New Favorite Books for Your TBR (To Be Read) List

On this cold, but sunny winter day (yea for the sun!!), I want to share some books I’ve read during the the past month. Happily, I’ve been able to curl up with my new Christmas throw, my dog and my coffee and have found a lot of new favorites! Two are set in Cuba, which was a new and eye opening experience for me. Others offered window and mirror experiences for me as I’m sure they will for you and your kids. Through the stories of these brave characters, who bravely provide us with a window into their lives, we can develop a better understanding of some difficult topics, or they might mirror something you are experiencing, which will bring comfort to all of you. So that I don’t overwhelm you, this is the first of multiple posts with my new favorite books for your TBR list. Look for part two next week!

new favorite booksMy Brigadista year

by Katherine Paterson

#partner @kidlitexchange

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. I can barely remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and I’m quite sure most of you weren’t even dreamed about at that time! My vague memory is of my parents (who rarely watched television) and my aunt and uncle being glued to the set, while my cousins and I were allowed to play with very little supervision. I remember the murmurs and the fear on their faces. It was something I had never experienced before or since. So as you can imagine, both my memories and opinion of Castro and the Cuban government were not happy ones. Therefore, when I read My Brigadista Year my eyes were opened to a part of Cuban history I wasn’t aware of and was very different than I knew.

When Castro became premier of Cuba, he called for an army of young people to go out into the jungles and mountains to bring literacy to the citizens who had never had the opportunity to learn to read and write. This historical fiction book is the memoir of a member of that army, who at the age of thirteen leaves the safety and the comforts of her life in Havana, much to her parents’ dismay, and goes off to tackle the huge job of teaching citizens to become literate. She does this with no electricity, no running water and with the constant fear that she will be discovered by the rebels. But her parents have raised her to share what she has and to help others who are lacking, so this is exactly what she does.

I liked this book so much. In fact, I read it in one sitting! I just couldn’t stop reading Lora’s story. I admired her courage, her kindness, her empathy and her determination to do the right thing. Thanks to the brigadistas, many, many people became literate while the army of volunteers learned compassion and self reliance. In Lora’s words “I taught the campesinos how to read and write, and they taught me how to be a person.” (page 177)

Middle Grade; Historical Fiction; courage; kindness; empathy; Cuba

new favorite booksinsignificant events in the life of a cactus

by Dusti Bowling

Aven is a spunky thirteen year old with a great sense of humor who just happens to have no arms. She loves to tell stories about the reason why, but the truth is she was simply born way. Thanks to her parents, though, and her personality, she has the confidence to do just about anything. She can even put up with those “looks” she gets, at least most of the time. However, Aven has just moved to Arizona with her parents, because they become the managers of an old theme park and is starting a new middle school. This means lots of “those looks” and no friends.

I loved this amazing “windows and mirrors” story! Not only did we get to know what it means to be Aven, but we were also given an opportunity to view the world through the eyes of a child with Tourette Syndrome, as well as an overweight child, who are both feeling very much alone and ostracized in middle school. We learn about the friendship that develops among these three kids and what this means to each of them. We learn how friendships and the support of those friendships can lead to growth, self confidence and self acceptance.

This would be a wonderful read aloud for grade 5 and up and will prompt many meaningful class discussions about the acceptance of differences and friendship.  It’s the perfect book for those kids who have read Wonder and ask what they can read next! This book (and lots of copies) needs to be in every upper elementary and middle school library.

Grades 5 and up realistic fiction; friendship; Tourette Syndrome; overcoming obstacles; love and family support; acceptance of differences

new favorite booksall the way to havana

Written by Mararita Engle; Illustrated by Mike Curato

This book tells the story of a young Cuban boy, his family, some neighbors and their 30 mile journey to Havana to welcome the boy’s new cousin to the world. The seven happily squeeze into the family sedan, Cara Cara, which had originally belonged to the boy’s grandpa. It’s a conglomeration of parts pieced together to keep the fifty year old car running, with a little ingenuity from the boy and his father. We see the pride and joy on their faces as they arrive in Havana with their gift and their cake for the new cousin. The little boy sees so many cars of all shapes and colors as they drive through Havana, but proudly know his Cara Cara is the best! This story allows us to see and to gain an understanding of the strong family ties and pride in a Cuban family, as well as the determination of the Cuban people to make the best of what they have.

The illustrations are by one of my favorite illustrator’s, Mike Curato. He traveled to Cuba and took the same 30 mile hot and dusty ride in a 1954 Chevy that the young boy and his family experience in the story. From this, he created the illustrations using the textures from photographs he took along the way, along with pencil drawings and paintings. You’ll be transported to this beautiful island country as you imagine the warmth and love in a day in the life of a Cuban family. I highly recommend All the Way to Havana.

