RMU Recommends

The gift of reading can be shared at any age and can change the way children interpret their worlds. Studies show that reading aloud to your children actually increases their chances for success in school and of become lifelong readers.

We hope this list will encourage parents to spend more time reading quality books to their children.

Please visit your local library to check out one these amazing stories!

RMU Recommends is a reading list for children and adolescents featuring the favorite books of RMU's Department of Education faculty members, as well as their recommendations for other books appropriate for varying age levels and for children with special needs.

Books About Exploration & Discovery

Grades PreK-2

The Strongest One

Author: Joseph Bruchac

Summary: A play based on a Zuni folktale, which details an ant who travels around to figure out who is the strongest in the land.

“A great read-aloud with an awesome lesson to be learned.” - Kassandra Vuono

The Tiny Seed

Author: Eric Carle

Summary: Young readers discover the life cycle of a flower, which is told through the adventures of a seed.

“The author does an effective job at explaining and describing, using words and pictures, what happens to flower seeds throughout the different seasons.” - Maria Calcano

P is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book

Author: Dr. Goldbarg Bashi

Summary: A journey through the alphabet that includes Palestinian geography and culture.

“I recommend this book because it is a great way to introduce young readers to a new culture that they can appreciate and explore.” - Ashley Messner

Monster Math

Author: Anne Miranda

Summary: One little monster waits for the first birthday guest to arrive. . . . There’s a knock on the door, and now there are two! Now three! Now four! The guests keep arriving until fifty partying monsters wreak havoc and Monster Mom decides that enough is enough. The partygoers reluctantly depart until just that one little monster remains—after the best birthday party ever. [Summary from Amazon]

“A book for children to discovery how to count by reading rhymes from little monsters!” - Shannon Katruska

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature

Author: Joyce Sidman

Summary: A delightful and eye-opening exploration of nature. The journey begins with the tiniest spiral of snails and coiling ferns, and grows through the animal kingdom at a thrilling pace to monkey tails and elephant trunks.

“The reader will enjoy the surprises of discovering swirls in the power of a tornado, and even the spiral of a galaxy in space. The illustrations by Beth Krommes are gorgeous, high contrast images blending scientific accuracy with happy, smiling animals. After reading this book, one can't help discovering spirals in nature, architecture and even engineering, long after you've returned the book to the library.” - Dr. Philip Harold

Liam, The Brave

Author: Michael Wang

Summary: This book is about a young boy who sets out on a journey to conquer his fear of butterflies and become the bravest boy in the world. Liam is a boy with an irrational fear, but shows that perseverance can take you far. 

“I recommend this book because I think it’s important for kids to understand that fear is just a state of mind and with bravery, you can overcome it.” - Kristin Ilkin

Grades 3-5

Paddle to the Sea

Author: Holling Clancy Holling

Summary: A young indigenous boy carves a small man seated in a canoe then leaves it near the shore of the Lake of the Woods. In the spring, little Paddle begins a multi-year journey drifting down through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway on an epic voyage to Atlantic. Along the way, he experiences the wild nature, great cities, and industrial power of North America's inland waterways.

“The book offers young readers a look at the ecology and geography of the Great Lakes region and begins discussions about waterway conservation and personal exploration.” - Dr. Sylvia Pamboukian

Apollo 13

Author: Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger

Summary: Scheduled to fly Apollo 14, but moved up to a lunar mission on Apollo 13, astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert find everything going according to plan after leaving Earth's orbit. They have launched into outer space successfully, however, a slight fault from inside the space module caused an explosion that turned the exploration into a test for survival for the entire crew.

“I recommend this book because of its intriguing truth. This book, written based on real-life testimonies, shows the struggle between man and science to survive in space after disaster strikes, which further demonstrates the importance of trusting others to do everything it takes to survive.” - Kristin Ilkin

Grades 6-8

Refugee

Author: Alan Gratz

Summary: This book focuses on refugees from three different eras (Holocaust, Cuban Revolution, and Syrian Migration). Specifically, the stories of three refugee children and their families from different time periods comprise the book and tie together at the end.

“It is a journey with a great deal of reflections, coming-of-age, and self-discovery along the way.” - Natalie Groscost

Bluefish

Author: Pat Schmatz

Summary: Thirteen year old Travis cannot read, but a caring teacher and a new friend are hoping to change that for him. 

“I recommend this book because it deals with difference and acceptance as well as exploring and discovering things about yourself and others along the way.” - Dr. Susan Parker

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Author: Mark Twain

Summary: Huckleberry Finn is a young boy who runs away from home during the 1800s. While floating down the Mississippi River, he encounters Jim, a runaway slave. Jim and Huck form a special bond and the two undertake a series of adventures.

“I recommend this book because I enjoy that it demonstrates conflict between civilization and a variety of freedoms. Huck represents natural life through his freedom of spirit, uncivilized ways, and desire to escape from society. He was raised without any rules or discipline and has a strong resistance to anything that might ‘civilize’ him. It makes for an interesting story.” - Kristin Ilkin

Grades 9-12

The Odyssey

Author: Homer

Summary: After the Trojan War, Odysseus struggles to return home to Ithaca, facing mythical creatures and meddling gods and goddesses.

