Header

Find some Wisconsin teacher and librarian approved summer reading titles here! Grab a book and head outdoors to enjoy the summer sunshine and super stories! Check out the books below by clicking on the image to read the CCBC annotation for the title!

Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

night soundsbuilding our housewho's that baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Primary (grades K-2)

farmer will allenxander's panda partymy cold plum lemon pie bluesy mood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intermediate (grades 3-5)

problem with being slightly heroicemerald atlasloon summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middle School

mira in the present tenselittle blog on the prairiehoudinithehandcuffking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High School

100 sideways mileslove is the drugsilhouette of a sparrowvanishing point

love is the drugLove is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Arthur Icon_HighSchoolA. Levine Books, 2014.

Icon to identify Summer Reading BooksTeenager Emily Bird feels pressure to be perfect — a credit to her family and all African Americans. But inside, she’s far more Bird than Emily, longing to fly away from rigid expectations that have nothing to do with her desires. Bird meets private government security contractor Roosevelt David at a party in Washington, D.C. — her boyfriend Paul is angling for an internship with the man’s company. She wakes up in the hospital eight days later. Bird has hazy memories of leaving the party. The most vivid one is of Coffee, a known drug dealer and son of a Brazilian diplomat, chasing the car as Paul drove her away. Coffee, whom she’s always found intriguing. Did he drug her? She doesn’t believe it despite what Roosevelt and Paul suggest. Bird senses something far more sinister in her lost memories, and begins to realize Roosevelt is afraid of something she might know but doesn’t remember, and that it’s related to her scientist parents’ work and the flu pandemic spreading across the globe and nation. As the death toll begins to mount in D.C., and as Bird tries to piece together what’s going on, she feels the menace of Roosevelt everywhere she turns. Staying with her Uncle Nicky — underachiever in her mother’s eyes, free man in Bird’s — because her parents can’t return to the city, and not sure whom to trust, she puts her faith in new friend Marella, and in Coffee, with whom she is falling in love. Alaya Dawn Johnson’s compelling thriller is marked by thickly woven storytelling that features complex plotting, rich language, and a cast of multidimensional characters.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith. Simon & Schuster, 100 sideways miles2014.

When high school senior Finn Easton was seven, a dead horse fell off of an overpass into the canyon where he and his mom were walking. She was killed when it landed on them. He was left with epileptic seizures and a distinctive scar from back surgery to repair his broken vertebrae. Finn’s dad is the author of a science fiction book with a cult-like following in which a boy named Finn with a distinctive scar is an alien trying to pass as human. Now sixteen, Finn feels like his dad stole his life. Finn’s best friend Cade Hernandez is charismatic, sex-obsessed, and crass. Cade is a terrific friend to Finn. But Finn doesn’t even tell Cade how unhappy and overwhelmed he sometimes is — about the novel, his seizures (which he also sees as a gift), the overprotectiveness of his dad and stepmom. When Julia Bishop, wry, insightful, and another survivor of trauma, comes to their small California desert town, she is the first person Finn is honest with about everything. He falls in love and is devastated when she eventually returns home. Andrew Smith’s story is tender and outrageous and improbable and, somehow, both true and funny every step of the way. Richly woven into the landscape and history of one specific area of Southern California canyon country, and with details of Finn’s father’s novel, The Lazarus Door, slowly revealed, it culminates in a road trip in which Finn, who measures time by distance, is given the extraordinary opportunity to be someone else. In the process, he gains a sense of perspective on, and possibility for, his own life.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

silhouette of a sparrowSilhouette of a Sparrow by Mary Beth Griffin. Milkweed Editions, 2012.

Sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is staying with relatives in the Minnesota resort town of Excelsior in the summer of 1926. Both her aunt and slightly younger cousin are far too proper for Garnet, who longs to visit the dance hall and explore the amusement park; she settles for a job working in a hat shop. Bird-lover Garnet immediately thinks of a scarlet tanager when she meets lively Isabella, a dance-hall girl who comes into the shop. The two girls feel an immediate connection that deepens as they spend time together. Talking to Isabella, and kissing her, feel absolutely right to Garnet, even though she knows the end of summer will bring a return to Minneapolis and a proposal from Teddy, the boy she’s been dating but doesn’t love. Garnet’s developing relationship with Isabella, who knows the costs of independence but also understands its rewards, helps her resolve to apply to college to study birds. Then everything unravels, first when she hears from her mother at home, and then in Excelsior when Garnet and Isabella’s relationship is discovered. Molly Beth Griffin’s quiet, compelling, beautifully written novel features lyrical descriptions, numerous bird metaphors, and a young woman poised to take flight.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Vanishing Point. (Tune: Book 1) by Derek Kirk Kim. First vanishing pointSecond, 2012.

Andy Go is a dropout. He exits school after his third year in the Illustration Department at the College of Visual Arts in San Francisco, sure that his career is about to take off and further education is unnecessary. Andy gets a rude awakening: No one wants to hire him. His Korean American parents are dismayed by his failure to finish school or stay employed, and his father finally issues an ultimatum: Get a job, any job, or don’t come home. His last-gasp job interview comes after responding to a vague ad for a position at a zoo. He assumes it’s for an animal caretaker, but he couldn’t be more wrong. It turns out he’s up for the position of human exhibit at an alien zoo, and the father-daughter extraterrestrials conducting the interview are desperate. In fact, they keep sweetening the benefit pot (Medical coverage! Retirement package! Three weeks paid vacation!) until the offer is too good to pass up—at least that’s what Andy’s mother says. Derek Kirk Kim’s hilarious graphic novel ends with Andy traveling by spaceship to start his new job in a story to be continued, and featuring a subplot about Andy’s sweet, somewhat lust-filled crush on a fellow art school student.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

mira in the present tenseMira in the Present Tense by Sita Brahmachari. Books for Middle School AgeU.S. edition: Albert Whitman, 2013.

Icon to identify Summer Reading Books

Mira’s twelfth birthday is bittersweet. It’s the day she starts her period. And it’s the day her beloved grandmother’s coffin arrives. Nana Josie hasn’t died, but she’s terminally ill with cancer and has ordered the plain coffin so she and Mira can paint it with images of things she loves. It’s one of the ways Nana Josie is very open about dying. Sometimes too open, as far as Mira is concerned—it can be a little overwhelming. At school, Mira, who is very quiet, begins to find her voice—literally and on the page—through a writing workshop led by a local author. One of the other participants is a boy named Jide, and the two of them discover they like each other, a lot. The excitement of these new feelings are something Mira enjoys even as she struggles with Nana Josie’s illness. When Nana Josie goes into hospice, though, it all begins to feel like too much. Sita Brahmachari’s novel about a biracial (East Indian/white) girl in Britain is a deeply moving look at an entire family moving through the experience of loss and grieving. But the author deftly balances this with moments of lightness, and skillfully handles the sorrow, including a subplot about Jide, who has a profound understanding of loss as a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Richly developed characters full of individuality, including some charming quirks, deeply ground this fine story.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell. little blog on the prairieBloomsbury, 2010.

Teenage Gen is spending the summer with her family at Camp Frontier. Participants agree to live off the grid and on the land like pioneers. But Gen has snuck a cell phone in and is texting her friends back home about the absurdity of the experience. (“Help. I’m dressed up like an American Girl doll minus the fashion sense.”) Camp was supposed to be a bonding experience for Gen’s family, but the struggle of even simple tasks and the competition among camp families is causing more stress than togetherness. Even Gen’s crush on Caleb, a boy from another family, is complicated: the teenage daughter of the camp’s owners seems to like him too. Then Gen discovers the owners’ secret shack. The history purists have a computer with Internet access and a fridge stocked with soda. Now Gen can recharge her phone and text even more scathing perspectives on Camp Frontier. But one of Gen’s friends has been posting her texts on a blog, and readership is about to skyrocket. Cathleen Davitt Bell starts with a hilarious premise and develops it into a story that offers astute observations about human behavior at the best and worst of times. A subplot involving a reality TV show is over the top but ultimately doesn’t detract from the genuine humor, as well as the insightful story about family at the novel’s core.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

houdinithehandcuffkingHoudini: The Handcuff King by Jason Lutes. Illustrated by Nick Bertozzi. Hyperion, 2007.