Family pride: ingenuity; Cuba


new favorite booksA Different Pond

Written by Bao Phi ; Illustrated by Thi Bui

I had seen this book on so many end of the year “best” lists, and after reading it, I certainly understand why that is! I remember reading about, and being aware of, the many Vietnam refugees in the 70s, but I never had any first hand experience in my small Midwestern hometown. This beautiful book helps me understand exactly what so many Vietnam refugees were feeling and experiencing as they struggled to live in the United States. The story tells of a little boy who accompanies his father on a fishing trip in the predawn hours. There’s much love and patience between the boy and his father, as the dad casts his line into the river and the little boy shivers from the cold. The dad shares stories about his childhood in Vietnam and about his brother who never returned from the fighting. Once they have a few fish, they return home knowing their family will be able to eat dinner that night when Dad comes home from one of his two jobs, Mom is home from her job and his brothers and sisters are home after school. This is a story about family, love and the struggles that a refugee family face as they work to survive in their new country. It enables us to have a small understanding of what the Vietnamese refugees experienced when they had to leave everything they knew in order to have a better life for their families, which is not unlike what refugees experience today. Sharing A Different Pond provides a perfect introduction to discussing the current world refugee situation. This book will help our children develop understanding of, and empathy for, the plight of refugees in our country and around the world.

Immigration; refugees; family love and support; Vietnam refugees

I have so many more books I want you to know about, but I’ll save them for another post – or maybe even two! Be sure and let me know what your new favorites are in the comments!



Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

Last weekend my husband and I spent a wonderful weekend visiting our son and his girlfriend in Virginia. We got to tour Washington D.C. including Arlington National Cemetery, The National Art Museum, The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, The Vietnam War Memorial and of course, The Lincoln Memorial. It was a whirlwind, but so meaningful, and also so much fun to get to spend time with two of our favorite people. It was very hard to leave after looking forward to our visit for so long. I’m very grateful our son lives just an eleven hour car ride away, after living on the west coast for many years, but it’s still hard to say goodbye.  As I mentioned to him, wouldn’t he like to find a job in Chicago? Actually, though, we’re just thankful that he is happy, healthy, and surrounded with friends, because what more do we want for our kids?!

Now that we’re back home, here’s the latest edition of Kids’ Books to Remember. As always, I hope you find some new favorites!


kids' books to rememberArthur Plays the Blues by Marc Brown

Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary

A Llama in the Family by Joanne Hurwitz

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: picture books

kids' books to rememberThis week’s books include an old favorite, Bark, George, that I shared with kindergarten and first grade over and over, and they never ceased to roar with laughter. I’ll bet it will have the same effect on your kids!

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEmber: chapter books

kids' books to rememberI have always referred to these books as chapter books, but your kids may call them middle grade books. However you refer to them, they are fiction books that are on grades 4-6 reading level, with content that is appropriate for grade 3 and above. Please don’t shy away from suggesting some these to your middle schoolers, as well, as your younger children. These stories are so good, that they will entice them to keep reading, and isn’t that the goal?

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Watsons Go To Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis



links for mom and dad

This list is from a great website I’m sure you’ll like, and from one of my favorite librarians (an online friend I greatly admire).

Top Ten Picture Books for Read Alouds by Kate Olson

I am such a big believer in the value of reading aloud to children of all ages. This story, by one of my favorite bloggers, confirms my belief.

The Best of Jim Trelease

I always put a lot of thought into every birthday and Christmas gift for my children through the years. I hope that I gave these gifts as well, especially number 35.

35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget

For Mother’s Day, here’s a post and some comments that will remind us to linger awhile, cherish the journey and take time to smell the roses with our children.

Motherhood is Not a Finish Line




Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

It may just be the nineteenth of February, but it feels like May! I don’t think I could ask for more perfect weather – 70 degrees, sun and low humidity. Can we just keep this until it actually is May?? In addition to enjoying this amazing weather, I’ve had a good week. On Thursday, National Read Aloud, I read to two second grade classes at my old school. We had a fun afternoon learning about the author, Mac Barnett, and reading three of his books, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, Extra Yarn and The Skunk. We watched some fun video clips of interviews with Mr. Barnett, explaining his inspiration for his stories. and had lots of discussions about how they could get inspiration for stories they might write. Then on Friday I had the opportunity to spend time with both of my sisters, which is rare. Between living in different places and our schedules, that is a rare occurrence and a real treat! So now, after those fun days, and a delightful walk downtown yesterday, I’m ready to share another addition of Kids’ Books to Remember with you.

kids’ books to remember: read aloudkids' books to remember

These are great choices to read to all ages. 

Amber Brown is Not a Crayon by Paula Danziger

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins



KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: picture bookskids' books to remember

Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper

Grumpy Gloria by Anna Dewdney

Thidwich the Big-Hearted Moose by Dr. Seuss


KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: chapter bookskids' books to remember

The first two books are historical fiction titles. The first tells the story of a boy living in a California internment camp in 1942. The second book tell’s about Sofia’s life after her family immigrates from Italy in 1903.

My Name is America series: The Journal of Ben Uchida by Barry Denenberg

My America series: Home at Last, Sophia’s Immigrant Diary by Kathryn Lasky

Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

links for mom and dad

The author of Wonder, R.J. Palacio, is a person I greatly admire. In this first link she shares her ideas about a subject that is very close to my heart.

The Author of Wonder on Why Parents Need to Teach their Middle Schoolers Kindness 

Building a World of Empathy Simply by Reading Aloud

Why The Bridge to Terabithia is Still as Relevant as it was 40 years Ago

Thank you for inviting me into your inbox to share my stories and some Kids’ Books to Remember. Do you have any old favorites you’d like us to know about? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy the amazing weather!

