Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Brainstorm Vol 7 (revamped): Books for K-12 classrooms

This post was originally published internally December 12, 2012. It has been revised for the blog.

Picture Book Resources

Cloud Dance by Thomas Locker
Locker has some simple text that accompanies gorgeous illustrations of clouds in various seasons and
types of weather.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Art: This could be used in the art classrooms to study the way the artist used light and color. 
  • Weather: It could also be used in science when studying different types of clouds (the last two pages give a nice scientific summary of cloud types). 
  • Compare/Contrast: The artwork could also be used to stimulate compare/contrast as students look at the vastly different clouds and weather depicted on various pages. 
  • Descriptive Writing: Challenge students to describe the picture using only words and see if they can paint a mind picture to rival Locker's painting. 

Time Flies by Eric Rothman

It's no secret I love wordless picture books, so here is another beautifully illustrated wordless story. Rothman has a little bird fly through a museum of dinosaur bones and suddenly finds itself flying amongst live dinosaurs.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Dinosaurs: If you're looking for a quick read when studying dinosaurs, this would fit the bill. It also could help kids make connections between the skeletons of dinosaurs they see and actual creatures.
  • Museum Visits: Let's face it. Sometimes field trips to museums can be boring for kids. Reading this prior to a museum trip could help you challenge students to try and imagine the things they will see back in time. What did that skeleton used to look like? Who used that tool? Come up with questions they can ask themselves to trigger the imagination and make the museum trip come to life a little bit more.
  • Time Travel genre studies: If you're introducing various genres, this is a quick read that clearly illustrates the key components of time travel books.
  • Writing Prompt (good for any language): Sometimes it is hard for kids (ok, and adults) to come up with ideas of what to write about during a free writing assignment. Giving them a wordless book is a good way to generate ideas. Just ask them to write the story they see or extend the story further with words.
  • Point of View: You can easily challenge students to write accompanying words to this story from various points of view, whether the voice is of a narrator, of the bird, or of one of the dinosaurs that the bird flies by.
  • Pre-reading: I've highlighted a few wordless books, but I don't think I've mentioned how good these are for kids who aren't quite reading yet. The benefits are well-documented. You can do a search of "wordless books and teaching reading" on the internet and come up with dozens of studies. Just one of the benefits is that the progression of the story teaches kids the direction words and pages go in reading, how to turn pages, etc.. Of course, it is great to expose pre-readers to books with words too, but don't discount the value of those picture-only stories in preparing kids to read.
Chapter Book Resource

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
Vidya is from a more modern Brahmin Indian family during the beginnings of WWII. Her father is a doctor, active in the nonviolent Indian freedom movement, who believes that the caste system isn't necessarily right and that his daughter should have the freedom to go to college before marrying (uncommon at the time). Vidya's father suffers severe brain damage when beaten during a protest. At this point Vidya's life dramatically changes. Her family must then go to live with the rest of her father's family in a more traditional Brahmin household. Vidya's life is made miserable by her aunt and uncle, and she realizes she will probably never get to go to college now. The one bright spot in her life is the library, which she at first visits on the sly ‐‐since it lies up on the men’s floor where women are forbidden‐‐ and then, thanks to the all‐powerful word of thatha (her Grandfather) she is granted access to daily. Climbing the stairs to the library ends up changing her life for the better in several ways.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Indian Culture: Though a historical fiction book, this still gives a very insightful look into Indian culture, the holidays celebrated and variety of beliefs. And it's a great book for Indian students looking for books about people from their own culture (because those are few and far between).
  • Non-Western History: It's hard to find good historical fiction not set in a Western setting, but this does just that. Take a step back in time to 1940s India. How many other books can you name that took place there and then?
  • WWII in India: It's not often you hear what was going on in India during WWII. Most books are focused on Europe or the Pacific, so this is a good reminder that India was also involved in the conflict.
  • Women's Roles & WWII: Obviously, Vidya's various family members have a whole range of opinions about what women were allowed to do. Readers could be asked to compare Vidya's circumstances with what was going on in the rest of the world. WWII era was a big period of change world-wide, though it looked different in many areas.
  • Family Units East vs West: Have readers compare and contrast how families work in India and the rest of the East with how they work in Western societies.
  • Gandhi & Non-violent Protest: Vidya's family has various opinions of Gandhi and his movement. Her father loves Gandhi's ideas, but others in the family are not so sure. A great opening to talk with kids about non-violent protests vs violent protests and the effectiveness of both.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Brainstorm Vol 40: Books for multiple K-12 classrooms