On May 1, 1908, Harry Houdini, locked into handcuffs and leg irons, leapt from the Harvard Bridge in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into the frigid water of the Charles River. This book’s graphic novel format is perfectly suited to capture the tension of Houdini’s escape, as a series of panels visually draw out the suspense as the seconds tick by. Apprehension, doubt, and anticipation on the spectators’ faces contrast with scenes of the magician working alone in inky water to unlock the handcuffs before his breath gives out. For those who speculate about Houdini’s methods, the authors suggest a possibility: a lock pick passed to Houdini in a kiss from his wife, Bess. A thoughtful closing discussion offers additional information about Houdini and Bess, and relates fascinating details under headings such as “Locks of the Day and How Houdini Prepared to Pick Them” and “In the Early Part of the Twentieth Century Everybody Wore Hats.” Glen David Gold’s Introduction places the magician within the framework of the early 1900s and outlines the character traits that carried him to fame: obsession, energy, loyalty, and the inability to refuse a challenge. With few words and many images, readers will be caught up in a dramatic moment of magical showmanship. (MVL) ©2007 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

problem with being slightly heroicThe Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by UmaIcon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers Krishnaswami. Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. Atheneum, 2013.Icon to identify Summer Reading Books

After meeting her idol, Bollywood star Dolly Singh, in The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (Atheneum, 2011), young Dini is now caught up in the whirlwind that is life whenever Dolly is around. Dolly has come to the United States for a premier of her latest film as part of an international festival at the Smithsonian. Dini, visiting Baltimore and her best friend, Maddie, with her father while her medical mom remains in the Indian village of Swampnagiri, is determined to help Dolly have everything she needs to make the premier perfect. So she’s working with Maddie on a special dance, trying to get a baker to make the rose petal cake (what would the premier be without one?), and then there’s the matter of finding an elephant (ditto), not to mention worrying over the mystery of Dolly’s missing passport. Uma Krishnaswami’s second breezy, buoyant novel about Dini and Dolly and friends and family has no shortage of coincidences, which means, of course, everything will work out in the end. But getting there is such a pleasure. Krishnaswami’s fresh, lively writing is full of rich language and word play and an irresistible sense of fun. A great read-aloud choice, this novel will delight listeners and independent readers alike. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens. Knopf, 2011.emerald atlas

From the publisher:

A snowy winter’s night. Three small children are chased from their home by the forces of a merciless darkness. Ten years later, Kate, Michael and Emma are no closer to the truth about what separated their family.

The answer lies with an enchanted atlas.

Brimming with action, humor, and emotion, The Emerald Atlas is the first stage of a journey that will take Kate, Michael, and Emma to strange, dangerous lands and deep within themselves. It is the story of three children who set out to save their family, and end up having to save the world.

Also, watch the trailer, read an excerpt from the book or just find out more about the books and author at the imaginative Emerald Atlas website.

loon summerLoon Summer by Sandy Gillum. Field Notes Press, 2008.

Five individuals contributed the extraordinary photographs that accompany ecologist Sandy Gillum’s captivating account of a loon family on a small Wisconsin lake. A few days after the male loon appears, his mate arrives. The pair is soon taking turns sitting on two eggs in their artificial island nest (the island was built by nearby residents especially for loon nesting). Not long after, two fluffy black chicks are accompanying the loon parents on the water, or sometimes hitching a ride on their backs. Scientists band the babies and check on the already-banded adults. All is well . . . until a rogue loon appears on the scene. When the family disappears not long after the rogue loon’s arrival and increasing threats, an observer who has been watching the drama unfold since spring fears the worst for the chicks, who cannot fly. To her amazement, she finds both the adults and chicks over the course of the next two days. The ungainly-on-land birds have portaged over rough, unfamiliar terrain, waddling with the young loons across dry land to a safe new home one-quarter mile away. (MS) ©2008 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

xander's panda partyXander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park. Primary Icon of a White-Tailed DeerIllustrated by Matt Phelan. Clarion, 2013.