Kids’ Books to Remember and Some New Links for Mom and Dad

Well, February has arrived and that means we’re one week closer to spring! However with our warmer than average temperatures and our below average snowfall, I’m not feeling quite as anxious as I usually am. In fact, we were able to walk downtown for lunch yesterday (a four mile round trip) on February 9th. That’s amazing! Usually, even if the temperatures warm up, the sidewalks are a sheet of ice, so we’re trapped at home. This has been great! I hope you and your families have also had a chance to spend sometime outside this week, to prevent the usual February cabin fever!

I haven’t spent all of my time outside, though. For one thing, I just baked a heart shaped cake, a family Valentine tradition for us, as well as when I was growing up. It’s something I love to do. It brings back so many happy memories! And after a trip to the library, I’ve been able to find several good titles for this week’s Kids’ Books to Remember. Finally I found some links to articles that I think you’ll find very interesting. So here we go!

kids’ books to remember: read aloud

These are great choices for read alouds for all ages, or for the independent reader. kids' books to remember

Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes

The Moffats by Eleanor Estes

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame



KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: picture books

The picture books this week are all about strong, courageous girls who are not afraid to work hard to achieve their' books to remember

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

Miss Rumphius Barbara Cooney

Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: chapter books

Back in Time with Thomas Edison: Qwerty Stevens Adventure by Dan Gutman, time travel and historical' books to remember

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, fantasy.

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Giff, realistic fiction.






links for mom and dad

Books to Help Kids Understand What It’s like to be a Refuge

These choices are for all ages including picture books, chapter books and young adult.

For Girls and Their Besties (A Valentine’s Day Post)

This is a great one for Betsy Tacy fans or for those of you looking for your next family read aloud.

spreading kindness

Here are some more picture books about kindness, which are perfect for Valentine’s Day week or any week of the year.

life is good when there is love

A truly lovely post that will make you think about the love in your lives.

I want to thank you for inviting me into your inbox today! I’m always looking for links to share with you and remembering books I don’t want you to miss. Have a wonderful week and Happy Valentine’s Day!



Kids’ Books to Remember and Links for Mom and Dad

kids' books to rememberIt’s Super Bowl Sunday and I was once told this means spring is coming soon. I’m definitely ready! As I write this week’s Kids’ Books to Remember, we’re up in Michigan for the weekend and the snow and frozen lake are beautiful and peaceful. However, I’d happily give it up for some warm breezes!


Here are some kids’ books to add to your library list this week. Enjoy!

kids’ books to remember: read aloud

Once again, these are appropriate for all ages.

Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater



 KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: picture books

KIDS' BOOKS TO REMEMBER: READ ALOUDWemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

Jolly Tall: An Old Bear Story by Jane Hissy

Bigfoot Cinderrrrrella by Tony Johnston

This is a fun version of Cinderella. If you like this one and are interested in more titles, just let me know in the comments, or if you have a favorite Cinderella, let us know that as well!

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: chapter books

kids' books to rememberLilly’s Crossing by Patricia Reilley Giff

This is one of my favorite historical fiction books about World War II.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean George

This is a survival fiction book, which is full of adventure.

Jackie and Me by Dan Gutman

The characters in this historical fiction book travel back through time to visit Jackie Robertson in 1947, and develop an understanding of how Jackie broke the “color barrier” in the major leagues.

links for mom and dad

stem books for kids

For all of your little ones who are interested in math and science, this article offers some good titles to add to your library list.

Literacy and math

This is an enlightening article about some old favorites, that offers some great suggestions about how you can use these books with your kids.

authors share their favorite children’s books

This is a fun article, which includes both some old, and some new titles. It gives you a little more insight into some of your favorite authors.

Finally, thank you for inviting me to share some titles of old favorites for your kids. Have a great library visit and a wonderful week! And if you find any titles of books you would like to share, please let us know in the comments.

36 Chapter Book Gifts for Kids

Are you wondering what books to get for the kids on your list? I have 36 books from different genres that are sure to excite your children and will help you find the perfect chapter book gifts!

chapter book gifts: realistic fictionchapter book gifts

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Ally is dyslexic and has no faith in herself, but her teacher helps her to find her true potential.

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. Trent is starting middle school and he’s heard the stories about it being such a rough time. However, after his experience in fifth grade he is hoping that it’s a big improvement and he can make a fresh start! Then after Trent stands up for a girl in the park, Fallon, who is being teased and bullied because of her severe scar, they slowly become friends, but it’s not easy. As you read this book, you’ll find your heart breaking a bit for both of the kids, but you’ll also find yourself feeling very proud of how they tackle their problems.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall; Lexile 800 – 940; AR 4.7 – 5.6. This is a fun chapter book series about four sisters, a very interesting boy and two rabbits. The books are heart warming stories, which are full of adventure.

Sports Illustrated for Kids Chapter Book series by various authors. Lexile 500 – 570; AR 3.0 – 3.7. These are short, easy to read chapter books, each focusing on a different sport

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald.  Lexile 490 – 590; AR 2.9 – 4.2. Judy is a third grader with lots of dilemmas, but she always seem to devise an intriguing solution to every problem. These are fun to read easy chapter books to entice early readers.

The Year of… series by Andrea Cheng (realistic fiction). Lexile 590 – 690; AR 3.9 – 4.3. This charming series is narrated by 11 year old Anna who exhibits thoughtfulness and understanding of others in each book.