Picture Book Resources

More Parts by Tedd Arnold
A boy becomes increasingly worried as he hears his parents, neighbors, teachers, and friends say things about his body coming to pieces. Broken hearts, cracking skin, giving up's worrying stuff! Eventually, his parents explain that these phrases are just figures of speech and he doesn't need to worry. A very humorous look at the literal meaning of various common American idioms with hilarious illustrations (showing the measures the boy takes to protect himself) and written in rhyming text.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Idioms: This is the perfect book to kick off a lesson on idioms used in the English language. You can have students brainstorm other idioms they have heard.
  • Literal vs Figurative Language: This is also a good book to help kids understand the difference between literal and figurative language. Have them see if they can come up with phrases frequently used that are literal and others that are figurative. Or, use an exemplar text and have students find examples of literal and figurative language within (periodicals would most likely have both).
  • Rhyming: Arnold uses nicely rhyming text to tell his humorous tale. See if students can teach another grammar lesson with rhymes.
  • Illustrations: Reading this book without the illustrations would miss out on half the fun. Can lead to a nice discussion of how words and pictures work together to tell a more elaborate story than either can on their own. Have students practice putting comic spins on seemingly neutral phrases with illustrations (if students aren't artistically inclined, this could be done with magazine picture cut outs or clip art).
  • History: Many idioms have interesting root sources that sometimes can be found with a little bit of research. See if students can find out where we got some of the crazy phrases we say.

No Dragons for Tea: Fire safety for kids (and dragons) by Jean E. Pendziwol, ill. by Martine Gourbault

A little girl makes a new friend, a dragon! They have great fun at the beach and then she invites him over for tea. But during tea the pepper starts tickling noses, and you can just guess what happens when a dragon sneezes. Fire! The little girl and her mom know just what to do, but have to teach the dragon a few things about fire safety. Fire safety talking points are included in the back. The story is written in catchy rhyme, captivatingly illustrated, and is entertaining enough kids will probably ask for re-readings.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Fire Safety: This book manages to teach important fire safety tips in a way that doesn't make it feel "educational," so kids should pick up the tips but not feel like they're getting a lesson. After reading this, classes can discuss fire safety procedures at school and then write down talking points to go over with their own families.
  • Firemen and Fire equipment: Talk with students about the roles of firemen and firewomen and the equipment they use to fight fires. (There are numerous books out there that have diagrams of fire trucks and other equipment.)
  • Chemistry: Talking about fire just begs for teachers to go into the science of why things look and smell different after they are burnt. A good book to segue into an intro on chemical changes.
  • Fire producers: While dragons are a bit hard to find outside of storybooks and movies, there are other creatures out there that do produce fire. Have students research bombardier beetles and other such creatures.
  • Etiquette: The dragon in this story is trying to be a good house guest, but he manages to torch his host's home. Opportunity for a good discussion of what to do if you break something at a friend's house.
  • Forgiveness: The little girl and her mom do not get upset with the dragon and realize the fire was an accident. Ask kids how they feel when a friend breaks something or messes something up on accident, what they may want to do and what they should really do.
  • Writing & Safety Topics: Have students write their own story to teach a different safety lesson. Beforehand, you can talk with students about why this book makes it fun to learn about fire safety and have them try to apply the same principles in their stories.
Chapter Book Resource

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally doesn't mean to get in trouble at school. It isn't her fault the letters won't hold still long enough to read. She has pretty much given up on herself. But a new teacher doesn't see her as a problem who won't finish assignments, Mr. Daniels manages to catch on to Ally's deep, dark secret. She can't read. And all those "pranks" were actually her acts of frustration or genuine tries. With the help of Mr. Daniels and some new friends, Ally starts to think that maybe she isn't dumb and perhaps there is some hope for her. 