Icon to identify Summer Reading BooksXander wants to have a Panda Party at the zoo where he lives. But he’s the only panda there so he invites all the bears to a “bear affair” instead. Then Koala informs him that she’s actually a marsupial. “Marsupials—we’re rather rare. Will I not be welcome there?” Xander tries again, this time promising a “hearty party” for all the mammals at the zoo. But Rhinoceros refuses to come without his oxpecker bird. So Xander invites mammals and birds. Crocodile chimes in: “Birds and reptiles—long ago, we were related, don’t you know? If you didn’t, now you do. Can’t the reptiles join in too?” Finally, Xander’s friend Amanda Salamander comes up with the perfect solution in this playful picture book that cleverly integrates a little bit of science into its masterful rhyming text. Whimsical illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the narrative, while the author’s note provides additional information about the various animals in the story.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer my cold plum lemon pie bluesy moodBrown.  Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Viking, 2013.

Jamie describes his moods throughout the day in terms of colors associated with what’s he doing. First he’s in a purple mood, eating a cold plum and drinking grape juice. Then he’s in a “gray kind of place / Storm brewing inside / That I hide / ’Cause I don’t want any trouble space” after his big brothers kick him off the couch. Green is all pleasure after his little sister asks him to draw a dragon. Black is brooding anger when his brothers tease him. Orange is energetic and upbeat, like the basketball he’s playing. Red is urgent, like a fire-engine, as he races home after the game. Dinner is yellow, is lively, is good food (corn pudding, chicken curry) and family. Blue is cool time alone as he washes dishes. The lively narrative is emotionally vivid, with word choice and line length skillfully changing the pacing to suit each mood Jamie describes. Realistic family dynamics (teasing, arguing, playing together, jostling for the biggest piece) play out in brief bits of dialogue and in the illustrations showing Jamie and the other members of his African American family. Honor Book, 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

farmer will allenFarmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.  Illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin.  With an afterword by Will Allen.  Readers to Eaters, 2013.

As a child, Will Allen hated working in his family’s garden. “He planned to quit on planting, picking, pulling weeds, leave those Maryland fields for basketball or white-shirt work.” It turns out he did both, playing professional basketball in Belgium, then getting “white-shirt” work in Wisconsin. But while helping a Belgian friend dig potatoes during his basketball days, he made a life-changing discovery: he “loved digging in the dirt.” Living in Milwaukee after playing ball, Will noticed how few people, especially in poor neighborhoods, had access to fresh vegetables. He bought an inner city lot that included six greenhouses, got friends to donate fruit and vegetable waste to create compost, added red wiggler worms and figured out—through trial and error, and with hands-on help from neighborhood kids–how to gradually transform the polluted soil to grow healthy food. Will devised ways to use every inch of space, growing food in the ground, and also in pots and baskets and buckets and boxes. He added hoophouses for more growing room, and vats of water to raise fish. He named his venture “Growing Power,” and not only began feeding people in the city, but teaching people in his neighborhood, around the country, and around the world how to be urban farmers. This lively introduction to Will Allen’s groundbreaking work (for which he’s received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant) features a buoyant narrative by Jacqueline Briggs Martin set against Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s energetic illustrations. It’s impossible not to be inspired by their account of the creativity of Will’s venture and the hope inherent in its success. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

night soundsNight Sounds by Javier Sobrino. Translated Icon_PreSchoolfrom the Spanish by Elisa Amada. Illustrated by Emilio Urberuaga. Icon to identify Summer Reading BooksU.S. edition: Groundwood, 2013.

When the sleeping animals of the rain forest are awoken by loud cries issuing from a box, their first instinct is to pacify the crier by providing whatever it needs. Cold? An orangutan fetches a warm blanket. Thirsty? A tapir provides a bowl of fresh water. Scared? A rhinoceros brings a doll for company. Momentarily placated each time, the crying quickly resumes with a new request. Finally a tiger delivers the little one’s Mummy—an elephant!—and it appears that all will be able to sleep again at last. Imagine their frustration when “wuu wuu wuuuuu” echoes through the forest yet again. These wails are coming from the village, and it’s the baby elephant who shouts advice, “It wants a kiss! That child must have a kiss! Then we can all go back to sleep.” Featuring creatures of southern and southeast Asia, this bedtime tale sports intense of colors, varied emotions, and droll comedy, including the incongruity of an elephant (no matter how young) fitting inside a small wooden box.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean. Farrar Straus building our houseGiroux, 2013.