“I recommend this classic book because it brings audiences on a journey to different lands and allows readers to explore Greek mythology.” - Ashley Messner

These Broken Stars

Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Summary: In this young adult space opera, readers will unravel a mystery beyond our own reality after a catastrophic accident on a luxury space cruise.

“I would recommend this book because of the interesting characters, imaginative world building, and exciting plot that includes science fiction and dystopian themes.” - Savanah Buhite (RMU Alum: 2017)

Into the Wild

Author: Jon Krakauer

Summary: In this true story, Christopher McCandless started off as a typical new college graduate yearning to explore the world and find himself. Following his college graduation, McCandless decides to travel into the wild, which ultimately leads to his untimely death.

“Chris McCandless is shown to be a very compassionate person who is unwilling to ignore the fact that so many people in the world are suffering and starving. I enjoy this story about his journey into the wild because of its intensity. Chris voluntarily explores what life is like in the wild in efforts to sympathize with those who are starving by experiencing the same troubles, himself.” - Kristin Ilkin

Black Disabled Art History 101

Author: Leroy Moore, Jr.

Summary: Leroy Moore has cerebral palsy and his desire to write this book stemmed from his childhood experiences: “As a black disabled youth in the 1970s and 1980s, I wished there was a book like mine because I wouldn’t have felt so different or perhaps isolated. “ The text and illustrations of Black painters, musicians, and actors with disabilities tell the story of art history from the early 1900s to the present.

- Dr. Vicki Donne

Dark Nights: Metal 

Author: Scott Snyder

Summary: Elsewhere, Dick Grayson issues an S.O.S., summoning Robin, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Black Canary and Green Arrow to prevent the transformation and terraforming of Gotham City into a twisted mosaic of monsters, magic and doom. When they are trapped in a Riddler-designed maze, all hope may be lost. And where is Batman during all this? He's trapped in his own private nightmare, reliving portions of his life while confronting Barbatos, the leader of the evil Batmen and the demon that has haunted his dreams. [Summary from Amazon]

“It offers a look at the dangers that come with exploration and discovery, and how pressing too hard for the truth can lead to some frightening consequences.” - Dominic Weisser (RMU Alum: 2017)

The Clockwork Dynasty

Author: Daniel H. Wilson

Summary: June has always been looking for her big break, but she never thought she'd find it while examining a 300-year-old Russian doll. It turns out that June's discovery of the remarkable clock-like technology in the doll is just the start of an adventure into a world she never could have imagined existed alongside her own.

“If you're into steampunk or historical fiction, this book is for you!” - Kayla Ford (RMU Alum: 2017)

Books About Making

The Book With No Pictures 

by B.J. Novak

This New York Times Best Seller will have all readers laughing out loud because it requires everyone to be an active reader—each page requires it. The book has no illustrations but that doesn’t mean it won’t be read and read again by children and adults. From nonsense words to songs, this book keeps readers coming back for more. The reader is encouraged to creatively engage multi times and in ingenious ways. Dial Books

Age range: All Ages 
Recommended by: Dr. Cari Bernadowski

Ish 

by Arlene Mosel

The author writes:
Ish is one of my favorite books (Candlewick Press, 2004). This is the sequel to The Dot and a tribute to an approach to thinking – and relaxing — about your art, your writing, your craft. Your life. Candlewick

Age range: All Ages 
Recommended by: Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth

The Dot 

by Peter H. Reynolds

For anyone who has been afraid to express themselves -- from a child in art class to an adult whose fear has shut down a long held dream -- this book reminds us to make your mark and see where it takes you. Scholastic Press

Age range: All Ages
Recommended by: Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth and Dr. Nathan Taylor

Stuck 

by Oliver Jeffers

A wonderfully, hilarious book about a young boy, Floyd, who implores creativity to overcome an obstacle. From the illustrator of When the Day the Crayons Quit, this book provides children with the premise to think outside the box. Although the book is recommended for young child, it teaches a lesson for which everyone could benefit. Philomel Books

Age Range: Preschool to eight
Recommended by: Dr. Cari Bernadowski

Violet the Pilot 

by Steve Breen

By the time she's two years old, Violet Van Winkle can fix nearly any appliance in the house. And by eight she's building elaborate flying machines from scratch mind-boggling contraptions such as the Tubbubbler, the Bicycopter, and the Wing-a-ma-jig. The kids at school tease her, but they have no idea what she's capable of. Maybe she could earn their respect by winning the blue ribbon in the upcoming Air Show. Or maybe something even better will happen? Something involving her best ever invention, a Boy Scout troop in peril, and even the mayor himself! A classic underdog story full of humor and sweetness and retro pizzazz, Violet the Pilot is both endearing and adorable. It'll fly right into your heart. Dial Books for Young Readers, A division of Penguin books

Age Range: Preschool to 3rd grade
Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

The Most Magnificent Thing  

by Ashley Spires

Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy! But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right. Kids Can Press

Age Range: 3-7
Recommended by: Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth

What Do You Do With An Idea? 

by Kobi Yamada

This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child's confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It’s a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it's just getting started. Compendium Inc.

