Little Robot

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Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatke

Publisher: First Second

Date of Publication: September 1, 2015

Awards: Illinois Gryphon Award, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year, Eisner Award Winner

Age Range: 6 – 10 years

Grade Level: 1 – 5


This is an imaginative and captivating story told through barely any dialogue at all, uncommon for most graphic novels. Unique characteristics don’t end there, the nameless female protagonist is very diverse: non-white, lives in a trailer park, is skilled with tools and invention, and without caring or attentive parents. Upon exploring a local dump ground our protagonist finds a little robot. A lovely friendship forms and she works hard to take care of her only friend and shows him the world he inhabits, but the little robot yearns for creature like him. Readers who have ever felt lonely and isolated in the world will relate to the joy and excitement of finding a true friend. Small lovely moments are plenty in this graphic novel, enhanced by Hatke’s sweet and expressive illustrations. The two friends sit and enjoy a sunset together, stopped to listen and feel the rumble of a passing train, and observed a vulnerable squirrel who has passed away. This book isn’t not only chock full of fantastical adventure, it’s also a genuine look into the beauty and small details of our world.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

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Author: Kelly Barnhill

Publisher: Workman Publishing Company

Date of Publication: August 9, 2016

Awards: 2017 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children, 2017 Newbery Medal, 2017 Kids Wings Top Flight Award Book, Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee, Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of 2016, New York Times Best Seller

Age Range: 10-14 years

Grade Level: 5 – 9


When Luna was a baby she was taken from her family offered up as the annual sacrifice, but what the elders don’t know is that a good witch saves all of the babies and raises them with love. Xan, the good witch, accidentally embues Luna with magical powers, but does not let them manifest before her 13th birthday. Multiple storylines weave as Luna discovers and harnesses her powers. This is a classic fantasy book, it is about witches and magic after all, but Kelly Barnhill writes with impeccable lyrical flow. She also writes with a varied vocabulary, often including words the audience most likely has not come across yet which builds and strengthens young vocabulary in a fun way. The story also follows a diverse protagonist, Luna is described as having amber skin and curly black hair. Both good and evil characters are explored, paralleling the realities of the real world. This is for readers who love fantasy elements of magic, and who believe in the triumph of good over evil.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

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Authors: Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth

Illustrator: Ekua Holmes

Publisher: Candlewick

Date of Publication: March 14, 2017

Awards: 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner

Age Range: 8-13 years

Grade Level: 3-8th


This is a poetry book celebrating poets, the artists of the world that express all the beauties, sorrows, and everything-in-betweens of life. These original poems penned by three authors pay tribute to 20 influential poets who have inspired the authors’ artistry and wonder. This is a book that immediately hooks the reader based on the passion that exudes from the pages. This book was born from love and admiration. Each illustration reflects that message, they are beautiful and go perfectly with each poem. This book encapsulates diversity, both in its varied styles of poetry, and the poets that inspired the poetry. Children will delight in learning of these important literary figures: Maya Angelou, Bashō, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sandra Cisneros, Billy Collins, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Chief Dan George, Nikki Giovanni, Terrance Hayes, Langston Hughes, Walter Dean Myers, Pablo Neruda, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Oliver, Okot p’Bitek, Rumi, William Carlos Williams, and Judith Wright.

Ella Enchanted

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Author: Gail Carson Levine

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date of Publication: January 1, 1997

Awards: ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Newbery Honor Book

Age Range: 8 – 12 years

Grade Level: 3 – 7


  1. Lesson plan designed by Scholastic comparing this book to the classic fairytale of Cinderella
  2. Lesson plan summarizing key plot points and outlining characters, discuss and analyze the story, then apply learning to a culminating activity

Ella Enchanted serves as a spunky retelling of the classic fairytale Cinderella. At birth Ella was cursed to never disobey a command by a fairy, and on her deathbed her mother commands she never reveal her secret to anyone in hopes she will not be taken advantage of. We follow Ella’s story as she interacts with classic fairytale characters, evil stepsisters, prince charming, a fairy godmother, ogres, dwarves, and many others. Finally we receive a telling of a story where the princess is not simply a meek and weak character meant to be saved by a man. Ella is a strong and intelligent role model who doesn’t take her misfortune lying down! This book is for anyone who has grown tired of the stale format of classic fairytales, anyone who knows that these stories do not reflect real three dimensional humans.


