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Favorite Books for First-Graders
All About FriendsFrog and Toad Are Friendsby Arnold Lobel (Harper Collins, 1970). 
This classic features the escapades of Frog and Toad, an adorable amphibious duo who are the best of friends. Your child will love these five stories about friendship that include adventures such as feeling embarrassed when wearing a bathing suit, waiting for mail, finding a lost button and waking up from hibernation in the spring. Caldecott Honor Book, 1971. 64 pages.
Reading Level: Kindergarten, Read Aloud; Grades 1-2, Read to Self.PBS Bookfinder
Ivy and Beanby Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Chronicle Books, 2007).
A sure hit with kids starting chapter books. Parents need to know the award-winning book is about making a new friend, learning about differences and sharing an adventure. On the surface these girls appear very different. One wears dresses and reads books, the other has a sassy mouth and likes to get dirty. Some sibling issues occur, including fighting with an older sister, stealing her money, playing tricks on her and calling her names like "tightwad." With its over-sized print, frequent black-and-white illustrations and easy-to-follow plot, this first book in the series is a great beginning chapter book for kids who are just emerging from early readers. 120 pages. Awards: ALA Notable Children's Book, Booklist — Editor's Choice, Kirkus Reviews — Best Early Chapter Books. 
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site. 
Read Aloud:Age 5. Read Alone: Ages 6-9. 
Common Sense Media
Margaret and Margarita: Margarita y Margaretby Lynn Reiser (Rayo, 1993). 
Your child will love this bilingual (Spanish and English) book about a budding friendship between an English-speaking girl and a Spanish-speaking girl who meet in a park. 
For our Spanish readers: A su nino le encantaraeste libro bilingue sobre una amistad que crece entre una nina que habla ingles y una nina que habla espanol que se conocen en el parque. 32 pages. 
Reading Level: Grades K-1, Read Aloud. PBS Bookfinder
My Best Friendby Pat Hutchins (Greenwillow, 1993). 
This playful story shows that two little girls can be friends and appreciate each other even though they are good at doing different things. You child will enjoy this book over and over again. 32 pages.
Reading Level: Grades K-1, Read Aloud. PBS Bookfinder
There Is a Bird on Your Head!by Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children, 2007). 
Bespeckled and a little stressed out, pessimistic Gerald the elephant has the look of a worried old man while his upbeat friend Piggie is much more kid-like and exuberant. Together they make a great pair, in much the same way as Frog and Toad. The language is simple and repetitive enough for beginning readers to enjoy. And the humor will hold their interest while they struggle with the harder parts. This book is so much fun that even struggling readers will want to read it over and over again, especially if they are able to share parts with another reader. And, happily, this is only one of several in the Elephant and Piggie series. 64 pages.
Read Aloud: Age 4. Read Alone: Age 5. 
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site. 
Common Sense Media
Widgetby Lyn Rossiter McFarland, illustrated by Jim McFarland (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006).
Widget, a homeless dog, wanders into a delightful house filled with food and warm beds. The only problem is that the food and beds belong to six hostile cats. Widget, a clever dog, convinces the cats that he fits in by learning to meow and purr. If your child loves animals, he is sure to enjoy this delightful tale.
First-grader Read to Self. PBS Bookfinder
Books About the Joy of ReadingAunt Chip & the Great Triple Creek Dam Affairby Patricia Polacco (Philomel, 1996). 
Television is so beloved in Triple Creek that no one even remembers how to read. Books are still around, but are mostly used to shore-up the local dam. When Aunt Chip teaches Eli to read, his new love of books leads him to pluck a book from the dam, producing a flood that changes the town forever. Krisha Roach
The Boy Who Loved Wordsby Roni Schotter, illustrated by Giselle Potter (Random House, 2006). 
In this book, a word-loving boy spreads the wealth. Parents need to know that there's nothing to be concerned about and much to be learned in this introduction to the joy of words. Families who read this book could discuss words. What makes some words so much fun? How does knowing a lot of words help? What are some of your favorite words? Together you can also learn the words in the book's glossary and try using them in everyday life whenever you can. Also, how about starting your own collections of wonderful words? 35 pages. 
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site. 
Read Aloud: 5, Read Alone: 7+. Common Sense Media
Carlo and the Really Nice Librarianby Jessica Spanyol (Candlewick, 2004). 
Little giraffe Carlo is very excited to go to the library with his dad, but feels very shy of the librarian, Mrs. Chinca, who happens to be a crocodilian! Once Carlo learns how knowledgeable about books she is, the two become fast friends. Krisha Roach
Edward and the PiratesWritten and illustrated by David McPhail (Little, Brown, 1997). 
