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Reading Lists


Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes, Scholastic, 2009. I loved this book because, after reading about life on a military base and moving and a mom deployed to Iraq, I ended up feeling like kids have real power over parts of their lives. That they can, with a good plan and a good attitude, impact the world in glorious ways. After reading Operation Yes I imagined kids all over the world posting little green men. (Middle Grade)

Heart of a Shepherd, by Rosanne Perry, Random House, 2009. A quiet gem about the impact of war on one ranch kid, his family, and his community when almost all the adult men in his small Oregon town are called up to the reserves. It speaks as much to family, faith, and finding one's place in the world as it does to war. But if you imagine the wars in the Middle East are far away and are only reminded of them when you see a clip on the news, you need to read this book. (Middle Grade)

Purple Heart, by Patricia McCormick, Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins, 2009. A not so quiet step into the life of a nineteen year old serviceman in Iraq. He has suffered a traumatic brain injury and has lost his memory of an encounter with the enemy which may change his life. A page turner that reads honestly and is enhanced with sensitive details. (Young Adult)

Bull Rider, by Suzanne Morgan Williams, Margaret K. McElderry/Simon and Schuster, 2009. Well this is mine so I’ll be short. It’s about a Nevada ranch kid whose older brother suffers a traumatic brain injury and loses an arm in the Iraq War. It’s the story of the brothers – and how they cope with the changes war brings to their lives. (Tween)

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, Penguin Books, 2007. This best seller doesn't need my recommendation but it's a book I give to friends. A look at one man's experience creating and building schools in what was to become a war zone on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. There is a "young readers edition" from Turtleback. (nonfiction, Adult/Young Adult)

100 Days and 99 Nights, by Alan Madison, Hatchett Book Group, 2008. This is a a sweet story about a girl waiting for her father to come back from deployment. For youngest chapter book readers – 2nd and 3rd grade. There are pancakes and a stuffed animal alphabet. A light book that still affirms the experience of kids with deployed parents.

Nubs – The True Story of a Mutt a Marine and a Miracle, by Major Brian Dennis, Kirby Larson, and Mary Nethery, Little, Brown and Company, 2009. I loved this story of a dog who is rescued from the war zone in Iraq by his marine buddy and kids who donated to bring him to America. A great read for ages six/seven and up about how war affects everyone – even animals.

Ghosts of War, by Ryan Smithson, Collins/Harper Collins, 2009. This book offers a glimpse into the day to day experience of one GI’s time in Iraq. If you want to know some of the stuff people don’t talk about, to learn about the emotions a soldier goes through, read this book. I came away feeling like I’d learned so much. Loved the author’s testament to the healing power of writing. (nonfiction/YA)

Sunrise Over Fallujah, by Walter Dean Myers, Scholastic, 2008. Written by an award winning author, Sunrise Over Fallujah is a sequel of sorts to Meyer’s book Fallen Angels. Robin “Birdy” Parry joins the army and is sent to Iraq where he learns war is not what he expected. Meyers paints a clear picture of the realities of death and sacrifice the confusion of sorting out supporters from enemies, the closeness of buddies who’ve had the same, inexplicable experiences. Read it with Purple Heart and Ghosts of War and you’ll see some interesting themes. (YA)

Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Mare’s War is a historical novel about African American Women who served in the WACs during World War II. It speaks not only to military life and commitment but to the racial segregation of the day and its daily effects on the young women serving our country. An interesting book with strong characters and a memorable female protagonist. (YA/tween)

Trouble, by Gary Schmidt, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008. Not a war story as such, but a coming of age novel about the after effects of the Viet Nam war and how prejudice against Cambodian immigrants entangled one family’s struggle with grief, social expectations, and finding the truth. (YA/tween)

Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate, Feiwel and Friends, 2007. A book written in clear verse about the fallout of war – this time the war in Somalia – and one refugee boy’s journey to resettle in Minneapolis, to come to terms with his mother’s disappearance in that war, and to save a well worn cow who had, in some way already saved him. (MG/tween)