The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives

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Author: Dashka Slater

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Date of Publication: October 17, 2017

Awards: ALA Stonewall Book Award, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist


Age Range: 12-17 years

Grade Level: 7 – 12


  1. Activity guide featuring 24 questions that are ordered chronologically to the chapters in the book
  2. Support Materials ordered from easiest to hardest
  3. Lesson plan with The Hate U Give and Dear Martin as anchor texts

The 57 Bus tells the true story of a 2013 assault in Oakland, California, when an African American public school teen boy named Richard set fire to a sleeping, gender-nonconforming white private school teen named Sasha on that bus. This fire left third degree burns of 22% of Sahsa’s body. It is split into four parts, Sasha, Richard, The Fire, and Justice. This is a deeply emotional and thought provoking view at the event in its entirety. It elicits discussion on race, gender identity, the criminal justice system, and empathy for others. Anyone who is looking to widen their worldview will gain something from this book. It can be an important tool for parents to discuss with their child experiences that they themselves have not had, and how to foster empathy for those they do not identify with. What does it mean to be agender? What is life like for an incarcerated teen? What is a hate crime? Why does society make it so easy to harm and ridicule those that do not conform? This book is special because its topic is in no way easy, but its target audience is the young, and it knows that there’s no topic that young people cannot understand and empathize with.


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Author: Jason Reynolds

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Date of Publication: August 30, 2016

Awards: Finalist for National Book Awards 2016 for Young People’s Literature

Age Range: 9 years and up

Grade Level: 3rd and beyond


  1. Reading and discussion guide as well as extension activities designed by the publisher
  2. Review by Kirkus Reviews

Ghost tells the story of 7th grader Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw who lives in an urban neighborhood and is often bullied because of the part of town he resides. On his walk home from school Ghost decides on an impulsive decision to watch a track meet of a team called the Defenders, and running it without any prior sign up or experience. With an innate skill of running Coach Otis instinctively sees himself in Ghost, he then takes him under his wing and becomes committed to investing himself in Ghost’s life. He invites him onto the track team on the condition that Ghost can fulfill all his other duties in life. His journey alongside Coach and his teammates helps Ghost confront both his complicated past and present, propelling him forward. Ghost finds himself with a sense of belonging and purpose after a lifetime of being isolated from his peers and traumatized from the abuse that was present in his early development. These story elements all combine to form themes of bullying and abuse, as well as confronting and overcoming your fear and anger. Any reader who has gone through similar traumas of abusive parents or being bullied at school would see themselves in Ghost and Coach as well. These readers would not only see the pain that comes from it, but the healing that the book also depicts.



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Author: Alan Gratz

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Date of Publication: July 25, 2017

Awards: 2018 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Older Readers, 2018 National Jewish Book Award Winner for Young Adults, YALSA 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults

Age Range: 9 – 14

Grade Level: 3 – 8


  1. Lesson plan and discussion guide designed by the publisher
  2. Empathy focused lesson plan

It is 1939, and Joseph is a Jewish boy living in Nazi Germany.

It is 1994, and Isabel is a Cuban girl whose country is plagued by civil unrest.

It is 2015, and Mahmoud is a Syrian boy living in a war-torn country.

Alan Gratz takes on three heart wrenching narratives in his novel Refugee. These are three young people who must face dangerous and terrifying situations in the pursuit of refuge, all along hanging onto faint glimmers of hope. Combining the three different narratives into one whole creates a unique experience for the reader, emphasizing how history truly does repeat itself. While this book will enthrall and tug at the heartstrings of all ages, the characters in this book are all in their early years of adolescence and readers around the same age will feel the strongest empathy putting themselves in the shoes of these young people not unlike them. Refugee is so important because it chronicles events that most grown adults might not even know about, making it even more important that our students and children not grow up ignorant of the refugee’s plight.

**Gratz does an excellent job of providing the historical basis for the stories in his author’s note. He also gives suggestions on how to help.

Akata Witch

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Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Publisher: Viking/Penguin Books

Date of Publication: April 14, 2011

Awards: Finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, a YALSA 2011 Best Book of the Year

Age Range: 12 and up

Grade Level: 6 – 9


  1. Review by Kirkus Reviews
  2. Review and suggestions on teaching multicultural book

Akata Witch is a novel about a 13-year-old girl living in Nigeria named Sunny Nwazue. She is ridiculed at school not only because of her albinism, but also because of her American born status. She also finds isolation at home, trying to keep up with her brothers, and a father who does not accept her. She finds her place in the world when she strikes up a friendship with Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha. They soon bring to her knowledge that she is a part of the mystical Leopard People community. She then juggles not only her regular school, but also Leopard training and keeping her abilities secret to the outside world. The theme of coming of age is prominent, Sunny’s life changes forever. One of her primary mystical abilities is to cross between the physical and spirit world. Together the four young friends take on many challenges, including deciphering Sunny’s prophetic nightmares of earthly ruin, and tracking down the Black Hat Killer, a Leopard person who has succumbed to power and corruption. Akata Witch will help people rethink the YA genre as something only for the middle and high school age. The writing is smart, clever, and engaging. It is a somewhat familiar story and often likened to Harry Potter, but entirely different in important cultural ways. The familiarity of the fantasy elements will entice readers, but the jump into the unfamiliar will keep them around until the very last page. Okorafor’s place in the speculative fiction world is also one of great importance, as she is a African American female writer dominated by white men. Readers who are seeking their place in their world will find comfort in Sunny’s journey.