Age Range: 3 and up
Recommended by: Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth

Beautiful Oops  

by Barney Saltzberg

A New York Times bestseller. It tells the story of Arnold Spirit, who leaves his familiar Indian reservation in Spokane, WA to attend public school. The only other Indian at the school is the school mascot. Throughout the book, Arnold wonders what constitutes community, identity and tribe. The story is based on the experiences of the author, Sherman Alexie. Workman Publishing Company

Age Range: 3-8
Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Rosie Revere, Engineer  

by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts

Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she's a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal--to fly--Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt's dream come true. But when her contraption doesn't fly but rather hovers for a moment and then crashes, Rosie deems the invention a failure. On the contrary, Aunt Rose insists that Rosie's contraption was a raging success. You can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit. Abrams Books for Young Readers

Age Range: Kindergarten and up 
Recommended by: Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes  

by Mark Pett & Gary Rubinstein

Meet Beatrice Bottomwell: a nine-year-old girl who has never (not once!) made a mistake. She never forgets her math homework, she never wears mismatched socks, and she ALWAYS wins the yearly talent show at school. In fact, Beatrice holds the record of perfection in her hometown, where she is known as The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes. Life for Beatrice is sailing along pretty smoothly until she does the unthinkable–she makes her first mistake. And in a very public way! Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Age Range: 4-8  
Recommended by: Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth

Iggy Peck, Architect  

by Andrea Beaty

Meet Iggy Peck—creative, independent, and not afraid to express himself! In the spirit of David Shannon’s No, David and Rosemary Wells’s Noisy Nora, Iggy Peck will delight readers looking for irreverent, inspired fun. Iggy has one passion: building. His parents are proud of his fabulous creations, though they’re sometimes surprised by his materials—who could forget the tower he built of dirty diapers? When his second-grade teacher declares her dislike of architecture, Iggy faces a challenge. He loves building too much to give it up! With Andrea Beaty’s irresistible rhyming text and David Roberts’s puckish illustrations, this book will charm creative kids everywhere, and amuse their sometimes bewildered parents. Abrams Books for Young Readers

Age Range: 4-8
Recommended by: Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth

I Am Albert Einstein 

by Brad Meltzer

This book shares stories of the life of Einstein, who many now think was on the autism spectrum. He was a curious inventor who kept trying to figure out the universe. The format of this book is a charming combination of photographs, caricatures, cartoon strips, and narrative text. It is part of the series, “Ordinary People Change the World”. Dial Books

Age Range: 5-8 
Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

Cooking Up a Storm: The Teen Survival Cookbook 

by Sam Stern

Here's a book that will get most teens making, baking, and cooking! Written by a 14 year-old boy who loves creative writing and cooking! It's all here...recipes from breakfast to dinner for all occasions. Great commentary from Sam and colorful photos. Candlewick Press

Age Range: Teenagers
Recommended by: Dr. Shelly Haser

Resonating the Sound 

by Linda Mitchell Maddox

As the author states, “This is a story about obstacles and ways the middle school age characters in the book choose to deal with them in their lives” (p. 6). Two years following a traumatic brain injury, Jana is still unable to speak and finally chooses to try a communication device. A fellow student, Eli, who is Gifted and has Aspergers, takes the device apart, reprograms it, and puts it back together. He personalizes the device using audio recordings of Jana’s voice prior to the accident. Arborwood Press

Age Range: Young Adult
Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

Multicultural Books

Everywhere Babies 

by Susan Meyers

This fun rhyming book will surely amuse babies and toddlers alike. Myers introduces babies of all ethnic backgrounds enjoying what babies enjoy most—being loved. Surely a book that will captivate young ones. HMH Books for Young Readers

Age range: Infants and Toddlers 
Recommended by: Dr. Cari Bernadowski

Hugs & Kisses 

by Roberta Grobel Intrater

Lovely photographs of babies and their mothers showcasing a variety of ethnicities. Simple text. Scholastic, Inc.

Age range: Infants and Toddlers 
Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Henry's Freedom Box 

by Ellen Levine

The true story of Henry Brown, a slave who mails himself to freedom, introduces readers to slavery in this user-friendly, yet poignant, story. Readers take an amazing journey with Henry as he leaves his family to go to Philadelphia. This historical fiction picture book is a must-read for all ages to remind us of the history of the U.S. Scholastic Press

Grades: PreK-3
Recommended by: Dr. Cari Bernadowski

Hush! A Thai Lullaby 

by Minfong Ho and Holly Meade

This beautifully illustrated book tells of a mother trying to put her child to sleep for the night. The only distraction, animals making noises in the night air. The mother gently asks each animal to “hush” so her child may sleep. This 1997 Caldecott Honor Book is a lovely lullaby for children ages 2-6. Scholastic

Grades: Preschool
Recommended by: Dr. Nathan Taylor

Cássio’s Day: From Dusk to Dawn in a Brazilian Village 

by Maria de Fatima Campos 

This photographic information book by photographer Maria de Fatima Campos is part of a larger series examining the daily lives of children from around the world. Cássio’s day includes images of him attending school, gardening, buying candy, and being with his friends and family. The book illustrates the commonality and differences of all children. Frances Lincoln Children's Books

