The start of the school year is all about new things—new classrooms, new students, new friends, and that newly-sharpened pencil smell come to mind. The back-to-school season is also the perfect opportunity to find a new favorite book. September is Read-A-New-Book Month, and it’s the perfect time to challenge your students (and yourself!) to pick up a good book and have a new adventure.
There are a lot of great resources out there with wonderful suggestions of books for struggling readers, English learners, students with disabilities, and early childhood education students. I’ve gathered a few suggestions here just to get you started, including award-winners, picks from the American Library Association, and favorites from some of us here at Imagine Learning. I've included thirty-one books—one for each day of Read-A-New-Book Month, plus a spare, just in case.
If you have a book recommendation, please add it to the comments section!
- The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney: This 2010 Calecott Medal winner is a retelling of Aesop’s classic fable and illustrates the unlikely friendship between two very different creatures.
- The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes: This 2009 Caldecott Medal-winning book teaches young readers about the joys of exploring, and that there is always light in the darkness.
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: This unique story is part picture book, part novel and tells the story of Hugo Cabret, an orphan who is determined to continue his father’s work and complete a mysterious invention.
- A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet: This book was awarded the Caldecott Honor, and uses lyrical text and mixed-media collage to teach readers about the life of poet William Carlos Williams.
- All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee: This Caldecott Honor winner takes a look at a day in the life of a diverse, multigenerational community.
- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: This 2010 winner of the Newbery Medal is about a young girl growing up in New York in the 1970s. She encounters many familiar troubles with friends, boys, and family, all with a mysterious science-fiction twist.
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: This winner of the 2009 Newbery Medal tells the story of a child who escapes a league of assassins by hiding in an abandoned graveyard, where he is aided by the spirits there. Gaiman’s signature haunting prose adds humor, emotion, and magic to the tale.
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin: This Newberry Honor winner has many elements similar to traditional Chinese folklore. It tells the story of a girl who goes on a quest to change her family’s fortune.
- The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick: This sometimes funny, sometimes serious adventure story is set in the Civil War era. It is narrated by Homer P. Figg, a boy who’s not afraid of stretching the truth a little. Homer follows the Union army in an effort to save his brother from having to fight in the war.
- After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson: Three friends growing up in a close-knit African American neighborhood in Queens, New York discover faith, purpose, and identity in this Newbery Honor-winning novel.
- The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle: This Newbery Honor-winning book of poems examines the tumultuous era of 1850—1899, revealing Cuba’s troubled past as its people endured the battle for freedom from Spain.
- The Underneath by Kathi Appelt: The stories of an abandoned cat, a loyal hound, and a vengeful water snake intertwine in a tale of betrayal, loss, hope, and love in this Newbery Honor winner.
Notable Children’s Books (American Library Association) Younger Readers
- Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems: Approachable text and engaging illustrations tell the story of Piggie and Gerald as they work through the disappointments of a rainy day and make the most of the situation.
- Garmann’s Summer by Stian Hole: This humorous book for young readers uses poetic text and multi-layered artwork to explore fear and uncertainty during a six-year-old’s last summer before starting school.
- Stinky by Eleanor Davis: When the swamp home of Stinky, the swamp monster, is invaded by a neighborhood boy, Stinky wants nothing more than to get rid of him. However, Stinky comes to realize that he and the boy aren’t as different as Stinky assumed.
- The Blacker the Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas: This collection of poems celebrates the individuality of African American children, exploring all of the shades of skin color, from dark to light.
- Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman: This book—part picture book, part graphic novel—tells the story of how two high school misfits used their talents in storytelling and art to create one of the world’s best-loved characters.
- Masterpiece by Elise Broach: An artistic, adventurous beetle and a lonely eleven-year-old boy team up to catch the thief who has stolen a priceless work of art by Albrecht Durer from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Nation by Terry Pratchett: Cultures collide when an island native, Mau, and a British shipwreck survivor, Daphne, are brought together after a devastating tsunami. The two build a nation that blends each other’s customs, science, and faith in a deeply layered novel of survival and politics.
- Reaching Out by Francisco Jiménez: In this autobiography, Jimenez recounts his days as a young Mexican American student who is so determined to complete his education that he overcomes great odds to become the first in his family to attend college.
- Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis, translated by Anthea Bell: In this fairy tale, set in colonial-era India, a woman facing death tells the story of an unlikely hero and a white tiger. It is a story-within-a-story, and shifts from reality to fantasy as it reveals the profound power of storytelling.
- The Giver by Lois Lowry: Twelve-year-old Jonas has grown up in a utopian world all his life. When he is chosen to fill a special role in the community, he learns the disturbing truth about his world and has to make an important choice.
- Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls: This book tells the story of Billy Colman, who grows up in the Ozarks with his two hounds. The story is full of adventure and grief, as well as important lessons about happiness and friendship.
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: This classic adventure follows Wendy and her brothers to Neverland, where they battle pirates alongside Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. This isn’t just a fun (and funny!) read, it also teaches about family, friendship, and the challenges of growing up.
- The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope: In 1558, a girl named Kate Sutton is sent to a remote castle, where she finds an underground world filled with fairies and mystery.
- Dracula is a Pain in the Neck by Elizabeth Levy: In this fun and spooky story, Robert and his brother Sam try to figure out if the famous vampire is haunting their summer camp.
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: This science fiction adventure takes place in a world where aliens have attacked Earth and nearly destroyed the human race. Ender and his fellow young-geniuses are trained in the art of war in the hopes that they can save the world from destruction.
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: This fantasy-adventure follows Bilbo Baggins as he sets out from his comfortable home to go on a dangerous adventure. He meets dwarves, battles a great dragon, and defeats all sorts of monsters through his wit and his bravery.
- Number the Stars by Lois Lowry: This fictionalization of a true-story account tells the courageous tale of a ten-year-old girl whose family helps to smuggle a Jewish family out of Nazi-controlled Denmark during World War II.
- Heidi by Johanna Spyri: Heidi is the heartwarming story of a little orphan girl who changes the lives of those around her, including her frightening grandfather and a disabled girl named Clara.
- All the Places to Love by Patricia Maclachlan: This picture book celebrates nature, family, and all the places a person can come to love in the world.