have young readers rolling with laughter.
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Quigley, Dawn
Illustrated by: Tara Audibert
The Used-To-Be-Best Friend (Jo Jo Makoons #1). 2021.
Hello/Boozhoo! Meet Jo Jo Makoons Azure, a young Ojibwe girl who loves to be herself. Jo Jo is an energetic seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. Much to Jo Jo’s dismay, her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher seem to always have a lot to learn about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly. Even though Jo Jo loves her best friend Mimi (who is a cat), she is worried that she needs to figure out how to make more human friends. Because Fern, her best friend at school, may not want to be friends anymore. Misunderstandings between Jo Jo and others (especially with her white teacher, who does not understand her Native cultural perspective) are the guiding tension of this engaging beginning chapter book series. Quigley incorporates Ojibwe and Michif words throughout the story and black-and-white illustrations enhance the reading experience.
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Song, Mika
Donut Feed the Squirrels. 2020.
Two squirrels (and best friends) meet their match: a donut food truck! Norma and Belly plan to start the day with some pancakes, but when Norma accidentally burns them, these two best friends set out to find a new snack. Chestnuts could be good, but what is that scrumptious smell in the distance? A new food truck is parked near their tree, and these two squirrels are determined to figure out how to get their hands on these “donuts” that seem to be coming from it. Song gives readers something to giggle about as these squirrel friends try their hardest to munch on some donuts while just about everything goes wrong. This is a hilarious early graphic novel with spare words mostly in the form of dialogue, and Song uses colorful art to highlight the zany action, tricky problem-solving, and the sweet value of working together.
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