Grades: Elementary School
Recommended by: Dr. Nathan Taylor

Esperanza Rising  

by Pam Munoz Ryan

This story chronicles a young girl and her family as they immigrate to the California in 1930. The murder of her father forces the once well-off family to arrive in the U.S. as migrant workers, contrary to the privilege they were once accustomed. The story teaches readers the hardships of immigrants during the Depression, as well as, a coming of age story of a 13-year old girl. Young girls find the story easily relatable. Scholastic

Grades: 2-7 
Recommended by: Dr. Cari Bernadowski

The Name Jar 

by Yangsook Choi 

Unhei is teased for her unique named and embarrassed as she arrives for her first day of school. When she arrives at school, she enlists the help of classmates to come up with an American name. Students place names in the “name jar” to help her in her quest to fit in with her peers. In the end, she decides her name is what makes her special. Dragon Fly Books

Grades: K-2 
Recommended by: Dr. Cari Bernadowski

Throw Your Tooth on the Roof  

by Selby Beeler

What do children in Costa Rica do when they lose a tooth? Does the tooth fairy come? Traditions from all over the world that every preschooler and elementary child can relate to; and illustrates the point that although people of different cultures have many differences, we also have many commonalities. HMH Books for Young Readers

Age Range: 4-8
Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Snow Queen  

by Hans Christian Andersen

Retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story. The illustrations, by Vladyslav Yerko, who also illustrated the Harry Potter books, are gorgeous and transport the reader to another world. This book won an Andersen House Award as one of the best children's books of 2006. Russian and Ukrainian versions available on request. A-BA-BA-HA-LA-MA-HA Publishers

Age Range: 4-8    
Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

The Funny Little Women  

by Arlene Mosel

Illustrated by Blair Lent was the 1973 Caldecott winner. It is based on a Japanese folk tale about a little woman who, while chasing a dumpling, encounters wicked creatures. While unwitting them, the funny little woman becomes the richest woman in Japan. Puffin

Age Range: 4-8  
Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Follow the Drinking Gourd  

by Jeanette Winters

The story is based on an old American folksong Follow the Drinking Gourd. The song/story depicts how the song was used as a code for southern slaves to go north into Ohio and Canada through the underground railroad. The actual song sheet is included in the book. Dragonfly Books

Grades: Elementary School 
Recommended by: Dr. Shelly Haser

Boys without Names  

by Kashmira Sheth 

Gopal, an 11-year old boy, becomes enslaved when his family arrives in the City of Mumbai to find work. After endless mistreatment and devastation, Gopal must convince the other boys to escape the city sweatshop. This story of child labor is intriguing and mystifying and will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Balzer & Bray

Age Range: 9-13   
Recommended by: Dr. Cari Bernadowski

A Long Walk to Water 

by Linda Sue Park

This true story takes place in Sudan in 1985 when an explosion rips through a school house forcing a young boy, to leave everything he knows and leaves behind a life on the run. Salva documents his journey to refugee camps throughout Africa and eventually comes to America. This story of the will genuinely touch your heart and leave an imprint on your soul. HMH Books for Young Readers

Age Range: 10-13 
Recommended by: Dr. Cari Bernadowski

Out of My Mind 

by Sharon Draper

A New York Times bestseller. It tells the story of Arnold Spirit, who leaves his familiar Indian reservation in Spokane, WA to attend public school. The only other Indian at the school is the school mascot. Throughout the book, Arnold wonders what constitutes community, identity and tribe. The story is based on the experiences of the author, Sherman Alexie. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Grades: Middle School
Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood 

by Marjane Satrapi

This autographical graphic novel tells the story of a young Iranian girl of educated, middle-class parents coming of age during the Iranian Revolution. The story follows Marji to Vienna, Austria where her parents think she will be safer and free to express herself. However, Marji finds life still restrictive and people too focused on being superficial. Pantheon

Grades: Middle/High School   
Recommended by: Dr. Nathan Taylor

The Poisonwood Bible 

by Barbara Kingsolver

Kingsolver tells the story of Nathan Price, an evangelical minister who moves his wife and four daughters to the Belgian Congo in 1959. The story is told from varying viewpoints of the members of the Price family. The clash of cultures is a theme woven throughout the book, as well as an examination of the question: What is really important for survival material items or something else? Harper Perennial Modern Classics

Grades: High School and Beyond 
Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Nervous Conditions 

by Tsitsi Dangarembga  

Themes: Rhodesian history, colonialism, gender roles A semi-autographical novel by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions tells the story of a Rhodesian (present day Zimbabwe) family in the 1960s. Living in a post-colonial society, the main character Tambu must negotiate her past with her dreams for tomorrow. Tambu seeks to acquire an education, but must overcome obstacles to achieve this goal. The novel speaks to the tension that Tambu feels as it relates to race, class, gender, and cultures outside of her own. Lynne Rienner Publishers

Grades: High School and Beyond     
Recommended by: Dr. Nathan Taylor

Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference 

by Warren St. John

Based on a true story, Warren St. John explores the relationship between a small town near Atlanta, Georgia and a group of refugees recently relocated there. A soccer coach serves as a bridge between the two cultures and helps the young kids and the town acclimate to one another. Spiegel & Grau

Grades: Middle School/High School 
Recommended by: Dr. Nathan Taylor

Books About Children With Special Needs

Danny’s Song 

by Betty Ann Nadas

This classic picture book tells the story of Danny, an 8 year old boy with a physical disability. The story references some of the challenges that he faces, but focuses on the things he can do. It shows how Danny and his brother and sister are alike. As a native Pittsburgher, I grew up with Betty Ann Nadas, aka Mrs. McFeely, through watching Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood. Danny’s Song is part of the series I am, I can, I will. It teaches sensitivity to others. Although it is a classic, it is still available on book and cassette. It is also on the Accelerated Reader list. Check your local library.

Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

Moses Goes to a Concert 

by Issac Millman

One of a series (Moses Sees a Play, Moses Goes to the Circus, Moses Goes to School), this book tells the story of a group of students who are deaf/hard of hearing going to a concert. They see and meet a percussionist who is also deaf. The drawings illustrate the events of the day and include signs of key ideas. When writing and illustrating this series, Mr. Millman sought input from teachers at a school for the deaf in NY. As a result, this book portrayed the characters who are deaf from a cultural perspective. I loved that it included a deaf role model as well. It closes with the positive message that with hard work, you can be anything that you want to be! Farrar, Straus, & Giroux 2002

Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

Mama Zooms 

by Jane Cowen-Fletcher

The line drawings of this picture book illustrate the adventures a young boy has with his mother in her ‘zooming machine’ or wheelchair. It ends with her tucking him into bed and the boy saying “then mama is just my mama and that’s how I like her best”. I like this picture book because it promotes understanding and acceptance of physical disabilities. Some young children with a disability think that they will not have a disability when they grow up because they have never seen an adult with a disability. This book portrays a mother with a disability as a positive image doing caring, imaginative activities with her son. It is inspired by the author’s sister who uses a wheelchair since being injured in an accident. Scholastic, Inc. 1995

Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

Out of My Mind 

by Sharon Draper

This fiction book is written in first-person narrative, from Melody’s viewpoint. She is a 5th grade girl with cerebral palsy. Melody is very smart, but unable to show it as she is non-verbal. “Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind” until she is introduced to a voice output device. Through some realistic and heart-warming events, we see Melody struggle with her physical difficulties and typical teen challenges. She shows great strength of character which was developed through strong relationships with her family, neighbor, and teachers. In the end Melody realizes that she is no different than any other middle school student, she faces challenges, wants to fit in, and just wants a friend. I absolutely love this book - it will have you laughing, crying, and everything in between. It can be unsettling at times, but thoroughly uplifting as Ms. Draper weaves a story about a young girl finding her voice, both literally (through assistive technology) and figuratively (through advocating for herself). This book illustrates the complexities and challenges of physical inclusion and social inclusion. There is a teacher and student study guide at the author’s website, www.sharondraper.com. Also, this book is on the AR list. Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2010

Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

Wonderstruck 

by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck is both a narrative (Ben’s story) and a picture book (Roses’s story). Their stories are set in different time periods but are connected through various events. After Ben’s mother dies, he sets off on an adventure to find his father. During different times in Rose’s life, she searches for members of her family. Both find refuge and answers at a museum. Communication is a major theme in the book presentation, narrative, and story lines. Ben was born with a hearing loss in one ear, then lost hearing in his other ear due to being hit by lightning (a little far-fetched). Other aspects of the book (communication, schooling, silent movies, technologies, etc.) are culturally sensitive and accurate. The author sought input from the deaf community. The weaving of story themes was beautifully done in pictures and words. The style of the book held your attention throughout. For teaching ideas and a discussion guide, visit the Teaching with Selznick site (be sure to review the essays) Scholastic Press 2011

Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah: Champion for Ghana’s Disabled 

by Leanne Currie-McGhee

Through the life experiences of Yeboah, who was born with a physical disability, the reader learns of the prejudicial views toward and oppressive treatment of individuals with disabilities in Ghana. Yeboah’s mother told him “Don’t let anyone put you down because of your disability”. He took this advice to heart as he hopped miles to school, later walked 150 miles for employment, and then biked 370 miles across Ghana. Yeboah had a desire to advocate for those with disabilities and approached the Challenged Athletes Foundation in CA for support. He told them that if “you take care of me, I am going to take care of thousands more just like me”. Through this organization and political leaders in U.S. and Ghana, he worked to facilitate change in the treatment of individuals with disabilities. The book finishes with a section entitled ‘What You Can Do’ which explains ways that people of any age can help to raise awareness or funds for people with disabilities in Ghana. Readers might also be interested in the documentary of Yeboah’s life, Emmanuel’s Gift. KidHaven

Grades: 4th and up, Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

The Red Pencil 

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Through this first-person verse novel, Amira shares the everyday experiences of her family’s life in a farming village in South Dufar, Sudan. Her sister Leila, was born with a physical disability, and her experiences reflect some of the stereotypes within their culture. The family’s life is forever changed when Janjaweeds attack their village and the family flees to the Kalma refugee camp. A relief worker there gives Amira a red pencil and yellow paper and she begins a voyage to literacy and looking at things in new ways similar to the game her father taught her “What Else is Possible”. This book has won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. (For those interested in using this book in the classroom, an Educator’s Guide is available here. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Age Range: 9 and up, Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin 

by Jen Bryant

This beautifully illustrated book is a biography of a native Pennsylvania African American painter. From early childhood, Horace loved to draw. He left school in 8th grade to work and support his family, yet his love of drawing continued. He served in the Army during World War I and continued to draw about his experiences. He was injured in the war and was physically disabled, unable to use his right arm, nevertheless his love of drawing and painting continued and his work can be seen throughout the U.S. today. It has won numerous awards: The Schneider Family Book Award for its depiction of disabilities, Sibert Informational Book Award, Caldecott Honor, and ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