A young girl describes her family’s effort over the course of eighteen months to build the house in which they will live. A trailer placed on the land they’ve purchased provides shelter, while the dad, mom, two kids, and extended family and friends provide the labor and lots of love. Seasons change and change and change again as a hole is dug, the foundation is poured, and beams are hewn (by hand) and fitted together before a roof and sides go on. Then work begins inside. “We plumb while the wind howls. And wire while the drifts pile up.” Jonathan Bean’s warm, , well-crafted story is both playful and informative, full of intriguing details described in a narrative in which every thoughtfully chosen word and carefully placed comma shapes the wonderful flow. There are also whimsical details and elements of the story told only through the art, whether it’s the kids playing under the wheelbarrow, the antics of the cats, or the progression of the mom’s pregnancy and the arrival of a new baby by the time they move out of the trailer and into the finished house. An already captivating picture book includes a note in which Bean writes about his parents and the five years they spent building a house by hand. He includes photographs of himself and his sisters, all young children, engaged in the process. Honor Book, 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

who's that babyWho’s That Baby? New Baby Songs by Sharon Creech. Illustrated by David Diaz. Joanna Cotler / HarperCollins, 2005.

Who are you, baby / newly born / who’s this little babe?” The opening, title poem of this picture book collection asks this and many other questions. In response, Sharon Creech offers fifteen perspectives on what much-loved babies may see and hear and think and feel as the adults in their lives cuddle them and coo at them, play with them and read to them, sing to them and sway with them, and, above all, surround them with love. Creech’s poems, playful and tender, have been illustrated with great warmth and touches of whimsy by David Diaz in this lovely volume.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

story of owenThe Story of Owen: The Dragon Slayer of Icon_HighSchoolTrondeim by E.K. Johnston. Carolrhoda Lab, 2014.

In this alternate to the world as we know it, most things are the same with one huge exception: carbon-craving, mammal-eating dragons have always existed, along with a long, proud tradition of dragon slaying. Every town once had its own dragon slayer, but the Industrial Revolution saw dragon slayers lured away from small towns to defend big cities like Detroit (it didn’t work — Detroit and most of Michigan were laid to waste). Recently retired, world-famous dragon slayer Lottie Thorskard wants to renew the tradition of community-based dragon slaying, so she’s moved to a small town in southern Ontario to train her nephew, Owen, and to recruit Owen’s classmate, Siobhan McQuaid, as Owen’s bard — another tradition that’s languished. Observant, musically talented Siobhan is the narrator of this lively, richly imagined story chronicling Owen and Siobhan’s emergence into their new roles, which coincides with a new rash of dragon attacks that leads them to suspect previously undiscovered hatching grounds may be closer than anyone realized. Fast-paced (locating the hatching grounds turns into a race against time), funny (driver’s ed. includes dragon evasion, since the beasts are attracted to most cars), and thoughtful (What is lost when traditions are abandoned in the name of “progress”? What is gained when traditions are challenged?), E. K. Johnston’s sure hand succeeds in all dimensions of world-building, from the cleverly reimagined events in world history to the complexity and appeal of her characters.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources for The Story of Owen at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does having a bard support the cause of the dragon slayers? Additionally, how does the role of the bard shape the structure of the story?
  2. Dragons are the personification of petroleum gluttony. What geopolitical details in the story support this idea?
  3. Associating personality with the sound of a specific musical instrument is a technique the author uses to help develop the story as well as characters. Siobhan calls Owen a “French horn.” What instruments would the other main characters be and why?

Vango: Between Earth and Sky by Timothée de Fombelle. vangoTranslated from the French by Sarah Ardizzone. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2014.

