Required Books, Toddler Books, and My Books

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It’s summer reading list season! As always, I began by selecting the required books for each level. This is Inly’s “one book” program – a book to create a starting point when the kids return to school September. This year’s titles are:

Children’s House

The Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan (This gentle story of a watchman who finds a kitten on a construction site is a 2018 picture book standout. As the man continues his rounds, he keeps his eyes open for his new little friend, and of course, they are reunited. What struck me the first time I read Sullivan’s book is how rarely a picture book puts a man in the role of protector and caregiver – not to mention that man must be the only security guard who is at the center of a picture book. This book celebrates work, family, and caring.)

Lower Elementary

Our grade 1-3 teachers are trying something new. I shared some ideas with them, and faced with so many good books, they selected three – and are asking their students to select one (or all three!) to read over the summer. The books are:

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (a 2019 Newbery Honor book)

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson (the 2016 winner of the Newbery Medal and a Caldecott Honor book)

Night Job by Karen Hesse and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (the recipient of three starred reviews, this book is the story of a bond between a father and his son. The New York Times review read, in part: “Karas’s dusky paneled art gives a feel of enchantment and adventure as the boy sweeps floors, shoots hoops, reads and falls asleep while Dad finishes working. He’s added an extraordinary dignity and tenderness to this picture of working-parent reality and a loving, physically close father-son bond.”)

Upper Elementary

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (A classic – and Newbery winner – that we’ve selected as summer reading before, but the kids and the teachers love it. Applegate’s novel about the friendship between Ivan, a captive gorilla, and Ruby, a baby elephant, is a powerful story about friendship and courage.)

Middle School

New Kid by Jerry Craft (A new graphic novel about a black boy navigating life in two different worlds: an upscale private school where he is one of the few kids of color and his Washington Heights neighborhood)

And the Toddlers…

Our toddler program does not have one book, but rather they receive a list of new books for very young children. I wanted to look beyond the toddler classics like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, as wonderful as they are, and suggest books that were published in the past couple of years.

B is for Baby by Atinuke

And Toddlers!  This story is more than a book about the Letter B.  Look at the illustrations closely to see what happens after the Baby falls into a Basket of Bananas.

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner

A celebration of summer’s unique joys: lemonade, fireworks, parades!

Eric Carle’s Book of Many Things by Eric Carle

It’s all in here – food, feelings, things in the ocean and on the farm – with Carle’s signature tissue paper and watercolor art work.

Rhymoceros by Janik Coat

A funny book about a blue rhinoceros and rhyming words.

Snakes on a Train by Kathryn Dennis

This train’s passengers – and crew – are snakes.  Bright colors and wonderful word play.

Oink by David Elliot

A pig thinks he is going to have a quiet bath time, but a horse, a sheep, and a donkey have other ideas.

These Colors are Bananas by Jason Fulford

An innovative and interactive approach to colors that will expand your child’s view of the world around them.

Puppy Truck by Brian Pinkney

A little boy wants a puppy, but gets a truck.  That’s okay with Carter – he puts a leash on his truck and they head to the park!

One Is a Pinata by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

Count in English and Spanish while looking at colorful seasonal festivals.

How to Give Your Cat a Bath: In Five Easy Steps by Nicola Winstanley

An “off-screen” narrator gives a little girl five steps to bathe her cat, Mr. Flea.  To put it mildly, Mr. Flea has other ideas!

My Reading…

I finished three books this week:

The Omnivores Dilemma: Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan (the book we are currently reading in middle school)

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (Adapted for Young Readers) by Trevor Noah (We are considering adding the young readers edition of Noah’s best selling memoir to the middle school curriculum so it moved to the top of my stack. I had been interested in reading Noah’s book for awhile so it was a happy assignment that did not disappoint. Noah’s story of growing up in South Africa with a black mother and white father is incredible.)

Green Almonds: Letters from Pakistan by Annaele and Delphine Hermans (Published in France in 2011, this graphic memoir/collaboration is a true story about two sisters: Annaele is in Palestine working for an aid organization while her sister, Delphine, remains at home in Belgium. Annaele’s experience traveling between Palestine and Israel helped me to understand what life is like for people living in occupied territories. It takes a complex situation and makes it real – and even more tragic.)

Currently reading:

The Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

And that picture at the top of the post…..sisters at their first Red Sox game. One of them brought two books along. Good idea – baseball games move slowly!

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Good Books about Being Good

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Can reading books make us “good?”  I think maybe it can. Reading provides a window into people’s lives that makes us more empathetic and certainly more open to the views of others.

I was recently asked for a list of children’s books on the topics of kindness and generosity.  There are many books out there—many of them dull and preachy.  However, there are gems as well.  This list is not complete, but they are a good place to start.

Books for Children ages 3-6

Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya by Mary and Rich Chamberlin

Giving by Shirley Hughes

The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

Books for Children ages 7-10

The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine

Brother Juniper by Diane Gibfried

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier

One Hen by Katie Smith Milway

Listen to the Wind by Susan Roth

And the best book of all about generosity and friendship:

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White