Favorite Books

Pete the Cat I Love My White Socks 

by Eric Litwin

Pete the cat has a new pair of white shoes. He enjoys wearing his shoes and stepping in different things that changes the color of his new white shoes. As he steps in everything from strawberries to mud puddles, his white shoes change different colors but he doesn't care. He keeps singing his song!! Kids enjoy this story as they predict what color his shoes will turn. You can also go to the author website and listen to the author sing the song that Pete sings in the story. Harper Collins Publishers 2008

This book has a wide range of appeal and provides lots of opportunities for reader participation. You can sing with Pete or guess what color his shoes will turn based on what he steps in. You can visit the publisher's website to hear the story and find out how the author sings Pete's song. Repetition and rhyming makes Pete a favorite. All of Pete’s adventures are a big hit in my house.

Recommended by: Dr. Cari Bernadowski

My Princess Boy 

by Cheryl Kilodavis

This nonfiction picture book tells the story of Dyson, a gender non-conforming young boy from a multiracial family. Dyson loves to play dress up. He likes to climb trees in his tiara, likes to wear a dress to his birthday party, and has pink as his favorite color. His friends, older brother, and mom and dad loves it when he dresses up, dances around, and twirls like a ballerina. Dyson if filled with love and acceptance by his family and friends. Simon & Shuster 2009

This nonfiction picture book tells the story of valuing all human beings, a useful lesson for children living in a diverse world. The author wrote the book after her own son wanted to wear a dress to school. Cheryl Kilodavies was concerned about her son being bullied and tormented at school. The book was to be an education tool for her son’s classmates and teachers. Since then the book has appeared on the Amazon bestseller list for children’s picture books. The book serves as an educational tool for educators and families to teach about love and acceptance.

Recommended by: Dr. Nathan Taylor

The Napping House 

by Audrey Wood

It is a dreary & rainy outside & Granny is sleeping in a cozy bed. However, the bed is so cozy everyone wants to nap in it! HMH Books for Young Readers 2000

This book uses humor & repetition and will engage even the youngest listeners. Eye catching illustrations accompany the fun text. Sure to please everyone.

Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Brian’s Bird 

by Patricia Davis

It is Brian’s eighth birthday, and his family bought him a parakeet. He’s named it Scratchy, because that’s what it feels like when the bird sits on his finger. Brian has been blind since he was four. He can’t see Scratchy, but he can play with him and teach him to talk. Brian’s absent-minded brother leaves the front door open, and Scratchy flies outside. Will Brian be able to get him back? Shen’s Books 2000

Recommended by: Dr. Shellie Hipsky

Pictures of Hollis Woods 

by Patricia Reilly-Giff

Twelve year old Hollis Woods was abandoned as a baby and has been in too many foster homes. The defiant and rebellious Hollis is sent to live with the Regan family, but fear of attachment and emotional challenges from her past lead her to run away from them. She finds an eccentric elderly artist who takes her in; however, the spunky artist shows signs of early Alzheimer’s. As the artist’s mental condition worsens, Hollis is faced with complex overwhelming challenges within herself and those around her. Finally, she finds her way back to the Regan family through self-discovery and courage. Yearling 2004

I always liked books that had young teenage girls as the underdog in non-traditional families and situations. I liked books that I could see courage and strength in pre-teen and teen girls. I read Pictures of Hollis Woods as an adult and appreciate the raw realistic emotions Hollis demonstrates throughout her story of self-discovery. It’s not a perfect ending kind of book – just like life.

Recommended by: Dr. Shelly Haser

Out of My Mind 

by Sharon Draper

This fiction book is written in first-person narrative, from Melody’s viewpoint. She is a 5th grade girl with cerebral palsy. Melody is very smart, but unable to show it as she is non-verbal. “Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind” until she is introduced to a voice output device. Through some realistic and heart-warming events, we see Melody struggle with her physical difficulties and typical teen challenges. In the end Melody realizes that she is no different than any other middle school student, she faces challenges, wants to fit in, and just wants a friend. Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2010

I absolutely love this book - it will have you laughing, crying, and everything in between. It can be unsettling at times, but thoroughly uplifting as Ms. Draper weaves a story about a young girl finding her voice, both literally (through assistive technology) and figuratively (through advocating for herself). This book illustrates the complexities and challenges of physical inclusion and social inclusion. There is a teacher and student study guide at the author’s website, www.sharondraper.com . Also, this book is on the Accelerated Reader list.

Recommended by: Dr. Vicki Donne

Laughing All the Way 

by George Shannon

A wonderful story about duck’s bad day and how duck’s habit of mixing up letter sounds when he talks helps him get out of trouble while……….laughing all the way. Houghton Mifflin 1992

This is a great book that allows children to see the fun to be had with language and word play. Also – the silliness in the book is a lot of fun. Kids will want this book read again and again. r. My daughter and husband read this book over and over and the giggling could be heard throughout the house!