Activity Tie-ins:
  • Dyslexia: I recently had a teacher ask me for a book on teaching students with dyslexia. I didn't have any on hand, but I did have this. It is a great read for teachers and fellow students of those who struggle with dyslexia because it gives a good insider's perspective of what it is like (read the author's note, this book is somewhat autobiographical). The teacher also employs some good strategies to help Ally overcome her challenges with dyslexia. Two other good books written from the point of view of someone with dyslexia are The Wild Book by Margarita Engle and May B. by Caroline Starr Rose, incidentally, both of those are historical fiction and novels in verse. They are fast reads and interesting in that they come from time periods when dyslexia didn't have a name. Fish in a Tree is set in modern culture.
  • Teacher Inspirational Reading: Books on kids with disabilities are a dime a dozen these days, so in that aspect this book kind of blends in with the rest of the middle grade offerings. What I predict this book will be known best for is the exemplary teacher in it. I can definitely see this as required reading for teachers in training. Mr. Daniels meets his students where they are and tries to get them to where they should be. He's a good dose of inspiration for teachers even if he borders on being too good to be true.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Brainstorm Vol. 39 - Poetry books that can be used in K-12 classrooms

April is National Poetry Month, so here are some poetic reads for your classrooms.

Picture Book Resources

Stardines Swim High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky, ill. by Carin Berger
Prelutsky takes the names of common animals, changes or adds one letter, and writes a poem about the new creature imagined. The poems are accompanied by unique and eye-catching collages and dioramas.
My favorites of these cleverly created poetic creatures were: the Fountain Lion, who is a great party addition; Plandas, who do so much planning they never get anything done; the SobCat, who is rather morose; and the Bardvarks, uninspired poets. A very fun poetry collection which incorporates some rather excellent vocabulary. 

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Creative Writing: Have students write poems about their own new animals. They have to follow Prelustky's rules and only change one letter of a real animal's name by switching one letter, adding one letter or subtracting one letter.
  • Brain Puzzles: Wake up your class with a little mental exercise. For classes of students who have not read this book yet, you could prompt the class by telling them the next original animal's name for the next spread (before showing it). Then have them try and guess how Prelutsky changed it for his poem. Ex. Tell them the next page used to be Bobcat and see if they can come up with SobCat. For younger kids, it may be a hard enough exercise to have them try and figure out what the original animal's name was (some of the animals may be unfamiliar to kids depending on where they live and how animal crazy they are). Ex. Have them try and figure out that SobCat came from Bobcat by changing the first B to an S.
  • Recycling crafts: The artwork in the book was pretty much completely done with recycled materials. Give students a pile of "junk" and see what they can create with it.
  • Vocabulary & Word Choice: Prelutsky manages to work in pretty hefty vocabulary into his poems that help the poems better say what he wanted to say and increase the word variety. For just a taster, he manages to use slovenly, aqueous, cavort, copious, cacophonic, and benign all in the poems in this book. Secondary teachers could use this to help students have a more memorable example of the usage of these words, or could use this as an example and ask students to use other tough vocabulary in their own poetry. It's also a great segue into talking about word choice in writing.

