Happy January, teachers and librarians! It’s time for those New Year’s resolutions, and we’ve found one we can definitely get behind: spreading the joy of reading! To help anyone who might have a similar resolution, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite January 2017 titles, with recommended lesson connections and concepts for teachable moments in the New Year. Happy reading!
When a greyhound meets a groundhog, wordplay—and crazy antics—ensue. The two animals, much like kids, work themselves into a frenzy as they whirl around and around each other. The pace picks up until they ultimately wear themselves out. With very spare, incredibly lively language, this is an entertaining read-aloud, with two amazing (and oh so adorable) characters at its heart.
Lesson Connection: Introduce your young readers to wordplay and tongue twisters!
Concepts: Friendship, rhyme and alliteration, repetition, animals
Find a partner for hand claps such as “Eenie, Meenie, Sassafreeny,” or form a group for circle games like “Little Sally Walker.” Gather as a class to sing well-loved songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Oh, Freedom” or to read aloud the poetry of African American luminaries such as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. And snuggle down to enjoy classic stories retold by the author, including Aesop’s fables and tales featuring Br’er Rabbit and Anansi the spider. This is a songbook, a storybook, a poetry collection, and much more all rolled into one, filled with the joy of childhood and ready to inspire a new generation to play.
Lesson Connection: This anthology helps students learn about and study games, songs, and stories from an African American childhood.
Concepts: Fairy tales and folklore, country and ethnicity, people and places
When the underguard show up—officers brandishing toilet brushes—eleven-year-old Ivy Sparrow and her older brother, Seb, go tumbling into a world that is anything but ordinary. Welcome to Lundinor, a secret underground city where enchanted objects are capable of extraordinary things. There Ivy and Seb will come face to face with uncommon people who trade in uncommon goods—belts that enable the wearer to fly, yo-yos that turn into weapons, buttons with curative properties, and more. Ivy and Seb also learn that their family is connected to one of the greatest uncommon treasures of all time—and if they don’t find it, their parents’ lives will be forfeit. It’s a race against time and a host of mysterious creatures who are up to no good.
Lesson Connection: Use the descriptions of everyday magical objects to inspire creativity and imagination in students’ personal writing.
Concepts: Fantasy and magic, action and adventure, good vs. evil, relationships
Cammie O’Reilly is the warden’s daughter, living in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. But she’s also living in a prison of grief for the mother who died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. In the summer of 1959, as twelve turns to thirteen, everything is in flux. Cammie’s best friend is discovering lipstick and American Bandstand. A child killer is caught and brought to her prison. And the mother figures in her life include a flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo and a sullen reformed arsonist of a housekeeper. All will play a role in Cammie’s coming of age. But one in particular will make a staggering sacrifice to ensure that Cammie breaks free from her past.
Lesson Connection: This book will spark discussion about everyday heroes around us, and how the secondary characters in the story assist Cammie’s development.
Concepts: Emotions, death and dying, family relationships, coming of age
With rich black-and-white illustrations throughout, Swedish author-illustrator Jakob Wegelius’s story of puzzling secrets and heinous crimes is paired with an unexpected friendship. Sally Jones is a loyal friend and an extraordinary individual. In overalls or in a maharaja’s turban, this gorilla moves among humans without speaking but understands everything. She and the Chief are devoted comrades who operate a cargo boat. A job they are offered pays big bucks, but the deal ends badly, and the Chief is falsely convicted of murder. For Sally Jones, this is the start of a harrowing quest for survival and to clear the Chief’s name. Powerful forces are working against her, and they will do anything to protect their secrets.
Lesson Connection: This unique, international text will help teach students about fighting injustice and what it means to be fiercely loyal to friends.
Concepts: Mysteries and detective stories, friendship, action and adventure
Dani learned to tolerate her existence in suburban Florida with her brash and seemingly unloving mother by embracing the philosophy Why care? It will only hurt. So when her mother is killed in a sudden and violent manner, Dani goes into an even deeper protection mode: total numbness. But when Dani chooses The Stranger by Albert Camus as summer reading for school, it feels like fate. The main character’s alienation after his mother’s death mirrors her own. Dani’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she is sent to New Mexico to live with an aunt she never knew she had. The awkwardness between them is palpable. To escape, Dani takes long walks in the merciless heat. One day, she meets Paulo, who understands how much Dani is hurting. Although she is hesitant at first, a mutual trust and affection develops between them. And as she and her aunt begin to connect, Dani learns about her mother’s past.
Lesson Connection: This is a great book to frame discussions about how forgiveness isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s the only way to move forward.
Concepts: Family, grief, death and dying, acceptance and belonging, relationships