Book Club Ideas for Elementary Principals

I don’t know if my principal knew what she was getting herself into when she asked for book recommendations for her Principal’s Book of the Month list she’s launching next year. But I figure that after all the time enthusiastically devoted to this task, I should share here what I sent to her.

I started with author study recommendations. Because she is choosing 3 books each month — one for grades K-2, one for grades 3-4, and one for grades 5-6 — I shared a few authors whose works spans all these ages. Some don’t actually have chapter books out (like Peter Reynolds), but have picture books that I think would be just as suited for older grades as younger!

  • Kate Messner
  • Mo Willems
  • Laurel Snyder
  • Kate DiCamillo
  • Paul Fleischman
  • Peter H. Reynolds
  • Kevin Henkes
  • Peter Brown

Next I gave codes. PB=picture book; GN=graphic novel; CB=chapter book. Obviously, kids (and adults) of all ages need all three of these categories in their lives.

Now, onto the book recommendations! I was sure to note that many of these grade levels are flexible–I would fully endorse “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates” just as much for a 6th grader as a kindergartner. I also added video previews of the books wherever possible.

Grades K-2

  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold PB (great back-to-school read) video
  • We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins PB (hilarious back-to-school read that I’d recommend for all ages) video
  • Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear by Emily Gravett PB (simple, yet interesting story/word play that young readers can actually read themselves)
  • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld PB (on emotions, self-expression, & empathy) video
  • Because by Mo Willems PB (a story that celebrates music, as well as all the cause & effect of inspiration & effort) video of the story behind this story
  • Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis PB (good nonfiction read that explores water & highlights vocabulary in interesting way–perhaps a good one to pair with other water conservation books for a month)
  • The Earth Gives More by Sue Fliess PB (book in verse that illustrates seasons, nature, and the importance of caring for earth–good April earth day read)
  • Fox & Chick: The Party by Sergio Ruzzier GN (accessible early graphic novel full of word play, inferring, and fun) video review
  • Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder CB (sweet early reader that has an enjoyable plot line of 2 brothers’ doings)

Grades 3-4

  • Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera PB (beautiful for any time of year and any grade: story in free verse of a boy’s immigration experience & adjusting to new language & environment) video
  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson PB (another wonderful back-to-school book that I would recommend for all ages; finding belonging amid our differences) video
  • Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell PB (great for cultivating empathy & understanding) video review
  • The Curious Garden by Peter Brown PB (on cultivating creativity, problem-solving, & gardening) video
  • Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones PB (story in verse on persistence and and invention, with great word choice) video
  • Water Princess by Peter Reynolds PB (story of a girl going to fetch water for her family in an African country) video
  • Gone Camping: A Novel In Verse CB (each “chapter” is a different type of poem told from the different characters’ perspectives as they deal with unexpected setbacks, worries, & adventures of camping)
  • Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo GN/CB (fantasy with messaging that kids will find highly relatable–especially those who deal with divorce & custody issues–with plenty of humor in the mix) book trailer
  • How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher CB (nonfiction how-to that’a s lot of fun to read)
  • Fergus & Zeke by Kate Messner CB (a good easy reader chapter book with lots of illustrations and good friendship themes) 

Grades 5-6

  • The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy PB (story about rule-making, fairness, & voice, with some lovely Spanish phrases thrown in) video of author reading first part
  • The North Star by Peter Reynolds PB (beautiful story about finding your own path) video preview (The Dot & Say Something are others I would recommend)
  • Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm CB (strong & funny protagonist voice; historical fiction story of boy living during the Great Depression; his problem-solving, his fibs, and his sense of community) book trailer
  • Rocket to the Moon! by Don Brown GN (engaging nonfiction of the process it took over decades to get humans to the moon)
  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl & Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier CB (moving and compelling fantasy/historical fiction of 11 year-old Nan trying to survive as one of Victorian London’s child chimney sweeps) video introduction by the author
  • Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley CB (hilarious realistic fiction as a boy who has trouble feeling sorry for himself accidentally ends up at a camp for “troubled boys;” themes on friendship & belonging) book trailer
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage CB (strong voice in a fabulously written realistic fiction/mystery. Best part is its the first in a series that kids will be dying to read for themselves) book trailer
  • The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson CB (Harry Potter lovers will love this fantasy read)
  • Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly CB (realistic fiction told from the perspectives of the 4 main characters) 
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker (lovely and unique story of a pet fox that is returned to the wild; told from both the fox and the boy’s perspective)
  • Seventh Goldfish by Kate Messner CB (I actually wrote a review on this one that I’ll link here)

What book club reads have been popular across your school grade levels?

featured image: Dan Barbus

All The Books I’ve Shared, Gathered In One Place (plus 5 recent favorite nonfiction reads)

I just wanted to write a quick post to share that I’ve (finally) created a page where one can find all the book recommendations on this website. With how much I enjoy writing book round-ups, I’m surprised I did not do this sooner!