An intricate and intriguing story — part adventure, part mystery, part political intrigue — takes place across the map of Europe between the two world wars and revolves around a young man named Vango Romano. The story alternates between Vango on the run — he’s wanted by Rome police for the death of Father Jean, his beloved mentor — and other characters, and moves between the present and the past. Vango grew up on a small Italian island after he and his nurse washed ashore when Vango was three. His nurse always claimed to have no memory of where they came from. As Vango grew, the monks of Arkadah, a secret island monastery, became his second home. Ethel is a young Scottish woman who met Vango years before, when she was twelve and he was fourteen, on a Zeppelin trip around the world. A young Russian girl wonders about the escaped Bird her father sometimes speaks of, who has eluded capture for years. Her father, it turns out, is Joseph Stalin. And then there is the small, multinational group of World War I veterans who have vowed to do anything necessary to prevent another war. Everything and everyone ultimately revolves around Vango, who realizes he needs to know who he was before he ever landed on that island in order to make sense of what is happening now. Beautifully translated from the French, this breathless work offers clues to Vango’s origins, but leaves many answers for the coming sequel.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find a teaching guide and more resources for Vango at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does the backdrop of World War II create tension in the story?
  2. What is Vango’s destiny? What in the story convinces you of this?
  3. How do the female characters in Vango contribute to his development as a character?

bird kingThe Bird King: An Artist’s Notebook by Shaun Books for Middle School AgeTan. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic Inc., 2013.

“Staring at a blank piece of paper, I can’t think of anything original. I feel utterly uninspired and unreceptive. It’s the familiar malaise of ‘artist’s block’ and in such circumstances there is only one thing to do: Just start drawing.” Following this thoughtful introduction, which goes on to say more about creativity and the creative process, Shaun Tan opens the door to a treasure trove of visual gems, sharing sketches and drafts of both published and unpublished works. The book is divided into sections titled “untold stories”; “book, theater, and film”; “drawings from life”; and “notebooks.” Each section begins with a brief introduction by Tan followed by page upon page of sketches, drawings, and paintings. Only the “drawings from life” section offers a glimpse of the world as it really looks, for Tan’s works most often reflect the realm of his unique imagination, where fantastic creatures or impossible scenarios are suddenly possible and vivid, sometimes frightening, sometimes poignant, and always fascinating. A “list of works” at book’s end provides more information about each drawing—including the final version (film, poster, book) if there was one.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find out more about the author and illustrator, Shaun Tan, as well as a teaching guide for The Bird King at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Choose a sketch and tell its story.
  2. Did you notice any common themes among the drawings? Tell about one theme using examples from the book to support your argument.
  3. What thoughts, ideas, or information do you think the author/illustrator wants readers to take away from engaging with this book.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Nancy brown girl dreamingPaulsen Books / Penguin, 2014.

“And somehow, one day, it’s just there / speckled black-and white, the paper / inside smelling like something I could fall right into, / live there — inside those clean white pages.” Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood unfolds in poems that beautifully reveal details of her early life and her slow but gradually certain understanding that words and stories and writing were essential to her. Her older sister was shining smart. One of her brothers could sing wonderfully. She would come to realize words were her smart, her singing, her special thing. Woodson writes about growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, and then Brooklyn, New York, living with family members who were full of love and expectation, from her grandparents to her mother to her siblings, aunts and uncles. She sometimes felt she stood out — a northerner in the south; a southerner in the north; a Jehovah’s Witness knocking on doors. Experiences that shaped her came from within and beyond her family: “Don’t wait for your school to teach you, my uncle says, / about the revolution. It’s happening in the streets. “ And later, “This moment, this here, this right now, is my teacher / saying / You’re a writer, as she holds the poem I am just beginning.” Ten poems titled “How to listen” reveal another essential element of her story because she is also that: a listener, a recorder, an observer, writing something down even when she doesn’t understand it and trusting that “The knowing will come.” An album of black-and-white photographs and an author’s note round out this exquisite, quietly inspiring volume.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find many excellent resources – multiple lesson plans and interviews – for this multi-awarding winning author and book at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. This book is the autobiographical. The author shares her experiences, feelings and memories from her life as well as factual information. How can memory differ from things that really happened? How does affect the story the author is telling?
  2. Choose a poem from the book. What does this poem tell you about the author? Explain your answer with examples from the poem.
  3. How did the author’s experience of Jim Crow align with or differ from other stories you have heard?

look up bird watchingLook Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readersBackyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate. Candlewick Press, 2013.

