Explore Our Six New Winter Titles

Read to Them is proud to share six new winter titles that have been added to our catalog. Each of these titles is also supported by our regular resource materials and online supplements that can be found on the Digital Resource Hub. We invite you to take a look at the blurbs for each book below, and hope that one – or more! – of these titles will be a fantastic future read for your school community.

 

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin (Sweet Spot)  

“Finding yourself means deciding what your values are, what you want to do – that kind of thing.” 

In Grace Lin’s own words,“​​The book is fiction, but almost everything had a real life inspiration.” Spend the Year of the Dog with ten year old Pacy as she endeavors to find herself, only to discover: a new best friend, a skill that blooms into a life-long talent, and the ups and downs of being one of two Taiwanese-American girls in an elementary school.

This book is perfect for introducing students to a culture that may be pretty different from their own. With The Year of the Dog, readers dive into Chinese traditions and customs made accessible for all grade levels, creating curiosity and developing empathy as each facet of Pacy’s culture unspools on the page. And if any kids are budding writers and illustrators, Pacy’s story of self-discovery is sure to keep their dreams alive.

 

Cody Harmon, King of Pets by Claudia Mills (Intro and Sweet Spot)

“What kind of pet show would it be if Cody Harmon, king of pets, couldn’t enter any pets at all?”

Cody Harmon really struggles with writing essays, math quizzes, and really anything related to school. When Principal Boone announces that the school will be hosting a pet show, though, Cody knows his time to shine has arrived. There’s only one problem: the entry fee to the pet show. With a huge heart and a menagerie of animals to choose from, Cody offers up his pets to classmates who don’t have their own, which somehow brings more challenges Cody’s way. 

Cody Harmon will appeal to students who face academic difficulties, who may need encouragement to shine a light on their strengths that lay beyond the classroom. The complicated situation – and its resolution – between Cody and his best friend, Tobit, present a very real moral dilemma not to be missed.  And the hijinks at the Pet Show Celebration offer a hilarious celebration of animals – including a pet pig!

 

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech (Intro and Sweet Spot)

“Okay,” Louie said. “I accept the mission.”

“What mission?”

“To save this pitiful motherless donkey.”

When Louie’s father brings home Winslow, Louie endeavors to take care of this sickly little donkey until it manages to recover. He doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures, but that doesn’t stop Louie from trying. His older brother, Gus, is far away in the army, and caring for Winslow makes Louie feel closer to Gus for the first time in ages. With the help of his new friend, Nora, Louie helps Winslow grow… and even faces a challenge he never could’ve anticipated: letting go. 

In true Sharon Creech form, Saving Winslow grants readers the opportunity to grapple with big feelings in an accessible way. Loss is always hovering in the book, but Creech provides a fine balance with the light-hearted. Older students will find plenty to discuss while younger students will enjoy Saving Winslow as a quick read aloud with loads of substance. If you’re looking for a title that’ll touch your heart and guide your school community on a journey of finding one’s purpose, this is the book for you.

 

Wish by Barbara O’Connor (Intermediate and Middle School)

“You can’t judge people for the mistakes they make. You judge them for how they fix those mistakes.”

Due to circumstances out of her control, Charlie Reese is sent to live with relatives she barely knows in Colby, North Carolina. She’s made the same wish every day since the fourth grade, and this move makes it seem unlikely that her wish will ever come true. However, to Charlie’s surprise, her aunt and uncle are the first folks in an unexpected line of love and support; there’s a set of heartfelt neighbors, a delightfully eccentric boy, and a skinny stray dog called Wishbone. In time, Charlie’s wish does come true – just not in the way that she anticipates.

This novel offers a way for kids to work through big feelings (namely anger) in a way that’s constructive and can be used outside the classroom. (Charlie’s friend, Howard, gives her a code word to help cool her temper.) Stories about foster care – even in children’s literature! – can be dark and sad, but this is a feel-good story filled with hope, and appreciation, and no small amount of love. And even a happy ending!

 

The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett (Intermediate)

“On your first day at a new school in a new town, you got to decide what kind of kid you were going to be.” 

Miles is not happy to be moving to a town that’s known for one thing – cows. In his old school, Miles was considered the best prankster, but a rival, Niles, is already the reigning prank master in Yawnea, so trying to reclaim that title in Yawnee Valley seems to be impossible. Still, Miles has so much knowledge in the art of pranking, it seems wasteful not to try… and once these two stop pulling pranks on each other, Miles and Niles team up to pull off the Biggest Prank (Possibly) Ever. 

Even the most reluctant readers are sure to find themselves captivated by the clever, off-the-wall pranks Miles and Niles think up. The tone of Terrible Two is consistently up-beat and its humor will appeal across age groups with everything from the cow-centric fun facts to dead-pan zingers from Miles. It also turns out there’s even a code to pranking with honor. The illustrations throughout the novel capture the characters’ personalities and the narrative’s high energy, something that is sure to aid younger readers in a school read aloud.

 

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez (Intermediate and Middle School – available in Spanish!)

“Turning an insult into something you embrace is a good way of empowering yourself.”

On her first day at a new school, Malú dresses as her most authentic self: winged eyeliner, dark lipstick, a Blondie t-shirt, and silver Chuck Taylors. It upsets her when she’s pulled from class for being a distraction. But it’s not so bad, not when it sets Malú on a path to assembling a punk band of like-minded misfits to audition for the school talent show. When they’re barred from entering for being “too loud”, Malú and her pals are determined to launch their own Alterna-Fiesta, instead.

The First Rule of Punk is a brilliant way to encourage students to let their voices be heard, to embrace the non-traditional, and soothe those who feel like being different is a bad thing. Given that Malú is half-Mexican, the novel highlights Mexican traditions, foods, and a brief history of Mexican-American immigrants that is often glossed over. Punk is also punctuated with great food, great music, and zines, a homemade and surefire way to encourage students to express themselves through mixed media.


Take a Look at Our New Fall Titles

Read to Them is always looking to add new, exciting titles to our library – as you might recall from the book selection overview piece. We invite you to explore these seven titles, from both debut authors and creators established on the KidLit scene, with your school communities. You can find blurbs for each book below and further explore Read to Them’s catalog by visiting our featured book lists

Crenshaw

by Katherine Applegate

“If you ever have to live in your car, you are going to have some problems with feet.” 

In the past, Jackson and his family lived in the family van before moving into an apartment. Now they are facing homelessness again. And though both his parents are loving and supportive, Jackson is worried.

Which is where Crenshaw comes in. Crenshaw is a large, imaginary, talking cat who likes purple jelly beans. Can Crenshaw magically solve all the problems in Jack’s complicated life? No. But, he can offer support, and ask sassy, challenging questions that help Jackson think differently about his childhood.

 

The 14th Goldfish

by Jennifer Holm

“A PhD lasts a lot longer than love.”

What would you do if you discovered your grandfather had turned into a 13-year-old wise-cracking kid?

Grandpa Melvin is a scientist and he’s discovered a cure for aging. (It involves jellyfish.) He appears on his daughter’s doorstep looking for help breaking into his lab to recover his research. He ends up enrolled in middle school with his 11-year-old granddaughter, Ellie!

 

Because of the Rabbit

by Cynthia Lord

“It happened once…”

That’s how Emma’s grandfather – Pépère – always began his enchanting, lesson-filled stories about the trickster rabbit, Monsieur Lapin. Emma also receives sensitive and winning support from her older brother, Owen.

Emma’s biggest concern is the fate of her rescued rabbit, Lapi. Not only does she have to care for Lapi, but she must also determine if Lapi has a former owner. This turns out to be a dicey ethical question as Emma wants to find a way to keep him.

 

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

by Janae Marks

“To my Little Tomato…”

Marcus writes to his daughter, Zoe, from prison. But if Zoe’s mother has anything to say about, Zoe won’t receive these letters, and she certainly won’t be allowed to respond. Zoe’s desire to build a relationship with her father lies at the heart of this novel, but there is so much more.

Zoe’s relationship with Marcus grows through letters, recipes, and playlists. The novel takes a sharp turn when Zoe decides to take on the mission of proving his innocence. With the help of her good friend Trevor, she sets off to find an alibi witness and engage the Innocence Project. The story deals with serious themes of friendship, family, and justice, along with cupcakes, basketball, and Stevie Wonder. 

 

Malamander

by Thomas Taylor

“But in a place like Eerie-on-Sea, legends can sometimes have a little more… bite.” 

This is a lesson that Herbert “Herbie” Lemon, Lost-and-Founder of the Grand Nautilus Hotel, quickly discovers when he learns about the fearsome Malamander, a half-fish, half-man, that’s kept the town of Eerie-on-Sea wary of misty evenings for generations. 

Get ready to embark on a larger-than-life adventure, especially if you are one who enjoys an appreciation for things that are just a little bit strange. 

 

Ways to Make Sunshine

by Renée Watson

“Be who we named you to be.”

Ryan Hart is full of spit and fire, and a drive to do right by everyone. Yet somehow in moving to a new neighborhood, and worrying about her father’s new job, and fretting about the fourth-grade talent show, well, little things can go awry.

We invite you to share Ryan Hart with your school and families. Every child should experience authentic characters like Ryan, and all the things that make them so relatable – their attitude, warmth and generosity, mistakes, ups and downs, lessons, and their resolutions.

 

Harbor Me

by Jacqueline Woodson

“Always remember, when you are with your people, you are home.”

Welcome to the ARRT Room – A Room To Talk. Here, six Brooklyn middle school students are afforded one hour each Friday to talk amongst themselves – no adults present.

It’s a racially and economically diverse group of students, dealing with their own challenges. They use the time and freedom to get to know each other – to find out where each of them is coming from and what each of them is dealing with.


Book Selection at Read to Them

Finding a good book is just as profound as the act of delving into a story. In fact, Read to Them’s staff is constantly on the search for books that students, teachers, and families will all enjoy. It’s a long and careful process, one that wouldn’t be possible without the tireless efforts of Read to Them’s Book Selection Committee. 

The Book Selection Committee (BSC)  is currently composed of nine people: three Read to Them staff members, a member of Read to Them’s board of directors, and five educators from three different states. Together, this group dives into the ever-expanding pool of children’s literature to further enrich Read to Them’s library of titles. 

“First and foremost, we are looking for great stories,” Sara Hudson, Programs Specialist at Read to Them and BSC member, explains. “Books that make you sigh at the end, books that get you immersed in the narrative, books with characters that you want to spend the day with. We are also looking for books that will resonate with a whole school community.” 

The BSC’s goal is to find titles that will keep the Intro, Sweet Spot, Intermediate, and Middle School book lists balanced. It is hoped that new books selected and recommended for Read to Them will be diverse and increase the opportunities for students to see themselves reflected on the page. It’s also important that new books are available in Spanish for schools with Spanish-speaking families. 

We are also always looking for new authors with fresh voices to add to the list,” Hudson says.  “Renée Watson is one such author. We are adding Ways to Make Sunshine in August to our Sweet Spot list, and we are looking at some of her other books for middle school readers.” 

The Book Selection Committee spends six months working to produce each new slate of titles. This diligent process begins with a getting-to-know-you meeting among the members where introductions are traded and any new committee members are welcomed aboard. A second session is held to showcase the books under consideration, a list of titles that accumulates in a stack of approximately 75 titles. During the third meeting, the potential titles list is narrowed to around two dozen titles. 

During the first pruning, every contender is read by at least two people. By the third, pivotal meeting, the remaining books are read by the whole committee to prepare for the final cut.  

Hudson explains: “Committee members submit scorecards for the books they read with their impressions of the book on different characteristics – plot, characters, je ne sais quoi, and any red flags that the committee should consider.”

There are multiple reasons a book might not pass from one stage of the selection process to the next. For instance, a book may seem promising to one committee member, but fall flat among the rest. The book could also be too long, such as a 350 page text for a Sweet Spot contender. A prospective title could also be axed if it doesn’t work for One School, One Book. One such title was Gene Luen Yang’s Dragon Hoops, a graphic novel with wide appeal to many readers, but isn’t a good fit for a school-wide reading event. 

“We have to be cognizant of the wide range of life experiences of a school population,” Hudson says. “Some topics might be too challenging for a school-wide reading event. We want those books in school libraries, classrooms, and the hands of readers. But, we also need to respect the needs of our schools.” 

Once any major red flags clear the BSC’s judgment, a final meeting is held to reach an agreement on the five or six titles that will be added to Read to Them’s available titles. 

Though there is much debate over which titles make the final cut, Hudson reassures that: “The debate process is spirited and lively, but also respectful. We have had good luck on coming to a consensus on our final list.” 

The BSC aims to select titles that everyone is enthusiastic – not divided – about. Read to Them aims for this enthusiasm to be immediately accessible to school leaders who consider suggested Read to Them titles and pick up new ones, too. 

Some books that didn’t quite make it through the last round of selection are carried over for consideration in the next cycle. Many are strong contenders, but their content or theme didn’t quite fit with the other top selections. In a time when children’s literature is richer than ever, though, there’s hardly a shortage of new, poignant work to pair up and select from. 

“It truly is a golden age for children’s literature,” Hudson reflects. “Today’s authors write with such authenticity, compassion, and respect for their young readers. They take their responsibility to these young people seriously, and they are writing books that truly will change lives. Students and families will have deep and meaningful experiences reading these books together.”

Do you have a title, series, or author in mind? You can use the book suggestion tab on the Read to Them website to suggest prospective books you’d like the Book Selection Committee to consider. Or, if you’d like, reach out with your suggestion via Read to Them’s social channels on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.