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MAGICAL BOOKS Send your students off for the summer with our annual list of can’t-miss books! by teacher magazine staff


“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place,” wrote Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling. We agree. Stories can lead you into great adventures, make you laugh, and break your heart. The tough part was choosing just 50 books, out of hundreds, to feature in this year’s Summer Books issue. But we had some good help! Besides our wonderful teacher and librarian reviewers, we enlisted authors Marc Brown (the Arthur series), Dan Gemeinhart (Good Dog), and Angela Cervantes (Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring). Are you ready to meet Esther the Wonder Pig, a whale named Franklin Roosevelt, and a “trap builder” who calls himself Wily Snare? We think you’ll love them!

Scan the photo or go to /teachermag to download book lists by grade.



Mystery & Adventure

Picture Books ê teacher review

Tiny and the Big Dig By Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Matt Myers. $16.99. Gr. K–1. In spite of each new naysayer who comes to watch him dig, Tiny never doubts he is big enough for the job. His belief in himself is a testament to the can-do spirit of children—and when he reaches his goal, the success he finds is larger than anyone could have predicted. —Brian Smith, kindergarten teacher, Taylorsville, NC

Hello, My Name Is…: How Adorabilis Got His Name By Marisa Polansky, illustrated by Joey Chou. $17.99. Gr. K–2. Experiencing an identity crisis, an octopus searches for his true name. He isn’t huge like the giant squid or multi-gilled like the six-gill shark. But all the creatures agree he is adorable. Kids and adults alike will love learning about the real-life 2015 discovery of Opisthoteuthis adorabilis.

Drawn Together By Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat. $17.99. Gr. K–2. A seemingly insurmountable language barrier with his grandfather causes a boy to retreat into drawing and storytelling. But when the grandfather pulls out his own sketchbook, the two find they can bond in this world without words. Stunning illustrations complement the sparse text.

The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig By Steve Jenkins, et al., illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld. $17.99. Gr. K–2. Steve and Derek are hilariously proven wrong when they think they’re adopting a mini pig, as Esther outgrows her cat bed and eventually needs her own bedroom! Based on a true story with a happy ending—their farm becomes the Happily Ever Esther animal sanctuary.

Islandborn By Junot Díaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa. $17.99. Gr. K–2. Lola is stumped when she receives an assignment to illustrate her country of origin. She doesn’t remember “the Island” she emigrated from. But as she begins talking to her neighbors and family, she discovers enough historical detail to fill a book. Beautiful illustrations and imagery-rich language grace the pages of this unforgettable story.

The Manic Panic By Richa Jha, illustrated by Mithila Ananth. $16.99. Gr. K–2. What would you do if the Internet was down? Would you howl and bellow like the parents here? Or join your child

in enjoying the park and family time? With humor and a clever protagonist, Jha puts a twist on a common problem of too much screen time—for adults. ê librarian review

Alma and How She Got Her Name By Juana Martinez-Neal. $15.99. Gr. K–2. Curious about her name, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, Alma learns about her grandmother Candela, who marched for what was right, and her grandfather José, an artist. With each name, Alma discovers connections to the past, and finds that her first name is hers alone to put out into the world. Gently humorous and charmingly illustrated. —Betsy Bird, collection development manager, Evanston, IL

Stegothesaurus By Bridget Heos, illustrated by T. L. McBeth. $17.99. Gr. K–3. The sun is merely hot to his stegosaurus siblings; Stegothesaurus finds it blazing, blistering, broiling. His way with words almost lands him in hot water with an allosaurus, until he discovers she is Allothesaurus. The pair walk around spouting synonyms, and a hilarious twist awaits Stegothesaurus!

The Boy and the Blue Moon By Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Ashley Crowley. $17.99. Gr. K–2. It’s the night of the blue moon as a boy and his cat go adventuring and “anything can happen!” In this lushly illustrated book, boy and cat traverse a magical lake and make their way to the moon, content there until the yellow glow of their porch light beckons.