“You may not have a yard, but you do have the sky. Look up!” Busy pages and cartoon-like conversation bubbles encourage reluctant naturalists to give birding a chance by emphasizing how easy it is to do anywhere, from the window of a city apartment building to suburban backyards and beyond. Bird-watching requires no expertise and few supplies, but close observation—watching and listening—is key. There’s a wealth of information about bird appearance and behavior packed into this slim, highly visual volume in which author/illustrator Annette LeBlanc Cate shares her enthusiasm for and knowledge about birding, along with her silly sense of humor, with young readers.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find multiple lesson plans and interviews for Look Up! at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What adventures can you have close to home?
  2. If you went birding and found ten birds, how would you classify them?
  3. What story does the map tell?
  4. How does this book combine information and narrative?

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan. Arthur A. Levine Books /rules of summer Scholastic, Inc., 2014.

Shuan Tan’s imagination always harbors a rich and arresting world of possibilities. Here the wild and the extraordinary is found in paintings accompanying a simple, straightforward narrative in which a young boy states the things he learned last summer. “Never leave a red sock on the clothesline.” The accompanying illustration shows the boy and his brother huddled against a stark fence in an uninviting urban landscape. The single red sock on the clothesline, small and unassuming in the foreground, has attracted (one assumes) the giant, menacing, red rabbit-like creature that lurks on the other side of the fence. “Never argue with an umpire.” Especially, one gathers, when the umpire is your big brother, never mind the mechanical creature that is your opponent. There is both tension and whimsy in the relationship between what is stated and what is shown. A brief, wordless series of page spreads in the middle, preceded by “Never wait for an apology” and followed by “Always bring bolt cutters” underscores the slightly ominous yet playful feel of the entire volume. Is it all meant to be real? Surreal? Symbolic? The beauty is that it’s up to each individual reader of the words and images to decide.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find helpful resources for educators and librarians for Rules of Summer at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What are your rules of summer?
  2. How do the illustrations and text work together to tell the story?
  3. How can the illustrations change the meaning of the text?
  4. Do you ever get told not to do something and you don’t know why?

me janeMe … Jane by Patrick McDonnell.  Little, Primary Icon of a White-Tailed DeerBrown, 2011.

Patrick McDonnell’s picture book about chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall as a child depicts her as a curious, scientific-minded young girl whose favorite stuffed animal was a chimpanzee named Jubilee. She took the stuffed chimp everywhere as she explored and carefully observed the natural world of her childhood … and dreamed of someday going to Africa. McDonnell’s spare and skillful text is set against beautiful, soft-toned illustrations that have a sense of playfulness even while conveying Goodall’s focus and determination. Occasional double-page spreads represent young Jane’s detailed scientific notebook full of drawings and notes. A stirring transition from illustrated story to Goodall’s adult life comes with the final page of the story, illustrated with a photo of Goodall as a young woman reaching out to touch a real chimpanzee. An author’s note about Jane Goodall and a message from Goodall herself round out this distinctive volume. Winner, 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find excellent educator and librarian resources, including activities, interviews and discussion questions for Me … Jane at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Jane is curious about the natural world? What are some ways that she learned more about what interested her?
  2. What attributes did Jane have as a child that would make her a good scientist?
  3. Describe the different types of illustrations in the book? Do they tell you different types of information?

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies. tiny creaturesIllustrated by Emily Sutton.  U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2014.

Tiny creatures in vast numbers, microbes are far too small to see with the naked eye and exist in quantities hard to fathom. But Nicola Davies gives young readers and listeners a starting point for understanding their small size (millions could fit on the antenna of an ant), huge numbers (a single drop of water can hold twenty million — the number of people in New York State), their omnipresence (on sea, on land, in the air; at the back of your fridge; inside your stomach and on your skin); their variety (as different in size as ants and whales; most helpful, some harmful); and their power (turning food into compost; milk into yogurt; rocks into soil). Davies’s finely crafted, informative text is paired with Emily Sutton’s marvelous illustrations that further demonstrate and illuminate these tiny creatures that transform our world. “All over the earth, all the time, tiny microbes are eating and eating, and splitting and splitting, changing one thing into another.”  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find great resources for Tiny Creatures at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What do microbes look like? How do you know? How is this information evident in the text and illustrations in this book?
  2. Name some of the helpful or good things microbes do?
  3. What are some examples of how microbes change one thing into another? How is this illustrated in the book? Does it help to have illustrations as well as text to explain this science information?

mommy mommyMommy! Mommy! by Taro Gomi. Translated Icon_PreSchoolfrom the Japanese. U.S. edition: Chronicle, 2013.