Upper Elementary into Middle School:

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko
The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
Bud Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis
I Am Jack, by Susanne Gervay
Super Jack, by Susanne Gervay
Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen
Operation Yes, by Sara Lewis Holmes
Second Fiddle, by Rosanne Parry
Heart of a Shepherd, by Rosanne Parry
A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck
Holes, by Louis Sachar
The Hank Zipzer series, by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Middle School into Young Adult:

Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter
The Cave, by Susanne Gervay
Everest series, by Gordon Korman
Dogsong, by Gary Paulsen
Trouble, by Gary D Schmidt
When the Whistle Blows, by Fran Cannon Slayton
Bull Rider, by Suzanne Morgan Williams \

Young Adult into adult books:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Split, by Swati Avashthi
Freeze Frame, by Heidi Ayarbe
Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
Seabiscuit, by Laura Hittenbrand
Sunrise over Fallujah, by Walter Dean Myers
Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario
Ghosts of War, by Ryan Smithson

Also check out these blogs and lists that feature books for boys:

Boys Read. org– includes recommendations for boys of all ages and links to book and author websites. Also supports the webmaster’s own books (J. Marshal Martin) which I haven’t read.

Book blogs that look useful: ( looks like fantasy and graphic novels).

There are so many good books available. Here are few from my bookshelf that have basic information and inspiration.

The Book, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, Los Angeles, annual publication – join SCBWI and you can download it for free as a member. All the latest information from agents to publishers, formatting to current markets.

Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2017. A go to for editorial rules.

Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, annual volume. Publishing and marketing information along with articles, interviews, and craft tips.

The Children’s Writer’s Word Book, by Alijandra Mogilner, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati Ohio, 1992. A valuable thesaurus that gives synonyms along with the approximate grade level we would expect children to read and understand the word.

Dear Genius, the Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, collected and edited by Leonard. S. Marcus, Harper Collins, New York, 1998. Read these letters from the legendary children’s editor to her authors and illustrators to give yourself a treat. Imagine what the editorial relationship could be like. But don’t hold your editor or agent to this standard. We are in the 21st century now and relationships are different.

Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Mass, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati Ohio, 2001. Maas is a successful agent who also gives writer’s workshops across the country. Here is his advice for making your novel stand out.

Writing for Children and Teenagers, by Lee Wyndham and revised by Arnold Madison, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati Ohio, 1989. An older book but all the basics are here. Just remember the book was written before e-books, self-publishing, and hybrid publishers.

Writing Down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within, by Nathalie Goldberg, Shambala 3oth Anniversary Edition, Shambala Publications, Boulder, Colorado, 2016 

High School - Highly Recommended:

The Family Romanov; Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia
, by Candice Fleming, Schwartz and Wade Books, New York, 2014. Seibert Honor Book. This book reads like a novel and makes the Russian Revolution and the period leading up to it understandable and gripping. Includes journal entries and primary resources from “regular” people. I couldn’t put it down.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, Nancy Paulsen Books, New York, 2014. National Book Award Winner, Newberry Honor Book, Coretta Scott King winner, Seibert Honor Book. Brown Girl Dreaming will inspire and inform you students too. It puts a human face and experience on the decades following the Civil Rights movement while treating readers to memorable verse. Good for Middle School too.

Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific, by Mary Cronk Farrell, Abrams, New York, 2014. Talk about an untold story! These women’s courage and fortitude will astound you and your students. A good addition to your World War II and women’s history collections. Includes interviews with the survivors.

Eyes Wide Open, Going Behind the Environmental Headlines, by Paul Fleischman, Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2014. Fleishman uses the environmental movement to provide an introduction to evaluating information, its sources, biases, and reliability. I think this book will delight librarians whether or not the topic is their favorite. Using Fleishman’s ideas, students are challenged to look at various sources, weigh the information, and to think for themselves.