When Edward discovers a mysterious, dusty book on pirates hidden away on a shelf in the library, he can't wait to get it home. When pirates come to his room looking for the secret to hidden treasure, he realizes how precious the gift of reading can be. Krisha Roach
Max's Wordsby Kate Banks, illustrated by Boris Kulikov (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006). 
This homage to the writing life gives new meaning to the educational precept known as "language acquisition." Max's brother Benjamin collects stamps; his other brother, Karl, collects coins; and Max wants a collection of his own. In a sly dig at reviewers and reviewing, he cuts up a publication that looks — suspiciously — like the New York Times Book Review and collects piles of words in a potpourri of fonts. Words, of course, lead to story ... and pretty soon all three brothers are happily engaged in creating a tale about a brown worm, a green snake and a mean crocodile. ... 32 pages. © Parents' Choice
You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Togetherby Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley (Little Brown, 2004). 
Hoberman has written a charming sequel to her first book of the same title. Set for two voices, these hilarious versions of the three bears, pigs and goats, plus a couple of princesses and one beanstalk, can be read by even beginning readers. The cozy appeal of partnered reading and slightly quirky stories are too snuggly for just one reading. Simple text with abundant humor and comic illustrations follow the invitation: "We'll read each page to one another. You'll read one side, I, the other." Dr. Jan LaBonty
Books About Nature
The Apple Pie That Papa Bakedby Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jonathan Bean (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
The Apple Pie That Papa Baked is as homey as Grandma's kitchen, yet it's modern, rich and even scientific. In simple language that is also poetic and true, Thompson tells the heartwarming story of how the apple pie comes to be, including a quick introduction to the whole ecological web of life. And, as a final loving touch, she adds that the true enjoyment comes in sharing the pie with all the creatures on the farm. With that, the circle is made complete. 32 pages.
Read Aloud: Age 5. Read Alone: Age 6. 
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site. 
Common Sense Media
Bear Snores Onby Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman (Simon & Schuster, 2003).
One by one, cold and hungry forest animals take refuge in brown bear's cave. He snores on as they light a fire, pop popcorn, and brew tea. This delightful rhyming book with beautiful full-page illustrations and an unforgettable ending will capture your child's interest. 32 pages.
First-grader Read to Self. PBS Bookfinder
The Big Snowby Berta and Elmer Hader (Alladin, 2005). 
This classic Caldecott winner from 1949 illustrates how winter comes to the woods and how the animals make their preparations. While geese fly south, squirrels look for food and shelter and discover that a friendly neighbor in a nearby stone house has left some provisions to add to their winter feast. As quiet and beautiful as a snowflake. 48 pages. 
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at Powells.com
Diary of a Wombatby Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley (Clarion Books, 2003).
This humorous diary takes the wombat's point of view as he describes his daily life. In particular, he explains how he trains his neighboring humans to give him the food he likes. 32 pages.
First-grader Read to Self. PBS Bookfinder
The Snow Leopardby Jackie Morris (Frances Lincoln, 2007). 
Very rarely do absolutely gorgeous picture books like this come along. This original, mystical, mountain story tells of a boy who dreams and hears a leopard, once human, that "sang the stars to life." When intruders invade their hidden valley, the leopard passes on both his protective song and his animal form to the boy. Fantastic prose and magical illustrations make this picture book an instant classic. 32 pages. 
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at Powells.com
Winter's Eyesby Douglas Florian (Greenwillow, 1999). 
Winter Eyes is a beautifully illustrated collection of poems about winter. Each poem celebrates some aspect of winter such as sledding, icicles, woolen socks and the mood of a blustery day. Your child is bound to find at least one poem that introduces her to the joys of a snowy winter or reminds her of a favorite winter activity. PBS Bookfinder
Books About SchoolClementineby Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Hyperion, 2006). 
Move over, Ramona — here comes Clementine. The main character, Clementine, is a precocious third-grader who frequently gets into mischief, though with the good intention to solve problems. In one week she "fixes" her friend's hair by cutting it all off, helps out the principal by answering her phone and pays attention in class by watching the janitor embrace the lunch lady. A wide age range will enjoy this book and enjoy reading it aloud, from the emergent kindergartner reader up to third-graders. 144 pages. 
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site. 
Read Aloud: 5, Read Alone: 7+. Common Sense Media
The Dotby Peter Reynolds (Candlewick Press, 2003). 
Perfectionism, insecurity, getting started — these are all important topics for budding students to think about, and discuss with their parents. 32 pages. 
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site. 
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 4-8, Read Aloud: 4+, Read Alone: 6+. Common Sense Media
Emily's First 100 Days of Schoolby Rosemary Wells (Hyperion Books for Children, 2000). 
Count the first one hundred days of school with Emily in this fun, fact-filled book. Children will love learning about Emily's days at school as she learns the alphabet, sings, reads and dances. The oversized format of this book makes the bright illustrations pop off the pages. 64 pages.PBS Bookfinder
Little Cliff's First Day of Schoolby Clifton L. Taulbert, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Puffin, 2003). 
Little Cliff does not want to go to first grade. He does not want to leave his toys or his family. However, once he sees his friends and hears everyone having a good time, he quickly changes his mind. Any child who has felt ambivalent about starting school will appreciate this story. 32 pages. PBS Bookfinder
Miss Smith's Incredible Story Bookby Michael Garland (Dutton, 2003). 
Miss Smith is the cool new teacher in Zach's school, and she has a magic storybook. When Miss Smith reads from her storybook, characters pop out and her class experiences the adventures from her magic book in real life! Does the magic work for all readers of the storybook? See what happens when the principal tries to read from Miss Smith's storybook.Jennifer Thompson
The New Girl ... and Meby Jacqui Robbins, illustrated by Matt Phelan (Simon & Schuster, 2006). 
Shakeeta is the new girl and like all new kids since schools were first invented she feels out of place. Told in the first person by Mia, wise in the ways of school politics, this gentle story of adjustment and budding friendships carefully sticks to a child-eyed perspective to make its point: it's not so much what you say that makes a difference, it's that you say it at all. 32 pages. © Parents' Choice
Ramona the Pestby Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Tracy Dockray (HarperTrophy, 1992). 
Ramona the Pest is one of Cleary's classic stories of the feisty Ramona. Children are sure to love hearing about Ramona's troubles in Miss Binney's kindergarten. Ramona fans will also enjoy Beezus and Ramona and Ramona Quimby, Age 8. 208 pages. PBS Bookfinder
Books to Calm Childhood AnxietiesAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dayby Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz (Aladdin, 1987). 
Have you ever had a day that you'd rather forget? Then you will certainly be able to relate to poor Alexander when his day starts bad and gets progressively worse as the day goes on. From the moment Alexander wakes up, with gum in his hair, to the disappointment of not getting a surprise in his cereal box, Alexander keeps you laughing as he complains about his horrible day. This is a great book for parents and teachers to read to children when they are having "one of those days!" Jennifer Thompson
Is a Worry Worrying Youby Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, illustrated by Marie LeTourneau (Tanglewood Press, 2005) 
This is a cleverly written and delightfully illustrated book that enables children to investigate their fears and anxieties. An easy introduction to discussion about creative problem solving. Darlene Kenny
Oh Brother!by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Mike Benny (Amistad Press, 2008). 
This is a special book. Each page-spread is a poem, and together the poems tell the story of a bi-racial, blended family overcoming the trials and tribulations of learning to live and love together. Xavier's mom has just married Chris' dad. To Xavier, the house feels too small, the love not enough for two, and just about everything Chris does, Xavier sees as ill-intentioned or competitive. But that makes the book sound heavy when indeed these are witty, moving poems that skip, sink, soar and take unexpected twists, along with the little boy's emotions. When the brothers work things out and find joy in each other, my 5-year-old daughter in my lap was full of happiness and bounce. The pictures are energetic, expressive and colorful, and more than match the text — they give it life and whimsy. 32 pages. Kepler's Books
Books with Positive MessagesBig Bug Surpriseby Julia Gran (Scholastic, 2007). 
Prunella's unending knowledge of insects saves her class from disaster. As her classmates celebrate, Prunella presents a show-and-tell surprise, much to the delight of the students. 32 pages. Children's Choices
Dad, Jackie and Meby Myron Uhlberg, illustrated by Colin Bootman (Peachtree Publishers, 2005). 
An amazing semi-autobiographical picture book about a young boy and his deaf father set in Brooklyn. The year is 1947 and Jackie Robinson has just been signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Although Dad was never a sports fan (since he can't hear them on the radio), he becomes determined to meet Jackie in person. He wants to shake the hand of a man he views as a kindred spirit, "who works to overcome thoughtless prejudice." This book is a beautiful social justice story and also a love letter from a son to his father. Krisha Roach
Elena's Serenadeby Campbell Geeslin, illustrated by Ana Juan (Atheneum, 2004). 