The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick. Lexile 800 – 890; AR 4.6 – 5.1.Realistic fiction; Each book in the series focuses on the book being read and discussed by the mothers and the sixth grade daughters in the group, such as Little Women or Pride and Prejudice. The stories explore the relationships between the mothers and daughters, the daughters relationships to one another and their growing up experiences.

chapter book giftsJeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. In a few short months, Jeremy will turn 13. Then a mysterious wooden box is delivered, but it is locked up tight with no key to be found. This story describes Jeremy’s search for the key to the box left to him by his late father, so that he can learn the true meaning of life before his 13th birthday.

Everyday Angel series by Victoria Schwab – realistic fiction, (ages 8 – 12). Lexile 690 – 730; AR 4.6 – 5.1 This sweet three book series focuses on an angel, Aria, who is earning her wings by helping girls who are struggling.

Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger.  Lexile 680 – 760; AR 4.6 – 4.9. Dwight, normally thought of as a loser in the sixth grade at McQuarrie Middle School, leads the class to solve their problems with a wise and all knowing finger puppet, Yoda.

Cupcake Diaries by Coco Simon. Lexile 600 – 780; AR 4.0 – 4.8. Katie feels a bit lost when she starts middle school, but she soon finds three new friends who join her to form a cupcake club that spreads joy and earns money.

The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz. This is an inspiring story for a read aloud or for your child to read on their own. After her Grandma’s death, Nina decides to do something ordinary and unnoticed every day of the 65 days of summer to see if she can really make a difference.

chapter book gifts: Humorchapter book gifts

Sideways Stories by Louis Sachar. Lexile 440 – 550 ; AR 3.3 – 3.8; Wayside School was supposed to have 30 classrooms all on one floor, but the builder made a mistake and put them one on top of each other, so the school is 30 stories high. And all sorts of strange and funny things happen in those rooms, especially on the 13th floor!

Clementine Series by Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee. Lexile 670 – 720. AR 3.9 – 4.6. A very funny series about Clementine, who has ideas “constantly springing up in her brain” which very often lead to a trip to the principal’s office.

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. Lexile 530 – 850; AR 4.3 – 5.1. These are funny, action packed chapter books filled with lots of illustrations on each page, as well as a bonus comic section, which help to draw in a reluctant reader.

chapter book gifts: mysterieschapter book gifts

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.S. Spratt; This is such a new series that it doesn’t yet have a lexile or AR level, but I think it will be for grades 4 – 7. I’m including it because I think it’s going to be very popular and is the perfect choice for those voracious readers who enjoy a good mystery. It got starred reviews in Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly, which is always a good sign.

A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy. Lexile 410 – 550. AR 3.4 – 3.9. Third Graders, Dink and his pals Josh and Ruth work their way through the alphabet mystery series for young detectives.

Ivy and Bean by Anne Barrows. Lexile 490 – 550; AR 3.2 -3.9. The series follows the adventures of best friends, Ivy and Bean, as they solve one mystery after another.

Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly and Mark Meyers. Lexile 540 – 590. AR 3.7 – 4.0. These are fun, puzzling mysteries, with two nine year old detectives as the main characters. Every story is set at a different ballpark and includes historical details about the park.

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobel; Lexia 580 – 720; AR 3.9 – 5.2. Each book contains ten stories and always begins the same, with an explanation about who Encyclopedia is. Therefore, the books can be read in any order, which makes it very easy when checking them out from the library or buying the book. Encyclopedia is a fifth grade super detective who always solves the mystery by the end of the chapter. Readers can check their own solutions with Encyclopedia’s, which are found at the back of each book.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. This is a hilarious mystery, with endearing characters.

chapter book gifts: historical fiction chapter book gifts

I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis. Lexile 590 – 740; AR 3.9 – 6.4. Each book describes an 11 year old boy’s experiences in the midst of a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, Pearl Harbor and the Hindenberg.

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz describes the adventures and struggles of the first female rider for the Pony Express.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood. This story describes Gloriana June Hemphill’s life in Hanging Moss, Missippi, during the summer of 1964. She is so excited to celebrate her birthday in just a few weeks at her community pool, but after it becomes law that the pool must be integrated, it is closed to all. This is a memorable novel about fighting discrimination, family, friendship and making choices.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. In a series of poems, the author shares her experiences of being an Aftrican American girl growing up in the 60s and 70s during the Civil Rights Movement.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This novel tells the story of Ada and Jamie as they struggle to find safety, love and a new family in the British countryside during World War II.

chapter book gifts: graphic novels chapter book gifts

Smile series by Raina Telemeier (realistic fiction, graphic novel) Stories about growing up told with humor and art.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney; Lexile 950 – 1020 (You need not be concerned about this high level, because this is a graphic novel and is enjoyed by all ages. A great choice for reluctant readers!); AR 5.2 – 5.8. This series, which is full of harmless fun, follows Greg Heffley as he records his daily middle school life.

Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce. Lexile 420 – 520; AR 2.4 – 3.5.Big Nate is a mischievous, fun middle school character who encounters a lot of stress because of his teachers, his parents and his annoying older sister.

chapter book gifts: fantasy chapter book gifts

Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne; Lexile 230 – 540; AR 2.8 – 4.0. This series describes Annie and Jack’s adventures as they fly through time in a magic treehouse.

Half Upon a Time series by James Riley. Jack, son of Jack and the Beanstalk is working to save his family’s reputation along with the help of May, who is actually from this world and is very confused to discover that she is in the middle of a fairy tale adventure.  

