Best Books: For Middle School, Lower School, and Early Childhood

Jamie MacDougall - Head of Middle School
One of our favorite traditions at each calendar year’s end is looking back on some of the books published that resonate with the needs of gifted kids. James Baldwin noted, “You think your pain and heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all of the people who were alive or who had ever been alive.” The reading and discussing of books, often referred to as bibliotherapy, can provide a safe environment for the exploration of the world, as well as an exploration of our deepest selves.  
Gifted scholar Penny Kohloff’s (1996) wish for gifted readers is that they are in classrooms and homes where the adults are readers themselves; who read aloud to their kids regardless of the child’s age; who select “thought-provoking, rigorous, important literature” for their child to read, write, and talk about.  When selecting books for gifted children, she recommends the following general characteristics as guidelines for selection, so as to develop verbal talent, as well as critical and creative thinking skills.
  • Stories that counteract typical formulas. Think The Stinky-Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka
  • Characters who exhibit a high degree of creative thinking and creative risk taking.  Think: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Characters who make nontraditional choices.  Think: The classic Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.
  • Characters who are problem solvers. Think:
  • Characters who exhibit positive responses to insecurities and fears. Think: Almost anything by Madeline L’Engle.
  • Autobiographies and journals. Think: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Judith Wynne Halstad’s Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers makes the case for providing access to a rich variety of bound experiences for gifted kids. She adeptly divides books into categories for discussion. Our first list is compiled solely of books published in the past calendar year. The second two lists are organized by developmental stages.
Happy Reading!
Best of 2018 from Jamie MacDougall, Head of Middle School
Dealing with Loss
A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker
The Rough Patch by Brian Lies
Not My Idea, Divorce is the Worst, Death is Stupid by Amanda Higginbothom
Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Taking a Stand
Max Einstein: The Genius Experiment by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by MT Anderson & Eugene Yelchen
Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Island Born by Junot Diaz, Illustrated by Leo Espinosa
Julian in a Mermaid by Jessica Love
One of a Kind by Chris Gorman
They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki
Niblet and Ralph by Zacharia Ohora
Drawn Together by Min Le, Illustrated by Dan Santat
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
The World Around Us
The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Gullain and Yuval Zommer
This Book is a Planetarium by Kelli Anderson
Fur, Feather, Fin All of Us Are Kin by Diane Lang, Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Timelines of Everything by Smithsonian
Taking a Closer Look
A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, Illustrated by Lane Smith
The Neighbors by Einat Tsafati
The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod McKight
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Historical Fiction
A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
She Loves You by Ann Hood
Social-Emotional Focus
Feelings: Inside My Heart and In My Head by Richard Jones and Libby Walden
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Our next two lists delve deeply into books old and new, targeted a particular developmental stage.
Best Books for Early Childhood Kids - Jennifer Williams
Animalphabet by Julia Donaldson
Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Pena/Christian Robinson
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk
Love by Matt de la Pena/Loren Long
The Mermaid by Jan Brett (published 2017)
Mother Goose Treasury: A Beautiful Collection of Favorite Nursery Rhymes (Hardcover)  by Parragon Books (Author)
Ocean Meets Sky by Terry and Eric Fan
She Persisted (Boxed Set) by Chelsea Clinton
The Snowy Nap by Jan Brett
Sometimes You Fly by Katherine Applegate
Tomorrow I’ll be Brave by Jessica Hische
Best Books for Lower School - Glenna Lykens
Adkins, Leonard. All About the Appalachian Trail. (Jan. 2019)
Ahmed, Roda. Mae Among the Stars.
Anderson, John David. Granted.
Arnold, Elana K. Bat and the Waiting Game.
Bauer, Marion Dane. The Stuff of Stars.
Beasley, Kate. Lions and Liars.
Bissonette, Aimee. Aim for the Skies.
Blackall, Sophie. Hello Lighthouse.
Boyd, Lizi. Flashlight.
Brown, Peter. The Wild Robot Escapes.
Chokshi, Roshani. Aru Shah and the End of Time.
Creech, Sharon. Saving Winslow.
Engle, Margarita. Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics.
Fisher, Valerie. How It Works.
Funk, Josh. How to Code a Sandcastle.
Grandin, Temple. Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create LIke an Inventor.
Herrera, Juan Felipe. Imagine.
Herrera, Juan Felipe. Jabberwalking.
Hirsch, Rebecca. The Monarchs Are Missing.
Holm, Jennifer. The Third Mushroom.
Kline, Christina Baker. Orphan Train Girl.
Krull, Kathleen. Frenemies in the Family.
Krull, Kathleen and Brewer, Paul. Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Krull, Kathleen and Sarda, Julia. One Fun Day with Lewis Carroll.
Lewis, J. Patrick. The Poetry of US.
MacLachlan, Patricia. My Father’s Words.
Martin, Laura. Float.
Mass, Wendy and Stead, Rebecca. Bob.
McAnulty, Stacy. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl.
Mosca, Julia Finley. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin.
Nash, Katherine Seeds. Grandma Gatewood Trail Tales: A Is For Appalachian Trail.
Nobleman, Marc Tyler. Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot’s World War II Story.
Older, Daniel Jose. Dactyl Hill Squad.
Robinson, Sharon. The Hero Two Doors Down.
Schmidt, Gary. So Tall WIthin: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom.
Thermes, Jennifer. Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail.
Yamada, Kobi. What Do You Do With a Problem?
Yousafzai, Malala. Malala’s Magic Pencil.
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