Kids will love these new picks that entertain, teach and inspire.
A Boy Called Dickens. Deborah Hopkinson. Random House, 2012.
This story is based on incidents in the dismal childhood of Charles Dickens. His father, mother and three siblings spent time in debtors prison while 12 year old Charles worked 10 hour days in a factory. He was a great storyteller and dreamed of being a writer. He observed many people on the streets of London who became the characters in his books. He kept his childhood secret for many years. It is definitely a story worth telling and Hopkinson does it beautifully. Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade
Henry Aaron’s Dream. Matt Tavares. Candlewick, 2012.
This is a great homage to Hank Aaron whose childhood dream, never lost hope. Persevering against many obstacles , he finally becomes a major league player. The text is strong and paints a clear picture of segregation and racism in the 1940’s and 50’s. The “n” word appears a couple of times. Fabulous watercolors. Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade
Inside Out & Back Again. Thanhha Lai. Harper, 2011.
A series of free verse poems that tell the story of a family fleeing Viet Nam in 1975 and immigrating to Alabama. Based on the author’s own childhood experience. This could be a very good read-aloud if children have some background knowledge about that time in our history. There is much to discuss and compare to today’s immigrant experience.
A 2012 Newbery Honor Book.
Read-aloud 5th – 8th grade
Liesl & Po. Lauren Oliver. Harper, 2011.
After her father’s death, Liesl’s mean stepmother locks her in the attiic. She meets two ghosts from the other side, Po and Bundle. They deliver a message from her father that
he wants to buried under the willow tree next to her mother. Will, an alchemist’s apprentice accidentally mixes up the box containing Liesl’s father’s ashes with one holding the world’s most powerful magic that could raise the dead and restore youth.
Imaginative, philosophical, tragic and funny.
Read-aloud 5-8th grade
The Lions of Little Rock. Kristin Levine. G. P. Putnam’s, 2012.
This is an outstanding book with an unfortunate blah cover that does not say “pick me up”. It takes place right after the Little Rock Nine integrated Central High School in 1957. We see this time period through the eyes of a 12 year old white girl who is painfully shy and rarely talks. A new girl at school changes all that and becomes Marlee’s friend. When it is discovered that the new girl is black passing as white, she is forced to leave. This is a powerful story based on real events. You will care deeply about the characters. It will make an excellent read-aloud, but be aware that it does
contain the ‘n’ word a few times.
Read-aloud 5th-8th grade
The Mighty Miss Malone. Christopher Paul Curtis. Wendy Lamb Books, 2011.
It’s 1936 and 12-year-old Deza Malone’s father is leaves town in search of work. After not hearing from him, Deza, her mother and brother set out to find him and end up living in a Hooverville outside Flint Michigan. What makes this a stand-out is are the great characters, especially Deza, who is smart, spunky and funny and brave. From the same era as Bud, Not Buddy by the same author, in which Deza appeared briefly. The Malone family motto is “We are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.”
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade
A Nation’s Hope : The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. Matt de la Pena. Dial, 2011.
This powerful and stunning picture book biography shows how one determined, courageous man A real gem. Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade
The One and Only Ivan. Katherine Applegate. Harper, 2012.
Based on a true story, Ivan, a silverback gorilla tells the story of his life in captivity at The Big Top Mall. Ivan is a friend tot he other animals there, including elephants Stella and Ruby and Bob the dog. Ivan creates art and through his art and a connection with Julia, a human child, is able to draw attention to the neglect and deplorable conditions in which the animals live. A powerful story, beautifully told in short chapters of poetic prose. Highly recommended.
Read-aloud 3rd-7th grade