Recommended by: Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth

Holiday Books

The Day the Crayons Came Home 

by Oliver Jeffers

In the Daywalk’s first book, The Day the Crayons Quit, Duncan faces the challenges of dealing with upset crayons that won’t do their job. In this sequel, Duncan faces a whole cast of colorful characters that need rescued from overuse or misuse. In this hysterical sequel, the crayons list their reasons for coming home to the crayon box that keep readers laughing. Children and adults who are fans of the first book won’t be disappointed with the characters in this humor-filled second book.

Ages 5 to 8

Not a Box 

by Antoinette Portis

A box is just a box . . . unless it's not a box. From mountain to rocket ship, a small rabbit shows that a box will go as far as the imagination allows.

Inspired by a memory of sitting in a box on her driveway with her sister, Antoinette Portis captures the thrill when pretend feels so real that it actually becomes real—when the imagination takes over and inside a cardboard box, a child is transported to a world where anything is possible.

Preschool

Red: A Crayon's Story 

by Michael Hall

Red: A Crayon’s Story, by New York Times bestselling author Michael Hall, tells the story of a crayon that is mistakenly labeled as red but can only draw in blue. While others try to “fix” or ridicule the crayon, a purple crayon comes along and lets the crayon color the way it wants, in blue. This touching story provides insight in the value of being true to one’s self and the wonders of being unique.

Preschool and Early Childhood

Daisy's Crazy Thanksgiving 

by Margery Cuyler

Daisy discovers that her Thanksgiving day with the extended family is crazier than that with her parents. Daisy learns to appreciate her family and maybe through reading this book, children in grades 2-4 might learn to appreciate their own family’s quirks and craziness.

Ages 7 to 9

Snowmen at Christmas 

by Caralyn Buehner

Through rhymes and beautiful pictures, a little boy shares how he thinks snowmen spend Christmas (singing, playing games, eating ice cream and snow cones, and visiting with snowman, Kris Kringle)

Ages 3 to 7

Jeremy’s Dreidel 

by Ellie Gellman

As Jeremy makes a dreidel for his father who is blind, the reader learns about Hanukkah origins and traditions and also about living successfully with vision loss. The book closes with directions for making a dreidel, playing the dreidel game, and information about Braille.

Ages 5 to 9

The Mouth with a Mind of Its Own 

by Patricia L. Mervine

This is a really cute, funny story about a boy, Matthew, who thinks clearly about what he wants to say, but his thoughts don’t come out in a way that others can understand. The school speech-language therapist helps Matthew with exercises to get his speech muscles/helpers to talk to each other.

Ages 8 to 12

Rules 

by Cynthia Lord

This fiction book is told from Catherine’s viewpoint. She is a 12 year old girl whose brother, David, has autism. In order to help her brother David fit in, Catherine develops a list of rules for him to follow, such as “No toys in the fish tank”. She goes through some typical adolescent experiences and in the end realizes that being different is ‘normal’. At times the storyline is heart-wrenching and other times it is just plain funny. The book has won numerous awards.

Ages 8 to 12

All by Self: A Father’s Story About a Differently Abled Child 

by Ron Taylor

A really touching story, told from a father’s perspective, on his relationship with his son, Micah, who has cerebral palsy. He shared some of the things that Micah couldn’t do, but also those things that he could do (differently-abled). One of those was to allow his father to see the world around him in a new way. Very pretty black and white illustrations and poetic writing style make this an appealing book. There is an expanded adult version of the story at the back of the book as well.

Ages 8 to 12

The Fault in Our Stars 

by John Green

Forget the movie and get the book! Excellent contemporary coming-of-age read on friendship, resilience, life, death and young love.

Young Adult/Teen

On the Night You Were Born 

by Nancy Tillman

I love to read this book at holiday time when there is frequent discussion of a special baby being born. It reminds us of how each baby is special. It is a great bedtime book. Feiwel & Friends 2006

Ages 3 to 8

Llama llama Jingle Bells 

by Anna Dewdney

I just love llama alliteration. This is a fun book that reinforces word patterns and sounds. Llama mama makes the holidays fun. Board book for preschoolers and toddlers. Viking Children's Books 2013

Ages 4-8

The Polar Express 

by Chris Van Allsburg

This book has it all: a Christmas story, a mystery, a journey, fantasy, danger, hope, redemption. And -- it's a children's book. There is a visually stunning movie as well but the illustrations stand on their own. Caldecott Medal Winner. Houghton Mifflin 

School age

Where the Sidewalk Ends 

by Shel Silverstein

This classically silly collection of poems will keep children giggling, rhyming, a requesting their favorites. Harper and Row Publishers 1974

Ages 6-8

Splendiferous Christmas (Fancy Nancy) 

by Jane O'Connor

Young ladies who love the fancy side of life will broaden their vocabularies with this holiday book that includes "elegant wrapping paper, festive decorations, and Christmas cookies with sprinkles". It will also open their minds to the fact that life doesn't always go as we may plan and we need to learn to be flexible and improvise! HarperCollins Publishers 2009