Follow Follow: a book of reverso poems by Marilyn Singer, ill. by Josée Masse
This is Marilyn Singer's second book of reverso poems. Her first is called Mirror Mirror. Never heard of a reverso poem? You're probably not alone. I'd never heard of them before I stumbled across Singer's books either. In reverso poetry you read the words down and you get one version of the tale. When the lines are read in the reverse order with only changes in punctuation and capitalization, you get a completely different spin on the story. Just like in Mirror MirrorFollow Follow tells several fairy tales through the reverso poetry, like the Princess and the Pea, the Emperor’s New Clothes, Puss in Boots, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses to name a few. The Aladdin poem was one of my favorites in this bunch, but all of them are clever. Singer continues to astound me with her word smithing skills, these poems must take ages to come up with in both the complexity of construction and the way she is able to adequately summarize the tales in just a few lines. The animation-like illustrations are bright, colorful and perfect complements to the poems.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Fairy tales: A great book to include when you're covering fairy tales. It will give a unique spin on whatever story in both presentation style and point of view.
  • Point of View: A great book to use when talking about point of view. Each poem includes two different perspectives of the same fairy tale.
  • Poetry: If you're looking for poetry to read in a poetry unit, this is a must. Guaranteed to blow kids' minds.
  • Gifted Students Challenge: Every class seems to have those students who always get done early or are super hard to challenge mentally. Next time they finish early or are bored during a creative writing assignment, have these students see if they can write a reverso poem to tell a tale of their choice from two view points.
  • Writing Exercise: Writing an elaborate reverso poem like Ms Singer may be a bit hard for most students at first, but see if they can just write one sentence that can read backwards in a different light or two lines if they want more room.
  • Math Connection: Reversos are basically palindromes with words. Math teachers can tie this book in with a study of those special numbers that read the same forwards or backwards.

Chapter Book Resources:
Instead of telling you about a book of poetry for older readers, let me tell you about a chapter book story told entirely through poetry. Such bookish beasts are called novels in verse and they seem to be a growing trend. Two of the three Newbery winners this year were written in verse. Perhaps what appeals most about them to our high-paced world is how quick they read. Most people can easily tear through these in just a few hours. I love many of the ones I've read, but I'm going to highlight my favorite and list some runners-up below.

The Surrender Tree: poems of Cuba's struggle for freedom by Margarita Engle
Through free verse poems from various points of view, Engle tells the tale of Cuba’s struggle for freedom from 1850-1899 by following the life of Rosa la Bayamesa and those around her. At the start, Rosa is a girl learning to be a healer. She is a slave who learns how to treat the illnesses and injuries of her fellow slaves. But she goes on to become a woman of legend, a healer who primarily aids those fighting for freedom. But above all a healer of any injured, regardless of their alignment. 
This is a beautifully told tale of a part of history rarely explored in English literature and from a very unique perspective. Rosa is an inspiring historical woman who gave up a lot of comfort to help those in need. She is a woman pioneer in the medical field I had never heard of before, and she left a great legacy in how she cared for so many and without prejudice. You would think that a story that covers so many years in so few words would be lacking depth, but it is rich and full. I am not fluent in Spanish by any means, but those of you who are should appreciate that the story is available in both English and Spanish in the edition we have.

Activity Tie-ins:

  • Poetry: Novels in verse are often written in free verse poetry, like this one is. So if you're looking for examples of free verse, this is one option. It also has Spanish poetry too.
  • Spanish reading skills: With the support of the English version in the front, Spanish language learners can practice their reading and build their vocabulary. 
  • Reluctant Readers: Novels in verse are great picks for reluctant readers because they manage to tell the story in fewer words than normal. Average or slow readers can feel like they are reading super fast as they tear through pages sporting just a few lines. 
  • Busy Readers: Since novels in verse are such quick reads, they are also superb picks for those readers who think they are too busy to read a book in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Cuban History: If you're studying Cuban history or Latin American history, this is a great insider perspective of the struggle for freedom that is fair to both sides.
  • Women in History: If you're looking for books on women who made an important impact in history, this Rosa is one worth the study.
  • History of Medicine: Rosa was the best thing these people had in terms of medical care, though looking at her skills now, they may seem pretty basic. This is a great book to use when studying the development of medical care and the role of herbalists in that timeline.
  • Point of View/Voice: Engle tells Rosa's story and the story of the Cuban revolution from multiple points of view, both friends and enemies and even Rosa herself. Ask students to analyze how Engle gave each person a different voice and why she might have chose to tell the story in this way.
  • Loving Your Enemies: Rosa's indiscriminate care of all the injured who came to her, regardless of which side they were on is a great example of a real person who loved her enemies with her actions. She could have easily refused care to anyone she didn't like, but she didn't. Have students discuss if they would do the same thing in Rosa's place and if current medical field practitioners in conflict zones should or should not do as she did.
More Novels in Verse:

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman:Veda is a Bharatanatyam dancer on the rise in India, but just after a great dance competition win, she loses a leg in a car accident and then must rebuild her life. (Incidentally, this book has been a great example of the power of teachers talking books with each other and their students. It has been almost constantly checked out since it's arrival because of a train of recommendations. I recommended this book to teachers, one teacher raved about it in front of another teacher who then recommended it to a student who recommended it to a friend who also recommended it to a friend and so on. In all, it's been read and loved by about 6 different people in 2.5 months all because of book conversations.)

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander: This is the most recent Newbery Medal winner. Through a variety of poetry types, Alexander tells the tale of middle school basketball star Josh Bell as he maneuvers the ups and downs of changes on the court and at home.

Salt: a story of friendship in a time of war by Helen Frost: A boy from the Miami tribe and the son of a trader form an unlikely friendship, and the conflict between the Americans and the British puts that to the test as it sweeps into the area.

The Wild Book by Margarita Engle: Another of Engle's book set in historical Cuba, this one based on her grandmother who struggled with "word blindness" (now called dyslexia).

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose: May has to survive the winter on her own on a homestead in the West. (This one also features a protagonist who struggles with dyslexia.)

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech: A reluctant poetry writer falls in love with it over time. (There's also a sequel, Hate That Cat.)

Heartbeat by Sharon Creech: A girl who loves to run is figuring out who she is amongst the changes of life.

Witness by Karen Hesse: Step back in time to 1920s Vermont and see how the town reacts to the Klu Klux Klan moving in.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse: Billie Jo and her family are trying to survive the Dust Bowl and Great Depression on their farm in Oklahoma.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: A multiple award winner in 2015, this is the author's autobiography of her childhood.

Carver, a life in poems by Marilyn Nelson: A biography of George Washington Carver told through poems.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Brainstorm Spring Break Special

I know, I'm a week early. Spring break for our school doesn't start till the end of next Friday, but I want to make sure you all have plenty of time to pick up your reading for break before it starts! This is a little different from my normal Brainstorms as this is a list of recommended reading for spring break and includes a lot more books than the normal three. I hope you find something in this list that looks like a book you need to take on break with you. The description here are short, but click on the links to see my full reviews on GoodReads (or others' reviews if I don't have one). Enjoy!

Quick Reads - Because even on break, people are busy (Search the page for QR to find other quick reads in different sections.)

Picture Book: The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett
I've blogged about this one before. It's a moving story about a little girl who learns about saving and giving. And nothing's faster read than a wordless picture book.

Middle Grade Book: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
You know another easy way to find a fast read? Find a book written in free verse poetry, like this one. You can probably easily finish it in one sitting. If you're still hungry for more, there's a sequel called Hate That Cat.

Middle Grade Book (that's good for YA & Adults too): The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
Look for this one in an upcoming revamped Biweekly Brainstorm. It's another novel written in free verse poetry, this one is a historical fiction based on the real life activities of a healer during the Cuban revolution. Very moving. And if you feel like brushing up on your Spanish, the book is bilingual, there's a version in English in the front and a version in Spanish in the back.

Animal Books - For those who love the cute and cuddly.

Picture Book: Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison
This is a new one to ICS. Jane is a scraggly little pup who just doesn't seem as talented as the rest of her circus-performing family, but they love her just the way she is. QR

Lower Grade Book: Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel
If cats are more your thing, you should appreciate the fun and humor of this hazardous tale. (And it's one of those books disguised as a book for little kids, but is really written for adults to sneak out for a read and laugh.)

