Brief summary: Henley is not a reader. The book was too hard; another was too boring. He could not find a book that had his interests. He preferred playing outside. One day in school, his teacher assigns her students to bring in their favorite book to class tomorrow. Henley goes to the library after school and asks the librarian to help him find his favorite book in the whole wide world. Nothing.
He goes to the bookshop and asks the owner, Mrs. Rackley, if she could help find him a book that he could call his favorite. Again, after looking at several books, Henley does not find one. He goes home and tells his mother his problem. She says something to her son that helps him find his favorite to share the next day. What book is it?
Comments: So good to see how he went to the public librarian and bookstore owner to help him. Henley, I did not have an elementary library either. I had to find my books at the public library.
I love that he was able to find his favorite book and have something so meaningful to share with his classmates. This could be a great introduction for primary students to reflect and share their favorite stories or perhaps an end-of-the-year summary of the favorite books they enjoyed that school year.
The Power of Yet by Maryann Cocca-Leffler; illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler. 2021. Pen and ink, watercolors. Published by Abrams Appleseed.
Brief summary: A piglet tries different things and fails each time. Piglet is unable to ride a bike–yet. Piglet is not old enough to play baseball–yet. Piglet is unable to play the violin–yet. After failing, the young pig learns to get better by practicing and learning from mistakes. The piglet grows over time, sometimes by working and learning with others who do it better. The piglet is sad and angry but does not give up. With patience and grit, the young pig improves and experiences success. “Yet” is reached!
Comments: This book has such a good message of learning from mistakes by practicing and staying focus until “yet” is obtained.It would make a superb book to read to an all-school assembly at the beginning of the school year.
This book could also be shared with schools doing a “power of yet”/growth mindset philosophy.
*The author purposely wanted gender-neutral so did not assign the pig as being he or she.
Sticks and Stones by Patricia Polacco; illustrated by Patricia Polacco. 2020. Two and six B pencils and acetone markers. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Younger Readers.
Brief summary: Trish is going to spend a year of junior high with her father in Michigan instead of with her mother in California. Unfortunately, she breaks out with a red rash all over her face on her first day and is given the name “Cootie” by one of the bullies. As the school year progresses, she befriends two kind and gifted students the bullies have nicknamed “Sissy Boy” who is a remarkable dancer and “Her Ugliness” who is a talented artist. They become best friends and conquer the cruel remarks together.
Comments: It was wonderful to read the author’s letter in the back telling the young readers how the three friends in the story are actually real friends and have prospered with their gifts despite the unkind words of Billy.
I Am Darn Tough by Licia Morelli; illustrated by Maine Diaz. 2020. Published by Tilbury House Publishers.
Brief summary: A young girl begins a race through the forest when she falls and scrapes her knee. She gets up and continues to run even though she is hurting. She gets a stomach cramp later on and begins to cry, but she does not give up. She reassures herself that she can finish the race. She catches up with her friends, and they cheer each other to the finish line. The young runner realizes that she is tough on the inside and out.
Comments: I like the message of this book. Grit. Persistence. Perseverance.
I think this would be an excellent book for the elementary physical education teacher to read to the class before they play a sport.
Jabari Triesby Gaia Cornwall; illustrated by Gaia Cornwall. 2020. Published by Candlewick Press.
Brief summary: Jabari decides he is going to make a flying machine all by himself without the help from his younger sister, Nika, or his dad. After failing to have it fly across the yard, he stops and tries to figure out what went wrong and how to fix the problem. After awhile, he decides to let his little sister assistant him. After one too many failures, he becomes frustrated and wants to give up. His father encourages him to keep trying. Nika squeezes his hand to let him know she supports him too. Will he succeed with his perseverance?
Comments: I loved the first Jabari Jumps and this one has the same “can do” attitude. This is a superb book to share with young readers right before they decide to make something or when they are failing.
Brief summary: Jadav Payeng and his family lived on Majuli, a river island in the middle of the Brahmaputra River in India. Because of the constant flooding from monsoons of this river and the receding of the water, the island starts to disappear, leaving a lot of sand. Teenager Jadav, decides to try to get the lush vegetation and animal species back to the island by planting trees. Having moved from the island, he rides on a bike full of trees, rows across the river in a rowboat, and plants the trees adding fertilizer and insects. The trees started to take root making the island stronger to the flooding. He plants for forty years, and the trees began to grow creating the habitat for various animals.
Jadav Payeng received many honors and awards for his work of the reforestation to the island of Majuli.
Comments: This is a story of how one person can make a difference through hard work and perseverance. The back sections have a glossary, a picture dictionary of the animals that live on the island, a timeline, and further reading.
Brief summary: Six days a week, Venus and younger sister, Serena learn how to play tennis early in the morning on a public court after sweeping off the trash. Their three older sisters lose interest in tennis but not them! With hard work and determination, the sisters slowly start to win more and more tournaments and are soon able to compete in some of the most famous ones like the Australian Open, Wimbledon, New York City’s U.S. Open, and even the Olympics. They began to gain fame and are known as the Sister Act, ranking first and second in the world.
Comments: This is a great book to teach grit! The rags to riches story is encouraging to those who are trying to beat the odds. Readers will learn that it does not matter what your background is as long as you excel at something, are determined, and willing to work really hard.
Afterword, Source Notes, Selected Bibliography, and Further Reading sections are in the back.
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Brief summary: Sophie is home trying to put puzzle pieces together to make a square, her sister walks by and quickly arranges them. The sister exists the rooms saying, “Too bad you’re not smart.” Sophie goes to school the next day where they learn what smart means and how they must exercise their brains to become stronger just like their muscles. Their teacher gives them a math problem to solve together in small groups. Sophie becomes frustrated and can’t figure it out. The teacher then teaches them another word–yet. She encourages her students to keep working on the problem. The students eventually get the correct answers. The teacher then adds “er” to smart.
Comments: Super example of fixed mindset and growth mindset. Teachers could use this book to demonstrate those mindsets but also the word “yet”. We have not found the answer YET.
Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say; illustrated by Allen Say. 2017. Burnt match sticks, sharpened stick dipped in soot mixed with spit, wastepaper, cardboard, cotton wads, rags, Q-tips, big nails, toothpicks, brushes, and fingers. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books.
Brief summary: James Castle was deaf, mute, autistic, and believed to be dyslexic, and although he attended five years at the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind, he did not learn to write, read, speak or even use sign language. He created his own calligraphy and made hundreds of books and albums. Living in poverty, he drew on what paper was around and created over 15,000 pieces of artwork often using match sticks and spit. Readers will learn about the harsh life this artist had endured from being different. The bullying. The isolation. The unkindness from his own relatives.
Comments: I suggest reading the author’s note in the back first. Allen Say’s friend, Cort Conley, asked him to create a portrait of a local Idaho artist. Mr. Say agreed to do a portrait drawing after receiving the artist’s photo and catalog of works. Allen Say became intrigued by the artist and his unique style of drawings so researched him more. Many publications and relative interviews about Mr. Castle had conflicting stories. Allen Say wrote this book and created the artwork in the same way James Castle created. The artist’s portrait is in the back. The tools Allen Say used are shown as well. I was impressed that Mr. Say totally submerged himself into understanding Mr. Castle by experimenting and using the same tools as the artist.
I think this would be a superb read aloud not only to learn about this artist but to better understand empathy, perseverance, and uniqueness from another’s life. Can you imagine not being able to hear, speak or communicate with others? What do you think it was like for Mr. Castle to see his works in a gallery? Did the time period he live in understand him? Did people understand autism more now or then? How did his relatives treat him? How would you feel if your family treated you the same way?
Brief summary: The story begins after Humpty Dumpty gets out of Kings County Hospital and has recovered from his fall, that is physically recovered. Humpty Dumpty tells and shows the reader about his fear of heights that developed from the fall. He is unable to enjoy anything up high. He walks past where the accident happened and really wants to be up high where the birds are, but just can not. He watches the birds from the ground until one day a paper airplane flies by him piquing his interest of flying and being up high. After a lot of perseverance, he comes up with the perfect paper airplane and takes it to the wall to fly. It goes over. He nervously climbs the wall to retrieve it and discovers what his true self is afterall.
Comments: One of my all-time favorites! My students in all grades loved this book and especially the surprise ending. As we checked in books, I had the nursery rhyme on the Smartboard when they came in. (I never assume they know the nursery rhymes). I taught the book as a fractured nursery rhyme and before I read the book to them, explained what are the characteristics of fractured folklore. The students were mesmerized by the story and illustrations. The younger ones had to think a bit more to get the ending and what happened. Afterwards, with the older students, this led to many conversations about their own fears and overcoming them. I could see this being shared by a counselor to talk about fear.
Writing. This could be the beginning of a writing exercise with nursery rhymes and what happened afterwards. What happened after the mouse ran down the clock? What happened to Baa Baa Black Sheep’s wool?
Art connection. Origami. The paper airplane books are now checked out all the time. I had to put out extra paper and was amused how several students would gather in a circle to make airplanes. New rule: No throwing paper airplanes in the library.