A sweetly comical board book features a pair of chicks repeatedly searching for their mother. “Mommy! Mommy!” There she is, behind the fence. “Here I am!” Now she’s behind the shrubs, only her ruffled pink frill visible. But it turns out to be a flower. “Oops!” Is that her behind the rocks? Yikes! It’s something large and pink and frilly with gnashing teeth. How about peeking out behind the roof of the barn? No, it’s the rippled sun rising. But who’s that next to the sun? It’s mommy! Taro Gomi’s spare, repetitive text is funny, but the real charm is in the stylized illustrations featuring two big-eyed, boxy chicks with the suggestion of tail feathers, and their bigger boxy mother, not to mention the rectangular pink menace. Young children will enjoy the humor and drama both.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources at TeachingBooks.net.

  • Read: Mommy! Mommy!
  • Talk: What do you call the grown-ups you live with?
  • Sing: Sing “Where is Thumbkin?”
  • Play: Play hide and seek.

What Will Hatch? by Jennifer Ward. Illustrated by Susie what will hatchGhahremani. Walker / Bloomsbury, 2013.

Eggs of eight different animals are presented with a few carefully selected words (“Sandy ball”) paired with the question “What will hatch?” An equally spare answer (“Paddle and crawl – Sea turtle”) augments the illustration of the brand-new juvenile. A balanced array of animals goes beyond birds (goldfinch, penguin, and robin) to include a caterpillar, crocodile, platypus, sea turtle, and tadpole. Egg shapes are die-cut, with the page turn cleverly revealing the result of each hatching. A few pages of additional information at the book’s end introduce young children to the term “oviparous” and relate egg facts for each species (time in egg, parents’ incubation behavior, number of siblings). Simple gouache on wood illustrations, while not always strictly representational, are consistently lovely with a warm palette of gold, green, and brown.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find activities and ideas for What Will Hatch at TeachingBooks.net.

  • Read: Find other books about the animals in this book.
  • Sing: Put some dried beans in a plastic egg and create an egg shaker. Dance and sing along to your favorite songs.
  • Play: Take a plastic egg and hide something inside and have your child guess what it is. Now, have your child hide something inside the egg and you guess what is inside.
  • STEM: Name animals that hatch from eggs. Count all the eggs in the book.

see what a seal can doSee What a Seal Can Do by Chris Butterworth.  Illustrated by Kate Nelms.  Candlewick Press, 2013.

“If you’re down by the sea one day, you might spot a seal, lying around like a fat sunbather or flumping along the sand.” Lyrical, descriptive language and appealing mixed media illustrations highlight the characteristics and behavior of gray seals. Diving deep, catching mackerel, evading a killer whale on the hunt, and returning to the beach to sleep are some of the events in one gray seal’s day. While a large-font narrative tracks the seal’s activities, offset single sentences in a smaller italicized type add snippets of relevant factual information.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find out more about the author and illustrator at TeachingBooks.net.

  • Read: Take a look at the index at the back of the book and go back to the pages of the various topics. Visit the websites mentioned on this page.
  • Talk: Name things a seal can do and name things you can do.
  • Write: Seals eat fish. With your child, make a list of the things your child eats. Encourage them to draw a picture of the things they eat. Take this list with you when you go grocery shopping.
  • STEM: Talk about the seals’ habitat. Test what floats and what doesn’t float in your sink or tub.

Find more early literacy activities from the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association’s 2015 Early Literacy Calendar created by Youth Services librarians across Wisconsin.

mommy mommywhat will hatchsee what a seal can do

 

 

 

me janetiny creatureslook up bird watching

 

 

 

 

 

rules of summerbrown girl dreamingbird kingvango

story of owen

Click on any of these book cover images to learn more about that book! Read an annotation from the CCBC! Find discussion questions and activities as well as links to TeachingBooks.net and all of their fabulous resources!