RMU Recommends: Books

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.

Spring 2021 Recommended Books

“Books that teach diversity”

View printable version with images

Grades PreK-2

One Love

Author: Cedelia Marley

Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Description: A board book that is perfect for preschoolers to learn about diversity, teamwork and love.  A heartwarming story set to Bob Marley’s unforgettable lyrics.

Recommended by: Dr. Gray

Strictly No Elephants

Author: Lisa Mantchev

Illustrator: Taeeun Yoo

Description: This picture book has a gentle message of inclusion and helping others, this title reaches beyond a mere friendship story.

Recommended by: Dr. Gray

Ada Twist, Scientist

Author: Andrea Beaty

Description: Part of a series of STEM favorites from New York Times bestseller Andrea Beaty, Ada Twist, Scientist is about Ada, a curious young girl of color with boundless passion for science. This book teaches readers age 4 to 7 about problem solving, perseverance, and science, and challenges them never to lose their sense of curiosity.

Recommended by: Rebecca Adrian 

An ABC of Equality

Author: Chana Ginelle Ewing  

Illustrator: Paulina Morgan 

Description: The simple illustrators accompany each letter of the alphabet with simple and child-friendly explanations of what it means to be kind, accepting, and make the world a better place than we found it. 

Recommended by: Dr. Bernadowski

My Footprints

Author: Bao Phi

Description: This warmhearted book, ideal for children 4 to 7 years of age, sends the message that children can draw strength on from their cultural heritage. As a Vietnamese American with two moms, Thuy is taunted by bullies for being “double different.” She dreams of flying away like a bird, sprinting off like a deer, or roaring like a bear. In the protection of her two moms, she finds courage inside herself.

Recommended by: Rebecca Adrian 

I am Every Good Thing

Author: Derrick Barnes

Description: The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He's got big plans, and no doubt he'll see them through--as he's creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he's afraid, because he's so often misunderstood and called what he is not. 

Recommended by: Lori Zorn

And Tango Makes Three 

Author: Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell 

Description: A true story of two male chinstrap penguins who live at the Central Park Zoo and adopt and raise a baby.  One of my all time favorite children's books.  

Recommended by: Dr. Parker

One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike than Different

Author: Linsey Davis

Illustrator: Lucy Fleming

Description: A culture-rich picture book that showcases the beauty of diversity while also celebrating all the wonderful things we have in common. 

Recommended by: Dr. Gray

The Color of Us 

Author: Karen Katz

Illustrator: Karen Katz

Description: Lena, a seven-year-old girl, wants desperately to paint a beautiful picture of herself. As she chooses the brown paint, she realized there are many different shades of brown. This realization serves as a catalyst for conversations about the differences and similarities that we all share.

Recommended by: Dr. Bernadowski

All Are Welcome

Author: Alexandra Penfold 

Description: This New York Times bestselling picture book, suitable for kids 4 to 8 years of age, invites readers into a school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play alongside friends in baseball caps and T-shirts. A place where children from all cultures are welcome to learn from each other’s traditions.

Recommended by: Rebecca Adrian 

You Matter

Author: Christian Robinson

Description: Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters.

Recommended by: Lori Zorn


Author: Jess Hong 

Description: This lively picture book for kids ages 4 to 8 asks the question, “What is lovely?” The answer is not what you think — and everything you hope. Lovely is big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth and wrinkly: the differences that make us all lovely.

Recommended by: Rebecca Adrian 

Listening with My Heart: A story of kindness and self-compassion

Author: Gabi Garcia

Illustrator: Ying Hui Tan

Description: This book gets at the essence of how to help children be more self-compassionate – by teaching them to be a good friend to themselves. It is a must for anyone wanting to help children cope with their difficult emotions in a kind, connected and mindful manner.

Recommended by: Dr. Gray

A Friend Like Simon

Author: Kate Gaynor

Description: This brilliantly illustrated picture book introduces children ages 4 to 8 — especially those in mainstream school — to a child with autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The story begins with Matthew, who meets his new classmate Simon, and sees that Simon is a little different than his other friends. During a school trip, Matthew learns to joys of having “a friend like Simon.”

Recommended by: Rebecca Adrian 

 A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart

Author: Zetta Elliot

Description: The author he provides a child’s experiences following a police shooting―through grief and protests, healing and community―with washes of color as vibrant as his words. 