Story Thieves series by James Riley. Owen is bored with his life and is in the library when he sees his classmate, Bethany climb out of a storybook. It turns out she is half storybook character and is searching every book in the library looking for her fictional father. Owen is sworn to secrecy and joins her in her search.

Fablehaven Series by Brian Mull; Lexile 700 – 790; AR 4.8 – 5.6. Kendra and Seth are sent to spend the summer with their grandfather, who they barely know. He warns them to stay out of the woods surrounding his house, but of course, Kendra and Seth can’t help but venture into the forest. Their explorations lead them into many adventures after discovering the mythical and magical creatures that live there.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Lexile 630 – 790: AR 4.3 – 6.0. This is an extremely popular series with lots of action and adventure involving Greek Gods and monsters.

Heros of Olympus by Rick Riordan; Lexia 620 – 690; AR 5.2 – 6.1. This is the follow-up series to Percy Jackson which includes the same main characters and brings their adventures to a satisfying conclusion.

Tuesdays at the Castle series by Jessica Day George; Lexia 770 – 830; AR 5.2 – 5.8. This series describes growing up in magical Castle Glower that grows new rooms and secret passageways to help the princess and her siblings in their daily adventures.

chapter book giftsMrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien; Lexile 790; AR 5.1. Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse with four small children and a huge problem. She must move her family to their summer home immediately, or face almost certain death. This is the first of three books in the series. If your child enjoys these, you can suggest The Redwall series by Brian Jacques next.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. Roz, a robot, finds herself alone on a desert island with no way to get home. However, Roz is very intelligent and very adaptable, so she quickly learns how to cope with living in the wood by observing the unwelcoming animals. This novel is heart warming, full of action and is one you won’t want to miss!

Now your life just got a little easier! Surely some of these titles will  help you to check off the chapter book readers on your list! Do you have some titles I’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments, so that everyone’s December is a little easier!

P.S. The picture book gift list is coming soon!

a year ago: Children’s Chapter Books for Christmas Gifts
Children’s Picture Books for Christmas Gifts

Welcome Summer!

I am sitting on a deck in Michigan on a beautiful day and looking out at the glittering lake. I hope your summers are going as well as mine, and you are enjoying lots of happy family times in the warm weather. We receive such a limited number of these perfect summer days, so I try to make the most of every one!

This  past month has been a whirlwind of family activities! We drove to Lubbock, Texas, to attend our niece, Haley’s Honor Ceremony and Graduation from Texas Tech. She is now a Speech Language Pathologist and we couldn’t be prouder! It meant so much to us to be able to be a part of the special weekend. We then visited old friends in Colorado and Kansas and created lots of special, new memories. The fun didn’t stop there. We then returned home and hosted a wedding shower for our niece, Kelly! Now we are looking forward to her July wedding and to our niece, Julia’s shower and wedding later this summer. It’s a little crazy, but giving us so much joy and great family memories!

I know school has been our for many of you for a few weeks now, and because I remember what happens once the newness of summer vacation begins to wear off, I want to share some books that might add some fun and joy to your summer. Some of these are for the parents and teachers, and some are for the kids.



Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman, is perfect for all of your little ones who are fascinated by nature and are bombarding you with questions! I gave this to a special little neighbor and he keeps it by his bed, making sure it’s always available to answer his questions. It is a wonderful book for any family who loves the outdoors and are taking those summer walks to the park or the woods or the beach. And as a bonus, that this former librarian loves, it introduces the concept of research to your kids!

henry david thoreau

 Henry David Thoreau for Kids by Corinne Hasfield Smith, a tour guide at Thoreau Farm, in Concord Massachusetts, has written a book which is a good choice for parents and kids to read together to introduce older children to the wonders of the world. It provides background about Thoreau and 21 hands on activities that relate and honor Thoreau’s ideas, such as  keeping a daily journal, planting a garden, baking trail-bread cakes, going on a half-day hike, and starting a rock collection. It even integrates technology with nature activities such as describing and providing a link to a birdcall identification app.



If you are looking for a feel good book that will inspire you to read to your kids every day, this is it! In The Reading Promise Alice Ozma shares the story of her father reading aloud to her for eight straight years. If you are wondering if spending so much time each evening reading to your children, is truly worth it, this will surely convince you that it is!


I first read about Thirty Million Words by Dana Suskind last fall, and immediately knew I wanted a copy. Dr. Suskind  is a Cochlear Implant Surgeon who discovered the true value of talking to and with your children from birth through age three. She  was concerned about why some of the children who were returning to see her for their post operative appointments were so talkative and some were not. Were the cochlear implants not successful with some children? However, after much research she discovered that some of the children were hearing lots of language in their homes and some were not. This book will tell you how to create the “best language environment” for your child. It will help you to understand why the first step to successful lives for our children is to simply talk to your children in a way that builds their brains. This is a perfect gift for young parents and early childhood teachers.

reading picture books to children

I first learned about Reading Picture Books to With Children by Megan Dowd Lambert on the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum Facebook page. I truly think it’s an important book that all teachers and librarians need to read! It describes the techniques to use when reading aloud to help the children interact with the story and to truly see and understand the importance of the pictures and to get them to “think with their eyes”. I always thought it was so important to interact with the kids when I was sharing a story (that’s why my story times were always so long!), but this opened my eyes to new techniques and vocabulary to use during my story times in the future.



The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a Newberry Honor book for 2016, is the story of Ada and her brother, Jamie, during World War II in both London and then the English countryside. I read this in a few hours. I just couldn’t put it down! Children will learn so much about history during World War II and the impact that it had on the children.

Ada has a club foot and her mother is very ashamed of her. Ada is never allowed to leave their one room apartment in the slums of London and is punished by being locked in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. When Ada learns that Jamie is leaving on the train with many other London children to escape the war and live with families in the English countryside, she decides she must go with him. This story describes their adventure beginning with their escape from their apartment, their harrowing train ride and then their new life in a small village. Because Ada has never left her apartment, she has so much to discover and to learn to trust. You share her joy, as well as her terror that she may have to return to London and face the wrath of her mother.


Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood tells the story of Gloriana June Hemphill and her life in Hanging Moss, Mississippi, during the summer of 1964. Glory is so excited. School is out and it’s just a few weeks until the most important day of the year – her birthday on the 4th of July. Every year she celebrates in the same way. She invites all of her friends to have cake and ice cream and to go swimming at the town pool. However, this year things are different. There are rumors that the town pool may close because it must now be integrated. Glory can’t believe it, so she decides to write a letter to the town newspaper to protest. The story is a memorable novel about family, friendship and making choices.


Finally, I want to remind you to visit my past posts that will give you some more ideas for your kids when they just don’t know what to read next!

Beginning Chapter Book Series List is Here!

New Picture Books for All Ages!

New Kids Books You Don’t Want to Miss!

The Chapter Book Series List has Arrived!

Are there some books you would like to suggest for the summer reading lists? Please let us know in the comments below.

Happy Summer!

New Kids Books You Don’t Want to Miss!


Spring has come to the Midwest! We’ve had an amazing weekend that felt more like summer than spring and so far this week, we’ve held on to the warm weather. I was even able to take some of my pictures outside, which seems to be easier with better results. As you all enjoy our great weather, here are some new kids books you that you might want to investigate.

As most of you know, I’m a recently retired elementary school librarian. Throughout the over 20 years in my job, I kept up with book reviews through library magazines and more recently online sources. However, because I was also trying to save some time during the evenings and on the weekends for my husband and family, I missed learning about some books.  One of the best parts of my retirement, is that I now have the time to peruse the online sources, social media and literature blogs to learn about new books and authors. It has been so much fun! I spend a part of each day reviewing these sources and making notes about ones I want to try. I’ve become a very frequent visitor to our wonderful public libraries (which amazingly always seems to have the books I am looking for!) to check out these books so I can determine if I agree with the reviews. Most of the time I do! I have found that the quality of the writing, as well as the illustrations, is impressive. Therefore, because of my past experiences, I understand how hard it is for you busy moms, teachers and grandmas to keep up with it all and to find some special books for your kids. Hopefully this list will help! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll recognize some of the titles, but there are lots of new ones as well. Here we go!

new Middle grade kids books  

El deafo by Cece Bell

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This book won the Newberry Honor this year and after reading it, I think it was an excellent choice. It’s a graphic novel memoir which is very touching, but full of humor. Cece became deaf after contracting meningitis when she was four. She describes her experiences and the reactions of those around her. She just wanted to be accepted and have friends, but it wan’t always easy. It would be a great book to read with your child. It would also be a wonderful choice to share with hearing impaired kids and their friends. I think it helps all of us have empathy and a better understanding of the world of a hearing impaired child.

Hearing impaired, empathy, kindness, graphic novel, humor

Escape from Basters’ Barn by Rebecca Bond
 new kids books

This new kids book will be a winner with fans of Charlotte’s Web. The Story is told from the animals’ perspective and describes their friendship, loyalty and teamwork as they try to solve a life threatening problem in the barn.

Animal story, friendship, loyalty, teamwork, adventure, read aloud for all ages

The wild robot by Peter Brown
new kids books

This fantasy book is the first chapter book from the award winning picture book author, Peter Brown. Roz, a robot, finds herself alone on a deserted island with no way to get home. Roz is very intelligent, and very adaptable, however, so she quickly learns how to cope with living in the woods by observing the unwelcoming animals on the island. After a while, the island begins to feel like home when Roz and the animals become friends. This novel is both heart warming, and full of action, and is one you won’t want to miss!

Fantasy, adventure, great read aloud for all ages

paper wishes  by Lois Sepahban

new kids books

This historical fiction book is Manami’s diary from 1942 which describes her family’s experiences as they are relocated from their home on Bainbridge Island to a Japanese American camp in the California desert. She is very sad to go, but refuses to give up her dog, as is required. She tries to smuggle Yujiin onto the train that will take them to their new home, but he is taken from her after he is discovered. From her new home, Manami writes letters and draws pictures for Yujinn everyday promising to take good care of him when he returns home.

Historical fiction, World War II, good read aloud for grades 3-5

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline woodson

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This is another Newberry Honor book. It is Ms. Woodson’s autobiography about growing up in South Carolina and New York in the ’60s and ’70s, and is all told in verse. Each poem vividly describes her experiences as she deals with both discrimination and the Jim Crow Laws. However, her love of writing shines through in the poignant verse.