A Stone for Sascha By Aaron Becker. $17.99. Gr. K–6. In this wordless wonder, a girl, mourning the family dog, tosses a rock in the sea, and we watch as it traverses a slice of history to come back and provide a golden message of solace.

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring By Angela Cervantes. $16.99. Gr. 3–6. Bursting with the colors and culture of Mexico and iconic artist Frida Kahlo, this mystery for the younger set is, at its core, about dads and kids. A fatherless girl visits Kahlo’s hometown and

is pulled into a mystery involving the artist’s missing ring, a wealthy family, and two enigmatic siblings.

A Whale in Paris By Daniel Presley and Claire Polders, illustrated by Erin McGuire. $17.99. Gr. 3–6. In this magical-realist adventure set during the Nazi occupation of Paris, a girl whose mother is lost at sea and a whale become beacons of hope. We find humanity in odd places, and feel we too know the mysteries of whales. ê librarian review

Good Dog By Dan Gemeinhart. $16.99. Gr. 3–7. If you’ve ever had the fortune to love a dog, this poignant tale of loyalty and love beyond the grave will resonate. Riveting and realistic dialogue combined with an action-filled plot will keep readers turning the pages to find out how Brodie returns from the other side to his boy, Aiden. —Stacey Fisher, former media specialist, Holland, MI

A World Below By Wesley King. $17.99. Gr. 3–7. Avatar meets My Side of the Mountain in this story of a field trip gone horribly wrong. When an earthquake sweeps a group of schoolkids deep into a cave

system, the kids’ courage and sense of fairness is tested. We meet a girl who finds her strength, a boy who comes out of his shell, and an empathetic kingling who learns how to rule wisely. ê teacher review

Running on the Roof of the World By Jess Butterworth. $16.95. Gr. 3–7. Two kids are forced to leave their Himalayan village during the Chinese occupation and find themselves making adult-like decisions. The short, cliffhanger chapters will have readers anxiously turning the pages. Middle-grade readers who love Margi Preus will devour Butterworth’s debut. —Stacey Riedmiller, fourth-grade teacher, Reading, OH

The Elephant Thief By Jane Kerr. $16.99. Gr. 3–7. Loosely based on true events in 1880s U.K. about a “menagerie” (zoo) run by hucksters and its famed elephant, this heartrending tale tells the story of a mute street kid, Danny, and Maharajah, the elephant he loves. As they race to save each other, Danny shows he is truly a prince among thieves.



Realistic Fiction Natsumi! By Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Priscilla Burris. $16.99. Gr. K–2. Everything Natsumi does is too loud or too fast. It’s only with her grandfather’s help that Natsumi realizes there’s a place where she’s not too much, but just right. ê librarian review

The Breaking News By Sarah Lynne Reul. $18.99. Gr. K–3. When an unnamed bad event happens, two children find their parents glued to their screens. The kids try to lure them away by acting silly and doing good deeds. Young readers will see how strong children can be when the news cycle renders grown-ups immobile. —Betsy Bird, collection development manager, Evanston, IL

Front Desk By Kelly Yang. $16.99. Gr. 3–6. Newly arrived from China, Mia and her family struggle to learn about living in America. Mia staffs the front desk at the motel her parents manage,



helps other immigrants, and writes life-changing letters. Along the way, she learns about prejudice, kindness, injustice, and courage.

and even louder superhero outfit, Janey is captivated enough to join her in fighting bullies.

The Sky at Our Feet Rosetown By Cynthia Rylant. $16.99. Gr. 3–6. Flora Smallwood faces big changes in her quiet town—recently separated parents and the death of a beloved dog. But fourth grade turns out to be full of adventures, old and new friends, and unexpected opportunities.

You Go First

By Nadia Hashimi. $16.99. Gr. 3–7. Jason’s mother is taken away for her illegal status, so he flees to New York City, trying to find safety before the authorities find him. Joined by Max, a fellow runaway with her own secrets, Jason learns that you can’t outrun life.