Recommended by: Lori Zorn

Grades 3-5 

The First Rule of Punk

Author: Celia C. Perez

Description: Readers learn from Maria Luisa (also known as Malu), a free-spirited Mexican-American girl, that the first rule of punk is to be yourself. This book offers an interesting look into many issues tweens and teens may face, including taking pride in your heritage, standing up for what you believe in, self-identify, friendship, family, and dealing with problems specific to mixed-race children in American

Recommended by: Dr. Gray    

Save Me a Seat

Authors: Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan 

Description: Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs 

Colored Wrappers

Authors: Jennifer Letizia

Description: The story is about Jacob, who is being bullied at school by another student name Smith for being black. The book is written from Smith’s brother's perspective. A young boy starting a new journey/school surrounded by different race children.

Recommended by: Lori Zorn

The Parker Inheritance 

Author: Varian Johnson 

Description: When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. So with the help of Brandon, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert's history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. 

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs 

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

Author: Ibi Zoboi

Description: Twelve-year old Ebony-Grace is a space-loving girl who has to leave her grandfather in Alabama and spend the summer with her dad in Harlem. She has to learn to adapt to all the changes going on in her life while also trying to fit into her new environment.

Recommended by: Dr. Gray


Author: Sharon Draper 

Description: Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves. It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst thing happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs 

The New Kid 

Author: Jerry Craft

Description: Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. 

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs 

Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Author: Meg Medina 

Description: Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal, this coming-of-age tale by New York Times best-selling author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs 

Grades 6-8

The Skin I’m In

Author: Sharon Flake

Description: Sharon Flake’s debut novel, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, introduces readers to Meelaka, a dark-skinned Black girl, who is teased for her homemade clothes and dark skin. She meets a new teacher that teaches her that it is okay to be different and to embrace your differences.

Recommended by: Dr. Bernadowski

Girls Resist: A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution

Author: KaeLyn Rich

Illustrator: Giulia Sagramola 

Description: A guidebook for young women who want to make a difference. Teens will learn how to choose a cause, spread awareness, and work towards making change in the world. Girls are encouraged to examine their own personal privilege and biases while being guided on how to use their voices to fight for equity and justice.

Recommended by: Dr. Nena Hisle


Author: Kwame Alexander

Description: Written in prose, Alexander introduces the Bell twin brothers, Josh and Jordan, who share a love of basketball and family until a girl comes between the once inseparable boys. This book is a must read aloud and the first in a series of must reads by Alexander (by the same name). 

Recommended by: Dr. Bernadowski

The ABC’s of LGBT+ (Gender Identity Book for Teens, Teen & Young Adult LGBT Issues)

Author: Ashley Mardell

Description: An excellent resource for teens who may be questioning their identity or seeking to explore the varied identities outside of mainstream media. This is done through the use of understandable and respectful language told through the counter-stories of youths who are often silenced. It’s an even more valuable guidebook for the adults who love and work with these teens.

Recommended by: Dr. Nena Hisle

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish

Author: Pablo Cartaya 

Description: After Marcus Vega faces suspension for fighting in school, his mom decides to take a trip to visit relatives in Puerto Rico. Marcus remembers that his father is living on the island as well. A coming of age novel, Marcus learns a lot about being a preteen and his culture. 

Recommended by: Dr. Bernadowski 

Prairie Lotus 

Author: Linda Sue Park

Description: A powerful, touching, multilayered book about a girl determined to fit in and realize her dreams: getting an education, becoming a dressmaker in her father’s shop, and making at least one friend. Narrated by Hanna, the novel has poignant moments yet sparkles with humor, introducing a captivating heroine whose wry, observant voice will resonate with readers.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs

I am Malala. This is my story.

Author: Malala Yousafzai & Patricia McCormick

Description: Malala, a Middle Eastern teen, shares how her life was changed after the Taliban placed restrictions on the basic rights of women in her once peaceful hometown of Pakistan. Her bravery led to her being shot while riding home from school, yet she did not low this devastating act of violence to stop her from fighting for her personal right’s.

Recommended by: Dr. Nena Hisle

Save Me a Seat

Author: Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan 

Description: Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs 

Piecing Me Together

Author: Renee Watson

Description: Jade is a Black teenager who is struggling to avoid being cast into the stereo-typical mold of poor troubled teen from the “hood.” Although she heeds her mothers advice to leave their low-income neighborhood to attend a private school, she resists people’s natural inclination to perceive her as needing fixed.

Recommended by: Dr. Nena Hisle

Hello, Universe

Author: Erin Entrada Kelly 

Description: In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs 

Grades 9-12

Dear Martin

Author: Nic Stone

Description: A realistic depiction of what life can be like for Black male teens as they attempt to navigate safely through the neighborhoods of any given inner-city in the United States. Justyce McAllister, a well-behaved, honor student, finds himself caught up in an encounter with the police that leaves him caught up in the crosshairs of gunfire and bound by police handcuffs.

Recommended by: Dr. Nena Hisle

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Author: Margot Lee Shetterly 

Description: Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs

Fall 2020 Recommended Books

A list of recommended books to help children understand living with different types of illnesses. Many books are relevant to the current pandemic and makes it more understandable for children.

View PDF with Images

Grades PreK-2

Llama, Llama Home with Mama

Author: Anna Dewdney

Description: Baby llama isn’t feeling well and he stays home while his mama cares for him. This book emphasizes the importance of taking care of others. The rhymes are perfect for our youngsters who are learning about language. The most important lesson baby llama learns is that mamas need to be cared for too.

Recommended by: Dr. Carianne Bernadowski

Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo 

Author: E.S. Redmond 

Description:  When Felicity doesn't use a tissue or wash her hands, the animals get sick.  Rhyming story, with whimsical illustrations with a trail of Felicity's handprints so we "see" where she left her germs.  

Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Captain Corona and the 19 COVID Warriors

Author: Melissa Graatias 

Illustrated by: Brittany Curry

Description: Captain Corona takes a group of children on an adventure through the community introducing them to a team of 19 brave warriors whose selfless efforts keep us alive. Captain Corona celebrates health care workers, custodians, journalists, store clerks, teachers, scientists, and more. 

Recommended by: Claire Pilarswki 

Get Well Soon!

Author: Charlotte Hudson

Description: A heartwarming story about a family member who is ill and missing someone special. Wobbily Fang's mom doesn't look like Mummy any more. She looks small and lost and alone in her strange room in the hospital. "When are you coming home?" asks Wobbily Fang. "In a little while!" Mummy reassures him. But just how long is "a little while" and how can Wobbily Fang make her eyes sparkle like they used to? Wobbily Fang brings Mummy all the home. 

Recommended by: Dr. Kathleen Gray

A Unique Start from 6 Feet Apart 

Author: Emily Oquendo

Description: Addresses going to school during a pandemic, and covers masks, hand-washing, personal items, hand sanitizer, social distancing.  Also includes resources at the end of the book.

Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Why Can’t I Go to School?

Author: Abbi Kruse and the Playing Field

Description: This social story teaches young beginning readers the importance of staying home during the COVID-19 Pandemic. As children question why they may not be able to attend school or play with friends, the story helps to explain to youngsters the importance of staying healthy. This book can be accessed for free at https://challengingbehavior.org/docs/why-cant-i-go-to-school_Story.pdf.

Recommended by: Dr. Carianne Bernadowski

Lucy's Mask 

Author: Lisa Sirkis Thompson

Description: This book isn't about the science of being sick, but helps young children make sense of wearing masks.  

Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

Even Astronauts Practice Social Distancing 

Author: Kristen Ehert

Description: This is a story is meant to answer children’s questions about the Coronavirus. It teaches children about how to practice social distancing, wear masks, and answers questions about how long we will need to stay at home.

Recommended by: Claire Pilarski

Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo

Author: Karen Rostoker-Gruber

Description: Rooster has a sore throat and can't cock-a-doodle-doo. Farmer Ted is sleeping, and there's no one to gather the eggs, milk the cows, sheer the sheep, and feed the pigs. Rooster needs help—and fast. Working together, Rooster and the other animals come up with some madcap but effective ways to wake Farmer Ted and complete the day's chores. But can they do it all before sunset? A barnful of laughs is guaranteed in this fun-filled book about friendship and cooperation.

Recommended by: Dr. Kathleen Gray

The Invisible String

Author: Patrice Karst

lllustrator: Geoff Stevenson

Description: The award winning book is a story of love, dedication and the unbreakable bond between families. Whether separated by illness, miles or death, this story illustrates how important the relationships we build are in our lives.

Recommended by: Dr. Carianne Bernadowski

Germs Make Me Sick!

Authors: Marylin Hafner and Melvin Berger                                  

Summary: This book provides an introduction to bacteria and viruses and how each of the two forms attacks cells and makes a person feel sick. Read and find out about germs, how they can make you sick, and how your body works to fight them off and keep you healthy.

Recommended by: Lori Zorn 


Author: Jessica Shepherd

Description: A comforting (yet realistic) story of the relationship between a young boy and his Grandma who has dementia. Beautifully illustrated and sensitively written, this would be a great choice for any child who has a loved one who is suffering from dementia or is going into a care home.

Recommended by: Dr. Kathleen Gray

Because of the Coronavirus

Author: Deborah Rotenstein, M.D.

Illustrated by: Rose H. Lauer

Description: This e-book was written by a local pediatric endocrinologist about the effects that the Coronavirus has on everyday life. The explanation of a virus is also broken down in an easy to understand format for children, and also emphasizes ways to prevent the virus and stay healthy, such as hand washing. 

Recommended by: Trina Sparico

The Virus-Stopping Champion

Author: Hilary Rogers

Description: Featuring a child superhero who learns how to prevent the spread of the virus, the story touches on the courageous steps every child and their family can take to fight COVID 19. From handwashing, social distancing and the importance of staying home

Recommended by: Claire Pilarski 

How do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? 

Authors: Jane Yolen & Mark Teague.  

Description: What does a dinosaur do to get over being sick? 

Recommended by: Dr. Susan Parker

When the World is Sick: A story about staying safe and the Coronavirus

Author: Dr. Keila Rodríguez

Description: The story chronicles a little girl’s conversation with the coronavirus she has heard so much about from family and friends. She teaches the imaginary friend how to stay safe and healthy and remembers the joy of life. This story is a must read for young children navigating the world we live in today.

Recommended by: Dr. Cairanne Bernadowski

Grades 3-5

Caleb and Kit 

Author: Beth Vrabel

Description: Caleb is a 12 year old boy and has cystic fibrosis. Caleb tries to not let his disorder define him, but that is difficult with an overprotective mother. He becomes friends with Kit, an energetic girl. Caleb has to make a decision on whether or not their friendship is healthy for him. 

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs 

Kasey and Ivy 

Author: Alison Hughes

Description: Kasey is a 12 year old girl who spends time in a geriatric ward for a bone disease.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs


Author: Stewart Foster

Description: 11 year old Joe can't be outside because of a condition he has, he cannot have exposure to any germs.   Bubble is a story of how Joe spends his days, copes with his loneliness and frustration, and looks—with superhero-style bravery, curiosity, and hope—to a future without limits.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs


Author: Doreen Cronin

Description: Nora and Riley (cousins) ride a rollercoaster and Riley falls into a coma due to a heart condition. 

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs

Grades 6-8


Author: Judy Blume

Description: Scoliosis twists Deenie's plans for seventh grade. This is a classic book that tells the tale of Deenie, a girl who wants to spend time with her friends and join the cheerleading squad when she is diagnosed with scoliosis and needs to wear a bodystocking and brace.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs 

Echo's Sister

Author: Paul Mosier

Description: 12 year old El is picked up from her first day of school by her dad, and is told that her sister, Echo, has a life threatening illness, cancer. When all hope feels lost, El makes a new friend who helps bring the community together to support the family. 

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs

Fever 1793

Author:  Laurie Halse Anderson

Description: During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather, but then the fever breaks out. At her feverish mother's insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs


Author: C.K. Martin

Description: Naomi doesn't expect anything unusual from her annual family trip to visit her grandparents in Ireland. What she finds is a country hit by an unexpected virus that rapidly infects the majority of the Irish population over the age of twenty-one, turning its victims aggravated, blank or violent. Naomi and her friends must survive on their own, without lucid adults, cut off from the rest of the world, until a cure is found.

Recommended by: Jennifer Wachs

Grades 9-12

The Fault in Our Stars

Author: John Green

Description: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten

Recommended by: Katie Starko 

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling

Author: Lucy Frank 

Description: Francesca and Shannon, both of whom live with Crohn’s disease. The teens share a hospital room, but there’s a curtain hanging between them. The novel is written in a way that reflects the parallel stories, with a line dividing the pages like the curtain dividing the room. It’s a book about friendship and finding comfort in someone else who is going through the same things you are.

Recommended by: Kelsey Fatica (RMU Alum: 2017)

Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Description: Maddy is a 17-year old girl who is allergic to the outside world and has never left her house. When the new boy, Olly, moves in next door, Maddy wants more than anything to leave her house to see him. 

Recommended by: Katie Starko

Turtles All the Way Down

Author: John Green

Description: Aza is investigating a mystery revolving around a fugitive billionaire, all the while trying to do her best. Aza lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder and has “spiraling thoughts” that cause anxiety. Readers follow Aza on her journey which is less about the billionaire and more about her.

Recommended by: Katie Starko

Out of My Mind

Author: Sharon M. Draper 

Description: Eleven-year-old Melody has cerebral palsy. But she also has a photographic memory.; She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but NO ONE knows it. But Melody refuses to be defined by her disability.

Recommended by: Jenna Pastoria (RMU Alum: 2019)


Author: DA Roach

Description: Brogen’s journey leads her to Jay who lives with vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (vEDS). The book shows how Jay’s life is impacted by the condition and how it affects him not only as a high schooler but how it affects his potential future as well.

Recommended by: Katie Starko

Five Feet Apart

Author: Rachel Lippincott and Tobis Iaconis 

Description: Stella and Will both live with cystic fibrosis. In order to keep themselves safe from infection, they need to stay at least six feet apart from one another. But as the two get to know each other, that becomes easier said than done.

Recommended by: Katie Starko

2020 Recommended Apps and Websites

App Name: OG Card Deck by Mayerson Academy

Description: This app is a user-friendly, easy to navigate flashcard approach similar to the card deck used in Orton Gillingham lessons. This is an excellent app for review of letter sounds and follows a sequential instructional approach for phonetically regular and irregular words. A must have for beginning and intermediate readers. This app is free of charge.

Age Range: All ages

App Name: Overdrive

Description: Overdrive is the app for all ages as it saves you a trip to the library or the bookstore. The app allows users to download audio books to the device of your choice. Adults and children alike will enjoy listening to their favorite authors on the go. Users can borrow books from their neighborhood library or buy selections to add to your personal collection. Children who struggle to complete required reading for school will benefit from the audio option for books. This app is free of charge.

Age Range: All ages, even adults!

App Name: Watpad

Description: Wattpad is an app that brings a community of writers together where they can share and read original works. Teens can join the community, share their work, and receive feedback by both novice and experienced writers.

Age Range: Middle School and up! 

Description: Starfall app or www.starfall.com is a popular website and app that offers users a wide variety of literacy skills from letter sounds to social-emotional learning lessons. Young readers will enjoy the interactive letter sound games while older children can engage with text to enhance comprehension in social studies, math and science. Accessibility for the hearing impaired is simple and for those with limited physical capabilities, Starfall is designed with simple navigation. This app is free of charge.

Age Range: PreK-3

Website Name: FunBrain.Com

Description: FunBrain is an educational browser game website for children and adults. Each website is set up

Age Range: All ages

Website Name: SuperTeacherWorksheets.com

Description: Super Teacher worksheets is a great resource for grabbing grade-specific worksheets in many subjects! Each subject is listed on the left-hand side of the page. Once you choose your subject, you can choose the level of worksheet. This website also has project ideas, printable games, and even seasonal work!

Age Range: All ages

Website Name: PBSKids.org

Description: PBSKids.Org is a fabulous place for young learners to play educational games based on their favorite PBS kids TV shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts, Curious George and more.

Age Range: Young students, pre-school to second grade 

Website Name: PBSKids.org

Description: BrainPop is a group of educational websites with over 1,000 short animated movies for students in grades K-12, together with quizzes and related materials, covering the subjects of science, social studies, English, math, engineering and technology, health, and arts and music.

Age Range: K-12

Website Name: First in Math

Description: First In Math features hundreds of engaging games designed to strengthen fact fluency, automaticity, computational thinking and other critical skills. Whether students are working on addition or algebra, built-in practice GOALS keep your whole Classroom Team energized to sustain accelerated effort over time, forging a bond that encourages achievement and keeps them energized.

Resources for Parents

Website: Understood.org

Description: Understood is designed to provide parents and teachers with information about learning and thinking differences. Information about special education is thorough and helpful. You can sign up for a newsletter geared towards your child's needs.

Website: LDOnline.Org

Description: is all about learning differences. Specific strategies can be found for both teachers and parents. You can sign up to receive a newsletter.

Website: ChildMindInstitute.Org

Description: features information about mental health in children. This website has helpful articles on a wide range of topics. You can sign up for a newsletter.

Fall 2019 Recommended Books

Back by Popular Demand: This year we interviewed the real book critics. This edition of RMU Recommends was approved by kids of every age.

View PDF/Printable Version

Books for Kids Ages 5-18

Llama Destroys the World

Author: Jonathan Stutzman

Summary: Meet Llama, the next great picture-book megastar, who has most definitely driven a bus and who loves tacos way more than you. He also loves cake and that’s where our story begins.
On Monday, Llama discovers a pile of cake, which he promptly eats. On Tuesday, Llama squeezes into his dancing pants, which he promptly rips. The force of the rip creates a black hole (naturally). By Friday, Llama will (indirectly) destroy the world.

Kid’s Review: “This book makes me laugh because the Llama is so silly when he dances. The pictures are funny, too!” – Babu, age 8

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Author: Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

Summary: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is about letters from the alphabet. They fall out of a coconut tree. Then they climb back up the coconut tree. It is so funny! Readers learn about have fun with rhyming and letter recognition. You can even sing a song to go along with the book.

Kid’s Review: “My favorite part of the book is when the letters alI fall down. Some get hurt and some get twisted all up! It is so funny. I love this book because you learn stuff and laugh at the same time.” - Sarah, age 5

A Mother for Choco

Author: Keiko Kasza

Summary: Choco wishes he had a mother, but who could she be? He sets off to find her, asking all kinds of animals, but he doesn't meet anyone who looks just like him. He doesn't even think of asking Mrs. Bear if she's his mother but then she starts to do just the things a mommy might do. When she brings him home, he meets her other children which include a piglet, a hippo, and an alligator.  He learns that families can come in all shapes and sizes and still fit together.

Kid’s Review: “All Choco wants is a mother, and when he finds her he is so happy- that makes me happy!” – Daniel, age 5

The Bad Seed

Author: Jory John

Summary: This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad? Do you really want to know? He has a bad
temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be—happy?

Kid’s Review: “It’s not nice to call anyone bad, because no one is bad all the time. He decides to be good, and he realizes how fun it is!” – Mikey, age 6

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Author: Andrea Beaty

Summary:  Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school . . . until one day, when Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer do so. Sofia (aka Sofi) misses her Abuelo and wonders what she can do about the dangerous Mount Trashmore. Then she gets an idea—the town can turn the slimy mess into a park! She brainstorms and plans and finally works up the courage to go to City Hall—only to be told by a clerk that she can’t build a park because she’s just a kid! Sofia is down but not out, and she sets out to prove what one kid can do.

Kid’s Review: “I think it’s cool that she saw a problem and tried to make it better. Sofia is making her world a better place.” - Dylan, age 8

Shark Lady: The True Story of how Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist

Author: Jess Keating

Summary: Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn't imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary―and they didn't think women should be scientists.

Kid’s Review: “Girls can do anything boys can do! So I love the Shark Lady.” – Mae, age 8

Books for Kids Ages 9-12

The Secret Lake

Author: Karen Inglish

Summary: When Stella and her younger brother, Tom, move to their new London home, they become mystified by the disappearances of Harry, their elderly neighbor’s small dog.
Where does he go? And why does he keep reappearing wet?
Their quest to solve the riddle over the summer holidays leads to a boat buried under a grassy mound, and a tunnel that takes them to a secret lake. Stella and Tom soon discover that they have travelled back in time to their home and its gardens almost 100 years earlier. Here they make both friends and enemies and uncover startling connections between the past and present.

Kid’s Review: “The kids go to a secret lake where they go back in time. They have to learn to work together to overcome fights with their nemesis to get back home.” - Hannah, age 12

Mistakes that Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions and How They Came to Be

Author: Charlotte Foltz Jones

Summary: SANDWICHES came about when an English Earl was too busy gambling to eat his meal and needed to keep one hand free. POTATO CHIPS were first cooked by a chef who was furious when a customer complained that his fried potatoes weren’t thin enough. Coca-Cola, Silly Putty, and X rays have fascinating stories behind them too! Their unusual tales, and many more, along with hilarious cartoons and weird, amazing facts, make up this fun-filled book about everyday items that had surprisingly haphazard beginnings.

Kid’s Review: “Everybody makes mistakes but these lucky ducks made really smart mistakes
that we still do today” -Max, age 11

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones

Author: Rick Riordan

Summary: Amy and Dan realize how large their family really is at Grandma Grace’s funeral. Relatives from all over come to pay their respects and are given a special challenge. Grandma provides clues to a mystery that they must solve to win the inheritance and become the richest, most powerful Cahill family member OR they can take one million dollars and walk away. What would you choose?

Kid’s Review: “This book has tons of clues that you have to keep reading to answer. I kept reading to find out what was going to happen to Amy and Dan” – Shannon age 12


Author: Kevin Henkes

Summary: Chrysanthemum thinks her name is absolutely perfect—until her first day of school. "You're named after a flower!" teases Victoria. "Let's smell her," says Jo. Chrysanthemum wilts. What will it take to make her blossom again?

Kid’s Review: “This book showed me that even if you get teased about something, you can find a way to still feel special. Any kid can get teased but you have to be stronger. That's why I like this book!” – Grant, age 9

Who Was Jackie Robinson

Author: Gail Herman

Summary: Jackie Robinson was an important man in history. He had a tough life growing up during the time of racial segregation. Black people didn't have the same rights as white people. They didn't go to the same schools and were made to sit in the back of buses. But guess what? Jackie Robinson became the first black man in major league baseball. How did he do that? You will have to read the book to find out! Jackie was rookie of the year the first year he played. Two years later he became the MVP of the National League. He and the Dodgers went on to win the World Series and after he retired, he was voted into the Hall of Fame.

Kid’s Review: “I would recommend this book to anyone, if you like baseball or not. Jackie Robinson was a great baseball player who changed the world by being strong enough to prove that it doesn't matter what color your skin is. Everyone can dream!!” – Nathan, age 11

A Night Divided

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Summary: With the rise of the Berlin Wall, Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, yet she can't help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns turned on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

Kid’s Review: “This is a book that always keeps the reader guessing, and you never know what will happen next. You will like this book if you enjoy historical fiction and mysteries. I like this book simply because I could not put it down, because I wanted to know what was going to happen.” – Marco, age 12

Books for Teens

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky

Summary: The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky, Perks follows observant “wallflower”
Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

Kid Review: “High School isn’t always G rated, and this book isn’t either. But Charlie’s perspective is one I identify with.” - Hannah, age 16

Red Queen

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Summary: Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

Kid Review: “I picked this book because it has an action filled plot along with a love story. There are unexpected plot twists that really kept my interest!!” – Emily, age 15

The Outsiders

Author: S.E. Hinton

Summary: No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he's got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends—true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up on “greasers” like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect— until the night someone takes things too far.

Kid Review: “Throughout the novel, Ponyboy is in a constant battle between what is right and what is wrong, and struggles to understand how privilege affects those within his society. He and his buddies must find a way in which to be accepted into a world that views them as outsiders. This book is my favorite because it is relatable to teenagers and how cliques affect the characters. Each character is unique and well developed. It is an easy read and extremely enjoyable!” – Liv age 18


Author: Laura Hilenbrand

Summary: In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Kid Review: “Hillenbrand presents the audience with Louie Zamperini's life story. This American hero fought in the Pacific during World War II, and lived through the toughest of conditions, where the chance of survival were low. The story encapsulates the uncapped potential of human resilience, and the true prevail of good over evil.” Luke, age 18

Spring 2019 Recommended Books

Click here to download/print this list.

Grades PreK-2

Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

Author: Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes

Summary: Loosely based on the experiences of the author, this book describes how the lives of Jessica and her service dog, Rescue, change and grow. It is appropriate for children in K to grade 4 and was the 2019 Schneider Family Book Award for Young Children’s Book.

"I like the positive ability message that this book sends. Young children will love it for the friendship between Jessica and Rescue and older children and adults will appreciate the symbolism in the story and illustrations.” –Dr. Vicki Donne

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

Author: John Oliver

Summary: When Marlon Bundo falls in love with a boy bunny, he and his friends face opposition, but their love has the ability to change the views of others as they persevere.

“This book encourages tolerance and diversity in young children and also shows how changes within society should be embraced and accepted instead of shamed.” – Ashley Messner

By the Light of the Moon

Author: Tom Percival

Summary: Moving to a new home is difficult for Ivan. He doesn’t like the home and refuses to try and give it a chance. Magically, the moon turns into a friendly monster that takes him on adventures and shows him that change can be good if we just give it a chance.

"I recommend this book because it demonstrates the power of imagination." –Dr. Carianne Bernadowski

The Fix-It Man

Author: Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston

Summary: After the death of her mother, a young girl realizes that her father, the man who could fix anything, does not know how to fix their broken hearts. Through trials and tribulations, the young girl and her father find a way to fix their hearts and relationships and find the resilience to move forward with their new lives.

"I recommend this book because it shows young children that adults need help and support through tough times, also." –Dr. Carianne Bernadowski

Grades 3-5

Mr. Peabody’s Apples

Author: Madonna

Summary: The children of Happville cannot understand why Mr. Peabody, their baseball coach and history teacher, would walk over to Mr. Funkadeli's Market, pick the shiniest apple out of the bunch, put it in his pocket, and walk away without paying for it each day. Although the children do not know the entire story and cannot make sense of it all, one of the young boys decides to start a rumor that Mr. Peabody steals apples from Mr. Funkadeli, and the rumor spreads like wildfire throughout the town of Happville.

“This short story demonstrates that in order for a child to grow and become more mature, he or she must be aware of all of the damage that a simple rumor can cause.” –Natalie Groscost

Grades 6-8


Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Summary: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a science fiction thriller told through the various narratives of those aboard several science space vessels fleeing a corporate-sponsored genocide. Kady Grant was only in high school when a foreign invasion on her planet sent her and her community running from murderous thugs. In this first book of a trilogy-length series, readers can watch Kady grow from student to computer engineer as she tries to save those she loves most.

“I recommend Illuminae specifically in its audiobook format. Voiced by a full cast, this story reads more like a radio drama and really pulls readers into the story. You can really see Kady's character grow in this action-packed story set in a futuristic space scene. Despite being a science fiction book, the story itself has a lot of relevant topics. These include corporate greed and the ethics of artificial intelligence.” –Savanah Buhite (RMU Alum: 2017)

Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz

Author: Rena Kornreich Gelissen

Summary: Arriving at Auschwitz on the first transport, Rena never thought she'd be strong enough to survive the death camp. That is, until she realizes her sister is right there with her. Rena realizes she can no longer waste away in the horror around her and makes a promise to herself that she will make it out of Auschwitz alive.

“This true story sheds more light on the horrors of Nazi Germany while simultaneously preserving the incredible story and bond between two sisters.” –Kayla Ford (RMU Alum: 2017)

Okay for Now

Author: Gary Schmidt

Summary: Doug Swieteck, the engaging narrator of this award-winning novel, confronts the challenges of adolescence with courage: his struggles to make friends in a new town, his attempts to hide his learning disability, and his brother's return from the Vietnam War are just the tip of the iceberg.  

“Gary Schmidt is a master at writing novels that bring comedy and heart to serious issues -- and he writes compelling characters that readers come to love. As one Amazon reviewer says, "I'm reminded that great books don't always have to be over 500 pages long with tiny font sizes and filled with heavy, ponderous thought-matter. Instead they can be unassuming, with a slightly tacky cover and filled with the every-day life of a boy, Doug, who deals with an abusive father (although you wouldn't hear him admit it), a bully of a brother, a mother with a beautiful smile and a whole cast of characters making up the stupid town life of a stupid small town in New York." –Dr. Connie Ruzich


Author: Jerry Spinelli

Summary: Stargirl has been homeschooled up until the tenth grade, and this is when she starts school at Mica High. She is "different" from her peers she goes to school with, yet the students are fascinated by her

“This is a novel that proves being part of the "in-crowd" in high school is one thing, but one being able to fully embrace who she is, flaws and all, is a true demonstration of growth, maturity, and self-love.” –Natalie Groscost

Grades 9-12

The Old Man and the Sea

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Summary: This short Pulitzer Prize novel tells the story of an old fisherman and a boy who set out in a small skiff to fish. The story builds as the old man catches a large (perhaps largest on record) marlin after a struggle that lasted days. On his return to land, the marlin is devoured by sharks. Thus, the record catch is only now in the minds of the old man and the boy.

“The theme focuses on the struggle and what impact in had on the old fisherman. The story is also rich in symbolism relative to the role of the old man, the marlin, etc. It certainly is worth a read since the old man and the boy changed and grew from the experience with the marlin.” –Dr. George Semich

A Separate Peace

Author: John Knowles

Summary: A coming of age novel of three teenage boys growing up at the Devon School, a private school in New Hampshire. With the backdrop of the war, these three boys try to live their lives amidst the pressures of becoming a part of the war effort. The friendship between the three reaches a crisis when Leper enlists and Gene through a conscious or unconscious act shakes a tree branch that results in an injury that would eventually end Phineas's life. Gene relives these series of events as he returns to Devon School fifteen years later as he tries to find his separate peace after the war.

“This coming of age novel is very well-written and highlights all of the major elements of a short story.” –Dr. George Semich


Author: Alan Moore

Summary: A murder mystery-turned-nationwide conspiracy, Watchmen examines the lives of the eponymous superhero team as they seem to decay alongside the ever-darkening America around them. Rorschach, Nite Owl, the Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias reunite to investigate who’s behind a teammate’s murder, but find that the truth may be even more grim than the world they seek to protect (Summary from Amazon).

“An alternate history account of the United States during and after Vietnam following a new generation of costumed adventurers. Not only does this chronicle the personal changes and growth of individual characters, such as Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan (the latter being an omniscient being who initially lacks all empathy), but the change and growth of the United States as a whole during the Cold War. Paranoia runs rampant with citizens becoming less and less trusting in once highly respected heroes, with the general public continuously asking ‘who watches the Watchmen?’” –Dom Weisser (RMU Alum: 2017)

The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Summary: Starr Carter's attempt to navigate her home world, a poor, mostly black neighborhood ravaged by drug crime, and her school world, a mostly wealthy white prep school, is shattered by her witnessing of a police shooting of a close friend.

“This novel is a modern-day To Kill a Mockingbird, with a protagonist who is as engaging as Scout Finch, yet is an actor, not an observer.” –Mary Catherine Kiliany

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Author: Bessel Van Der Kolk

Summary: A nonfiction self-help book which describes how the brain and body both survive and adapt to trauma and ways that an individual can heal and adjust to the changes.

"This is a great book for anyone who is interested in how the brain operates under extreme stress and trauma as well as how it heals from that as well as anyone who is seeking help for themselves in order to change and grow as a person.” –Ashley Messner

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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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