Ages 4-8

The Snowy Day 

by Ezra Jack Keats

This is a classic picture book! The story is about a boy and his adventure in the city on the first snowfall of the season. The pictures are simple and expressive. I have always liked to read this book to children because they generally add to the story by talking about the pictures, the boy, and their own experiences in snow. Caldecott Medal winner. Published by Puffin 1976

Ages 2-6

The House without a Christmas Tree 

by Gail Rock

Great themes running throughout this book that many elementary kids can relate to - single parent and extended family, melancholy moods at Christmas times, family history, problem solving, and acceptance. The story takes place in the 1940s so there's a history part, too, that adds to the plot. I liked reading this book myself as a young girl and still have it. Bantam/Skylark 1974

Ages 6-11

This Next New Year 

by Janet S. Wong

Illustrated by Yangsook Choi. An Oppenheim Toy Portfolio GOLD Award and A Nick Jr. "Best Holiday Book". A young boy shares his anticipation and hope for the upcoming Lunar New Year The story highlights how people from a variety of backgrounds celebrate the Lunar New Year. This lyrically told story is matched by the vivid and captivating illustrations of Yangsook Choi. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2000

Ages 7-10

Baboushka and the Three Kings 

by Ruth Robbins Illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov

1961 Caldecott Medal winner for illustrations. The story is based on a Russian folk tale about an older peasant woman (Baboushka) who stays home to finish her chores instead of going with the three wise men. She regrets her decision and tries to find the wise men the next day but she is unsuccessful. Every year, she continues her search, and in the process delivers gifts to young children. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2000

Ages Preschool-6

This Is the Star 

by Joyce Dunbar; illustrated by Gary Blythe

A simple retelling of the three wise men following the star. The book is written in a repetitive and rhyming style which makes it fun for children to follow along as it is read to them. The illustrations are each a full page and a beautiful addition to the story. Random House Publishers

Preschool-6

Llama Llama Holiday Drama 

by Anna Dewdney

This book is a holiday favorite in my house. Llama makes holiday shopping almost unbearable, and although children find the use of rhyme and alliteration appealing, parents find it’s hysterically close to true. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated

Ages 4-8

The Day the Crayons Quit 

by Drew Daywalt; Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I recommend this book for every child’s collection as a back to school must, but also a gift that will keep kids laughing all year long. Soon to be made into a movie, this book introduces children to personification in a unique and entertaining manner. A must have in your home library. Philomel 2013

Ages 4-8

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story 

by Albert Whitman Prairie; Illustrated by Daniel Minter

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are taught to readers in an interesting and engaging fashion. This story about brothers is surely a beautiful story to share with family and friends during the season. This book was honored with several awards including; The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2002 and Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 2001. Philomel 2013

Ages 7-10

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama 

by Selina Alko

This book is a great vehicle for teaching children about the marriage of religious and cultural differences. Lively illustrations bring the story to life in a story that is so common in many household. Knopf Books for Young Readers 2012

Ages 5-8

Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles 

by Tami Lehman-Wilzig and Nicole Katzman

The main character of the book, Nathan a young boy with autism, and the story events were based on the author’s experiences with her own son. As two families share the Hanukkah rituals (lighting the menorah, playing the dreidel game, singing songs, and eating traditional foods), the reader is introduced to the different way Nathan interacts with his environment. The other characters learn empathy for those who are different and to celebrate those differences. It accurately portrays characteristics of some students with autism. It is also available as an e-book. Kar-Ben Publishing 2011

Ages 5-9

Dear Santa, Please Come to the 19th Floor 

by Yin; illustrated by Chris Soentpiet

The author weaves some funny moments into this touching Christmas story set in a high rise apartment building in a poverty area of New York City. Willy and his friend Carlos, a young boy with a physical disability who uses a wheelchair, despair over their current circumstances - Santa never comes to their neighborhood. Willy secretly sends an email to Santa Claus asking him to come to their apartment on the 19th floor. When Santa arrives, he brings hope and some funny gifts to the tenants of the building. Although the picture book would appeal to children 5 years of age, the story itself would appeal to older children as well. Published by Puffin 2011

Ages 5-8

The Watchmaker Who Saved Christmas 

by Bruce Whatley

Peter is a boy with a hearing loss who signs and reads lips. He and his mother live behind a watchmaker’s shop. The day before Christmas, a mysterious old man brings an old watch in for repairs. The watchmaker needs Peter’s help, and hearing aid, to repair the watch. On Christmas Eve, the old man returns and Peter and the watchmaker learn that they have repaired Santa’s special watch that slows down time so he can deliver all the gifts. Random House Australia 2012

Ages 6-12

A Real Christmas This Year 

by Karen Lynn Williams

We like to support writers from Pittsburgh and Ms. Williams has both taught and written in our area. This book is about Megan, a middle school girl, who is trying to find a place at school and within her family. Her brother, Kevin, has multiple disabilities and his needs often create chaos in the household. The recent breakage of his assistive technology and its effects threatens to disrupt their Christmas festivities. This book realistically portrays family life and is often recommended for siblings of children with special needs. Published by Clarion Books 1995

Ages 9-15