While you’ve stopped by, here are a few more reads we have enjoyed lately. I was surprised to realize when I made the above page how few nonfiction round-ups I’ve written, so here are our recent favorites from that genre:

Round byJoyce Sidman, Taeeun Yoo. Beautiful illustrations that get us thinking about what is round and why. An excellent inquiry text.

Birthdays From Around the World by Margriet Ruurs, Ashley Barron. Great text for helping kids comprehend similarities and differences across the globe.

Where’s the Baby: A Spotting Book by Britta Teckentrup. Really cute rhymes and even cuter illustrations. All of my kids (ages 2-8) delighted over finding the babies.

Living Things & Non-Living Things: A Compare & Contrast Book by Kevin Kurtz. Most accessibly nuanced approach to living vs. non-living that I’ve ever seen. “Not even scientists have a perfect answer.”

Power Up by Seth Fishman & Isabel Greenberg. My 8 year-old can’t stop musing about the power of her pinky ever since reading this illuminating book. Fascinating introduction to energy.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into SDGs: Life Below Water

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. For more, click here

The global goal of Life Below Water looks the way humans are treating our oceans, targeting issues such as marine pollution, over-exploited fish populations, and acidification of our oceans. And given the fact that 3 billion depend on the marine industry for their livelihoods, we need to find more sustainable use of these resources. Share these videos and books with your students to help them think about how these issues impact them!

Resource #1: Plastics Watch by BBC (see more clips here)

Resource #2: Henry – Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Resource #3: The Ocean Cleanup Technology, Explained via The Kid Should See This

Resource #4: Where Did the Oil Go? by NRDC via The Kid Should See This

Resource #5: Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne & Éric Puybaret; The Brilliant Deep by Kate Messner & Matthew Forsythe; Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola

Provocation Questions:

  • What resources do the oceans provide that humans use?
  • What is the relationship like between our oceans and humans?
  • How might that relationship improve to help both our oceans and humans, and what is our responsibility to do so?
  • What obstacles stand in the way of improving the way we care for our oceans?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Best Inquiry Picture Books: Sustainable Development Goals Round-Up

This is the last installment in a 3-part series. View the other two:

Here is the last installment in a series of picture book round-ups from my inquiry posts! It’s a great feeling to know that so many of my favorite picture books are organized in one place. As with the other two posts, the links to the original inquiries (which include other resource like videos and photo series) are hyperlinked throughout; keep in mind that while I have included picture books for all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals, a few of those inquiries are not yet finished. I hope you can find some new reads to help spark thinking and wonder with your students.

Inquiry into SDG’s (introduction): If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith & Shelagh Armstrong

#1: No Poverty: Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting & Ronald Himler

#2: Zero Hunger: The Good Garden: How One Family Went From Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway & Sylvie Daigneault

#3: Good Health & Well-Being: The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

#4: Quality Education: Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

#5: Gender Equality: Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai & Kerascoet

#6: Clean Water & Sanitation: The Water Princess by Susan Verde & Peter H. Reynolds

#7: Affordable & Clean Energy: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer, & Elizabeth Zunon

#8: Decent Work & Economic Growth: One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway & Eugenie Fernandes

#9: Industry, Innovation, & Infrastructure: If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson; The Red Bicycle: An Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella and Simone Shin

#10: Reduced inequalities: It’s Mine! by Leo Lionni

#11: Sustainable Cities & Communities: The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton; The Promise by Nicola Davies & Laura Carlin

#12: Responsible Production & Consumption: The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss

#13: Climate Action: What Can A Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers & Shawn Harris

#14: Life Below Water: Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne & Éric Puybaret; The Brilliant Deep by Kate Messner & Matthew Forsythe

#15: Life on Land: The Tree Lady by Joseph Hopkins & Jill McElmurry; A Boy & A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz & CaTia Chien

#16: Peace, Justice, & Strong Institutions: The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! By Carmen Agra Deedy & Eugene Yelchin

#17: Inquiry into Partnerships for the Goals: Be Kind By Pat Zietlow Miller & Jen Hill

featured image: Dara or

Hair Care & Respect Books: Why We’re Loving Them #TeacherMom

Last year was a veritable cascade of picture books relating to hair. Specifically, how to care for and respect natural black hair. And I couldn’t be more thankful when it comes to teaching my daughter to care for and respect her own and others’ hair.

First, we came across Cozbi A. Cabrera’s “My Hair Is a Garden.” Though my daughter’s hair isn’t natural black hair, it is curly and wild. As such, it has produced a lot of frustration at the amount of care it requires. As we read Mackenzie’s story, I observed the way my daughter was able to relate. She felt relieved to find that she isn’t the only one who needs to give her hair more nurturing (and to realize that there is nothing wrong with that)! I love the way this gorgeous book normalizes black hair (since of course all hair is normal), while also validating the fact that differences do require different kinds of care.


