Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

Published by Creston Books

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Summary:  Born five months apart in 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank grew up in very different circumstances on different continents.  Both experienced prejudice and discrimination, though, and both loved to learn and express their ideas through writing and speaking. Although Martin lived more than twice as many years as Anne, they both had their lives cut short by hatred.  And both left legacies of peace and love that continue to this day; includes a timeline and bibliography. 32 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  This would be a perfect text to introduce a unit on people who have made a difference, or to encourage students to compare the lives of two famous people.  An inspiring book.

Cons:  An author’s note with more information about Anne and Martin would have been a nice addition.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai

Published by Little, Brown and Company

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Summary:  Malala Yousafzai begins by telling the story of her own family’s displacement from their home in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.  As an internationally-known human rights activist, she has traveled around the world and met many others who have experienced displacement, and she shares nine of their stories (all girls and young women), as well as the story of Jennifer, a woman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania who has helped one of the families profiled.  The stories take place all over the world, in countries in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America. Malala concludes with a story of her family returning home, and wishes the same for those she has written about. Includes photos, a section on how you can help, and a little more information on where each of the young women is today.  224 pages; grades 6+ (there are many references to violence, but nothing too graphic; nothing that a mature fifth grader couldn’t handle).

Pros:  These stories will humanize the refugee crisis for readers who may have only thought about it in an abstract way.  The stories are compelling, and the subjects are close in age to middle and high school readers, sometimes even younger at the beginning of their journeys.  Their courage and determination will inspire kids to want to help others around the world.

Cons:  Some of the stories were only a few pages long and left me wanting to know more.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Teddy: The Remarkable Tale of a President, A Cartoonist, A Toymaker, and A Bear by James Sage, illustrated by Lisk Feng

Published by Kids Can Press

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Summary:  I’ve always had some vague notion that the teddy bear is named for Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, but thanks to this book, I now know the specifics.  When T.R. went on a bear-hunting trip to Mississippi, there was nary a bear to be found. His hosts finally found a small bear and tied it to a tree, but he refused to shoot it on the grounds that it would be unsportsmanlike.  Washington Post cartoonist Clifford Berryman, suffering from a slow news day, turned the anecdote into a cartoon that went viral.  It caught the eye of Brooklyn shopkeepers Morris and Rose Michtom. When Rose stitched up a replica of the bear and put it in the store window, stuffed animal history was made.  The Michtoms were overwhelmed by the demand, and opened the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company to crank out Teddy bears of all sizes and shapes. Includes an author’s note with a few photos that sorts out the fact and fiction of his story.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A fun telling of the (mostly) true story about the original Teddy bear.  

Cons:  Tying a bear to a tree to be shot.


I met this guy back in 1973, and we still hang out.  He “bears” an uncanny resemblance to the cover of this book.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here. Sorry, the bear is not for sale.

Stubby: A True Story of Friendship by Michael Foreman

Published by Andersen Press

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Summary:  During basic training during World War I, the soldier narrator tells how a stray dog started hanging around every time he sat down to eat.  The dog’s odd flat face and short legs earned him the name Stubby, and he became an unofficial mascot for the soldier’s division. Smuggled onto a train, then a boat, Stubby made it all the way to France, where he joined the soldier in the trenches, warning them of approaching enemy soldiers and impending gas attacks.  Severely wounded, Stubby spent time in an army hospital, but returned to the front six weeks later. Both Stubby and his soldier friend survived to the end of the war, and happily returned to a peaceful life back in the U.S. An afterword tells more about Stubby (who met Presidents Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge), and Corporal Robert Conroy, the soldier who adopted him.  32 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Dogs and the military are always popular subjects in my schools, so this story of a cute dog who courageously served in World War I is sure to be popular.

Cons:  Stubby is always portrayed with slightly bugged-out eyes and a big grin, making him look a few cards short of a full deck.

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I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon by Baptiste and Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Published by Millbrook Press

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Summary:  Growing up in Cameroon, Tantoh was sometimes laughed at for asking too many questions in school.  He loved nature, especially learning how to grow plants. His classmates gave him the nickname Farmer, meant to be an insult, but Tantoh embraced the title.  He purposely failed an exam that could have led to a well-paying office job so he could spend all his time outside growing crops. After studying agriculture in Cameroon and the U.S., Tantoh helped transform Cameroon by focusing on clean water and community gardens.  He founded the organization Save Your Future Association to build community, protect the environment, and promote education.  Includes an authors’ note with additional information about Farmer Tantoh, and photos and African proverbs on both the front and back endpapers.  32 pages; ages 7-11.

Pros:  As the authors write about Tantoh in their note: “His story is a reminder of many things–being true to your passion, using resources wisely, and never forgetting your roots.”  It’s an inspirational tale about one person making a big difference for many others.

Cons:  This is not likely to be a book most kids will pick up without some adult guidance.

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I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

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The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Published by Versify

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Summary:  “This is for the unforgettable/The swift and sweet ones/who hurdled history/and opened a world of possibility.”  Kwame Alexander’s poem is an ode to African Americans, both the famous and the unknown ones who played important roles in America’s history.  Kadir Nelson’s oil paintings on white backgrounds portray the subjects; a list at the end identifies them and gives more information about each one. Alexander has also written an afterword to tell how he came to write this poem in 2008, the year his second daughter was born and Barack Obama became president.  He concludes in the final line of the poem, “This is for the undefeated./This is for you./And you./And you./This is for us.” 40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  The poem is extremely moving, as well as being an excellent introduction to a chunk of African-American history.  I hope Kadir Nelson’s amazing paintings will be recognized with some kind of an award.

Cons:  In the group pictures, each person is identified, but it’s just a list, so it’s difficult to tell who is who in the painting.

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