Guilty? Crime Punishment, and the Changing Face of Justice, by Teri Kanefield, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2014. A small book with hefty ideas. What is the difference between a crime and immorality? What purpose does punishment serve? How has the idea of justice changed in the last fifty years? What does this mean for our society? These are some of the questions raised by Kanefield. She uses court cases to illustrate her points and give readers a guide to changes in criminal law. The book is bound to create discussion and evaluation.

High School - Recommended:

Boundaries: How the Mason Dixon Line settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation, by Sally M. Walker, Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2014. It’s a bit of a heavy read but beautifully marries biography, history, and science. This book uses the theme of the Mason Dixon Line to tie the colonial era to the Civil War, and emerging science to daily life. I thought it was brilliantly constructed and it could be a favorite of teachers looking to connect advances in science to history.

Because They Marched; The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America, by Russell Freedman, Holiday House, New York, 2014. Freedman’s usual great research paired with narrative style. This book give an introduction to the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and the courage of people who stood up for change. A good introduction for students unfamiliar with the era. Goes well beyond the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Freedom Summer; The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi, by Susan Goldman Rubin, Holiday House, New York, 2014. A more in depth look at many of the players in the summer of 1964. Focuses on the murders of three voter rights workers and the investigations that followed. Stunning information for those who don’t remember the era.

Schools of Hope; How Julius Rosenwald Helped Change African American Education, by Norman H. Finkelstein, Calkins Creek, Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2014. This book falls in the “I never knew that category.” It’s worth a spot in collections because it illustrates how people of good will, and caring communities worked together to provide African American children with the best education they could during the Jim Crow era.

Middle School - Highly Recommended:

(Note, Brown Girl Dreaming, Because They Marched, and Schools of Hope would fit easily into Middle School. Family Romanov would work for good readers – especially those interested in history.)

Angel Island; Gateway to Gold Mountain, by Russell Freedman. Clarion Books, New York, 2014. An accessible introduction to immigration policies surrounding Asian immigrants in the late 1880s. Lovely photos, takes care to talk about different Asian and European groups and how policies differed toward them. Also for Upper Elementary

Beyond Magenta; Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin, Candlewick Press, New York, 2014. Although we might be more comfortable with this on the high school list, I think it may best fit in Middle School when students are trying to understand their emerging sexuality and where bullying can be particularly ugly. This book consists of transcripts of interviews and photos of six teens as they tell their own stories of decision and change. It will be an important book for some students.

Everybody Paints: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family, by Susan Goldman Rubin, Chronicle, San Francisco, 2014. Your artists will love this biography of the three generations of the Wyeth family. Beautifully designed, illustrated with the artists’ work, and easy to read.

Middle School - Recommended:

Bugged; How Insects Changed History, by Sarah Albee, Walker Books for Young Readers, New York, 2014. A fresh look at world history and the roles played by insects. This might be just the book to hook a student on history for a long time. Easy read, would be appealing to reluctant readers as well as students more interested in science than history.

The Top Secret Files of World War II, by Stephanie Bearce, Prufrock Press, Waco, Texas, 2014. One of the little gems you might not find unless it was handed to you. It won’t change anyone’s life but it will draw in reluctant readers and get everyone saying, “What??” True stories of spies and secret missions – from taping explosives to bats to using Hollywood set designers to camouflage airplane factories in California.

Kammie on First; Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek, by Michelle Houts, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio, 2014. Easy to read biography that introduces readers not only to the subject’s life but to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Gives a nice overview of the restrictions on women and women in sports during that time.

Sally Ride; Llife on a Mission, by Sue Macy, Aladdin, New York, 2014. A new Sally Ride biography that includes information on the end of her life and her work to interest girls in following careers in science.

Upper Elementary - Highly Recomended:

(Note: Angel Island and all of the “recommended” middle school books above would also be appropriate for upper elementary readers.)

Try This; 50 Fun Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You, by Karen Romano Young, National Geographic Kids, Washington D.C. 2014. Just what it says. A great resource for teachers and parents. I bought a copy for my grandson.