Adult Book: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen
A true story of a homeless man and his cat. I haven't read this yet, but it comes highly recommended by students. It and its sequel are frequently checked out. (But I see them on the shelves now so hurry over.)

Dystopia - End of the world as we know it, super popular genre

Middle Grade Fiction: Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This is the first book in a relatively overlooked series that's actually been around for a while. In the future 3rd children are banned after a famine, but the main character is a 3rd child hidden by his parents. Through online networks, he and other 3rd children and those concerned with human rights start working to fight for their freedom. Great pick for kids interested in the genre because of Divergent & Hunger Games, but not mature enough for those books.

Young Adult Fiction: Atlantia by Ally Condie
This YA dystopia book stands out for two reasons, 1) it is a stand alone (that's right, no series), and 2) because violence does not bring about the resolution. I can't think of another dystopian novel that has a non-violent peace solution.

Adult: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
If you're looking for something literary and deep and more cerebral, this may be up your alley. So hard to do justice to it in a few lines, just click on the title to see my full review if you want more info.

Biography - Because people are infinitely interesting

Picture Book: A Picture Book of Florence Nightingale by David A. Adler
A short but inspirational look at a woman who decided to follow God's call despite opposition. QR

Picture Book (for All Ages): Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh, ill. by Wendell Minor
A brief biography of a very shy man who used his talents to touch the world. Great pick for shy kids or art fans.

Adult Book: Where the Wind Leads: a Refugee Family's Story of Loss, Rescue and Redemption by Vinh Chung with Tim Downs
Autobiography of a man who was a young boy when his family escaped persecution in Vietnam, was rescued by World Vision and then moved to America and worked hard to make a life there. Eye-opening perspective of life of a refugee and TCK.

Nonfiction - For those who like real stories

Lower & Middle Grade Book: Chasing Cheetahs: the Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cats by Sy Montgomery, photography by Nic Bishop
Meet real people doing simple things to help save an ecosystem in Africa. Oh, and there's fantastic pictures of animals too.

Middle Grade/YA Book: Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood by Nathan Hale
Who says history has to be boring or complicated? Nathan Hale is able to boil down the key points of WWI into one graphic novel. I recommended this to one of the HS history bowl participants and he said it was fantastic and very helpful. This series, called Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, is one of my go-tos for reluctant readers. There's 3 more books in this graphic novel series, and another one on Harriet Tubman comes out the end of this month.

Adult Book: Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
There's tons of people on campus ranting about how good and helpful this book is. And it's short. What are you waiting for? QR

Fantasy - Let your imagination take flight

Picture Book: Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
Want a book that will last readings and re-readings? Well, then help this little boy try and find his dragon in New York City. You might find yourself counting 1-20 along the way, enjoying the sights of New York City, and rumors are if you look up the book in the library catalog there's a link to an interview with the author about further hidden things to find in this book.

Middle Grade Book: A Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
A fantasy book that's sure to appeal to boys and girls alike, travel with the four Princes Charming as they try to save the day (or just not die), and of course there's some princesses around too who aren't just going to let the boys have all the fun. A humorous fractured fairy tale mashup that's the first in a 3 book series.

YA Book: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
In the future, something starts giving people super powers. But instead of using their powers for good, the powers seem to corrupt all who have them and the world is soon reeling under the dictatorship of supervillains. Our hero is a normal teen trying to help restore peace to the world and oust the supervillains. This and it's sequel, Firefight, are super popular with students (and I can't lie, I'm a huge Sanderson fan myself).

Realistic - For those who like real people with real problems

Picture Book: Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems
This is the third and final book in the Knuffle Bunny series, and it will take you on a roller coaster ride of all the emotions. It'll make you laugh, but it might also touch you enough to bring happy tears too. Knuffle Bunny takes a trip overseas and gets lost. QR

Middle Grade Book: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
A brand new book about a girl who manages to fool everyone for years about her real issue, that she can't read, until a special teacher comes along. There's also side stories about friendship, bullies, fitting in, siblings, and more. Gonna be one of those teacher classics.