Historical fiction, Civil Rights Movement, poetry, autobiography, good read aloud for grades 3-5

new picture books

have you seen elephant? by david Barrow

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This book is sure to become a favorite that you will reading over and over again. The charming illustrations from this first time author just give you a warm feeling. You might notice that it is all dialogue, with the best line being when the elephant tells the little boy that “I must warn you though. I’m VERY good.” when they begin to play hide and seek together. Your children will soon be emphatically (and probably very loudly) pointing out the elephant in each hiding place, as the dog is doing on each stop along the way, but the little boy just can’t find Elephant. A School Library Journal starred review, which will be enjoyed by all!

 preschool – grade 2 read aloud

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes

end papersnew kids books

The latest book from Kevin Henkes, is beautifully illustrated by his wife, Laura Dronzek (I’m not familiar with her illustrations, but this book definitely makes me want to see more. Actually, I think I’d like for her to decorate my house!). This is a lovely, sweet story that pulls you in through the beautiful and vibrant illustrations covering the end papers and then keeps you turning each page to learn what’s coming next. It made me feel so joyful and cozy, as it engaged all of my senses. It’s a wonderful read aloud for preschool children, which will lead to an understanding of what to expect as Spring emerges all around them.

seasons, preschool – grade 2 read aloud

bear and bunny by daniel pinkwater

new kids books

This is another book which received a starred review from School Library Journal. That happens to be the best recommendation a book can have, in my opinion! If a book received this, the book was always at the top of my “to be purchased list” for my library. Of course, now, this is really dangerous, because I want to add every starred title to my home library! This is a sweet story about friendship, as the two friends are on their quest through the forest to find the perfect pet. As they consider each possibility, it’s a great opportunity to talk with your child, or with a class, about the reading strategy of comparing and contrasting that occurs in the story as Bear and Bunny come to a conclusion.

read aloud preschool – 2, compare and contrast, friendship

boxes for katje by Candace Fleming

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This isn’t a new book, but it’s new to me and I wouldn’t want you to miss it! The historical fiction story is set in Holland immediately after the second World War. Food and clothing were extremely scarce, due to the fact that nothing could be farmed or manufactured during the war. One day, a little girl, Katje, receives a box from America containing socks, soap and chocolate. It caused a huge celebration in Katje’s family, and she sent a thank you note to the little American girl who sent the package.This prompted another box to arrive which was so large that Katje could share the contents with her neighbor. This continued, until the Americans had sent enough food, soap, warm clothing and chocolate for the entire town! And then Katje sends a thank you gift to America. This story will lead to an understanding of conditions after the war, and how the kindness of a few people can help so many.

read aloud for all ages, historical fiction, World War II, empathy, kindness

the first step: how one girl put segregation on trial by susan e. goodman

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Sarah Roberts was attending a school in Boston in 1847 that was near her home, had lots of supplies and books and many teachers. Then she is told she can’t attend, because it is a school for white children. Sarah is sent to a a school for African American Children, which is a long distance away and has only one book. Out of concern for Sarah and their anger at the situation, Sarah’s parents go to court and “put segregation on trial.” This story describes the long battle that Sarah’s family and some hard working lawyers fought to achieve integration in Boston schools. Fairness was finally schieved in 1855 when the mayor declared Boston to be the first city with integrated schools. The story continues to describe the journey toward integrating schools in all of the United States, which concluded with the 1954 Supreme Court Decision which declared all schools must be integrated.

Historical fiction, Civil Rights Movement, segregation, read aloud for grades 2-5

a tale of two beasts by fiona robertson

new kids books

This is a fun story told from two points of view – a little girl on her way home through the woods from Grandma’s house and a strange little beast she finds along the way. First of all, be sure and notice the end papers. They will put a smile on your face before you even begin reading the story. They are also a good discussion starter with your child. Then as you proceed, there are so many details in every illustration for you to find and to point out. It would be a lot of fun to share this story with a child while you are curled up together, or with a class. It would definitely be high on my list for a read aloud with my kindergarten or first grade classes!

Point of view, read aloud preK – grade 2, kindness, friendship

 There are so many more books I want to share with you, but I’ll save those for next time. What are some new books you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

P.S. One of my favorite bloggers, Modern Mrs. Darcy, recently published a post titled, Twelve Terrific Books for Tween Girls. Be sure and check it out. It has some terrific recommendations!

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The Chapter Book Series List has Arrived!

Before I wrote my first post for Red Canoe Reader, I had plans of composing several lists of books that I would share with you through links in the menu. Unfortunately, I spent so much time composing the posts that I neglected to make those lists. Well, I posted my first list – Chapter Book Series List! It includes many titles that you can find at your public library, purchase at your favorite bookstore or possibly even have on your own shelves.  I have included links to Amazon, if you’d like to purchase these for the children in your lives, as well as the Accelerated Reader and Lexile Levels to help you find a series on your child’s level. I’ve also divided the list into realistic fiction, graphic novels and fantasy to help you choose.

I have included chapter book series in many of my previous posts, so I hope you’ll check these out, as well. Here are the titles of the posts and the links:

Some New and Noteworthy Kids Chapter Books

Of course, you might be having a hard time enticing your child to read any book, or at least anything you suggest! I recently read about an idea that I want to share. On the blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, Anne Bogel recently described  her strategy about getting her kids to read. She goes to the library and brings home a large stack of books. They might be chapter books, nonfiction, graphic novels or picture books. Then she plops the stack on the kitchen table. When the kids walk by they get intrigued and usually pick up a book and begin to read! She never says a word. I just wish I had thought of that when my kids were little!