Next we read, “Don’t Touch My Hair,” by Sharee Miller. This hilarious read got us laughing as it gently but firmly asserts essential principles of boundaries and respect. I think the page of even mermaids trying to touch Aria’s hair was my personal favorite!

One other read we loved last year was Princess Hair, also by Sharee Miller. My daughter loved learning all the different names for hairstyles, and seeing the way all of the girls loved and rocked what they had!

Picture books are such a marvel, aren’t they? The way they validate, teach, assure, entertain, and enlighten. These hair-care and respect books have definitely done all of this and more! Thank you, authors!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Best Inquiry Picture Books: Learner Identities & Subjects Round-Up

This is part of a 3-part series. See also:

PYP inquiry picture books round-up, which includes learner attitudes and mindsets.

Sustainable Development Goals picture books round-up, which includes the global goals such as responsible production & consumption.

I’m continuing my picture book round-up today by drawing from my inquiry posts regarding learner identities, specific subjects, and social/emotional skills. I hope you can find some valuable new reads for your classroom, and I would love if you could share your own recommendations, too!

Being a Writer: Brave Jane Austen by Lisa Pliscou & Jen Corace; The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

Being a Reader: A Child Of Books by Oliver Jeffers; How to Read A Story by Kate Messner & Mark Siegel

Being a Mathematician & Numbers inquiry (and other inquiry into large numbers): Infinity & Me by Gabi Swiatkowska & Kate Hosford; A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman & Isabel Greenberg; 1+1=5 by David LaRochelle, Brenda Sexton

Being a Scientist: tiny, perfect things by M. H. Clark & Madeline Kloepper; Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Design in Nature, & Color: Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin & Rosana Faria; Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman & Beth Krommes

Music: The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling by Timothy Basil Ering & Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle & Rafael Lopez

Friendship & Bullying: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig; Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson & E.B. Lewis; One by Kathryn Otoshi

Feelings & Goal-Making: The Heart & the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers; We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen; The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld; What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom

Stay tuned for one more of these compilations!

featured image: kushboo.jain

Best Inquiry Picture Books: PYP Round-Up

This is part of a series of inquiry picture book round-ups. See also:

Learner Identities & Subjects, which includes traditional subject areas such as math & writing.

Sustainable Development Goals, which includes the global goals such as responsible production & consumption.

Nearly every one of my “inspiring inquiry” posts ends with at least one book recommendation. I wanted to revisit some of them, but I realized that I’ve now written so many inquiry posts that that would take quite a lot of time to click through.

Which brings me to today’s post! It will be the first of a few book round-ups from my inquiry posts, starting with the International Baccalaureate PYP posts. The words in bold are the topic of the inquiry post (linked back the original as well). Please feel free to add additional book recommendations to the comments. Happy reading!

Empathy: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Curiosity: Pond by Jim LaMarche; The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater & The Fan Brothers

Commitment: A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights by Kate Hannigan & Alison Jay

Enthusiasm: Fancy Nancy by Robin Preiss Glasser & Jane O’Connor; Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Jon Klassen & Mac Barnett

Appreciation: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena & Christian Robinson; Windows by Julia Denos & E.B. Goodale; How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher

Independence: Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Scott Magoon

Cooperation: Flora & the Peacocks by Molly Idle; Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Integrity: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen; The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs; This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen; Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

Tolerance: Most People by Michael Lennah & Jennifer E. Morris

Respect: A Boy & A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz & Catia Chien; Don’t Touch My Hair by Saree Miller

Knowledgeable: If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy & Greg Newbold

Caring: Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts & Noah Z. Jones

Principled: Penny & Her Marble by Kevin Henkes; We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen; Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

Risk Taker: I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton; Jubari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall; The Dark by Lemony Snicket & Jon Klassen

Open-Minded: This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe; Harold & the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson; Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd & Abigail Halpin

Inquirer: Claymates by Dev Petty & Lauren Eldridge; Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler

Communicator (& other communication post): The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan & Tom Knight

Balanced: Moon by Alison Oliver & Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson & Kevin O’Malley

Thinker: What Do You Do With A __? books by Kobi Yamada

Action: What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada & Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Social Skills: Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller; We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Self Management Skills: Forever or a Day by Sara Jacoby; The North Star by Peter Reynolds

Where We Live PYP Unit: This House Once by Deborah Freedman

How We Express Ourselves PYP Unit & other unit: The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater; Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen; Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts

Great job if you made it all the way through this list! It made me so happy making it–nothing like a picture book memory lane. You probably also noticed the many Jon Klassen & Mac Barnett reads — I guess their work is just conducive to inquiry!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto