Featured Books – June, 2020


To purchase books through Amazon, simply click on the cover. You may also search through WorldCat to find titles in a library near you. HAPPY will offer new featured book recommendations monthly. Read through for useful literacy information included in our descriptions.

We love books. We really love books. As the old saying goes, if we love books so much, why don’t we marry them? Well, maybe we will! And we can start with something old (a classic), something new (released within the past year), something borrowed (or retold) and something blue (or in a hue…meaning especially colorful or unusual)!

Why Don’t You Marry Them? – Picture Books to Read Aloud (or Savor Silently)


Classic: Jamberry by Bruce Degen
New: No More Naps by Chris Grabenstein
Retelling: The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson
Colorful: Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman


— By Bruce Degen

For nearly 40 years children and adults have enjoyed the rolling, rhyming adventure of a boy, a bear and many berries.

For educators, this book is an excellent choice for teaching the sound of the letter B. The rhyming lines are also an ideal aid for building phonological awareness.

No More Naps

— By Chris Grabenstein

Fussy, fumy, screamy, shrieky Annelise Devin McFleece has no interest in taking a nap, much to the dismay and surprise of the neighborhood. One by one, they volunteer to make use of the nap she does not want, providing us a fair amount of amusement along the way. The book is a good one for pointing out and discussing the various noises that one hears in a city. It also provides opportunities to talk about the sound of the letter N, found in NAP and NO. And it’s rich with many words beginning with the letter S.

The House in the Night

— By Susan Marie Swanson

Although not exactly a retelling, it’s inspired by a favorite nursery rhyme and draws from the familiar. For many, this book has become a bedtime favorite. The soothing prose and the warm glow of the illustrations remind us that we can find comfort in simple things, like the familiar routine of bedtime.

This 2009 recipient of the Randolph Caldecott medal provides an introduction to patterns, given its cumulative structure. The sound of the letter B is teachable here, by pointing out the initial sound in the words BED, BIRD and BOOK.

Blue Chicken

— By Deborah Freedman

In this cute and colorful story that breaks the fourth wall, a bright, white chicken gets in on the action of painting the story. A slip of the brush and then suddenly, everything is awash in blue. Things get rather messy before the blue bird finds a way to undo the blue. So much depends upon this white chicken beside the red wheelbarrow in a subtle nod to the poet William Carlos Williams.

Once the scene is all clear, we spy some other little friends who are about to make a little trouble of their own. Count on this book for a smattering of beginning blends and digraphs, such as BL, CL, and CH. Also, you’ll hear the sound of long U spelled with O, OO, and UE.


Classic: The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
New: The Cool Bean by Jory John
Retelling: The Name of the Tree: A Bantu Tale Retold by Celia Barker Lottiridge
Colorful: Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis

The Story About Ping

— By Marjorie Flack; Kurt Wiese

Some of us may be old enough to remember hearing about Ping’s misadventures on the Yangtze River from Captain Kangaroo many decades ago.

The endearing duck will have new converts hoping and cheering for him as he navigates the waters and learns a valuable lesson about accepting consequences with maturity and even appreciation. For word study purposes, learners can look and listen for the many words that end with a blend. You might choose to focus on the NG ending in the words LONG, PING, RING and YOUNG.

The Cool Bean

— By Jory John; Pete Oswald

Jory John and Pete Oswald, creators of The Bad Seed, are back with a take on the shifting tides of friendships. Many children will relate to the experience of being close friends one day and not-so-close soon after. The book will also remind both the cool and un-cool alike what it means to be an actual cool person and good friend. Although the title offers a solid way to stress the sound of double-o, the book also has a number of long E words spelled with EA.

The Name of the Tree

— By Celia Barker Lottridge; Ian Wallace

This is a rich telling of an old story which reminds us of a perennial fact: every one of us has an important contribution to make for all of us. Possibly even more valuable for lovers of learning is this: what you know will feed you. This is an excellent selection to read alone or aloud or one-on-one.

Leave plenty of time for discussion, and if you choose to use it in word study instruction, you’ll find plenty of words with the sounds of A… both short and long. The long A sound is represented in aCe, AY, and AI forms.

Upper Elem./Middle

Classic: The Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg
New: Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey by Lori Mortenson
Retelling: The Hired Hand by Robert San Souci
Colorful: The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi

— By Chris Van Allsburg

Readers of all ages have enjoyed this intriguing and unusual story of dog lost in the sculpted garden of a retired magician.

This first picture book by the now-renowned Chris Van Allsburg earned numerous award distinctions and remains a favorite after more than thirty years. The book provides an easy and fun way to illustrate ending consonant blends, using the names of the main characters.

Nonsense: The Curious Story of Edward Gorey

— By Lori Mortensen; Chloe Bristol

Movie fans love Tim Burton and book fans love Lemony Snicket. But not all fans know that both of these creators ae fans of the genius Edward Gorey. This picture book biography introduces us to a boy enamored with Alice in Wonderland and Dracula. Gorey became a man who turned his fascination with the odd and the grim into memorably strange storytelling. As readers or listeners enjoy his peculiar tale, they might also encounter a number of words with closed syllables, rendering the I in the stressed syllable short. There’s also an avenue for focusing on prefixes and suffixes.

The Hired Hand

— By Robert D San Souci; Jerry Pinkney

San Souci has constructed a compelling morality tale, where the seeming underdog emerges as a hero. Based on stories handed down, The Hired Hand is reminiscent of other stories that demonstrate how selfishness and greed can produce undesirable results.

Read it for enjoyment and for character enhancement and utilize it instructionally for the sound of OO in words like GOOD and WOOD.

The Composer is Dead

— By Lemony Snicket; Carson Ellis; Nathaniel Stookey

The same dark humor that belies his Series of Unfortunate Events takes its turn in the orchestra room. Who has killed the composer? Our dashing detective will question everyone—from strings to percussion. With tongue in cheek, we discover a few things about instruments, musicians and the music they love (and sometimes butcher!).

This will be a special delight for those who play an instrument or who have an interest in symphonic music. The CD which accompanies the book provides a self-contained read-aloud with score. The ensemble may very well be a compositional masterpiece. Noteworthy, as well, are the word study features. START with the LARGE assortment of R-Controlled words that STAR in this mystery, which is sure to strike a CHORD.

Independent (or Shared) Reading

Beginning Readers

Classic: Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
New: Pete the Cat’s Family Road Trip by James Dean
Retelling: The Little Red Hen (Scholastic Folk and Fairy) by Violet Findley
Colorful: Rainforest Colors by Susan Canizares

Are You My Mother?

— By P.D.Eastman

A terrific lesson in persistence is what we get from this baby bird in the P.D.Eastman classic. As with all the Beginner Books written by P.D. Eastman, there’s plenty of action and just enough word repetition to boost the ability and the confidence of novice readers.

As a read-aloud, it stands up to dozens if not hundreds of repeat visits, which will, of course, help your young one to read it alone that much more easily. UP, DOWN and ON are among the sight words prominent throughout the text.

Pete the Cat’s Family Road Trip

— By Kim Dean; James Dean

You might feel like you’ve toured the country once you’ve read this new addition to the Pete the Cat easy reader collection. Especially helpful when real-life travel is restricted, you can see stop by American points of interest and learn what makes each place special.

You’ll find a few AR words but also a comparison of beginning and ending blends. You might also compare short O with various long O spelling patterns.

The Little Red Hen

— By Violet Findley

This little morsel of a book is a great way to hone sight word skills while revisiting the classic story of the bird who just wants a little help. The telling is straightforward and the pictures are sweet.

New readers will recognize several repeated words like NOT, ME and SAID. This version is available as an e-book along with several other titles in a series.

Rainforest Colors

— By Susan Canizares; Betsey Chessen

This is the simplest form of an easy reader, with just a couple of words on each page. The picture support and repetition will have any youngster who knows basic colors reading in a very short time and beaming with pride right after that.

The book can also be used to introduce any number of science concepts or as a bridge to learn the color words.

Early Chapter Books

Classic: Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
New: Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters by Andrea Beaty
Retelling: The Frog Prince Hops to It by Tony Bradman
Colorful: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osbourne

Frog and Toad Are Friends

— By Arnold Lobel

No child should miss the enjoyment of sharing the funny, friendly world of Frog and Toad. More than 40 years after the debut of the prodigious pals, the stories still feel fresh and delightful.

This is the first in the series, but listeners and readers will welcome all of their adventures. These are Level 2 I Can Read books, approximately J on the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading scale, so many children in second or third grade can handle these independently. Still, Frog and Toad are a pleasure to read aloud, as well. The text lends itself to word feature comparisons of short O (FROG) and long O (TOAD) as well as other iterations of the long O sound.

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters

— By Andrea Beaty

A favorite picture book series moves into new territory in the form of early chapter books. In this inaugural text, Rosie is joined by her friends Iggy Peck and Ada Twist as the three “questioneers” use their creativity and critical thinking skills to invent something new.

Tier II words (see Beck’s Bringing Words to Life) abound… including CONTRAPTION, SLITHERED, CRAMMED and SPUTTERED.

The Frog Prince Hops to It

— By Tony Bradman

An old favorite gets a fresh treatment in this installment of the After Happily Ever After series. Freddy the former frog can’t seem to being married and away from his beloved pond. The marriage of the new prince and the princess who kissed him looks like it’s in a lot of trouble until the pair find an environmental cause that suits them both just right.

Tier II words (see Beck’s Bringing Words to Life) include TRANSFORMED, VANISHED, QUIVERED and DEMONSTRATION”.

Dinosaurs Before Dark

— By Mary Pope Osborne; Sal Murdocca

Mary Pope Osbourne extended a great kindness to the whole, reading world with the gift of the Magic Tree House series. Through the adventures of Jack and Annie, young people explore information across content while savoring a good read. Accessible to proficient readers as early as first or second grade, these books are fantastic read-aloud material for families, community groups, reading clubs and classrooms of upper elementary students, as well.

The nonfiction companion books help extend the learning beyond each story. In this first installment, the young siblings encounter a Pteranodon, which gives us the perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of silent versus sounded letters. For listeners at a different level of readiness, the D sounds in the title may be a worthwhile connection.

And the Wedding Party

More Books to Love and Read Aloud Multicultural (in English)

Preschool: Matthew and Tilly by Rebecca C. Jones
Elementary: Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan
Upper Elementary: The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammed
Easy Reader/Early Chapter: Absolutely Alfie and the Furry, Purry Secret by Sally Warner 

Matthew and Tilly

— By Rebecca C Jones; Beth Peck

These two are the best of friends, so naturally, they don’t always get along. Adults enjoy hearing this story as much as the younger crowd.

It rings so true to anyone who has ever had a sibling or a friend or a classmate. The fact that the friends are different genders and ethnicities makes this a natural choice for teaching about diversity- either directly or implicitly. You might also elect to compare the long sounds of A and I, spelled vCe (vowel, consonant, silent e) within the text.

Big Red Lollipop

— By Rukhsana Khan; Sophie Blackall

To build empathy, there’s nothing quite like imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes. This story aids that feat on two levels. Rubina is a sympathetic character who is forced to take her little sister along to a birthday party. She’s also in a family newly-emigrated to a place with different traditions than their own.

She’s likeable from the start, but by the end of the story, she’s an outright hero. While cheering for our leading, little, lady, take some time to notice the long A sound, spelled vCe (vowel, consonant, silent e) or the long E, spelled EA, depending on the needs of your learners.

The Proudest Blue

— By Ibtihaj Muhammad, S.K. Ali, Hatem Aly (Illustrator)

This beautiful picture book offers a sweet and strong way to teach about cultural differences but even more importantly, about the importance of being comfortable with and proud of your own identity. Lovely imagery meets playful illustrations in a book that will delight all ages. Teaching about simile and metaphor will be breezy as the blue sky with this story of two sisters who are excited to experience the special joy of first-day hijab.

You will also find a large number of OU words such as SHOUT, LOUD, and PROUD and can compare those with long O words spelled with OW.

Absolutely Alfie and the Furry, Purry Secret

— By Sally Warner; Shearry Malone

From the author of the EllRay Jakes series, comes this first book about the creatively confident little sister Alfie. The seven year-old is eager to find not-boring things to do at the end of summer and finds herself facing a basket full of cute kittycats. She’s ready to do what she must to become a pet owner, despite all odds. This book is multi-cultural only in that the Jakes family is black. Their lives seem very much like those of other middle- class families, and sometimes that is an important lesson in multi-culturalism.

Readers and word hunters in chapter one will discover OO words to compare, such as COOL, SCHOOL, and FLOOP alongside GOOD, COOK and BOOK.


Preschool: We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey Through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs
Elementary: Oh No, Gotta Go by Susan Middleton Elya
Upper Elementary: Mirror by Jeannie Baker
Easy Reader/Early Chapter: Curious George Plants a Seed/Jorge el curioso siembra una semilla 

We All Went on Safari

— By Laurie Krebs; Julia Cairns

There are so many wild animals to count, so many African friends to meet, and so much rhyming to entrance listeners in this unique counting book. Maasai friends help us to count to ten in Swahili as we encounter various beasts.

The romping repetition of “We all went on safari…” is predictably fun for young listeners. For those seeing the words in print, they may soon add most or all of these to the list of known sight words. The Swahili numbers are musically, fun to say, making this even more enjoyable as a read-aloud.

Oh No, Gotta Go!

— By Susan Middleton Elya; G Brian Karas

It is hard to top the sheer entertainment value of this book when it’s read aloud to both English and Spanish speakers. The story’s dilemma, having to use the bathroom while on a car trip, is quite universal. When you blend English and Spanish words in sweet, rhyming phrases, you have a read- aloud hit.

English language-learners relish being the vocabulary experts as you wend your way through the saga. And English speakers enjoy learning some Spanish words and phrases. Increasing familiarity with sight words NO, GO and SO is a bonus. If this book were not listed with bilingual picks, it would surely be included among read-aloud heart-throbs. Find a copy, by all means.


— By Jeannie Baker

It is a little misleading to list Mirror with the bilingual books, because it is nearly wordless. Still, we find ourselves observers in the lives of two families… one in modern Australia and the other in more rustic Africa. The illustrations chronicle the day’s events for both families, and each is introduced with just a few words… in English and in Arabic.

While a world and a language apart, we see how much is the same about being part of the human family, no matter where you live. With its emphasis on the word “mirror”, this selection is a fine companion for the word study concept of doublets. There are tremendous writing activity opportunities, as well, sparked by the richness of the visuals and the contrast of the families.

Curious George Plants a Seed

— By Erica Zappy; Sandra Willard; H A Rey

This early reader arrives courtesy the Curious George series on PBS Kids television and is delivered in both English and Spanish.

The story is rich with the sound of G, including blends such as GROW and GROUND. The ending sound of G is found in DIG. And we know, of course, that our monkey friend’s moniker provides the contrasting soft G sound.

New in a Series

Preschool: The Pigeon HAS to Go to School by Mo Willems
Elementary: Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Upper Elementary: Dogman: Fetch 22 by Dav Pilkey
Easy Reader: Jack at Bat by Mac Barnett 

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School

— By Mo Willems; Scotty Huff

The little bird with the big attitude has so many questions in this latest entry from Mo Willems. Readers and listeners who’ve grown up with Pigeon will appreciate remembering the anxiety, now conquered, that accompanied the eve of school. And those anticipating starting their school careers will feel soothed as worries are assuaged by Pigeon’s experience. For beginning letter sounds, the words PIGEON and SCHOOL are obvious choices for emphasis. But then, there’s also BUS, which may bring a smile to longtime fans.

Little Legends

— By Vashti Harrison

Vashti Harrison follows her wildly popular Little Leaders with this volume, chronicling the contributions of 35 prodigious black men. Beginning with the genius of Benjamin Banneker, born in 1731, we learn about figures with names as familiar as Thurgood Marshall and Prince to those less known, such as zoologist Charles Henry Turner and activist Eddie Mabo. The compendium concludes with brief summaries of the lives of another eighteen luminaries, including Jackie Robinson and Barack Obama.

Little Legends is a natural mentor text for research and writing practice. Harrison has already included an invitation at the end of the book to draw your own legend, using her template. She’s even offered suggestions of additional standout history makers to draw. The next step is to learn more about these or other exceptional individuals and craft one, three, five or more interesting paragraphs about their legendary lives.

Dogman: Fetch 22

— By Dav Pilkey

In his third appearance, Stillwater the panda shares more of his quiet, ancient wisdom with three small children and with all of us. Based on a Koan–a type of story that calls forth personal truth more than it states any particular facts—Jon Muth, through Stillwater, invites his audience to reflect and see differently. The dynamic watercolors enliven the experience.

The theme of duality, so prominent in the story, makes this an even more perfect selection for instruction in compound words. You may even elect to group them according to whether or not they have hyphens.

Jack at Bat

— By Mac Barnett

In the long-awaited book in the Jack Book series, Jack is getting coached on how to be a proper bat boy. But what Jack really wants is to get a hit. Will he get a chance at last?

As reader’s discover the answer to this cliffhanger, they’ll also find bases are loaded with words that have the sound of short A. As luck would have it, there are also a number of long A words for comparison. Discover JACK, BAT, FAST, SNACK and more which contrast nicely with PLATE, WAKE, SHAPE and others, including WAIT as an oddball in this baseball adventure for Jack.


Preschool: Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale
Elementary: Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins
Upper Elementary: Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
Easy Reader: National Geographic Readers: Cheetahs by Laura Marsh 

Dreaming Up

— By Christy Hale

There’s something magical about this book that takes the joy of child’s play and shows how it manifests in the beauty of great architecture and the strength of sound engineering practices.

Dreaming Up is a rhyming delight for young ears and it conveys the message that our hours of play are also meaningful preparation for all that we can and will accomplish as competent, creative adults.

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest

— By Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins puts forth some fascinating facts about animals in this survey of animal kingdom superlatives. The book is a wow- inducing travel tour, suitable for a group or one-on-one perusing.

The title, itself, lets you know you have the start of a conversation about superlatives. You can explore ER and EST endings with ease. For novice readers and spellers, you may point out the sound of the ST blend at the end of each word.

Pink and Say

— By Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco has consistently produced stories that stretch to numerous limbs on the tree of world cultures. Remarkably, her stories spring from her own richly varied family background. Set during the Civil War, Pink and Say relays true facts handed down over generations. Two young men from opposing sides of the fight are thrown together and find their survival depends on their bond.

Though a lengthy narrative, it is told compellingly, and it brims with reverence and sensitivity. Those mature enough to really hear the story will find it deeply affecting. For word study purposes, the story has an abundance of closed syllable words with short I in the stressed syllable.

National Geographic Readers: Cheetahs

— By Laura Marsh

There are many fascinating things to learn about cheetahs, and that’s what readers will do in this National Geographic Readers series book about one of the perennial favorite animals among kids. Learn how to spot a cheetah when next to another spotted cat, a leopard. Learn that they’ve been at least as long as the ancient pharaohs. And learn just how fast a cheetah can run.

Word study opportunities include studying the variations of ING endings in a section on Cheetah Talk. And the book is a good choice for a word hunt. Readers can go on the prowl for GRASS, TEN, WIN, SPOT, CUB and many more. “We’re not lion.”

Read-Aloud Heart-throb

Preschool: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Elementary: Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Upper Elementary: Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O’Malley
Easy Reader: The Viper by Lisa Thiesing 

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

— By Laura Joffe Numeroff; Felicia Bond

Here we have the granddaddy of all the Laura Numeroff If You… books. The diminutive, demanding one keeps showing us that if you ask, it shall be given, and we keep getting opportunities to demonstrate for listeners how a circular story works.

The sight word GIVE is a natural choice for emphasis, but the word ASK appears even more frequently. For emergent reading instruction, you might compare the beginning sound in COOKIE with the ending sound in ASK. Although the letters are different, the sound is the same, so this works… for phonological purposes. Distinguishing between beginning and ending sounds is a valuable thing for budding readers to practice, as you may know.

Tikki Tikki Tembo

— By Arlene Mosel; Blair Lent

It’s one of those rolling, rhyming, refrains that you can’t get out of your head that has made this a favorite of children for generations. This also happens to be one of the best books for teaching syllables. How many syllables are there, by the way, in his full name?

Even a grown-up may have trouble keeping count! For the youngest of audiences, this is also a good title for spotlighting the sound of T. HAPPY recommends making sure young listeners understand that this is a folk tale and that actual Chinese people do NOT owe their actual names to this story. For sheer reading pleasure and for syllable instruction, this book works WELL.

Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude

— By Kevin O'Malley; Carol Heyer; Scott Goto

What a fresh take on the fairy tale! What happens when two voices collaborate to write one story? When one is a princess- enamored girl and the other an action-oriented boy, you get this farfetched fairy tale.

Expect a winner of a read-aloud in everyone’s book. If you happen to have students working on comparing the sound of long U with double-o OO, you’ll be doubly delighted with what you can do with this pick.

The Viper

— By Lisa Thiesing

Even if you have listeners who are a little squeamish, read this haunting tale anyway. The suspense builds and builds and just when your
audience members are about to jump out of their seats, the anxiety gives way to hilarity.

Without giving too much away, this is a stellar choice for emergent readers and spellers, as they often have trouble confusing two similar-looking letters… one of which is V. We leave the rest to you!

Welcome Reception – Novel Novels and Nonfiction Worth Celebrating (JF or YA)


The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (4.7)
Inkheart by  Cornelia Funke (5.4)
The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson (5.8)

Tale of Despereaux

— By Kate DiCamillo; Timothy B Ering

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie. But if you haven’t read this book, you don’t know the whole, true story of the young mouse, Despereaux. As a read-aloud, this book will entice even your most reluctant listeners.

Among its many beautiful qualities is the way three characters’ stories are woven together so seamlessly, out of chronological time. This is one you’ll want to share again and again with readers and listeners of all ages. The Tale of Despereaux won the coveted John Newbery Medal in 2004. Interest Level-Approximately 7- 13


— By Cornelia Funke

What if you could read a book character to life? What if that character were power-hungry and ruthless? What might he do? The first of a trilogy by Cornelia Funke will keep your imagination on its toes, keep your fingers turning pages and keep your heart longing for the next chapter.

With Inkheart, you have the option of watching the movie afterwards for contrasting and comparing. Interest Level-Approximately 9-13

The Door Within

— By Wayne Thomas Batson

It’s been compared to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia for its allegorical good versus evil. Aidan, our 15 year-old hero, finds that moving from the east coast to Colorado is far from his only challenge.

When he discovers ancient scrolls in his grandfather’s home, he finds himself transported to a world of knights and warriors and danger at every turn. This is book one of a trilogy written by a middle school language arts teacher. Interest Level-Approximately 10-15

Historical Fiction

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (5.0)
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi (5.0)
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (6.8)

Bud Not Buddy

— By Christopher Paul Curtis

At once tragic, bittersweet and hilarious… readers and listeners will become engrossed in the world of Bud Caldwell. He’s an orphan in Michigan in the 1930s. He’s not where he’s supposed to be, but he won’t be turned back from his quest to find a true family.

His adventures are so engaging, and his choice of words so imaginative, you’ll be finished reading his story “before you can say Jack Robinson”! The book is often used in classrooms, but it’s a great read for families and small groups, as well. Bud Not Buddy won the coveted John Newbery Medal in 2000. Interest Level-Approximately 9-12

Crispin: The Cross of Lead

— By Avi

Like many of the young people who have become giants in literature, Crispin is seeking his true family. Who is his father and what is Crispin’s rightful place in the world? Notably, however, this coming of age quest for identity is set in 14th century England.

This book rates high for thrills, chills, plot twists and turns. It regularly receives high marks from reluctant readers. HAPPY knows of
one teen who described it as “the best book I’ve ever read”. Crispin is the winner of the 2003 John Newbery Medal. Interest Level-Approximately 10-14

The Good Earth

— By Pearl S Buck

Inspired by her years living in China with her missionary parents, Pearl Buck crafted this classic based on the life of a simple man, Wang Lung, and his family. Eighty years later, the book still enjoys great popularity. It is the first of a trilogy, and it earned for Pearl Buck a Pulitzer Prize.

It also contributed to her being named a Nobel Laureate for literature. Though life in China is far different now, the story of the changing fortunes within this family is absorbing, deeply affecting and in many ways… timeless. Interest Level- Approximately 13-Adult


Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald Sobol (4.1)
Conference of the Birds by Ransom Riggs (7.1)
The Man Who Was Poe by Avi (4.2)

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective

— By Sobol, Donald J.; Shortall, Leonard

This is the first in Donald Sobol’s series about the young braniac, Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, who is masterful at solving mysteries. He helps his police force father thwart crime while passing the dinner rolls. He keeps bullies at bay and bad guys and gals in their places with his astute observations.

The short chapters are entertaining and allow readers and listeners to try on the crime-solving cap themselves. Encyclopedia first appeared on the literary scene in the early 1960s, but these stories are just as inviting today as in decades past. Interest Level-Approximately 8-12

The Conference of the Birds

— By Farid Ud Din Attar

This is a classic sufi text written by the Persian poet Farid Ud-Din Attar. In the poem, the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their king, as they have none. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical Persian bird roughly equivalent to the western phoenix. The hoopoe leads the birds, each of whom represents a human fault which prevents man from attaining enlightenment. When the group of thirty birds finally reach the dwelling place of the Simorgh, all they find is a lake in which they see their own reflection. It is the Sufi doctrine that God is not external or separate from the universe, rather is the totality of existence. The thirty birds seeking the Simorgh realize that Simorgh is nothing more than their transcendent totality.

The Man Who Was Poe

— By

Though the main character is just eleven, the tone of this Avi mystery gives it appeal into the upper grades. Set in Rhode Island in 1848, the story features death, disappearances and dastardly deceptions.

Edgar Allen Poe, known only as Dupin, is pressed into service by the young protagonist. As the mystery unfolds, the audience will be left guessing and wondering again and again. Before the experience ends, readers and listeners may also know something more about Edgar Allen Poe. You may opt to use this as a bridge for more advanced study of the work of Poe. Interest Level-Approximately 10-15


Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman (6.4)
March: Book 1 by John Lewis (4.6)
We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, Rameck Hunt and Sharon Draper (5.8)

Vincent and Theo: the Van Gogh brothers

— By Deborah Heiligman

Author Deborah Heiligman drew upon hundreds of letters written by Vincent Van Gogh to his younger brother Theo as framework to tell this engrossing and deeply moving story of the bond between two brothers. As the artist Vincent struggled to make a life and become a working artist, Theo was his professional promoter, his north star, and his truest friend.

Exploring the brothers’ story may well lead teens and adults to want to know more about artistic legacy that remains and may see more clearly the influence of Theo in the images cast by Vincent. Interest Level-Approximately 13- Adult

March (Book One)

— By John Lewis; Andrew Aydin; Nate Powell

Between his humble beginnings as an Alabama sharecropper’s son to his status as a U.S. Congressman, John Lewis became an icon of the American civil rights movement. Masterful visual storytelling provides the reader glimpse into the life of Lewis as he meets Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and becomes a foot soldier in the struggle for equal rights.

Book one of the graphic novel series includes lunch counter protests and ends on the steps of city hall. Interest Level-Approximately 12-Adult

We Beat the Street

— By Sampson Davis; George Jenkins; Rameck Hunt

Prospects were dim for three, young, African-American men growing up in Newark, New Jersey. But by combining their individual resolve, they were able to rise above the deathly call of street culture and use their talents to the fullest.

By forming a friendship pact, all three were able to become successful doctors. Today, they share their story… full of wisdom and encouragement… to help guide others to their own success stories. Interest Level-Approximately 10-Adult

Realistic Fiction

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (4.7)
Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan (5.4)
Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson (4.3)

Hello, Universe

— By Erin Entrada Kelly

A middle school boy spends his time avoiding a bully and trying to understand why he isn’t cheery and perfect like his parents and siblings. A middle school girl tries to figure out how she fits in with peers who aren’t deaf, as she is. Add an eccentric friend who fancies herself a fortune teller and the worlds of these seeming misfits combine in unexpected ways.

Hello, Universe won the coveted John Newbery Medal in 2018. Interest Level-Approximately 9-13

Becoming Naomi Leon

— By Ryan, Pam Munoz

A Mexican-American girl, her little brother and their Grandmother manage just fine in a small, trailer park in California. The return of her wayward mother gives Naomi hope for a new kind of family and ultimately disappointment with those dreams.

Gram helps Naomi wade through the troubled waters of her life by providing a reconnection with her Mexican heritage and her long-lost father. Naomi’s ordeal helps us to remember what a family truly is and helps us to acknowledge both the challenge and the beauty of what can be passed from generation to generation. Interest Level-Approximately 9-13

Miracle’s Boys

— By Jacqueline Woodson

Three brothers, having lost their father many years before, are struggling to keep themselves together after the recent loss of their mother. Tyree, Charlie and Lafayette are all grieving in different ways, and each has had to sacrifice something in the wake of their mother’s death.

One has become withdrawn; another is walking a path towards crime and a third has put aside his college dreams. With both African-American and Puerto Rican heritage, the young men also balance their diverse roots in the presence of various divided and demanding gangs. Told in the voice of 7th-grade Lafayette, Miracle’s Boys is a testament to the power of love and the bonds of brotherhood. Interest Level- Approximately 9-15

Science Fiction

Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka (4.2)
Rewind (Do-Over) by William Sleator (4.1)
Feed by M.T. Anderson (4.4)


— By Jon Scieszka; Francesco Sedita; Shae Prigmore

Fifth grade has been invaded by aliens with magical powers. They speak in well-known advertising jargon and insist on converting more than three million Earth kids into Spaceheadz. If their mission fails, Earth will be turned off. Poor Michael K. ends up sitting next to the outer space crew and is unwillingly sucked into their mission.

The book will be thoroughly amusing and enjoyable on its own, but for added kicks you may visit the real, working websites mentioned in the book. If science fiction fans can’t get enough of Sciezka’s zany humor, no fear. This is just the first book in the Spaceheadz series. Interest Level- Approximately 7-12


— By William Sleator

What if you could have a do-over for the most important parts of your life? What if a do-over could save your life? What if you have only a limited number of chances to get it right? This is the situation for our protagonist, 11 year-old Peter, who has been killed in a car crash. He’s given three chances to figure out what he can change in his life that will save his life.

The answer is not the simple one you might expect. And he only has three chances to discover what will make the critical difference. Interest Level-Approximately 10-14


— By M T Anderson

Media and marketing are all around us, but what if they were actually inside of us? M.T. Anderson creates a world where the point of it all is to conform and consume. As babies, humans have a streaming feed inserted directly into their brains. The mindlessness of popular culture will be recognizable in this numbed-down society, intent on going along and gaining gratification as quickly and as easily as possible.

While praised by critics, educators and parents need to be mindful of the profanity throughout the book. The language is entirely appropriate in the context of Feed, as it supports the premise completely. Nonetheless, adults will need to exercise pristine judgment in reading and recommending this book with learners. Interest Level-Approximately 14-Adult

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