And finally, please remember, the chapter book series titles in this list, as well as the books in my previous posts, don’t begin to be a complete list of chapter book series titles. What books should I add to the list? Let me know in the comments and I’ll make updates!

And please share this post with your friends who might be looking for some ideas to entice their kids to read.

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Some New and Noteworthy Kids’ Chapter Books

Before I began to write this blog, I followed several people who blogged about adult books and their lives. My two favorites, by far, are Modern Mrs. Darcy and Emily P. Freeman’s blog, Chatting at the Sky. This past Friday, I received an update from Chatting at the Sky, titled “Let’s Share What We Learned in January”. I’m sure I’ll be reading a similar post from Modern Mrs. Darcy in the next few days. I love this practice, because it encourages you to look back and appreciate your experiences. In September, I started keeping lists of what I learned each month. It’s amazing how many things one learns, large and small, each month. This got me to thinking about all the new books from 2015. In an average year over 5000 children’s books are published. That number is always amazing to me! So I decided to put a little bit of a twist on “What I Learned this Month” and change it to “New Chapter Books I have learned about in 2015”.

When I was a school librarian, I always kept up with the new books by reading many reviews from so many sources. I received weekly emails notifying me about what was coming. I was able to keep up to date with my favorite authors and my favorite genres which enabled me to keep the library collection current. Unfortunately, when I lost my school email address I lost touch with those organizations Luckily, now I am renewing my contacts with many sources, and as I do that I am discovering some new kids’ chapter books that I missed. So I decided to share these with you. I hope you might find some special books to share with your child or your class.

Chris Grabenstein chapter books

We’ll start with the chapter book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. This is a great adventure that reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Mr. Lemoncello, the most creative and notorious game maker in the world, being very similar to Willy Wonka. The characters are led on a wild and crazy game while they are locked in the amazing, state of the art library. Happily, the author, Chris Grabenstein has published two more books, which are equally fascinating, The Island of Dr. Libris and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics.

mr. lemoncello
Chris Grabenstein Chapter Books

Wendy Mass Chapter books

Wendy Mass has been one of my favorite authors for many years. Her books all contain a surprising twist with a little magic and wonder mixed in! They appeal to both boys and girls. My favorite of all is probably Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Jeremy and his best friend spend the summer before his 13th birthday searching for the key to a mysterious wooden box which is said to contain the meaning of life. 

I was delighted when I was looking at my local library “Battle of the Books” shelf and discoverd a new book by Miss Mass that I didn’t know about, Pi in the Sky. 

Pi in the Sky chapter book by Wendy Mass.
Pi in the Sky chapter book by Wendy Mass.

She has written so many other notable and extremely popular books as well, such as Every Soul a Star and her Willow Fall Series.

lisa graff chapter books

Lost in the Sun chapter book
Lost in the Sun Chapter Book

I was delighted to see that another favorite author had written a new book, Lost in the Sun. This book has appeared on all of the “Best of 2015 Chapter Book” lists, and I’m not surprised. She has written so many well loved books in the past. Her books can be mystical or they can tug at your heart strings, but they are always memorable.

pam munoz ryan chapter books

riding freedom
Riding Freedom Chapter Book

The first Pam Munoz Ryan book I read was a historical fiction book, Riding Freedom, which described the first female rider for the Pony Express. This book is especially memorable to me, because I partner read this book with my third grade niece, Julia, many years ago. I was taking a Children’s Literature class at the time and one of the assignments, was to partner read a book with a child. Julia was living in New Jersey, but thanks to email, we were easily able to share our thoughts about the book. In fact, if you have a child in your life who is not close by, I highly recommend this method! It is wonderful to have that shared experience and when you do visit with the child, you have so much to chat about.

Echo Chapter Book

Miss Ryan published a highly reviewed book in 2015, Echo. In fact, this is a Newberry Honor book. As a reminder, this is an award given to  the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” There is one winner, as well as three honor authors honored each year.

brian selznick chapter books

Brian Selznick’s previous popular books, The Invention of Hugo Cabretthe 2008 Caldecott Winner for the best American picture book of the year, and Wonderstruck were always difficult to check out in my library, although we had six copies of each title. The kids loved the amazing black and white illustrations on every other page and the intriguing stories. I was so happy to see that Mr. Selznick has published a new book, The Marvelswhere he creates two new stand alone stories, with the first being completely comprised of illustrations and the second an intriguing puzzle in prose. 

sheila turnage chapter books

Odds of getting even
Odds of Getting Even Chapter Book

Ghost of Tupelo Landing
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing chapter book

In 2013, Miss Turnage published an extremely popular book, Three Times Lucky, a Newberry Honor bookThis is a hilarious mystery, with endearing characters. Happily, two more books were added to the series this year, Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and Odds of Getting Even.                                  




rick riordan chapter books

Finally, I want to tell you about a new fantasy series, by Rick Riordan, author of the hugely popular Percy Jackson and Olympus Series books. It is Magnus Chase and the Gods of AsgardAfter his mother’s death, Magnus is tracked down by a mysterious uncle his mother has always warned him about as being dangerous, but his uncle tells him an impossible secret. He confides that Magnus is the son of a Norse God. The second book in the series will be published in October.

I’m afraid this post, has gotten a little lengthy, but there are just so many new books I want to share with you. I’ll do that in the coming months, I promise! Hopefully, some of these titles will be favorites for the children in your life!

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