Sniffer Dogs; How Dogs and Their Noses Save the World, by Nancy F. Castaldo, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2014. Who doesn’t love working dogs? The author uses real dogs, their stories, and real science to explain how service dogs help us in well-known as well as surprising ways.

Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, by Patricia Newman. This book is as much about the scientific method and how it is used to solve problems as it is about the garbage patch. It doesn’t talk down to the reader and informs on environmental and marine life issues in an understandable way. Includes some ways students can make a difference.

Animal Stories; Heartwarming True Tales from the Animal Kingdom, by Jane Yolen with her children, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Semple, National Geographic Kids, Washington D.C. 2014. This is a totally loveable anthology of true animal stories from the well known to the obscure. Kids will read it again and again. Also good for primary/read aloud.

Mission: Wolf Rescue, All About Wolves and How to Save Them, by Kitson Jazynka, National Geographic Kids, Washington D.C. 2014. Part of a series, I was totally drawn into this book about saving wolves. It includes stories of individual wolves, ideas and activities to explore, as well as science and geographical information. This is one I would have kept under my pillow as a kid.

Upper Elementary - Recommended:

Zoobots; Wild Robots Inspired by Real Animals, by Helaine Becker, Kids Can Press, Toronto, 2014. Here’s one for your techno-nerds. In the “Who knew?” category. Certain kids will fight to check this out.

Park Scientist; Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard, by Mary Kay Carson, National Geographic Kids, Washington D.C. 2014. Part of the Scientists in the Field Series I found this one particularly accessible. The books are as much introductions to science as a career, and to the scientific method as they are to their subjects. Perhaps I loved this because it took us to four different National Parks and introduced kids to the scientists who work there and their projects.

Stubby the War Dog; The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog, by Ann Bausum, National Geographic Kids, Washington D.C. 2014. Dog story meets World War I history. Interesting to see what happens to this “war hero” on his return.

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash, by G. Neri, Illustrated by A. G. Ford, Candlewick Press, New York, 2014. Picture book bio whose text and information on the Great Depression may be better suited to older readers. An interesting read with historic and cultural overtones.

Youngest Readers, K to primary - Highly Recommended: 

(Note: 50 Fun Experiments, Zoobots, Hello I’m Johnny Cash, and Animal Stories may also be suitable for this group.)

Mysterious Patterns; Finding Fractals in Nature, by Sarah C. Campbell, photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard R. Campbell, Boyds Mills Press, Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2014. Stunning photography and an understandable, basic explanation of a difficult mathematical concept. Now I get it. Start encouraging young mathematicians.

Grandfather Gandhi, by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrations by Evan Turk, Atheneum, New York, 2014. Picture book biography at its best. The story is told by Gandhi’s grandson about a moment in his life with his grandfather. The illustrations totally reflect and add to the story. There is a universal message to go with the boy’s tale. Excellent.

If. . .A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers, by David J. Smith, Illustrated by Steve Adams, Kids Can Press, Toronto, 2014. Another book to add to your STEM collection. Engaging illustrations give visuals of big numbers and concepts, particularly time, size, and countable things such as number of species on earth.

Youngest Readers, K to primary - Recommended:

Body Bones, by Shelley Rotner and David A. White, Holiday House, New York, 2014. What kid doesn’t want X-ray vision and the ability to see bones inside people, animals, birds, fish and amphibians? Cool.

Animal School; What Class Are You?, by Michelle Lord, Illustrated by Michael Garland, Holiday House, New York, 2014. Lovely illustrations bring rhyming text to life while instructing on the qualities of different animal classes. Could be used for rhyming in language arts as well as basic science.

Alaska’s Dog Heroes True Stories of Remarkable Canines, by Shelley Gill, illustrated by Robin James, Little Bigfoot, Seattle, 2014. Dog stories for the youngest readers. Could be used for studying dogs and arctic biome as well.

Tugboat, by Michael Garland, Holiday House, New York, 2014. Ok, so tugboats are cool and you can talk about the cityscapes as well.