Every Day Birds


Twenty common North American birds each get their own page with a line about their habits and a gorgeous paper cut illustration by Dylan Metrano. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater‘s poem is repeated in a double page spread at the end, and there’s an author’s note and mini field guide included. Every Day Birds is a great nonfiction read aloud, sure to garner the interest of young ones.

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The Nest

The Nest is a haunting and surreal book about a boy named Steve whose newborn brother is born with a host of medical problems that require surgeries and hospitalizations. Throughthe-nest-9781481432320_lg Steve’s dreams and his conversations with the knife man, we see Steve work through his feelings about disability. As the story unfolds, a strange queen wasp slowly burrows into their house and Steve’s thoughts, promising to replace Steve’s baby brother with a perfect baby. This book really gets inside the emotions of the struggling family and shows us how life is about so much more than perfection.

Written by Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Jon KlassenThe Nest is a strange and lovely book.

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I Am a Bear

ResizeImageHandler.ashxTold from the perspective of a disoriented bear, lost in the city, I Am a Bear by Jean-François Dumont, is a sensitive and understanding picture book about a bear who lives on the street with cardboard and paper for a bed. After several startling experiences with people, the bear sleeps away the day, barely noticed by people, until one little girl regards him. She labels him a teddy bear and comes back to visit him, which brightens the bear’s days.

I Am a Bear explores themes of homelessness and kindness.

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The Memory of Light


There are a lot of dark themes in this book: suicide, depression, mental illness, difficult family relationships, and yet The Memory of Light doesn’t feel overly dark. Its mood is overall, one of hope and unconventional friendship. Francisco X. Stork has a writer’s voice that is honest, nuanced with both the unbearable sadness of Vicky, the main character, and the understanding of hope she grows to have.

You can read more about the plot and the author here.

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Full Cicada Moon

Set in 1969, Marilyn Hilton‘s Full Cicada Moon is Mimi’s story of moving to Vermont, where finding acceptance is difficult because her mother is Japanese and her father is black. What’s more, Mimi wants to be an astronaut and is interested in woodworking, rather than the home economics class required for girls. It’s not the usual story of bucking the 9780525428756.jpgsystem, yet Mimi does effect change in her surrounding community, and it’s beautiful to read.

I admit I picked this book because of the cover, and the review I saw on another blog, and the cover does match the mood of the book. For one thing, the snow, which is new for a girl moving to Vermont from Berkley, hints at the setting. The book begins and ends with the season of winter–and while spring usually signifies new beginnings, snow has a way of making everything look new. I also love the spare verse that gets right to the heart of every scene. Mimi also touches on the past of her family when she thinks about her aunts and their experience in the Japanese relocation camps, a fact the history textbooks omit and the school community suppresses.

Full Cicada Moon is a lovely and real story.

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Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement is that rare book that pfreedomacks nonfiction, biography, poetry and gorgeous layered artwork to tell the story of Fannie, whose community activism and singing earned her “the voice of the civil rights movement” title. I’m not going to tell you much more, other than Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes have created an instant classic to be read all year round.

“No one was gonna take my voice.”

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Mother Bruce

1484730887.jpgBruce, a bear who lived by himself, didn’t like many things, especially cute little animals. When one of his egg recipes goes wrong, he finds himself with four goslings who calling him “Mama”. These goslings take their imprinting so seriously that they don’t even fly south when other geese do. Instead, they adapt to the cold weather. Mother Bruce, though, has different ideas about southern migration, and the end is a surprising compromise.

Written and illustrated by Ryan T. HigginsMother Bruce is a fantastic read with many opportunities to go beyond the text. Talk about Mother Goose, for example, or study the winter habits of bears and geese.

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Forest Has a Song

I’m ready for spring, and while I can’t move to a warmer climate or force my tulips to Forest Has a Song cover.pngbloom outside, I can read this lovely book of poems about the forest. Today I heard a pinecone fall (from “Invitation”) are the opening words of the first poem to a book not only inviting us to explore the forest, but to explore poetry in a variety of forms.

These poems are accessible in that lovely simple way that only an expert can create. Amy Ludwig Vanderwater is that poet (you can read many of her poems on The Poem Farm, a must-bookmark site for any elementary teacher because it’s an encyclopedic collection of all her poems) and Robbin Gourley watercolours us through the forest in all seasons.



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Dark Shimmer

9780385746557.jpegDark Shimmer, Donna Jo Napoli‘s newest reworked fairy tale, set in medieval Laguna Veneta, Italy, is the story of Snow White’s stepmother and how she came to be evil enough to attempt murder four times. Named Docle (Sweet) in this story, we learn everything, her up-bringing as an outcast, her relationship to her own mother, her obsession with mirrors and her complicated psyche that includes both good and evil intentions.

Bianca, the Snow White character, is less of a focus, but we still find out about the reason she ends up with seven dwarfs, the reason her coffin is glass and how she ends up with a prince (in this version, she knows him, so it’s not some stranger who “loves” her for her beauty alone).

The story starts quiet, and slowly builds and builds and builds to a complete and satisfying fairy tale, expecially if you’ve read many of the older Snow White versions.

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The Tiger Who Would Be King

What happens when a tiger wakes up and decides he wants to be king of the beasts? This 9781592701827.jpganti-war fable by James Thurber explores the worst-case scenario where animals fight until they aren’t quite sure what they are fighting about. “Moral: You can’t very well be king of beasts if there aren’t any.” JooHee Yoon illustrates The Tiger Who Would Be King in vivid greens and reds that show the futility of war beautifully.

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