The Blue Spark

This is a thoughtful, illustrated book about children who can see the good in others and help them change. Max starts the story by saying "Being bad never felt so good. Evil runs in my family." His counterpart Ronnie believes "Goodness is in all of us. My family stands for justice." After wonderfully illustrated interactions between the two, Max is able to see the goodness in himself. The book is clearly written and offers a positive message about looking below the surface to see the potential in others.

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A to Z: The Real DC

I've read many A to Z picture books in my days, but what makes this one special is not only its photographs of D.C. landmarks, but also the creativity of the photographs. My favorite is "F" is for Frederick Douglas. Not only do the pages show pictures of the Frederick Douglas Historic Site, but a photo of what I presume is one of the book's authors "shaking hands" with the statue of Frederick Douglas. It's these sorts of shots that delight children and adults alike.

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Out of Breath

I felt so sad for the kangaroo – it is hard to keep a secret, especially one that has potential to embarrass you or negatively impact others and yourself. I was so glad she had found a trusting adult, her coach, to tell, and that she had one close friend to keep her going. I think this is a great book for pointing out ways to cope with stressful, maybe dangerous, situations.

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Time for Change

I like the dedication, because it shows that this book meant to give people courage. I like that Asia, the hyena, said they have to work together to escape. I like that they used persistence to get out and to get the lion pack to not kill the hyenas. I like the hyenas peacefully protesting. The most meaningful line of the book is: “Mya stood up on her back legs and said ‘I might be young, but my voice matters.'” The other most meaningful line is: “We are tired of fighting all the time. It is not benefiting anyone, we need to come in peace.”

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Time for Change

I thought the best part was when they stood together against the elders. We all hear a lot about working together and seeing people for who they are, but less about how hard it is to defend someone who is different than you to a group with known strong, dissenting opinions. Research says that bullying can be minimized if other kids try to stop it; that would certainly be easier to do if you were a united front as Asia and Mya are.

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Out of Breath: Kendra's Big Secret

This is a wonderful story with a crazy cast of characters that emphasizes the importance of healthy self-esteem, and not putting yourself at risk out of fear of what others may say. This book fills a gap by addressing the topic of asthma, which has a higher prevalence in low-income communities and among children of color. The authors recognize that children are often ashamed of health conditions and by writing this story, they encourage children not to shy away from talking about their own health conditions. Readers can learn that you shouldn’t assume or judge the words or actions of others.

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Taking Down Ms. Moody

Taking Down Ms. Moody teaches a valuable lesson about confrontation that is important for kids who have experienced mistreatment in classrooms: conflict resolution comes best through honesty, courage, and finding a common ground. The book touches on important themes like equality and compassion and exudes creativity with its beautiful illustrations and alien super-power concepts.  Taking Down Ms. Moody is a fun read and has great potential for shaping young readers.

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One Lonely Camel

We read One Lonely Camel today, and the kids really loved it. They gasped with shock (Larry's story really touched them), they giggled (at Tunechi's antics), and they roared their approval (the popular culture references). In short, it was a huge hit! When I asked who would give it 4 stars (our highest rating) all 20 hands shot up.

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Trio + One

Jordan Campbell, Rico McCard and Brandon Smith left me thinking deeply about two common struggles in middle school--identity and friendship. The voice and storyline drew me into the book and I found myself connecting to each of the characters as the story unfolded. This is an impressive first book for these authors and a book that I will have readily available for students at my school, where I am principal. I know my students will find the story enjoyable, and I expect the message of the story will remain with them. Buy this book!

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