More than anything, Elena wants to be a glass-blower, but in her region in Mexico, and in her father's eyes, this is an art for boys alone. When she heads to Monterrey, where all the great glass-blowers live and work, disguised as a boy, she learns the depth of her own talent. 40 pages. Krisha Roach
The Empty Potby Demi (Henry Holt, 1996). 
The emperor of China is looking for a successor, and he gives all the children in the land one seed. He tells them that the one who grows the most beautiful flowers in one year will be emperor. Ping is a little boy with a green thumb who can't seem to get his seed to grow! Will the emperor be able to see his earnest spirit? 32 pages. Krisha Roach
Henry and Mudgeby Cynthia Rylant (Aladdin, 1996). 
Henry and Mudge is a delightful early chapter book that features a young boy named Henry. Henry has no siblings and no friends in his neighborhood. Poor Henry is lonely and is yearning for a pet, so his parents allow him to get a huge, loveable dog named Mudge. Henry and Mudge become fast friends and Mudge follows Henry everywhere. One day, Mudge gets lost. Will Henry and Mudge find each other again? Jennifer Thompson
How to Be a Good Dogby Gail Page (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2006). 
Bobo was usually a good dog and got lots of treats, but when he was a bad dog, he was sent to his doghouse. When even the cat began to miss him, the cat teaches Bobo how to be a good dog. 32 pages. Children's Choices
I Knew You Couldby Craig Dorfman, illustrated by Christina Ong (Grosset & Dunlap, 2003). 
A sweetly written nostalgic book. Singsong rhyming verse combined with the familiar blue engine helps us remember that anything is possible if you persevere. Younger children may need help understanding the greater meanings behind each rhyming verse. This book encourages children to believe in themselves. Darlene Kenny
Raggedy Ann's Wishing Pebblewritten by Johnny Gruelle, illustrated by Jan Palmer (Aladdin, 2002). 
A beautifully illustrated book with everyone's favorite rag dolls, Ann and Andy. In this Raggedy Ann and Andy adventure, all their animal friends try to help retrieve the magic wishing pebble that has been stolen by a trickster named Minky. Opens discussions about what wishes are important.Darlene Kenny
What's So Bad About Being An Only Child?by Cari Best, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007). 
This sly reversal of the typical older-sibling-jealous-of-the-new-baby picture book tells the story of Rosemary Emma Angela Lynette Isabel Iris Malone, so-saddled because every relative in the extended family took a hand in the naming. Everyone, in fact, from Uncle Jeff to Aunt Barbara to the unnamed grandparents hangs on Rosemary's every need until her life gives new meaning to the term "cosseted." Eventually, she comes to the conclusion that being the target of everyone's affection is hard work and she takes her complaints all the way to the top. "You need to have another kid right away," she tells her mother, hands firmly planted on her hips. "And that's that." In the end, all is resolved to everyone's satisfaction, though not in the way Rosemary demands or even imagines, and the clever title changes from a statement of fact to an open-ended question. 32 pages. © Parents' Choice
Classic Childhood FavoritesCharlotte's Webby E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams (HarperCollins, 1952). 
Parents need to know that a major character dies, peacefully but alone. All children (and most adults) will cry, but especially sensitive children may be disturbed. Families who read this book could discuss the various concepts of friendship presented here. Charlotte obviously gives a lot in this relationship — what does she get in return? How should one treat one's friends? What should one expect from them? 184 pages. Newbery Honor Award. 

Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 6-10, Read Aloud: 5+, Read Alone: 7+. 
The Hundred Dressesby Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1970). 
Is it ever too early to teach compassion? That's what this astounding and beautiful picture book aspires to do. When schoolchildren make fun of Wanda Petronski, both for her name and for the fact that she wears the same dress to school every day, Wanda begins to tell the tall tale that she has "one hundred dresses" at home. When the children learn the truth, they are given the chance for self-reflection. The lessons learned here will last your child a lifetime. 96 pages. 
I Wish That I Had Duck Feetby Theo. LeSieg (Dr. Seuss), illustrated by B. Tobey (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1965). 
From the moment my mom ripped out the mail-in coupon from Highlights magazine, I loved receiving my monthly mailing from the "Dr. Seuss Beginning Readers" book club. Of all the books I received, I Wish That I Had Duck Feetwas my favorite. Written by Theo. LeSieg (Geisel backwards — a charming pen name Dr. Seuss used when he did not illustrate a title), this funny book is a charmer. Now I grin from ear to ear when my first-grader reads it to me. 72 pages. 