Adult Book: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, trans. by Stephen Snyder
A story about an elderly professor with memory problems, his housekeeper and her son, and how they all change each other's lives. This is another quick but good read. QR

Science Fiction - For those who like to ask, what if...

Picture Book: Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner
A worldless picture book about an epic battle between a cat and some aliens. QR

Middle Grade Book: Scavenger: Zoid by Paul Stewart, ill. by Chris Riddell
Introduce kids to a classic sci-fi plot: robots have gone evil and taking over the world.

Adult Book: Numb by John W. Otte
This book has space travel, nifty futuristic tech, and a epic good vs. evil battle. Good for those who like traditional sci-fi fare. Oh, and it's excellent Christian fiction.

Historical Fiction - Step back into the past

Middle Grade Book: The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck
Through a strange series of events, Mouse Minor becomes a Yeomouse of the Guard at Buckingham Palace during Queen Victoria's reign, and finds himself doing some very important jobs.

Young Adult Book: Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
After Hattie's homesteading experiment in Hattie Big Sky, she decides to try her hand at being a newspaper reporter and bumps into famous people of the 1920s. Great pick for those who like black and white movies of the 1930s and 40s.

Adult Book: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Alternates between a German radio operator and a blind French girl to tell the story of WWII.

Humor - Get your dose of daily laughter

Picture Book: Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, ill. by Zacharia O'Hara
The Bunny family decides to adopt the little wolf abandoned on their front door. Little Dot Bunny is not so sure this is a good idea. QR

Middle Grade Book: Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
Alcatraz Smedry finds he is part of a rather unusual family, a family with supernatural powers called talents. Unfortunately, the talents are things like being late or breaking things. The Smedrys must use their unique talents to keep special lenses out of the hands of the evil forces. It's hilarious. Kids love this series (and adults do too).

Adult Book: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
A short classic about three young men who decide to take a boating holiday for which they are horribly prepared in skill or temperment. QR

Mystery - Can you solve it first?

Picture Book: The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base
Clues and hints hidden in the pictures will help readers figure out who stole the birthday feast. This book can entertain kids for days and days.

Middle Grade Book: The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
The Platypus Police Squad is trying to figure out who is smuggling illegal fish into the city. Unique animals abound in this book that reads like Dragnet or Law & Order for kids.

Adult Book: The Listerdale Mystery by Agatha Christie
For those not quite willing to commit to one of Agatha's full-length mysteries, this is a collection of short story mysteries perfect for those who want quick little mental exercises. QR

Adventure - Set out for a little fun and excitement

Picture Book: Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
Three little bears set out on an epic seafaring adventure on the hunt to right a wrong.

Middle Grade Book: Crunch by Leslie Connor
When the oil reserves threaten to dry up, the country goes into a crunch and suddenly gas is all but unavailable. The Marriss parents are stuck on vacation, and the weekend away from the kids grows while suddenly the family's bicycle repair business is booming. Dewey's and his siblings have to try and keep things going in the midst of growing craziness.

YA Book: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan
This is the beginning of the Ranger's Apprentice series, a hugely popular series with our students that's set in a re-imagined old England with tiny touches of fantasy and main characters who are archers who act as law enforcement for the land and have all sorts of adventures.

Romance - For the incurable romantics

Picture Book: For the Love of Autumn by Patricia Polacco
A young class and a little cat act as matchmakers for a teacher and a lonely man. QR

YA/Adult Book: Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
A fun newer book written as an ode to Austen. (Certain parts and characters will remind readers of Austen characters, though the plot is wholly original.)

YA Book: On the Fence by Kasie West
Between her sci-fi Pivot Point series, and her young adult realistic romances, Kasie West has shot up to one of the most popular authors with our teen girls this year. And I'm all for that because she writes good, clean fun. Good luck on trying to find this one actually on the shelves, but if you can, it's about a sporty girl raised by a bunch of guys (her mom died when she was 6) trying to figure out how to become a woman and along the way deal with some issues she's buried.