The Little Houseby Virginia Lee Burton (Houghton Mifflin, 1978). 
First, let me say that Virginia Lee Burton is one of my all-time favorites. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is just one of the many fantastic books she has given us which feature themes such as how to treat each other and believe in yourself. The Little House is modestly told and illustrated. What happens when the world changes around you? An early commentary on urbanization and a heartwarming read. Winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1943. 40 pages. 
The Little Princewritten and illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Harcourt Brace and Co., 1943). 
This most beautiful and thoughtful of children's classics really isn't for children. Though it looks like a picture book, with its size, brevity, and the author's delicate watercolors, its thoughtfulness and nostalgia for childhood appeals more to teens and adults. Nevertheless, curled up with the right adult — who can read it aloud and take time to discuss it throughout — kids with the patience for a slow and gentle tale can find their introduction to its kindly philosophy one of their most vivid moments in childhood. 96 pages. 
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site. 
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: All Ages, Read Aloud: 6+, Read Alone: 8+. Common Sense Media
Mr. Popper's Penguinsby Richard and Florence Atwater, illustrated by Robert Lawson (Little, Brown & Co., 2007). 
Mr Popper's Penguins is one of those classic childhood books that kids always remember, and even ranks up there with Charlotte's Web and James and the Giant Peach. The chapter book's witty dialogue (albeit with dated language), clever characters and an ethical predicament make this book as enjoyable today as in the 1930s. In fact, many teachers today use it as part of their language arts curriculum. Mr. Poppers Penguins is a good fit for most first- and second-grade readers, and can also be read aloud to kindergartners. 139 pages. 1939 Newbery Honor. 
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site. 
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 9-12, Read Aloud: 5-8, Read Alone: 7-12. Common Sense Media
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron (Random House, 1989). 
Julian loves to make up tall tales and make his little brother, Huey, believe them. Each chapter in this wonderful early-reader's chapter book is an individual story and makes for a great introduction to the concept of short stories in general. The tales are imaginative, fun and a great depiction of a loving family in everyday situations. The bite-size length of the chapters keeps the book from feeling overwhelming for a young reader. 80 pages. 
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at Powells.com
Best Books - Grades 5-7
These books cover a broad spectrum of reading abilities within the year levels.
Max Remy Super Spy Series Abela, Deborah
Fly a Rebel Flag : The Battle of Eureka Annear, Robyn
Al Dentay and the Incredible Spaghetti Machine Atherton, Bruce
Little Brother Baillie, Allan
Selby Series Ball, Duncan
Indian in the Cupboard Banks, Lynne Reid
Blart2 Barker, Dominic
Peter Pan Barrie, J M
Peter and the Shadow Thieves Barry, Dave; Ridley, Pearson
Peter and the Starcatchers Barry, Dave; Ridley, Pearson
Discovery of Dragons Base, Graham
Being Bee Bateson, Catherine
Rain May and Captain Daniel Bateson, Catherine
Spiderwick Chronicles Black, Holly
Roman Army Blacklock, Dyan
Dear Mr Sprouts Broome, Errol
Gracie and the Emperor Broome, Errol
Sisters Grimm Series Buckley, Michael
Prophesy of the Gems Bujor, Flavia
Secret Garden Burnett, Frances Hodgson
It's True! This Book is a Load of Rubbish Burnside, Deborah
It's True! Your Cat Could Be a Spy Bursztynski, Sue
Eighteenth Emergency Byars, Betsy
Land of Elyon Series Carman, Patrick
Fox Called Sorrow Carmody, Isobelle
It's True! Space Turns You into Spaghetti Catchpole, Heather; Woods, Vanessa
It's True! There ARE bugs in your Bed Catchpole, Heather; Woods, Vanessa
Board Shorts Clark, Margaret
Cool Shorts Clark, Margaret
Dirty Shorts Clark, Margaret
Footy Shorts Clark, Margaret
Boots and All Clark, Sherryl
Sixth Grade Style Queen : Not! Clark, Sherryl
Artemis Fowl Series Colfer, Eoin
Lionboy Series Corder, Zizou
It's True! Hauntings Happen & Ghosts get Grumpy Costain, Meredith
How to Speak Dragonese Cowell, Cressida
Peasant Prince : The True Story of Mao's Last Dancer Cunxin, Li
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Dahl, Roald
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator Dahl, Roald
Danny the Champion of the World Dahl, Roald
Dirty Beasts Dahl, Roald
Matilda Dahl, Roald
Revolting Rhymes Dahl, Roald
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