The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody

By Erin Entrada Kelly. $16.99. Gr. 3–7. Living far apart, Charlotte and Ben are unlikely friends. But online Scrabble brings them together, and their shared struggles in middle school help them realize they have more in common than they thought—both are fighting to fit in as they navigate family crises.

By Matthew Landis. $16.99. Gr. 3–7. Oliver may be the only seventh grader who knows how awesome the Civil War is. When he’s paired with slacker Ella for a project on an “unimportant” soldier, he finds interesting things can be found in unlikely places.

Captain Superlative!

The Night Diary

By J. S. Puller. $16.99. Gr. 3–7. Janey is determined to make it through middle school as an invisible nobody. But when “Captain Superlative” shows up with her loud voice

By Veera Hiranandani. $16.99. Gr. 4–6. The violent and traumatic partition of India in 1947 forces 12-year-old Nisha and her family to leave the only home Nisha has known, and to survive a harrowing journey. Step by step, she gains new wisdom about herself, her family, and the human beings around her. Beautiful and gripping. —Dan Gemeinhart, author, Good Dog

ê author review

Fantasy & Magic


ê author review

The Cardboard Kingdom

Snared: Escape to the Above

One Day a Dot

Ocean Meets Sky

By Chad Sell. $12.99. Gr. 3–7. A gorgeous graphic novel follows a neighborhood of kids as they transform cardboard into fantastical homemade costumes over the course of one summer. Each vignette builds the scope of the kids’ extraordinary kingdom, while exploring themes of friendship, conflict resolution, and identity.

By Adam Jay Epstein. $16.99. Gr. 4–6. In the first book of this riveting adventure series, trap-builder Wily Snare joins an unusual band of treasure seekers on a dangerous journey. The Dungeons and Dragons–inspired world is filled with quick-witted heroes, diabolical plots, and thrilling quests.

By Ian Lendler, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb. $17.99. Gr. K–3. One day, a dot appeared…what happened next? The story of how everything and everyone came to be is told in a simple, picturesque style that captures the scope of our planet’s history.

By Terry and Eric Fan. $17.99. Gr. K–2. A young boy, grieving the loss of his grandfather, embarks on a misty voyage to the magical place that his grandfather had told him stories about. Lushly illustrated with stunning otherworldly art, this is a tale that delights the eyes as much as the heart. —Dan Gemeinhart, author, Good Dog

The Stone Girl’s Story ê author review

The Magician’s Hat

Aru Shah and the End of Time

By Malcolm Mitchell, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. $17.99. Gr. K–2. Forget pulling a rabbit out of a hat— this magician makes personalized books appear! The Magician’s Hat is a charming tale about the wondrous adventure of following your dreams, with a little help from the perfect book.

By Roshani Chokshi. $16.99. Gr. 3–7. Aru Shah is on school break and “waiting for magic” to happen at her home, which also happens to be the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture. When Aru is whisked off to an unearthly land in her Spider-Man pajamas, she learns that she’s a descendant of Hindu mythology’s Pandava brothers and must save the world from an ancient demon called the Sleeper. —Angela Cervantes, author, Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring

Beep and Bob: Too Much Space! By Jonathan Roth. $5.99. Gr. 2–5. Bob never wanted to go to school in outer space—he even tried to fail the admissions test. But when he accidentally adopts an adorable alien named Beep, it’s just the start of the pair’s astral travels. This hilarious new series is chockfull of astronomy facts.

By Sarah Beth Durst. $16.99. Gr. 4–7. A girl made out of living stone must find a stonemason to save her family before the marks her late father carved that brought them to life fade forever. Durst creates an exquisite world while exploring how stories define us—and who gets to tell the stories. This mesmerizing tale is sure to capture readers’ hearts, minds, and imaginations.

Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship By Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon. $16.99. Gr. K–3. Based on the relationship between Kensky, who lost her legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and her rescue dog (see page 9), this is a heartwarming explanation of the role of service animals for young readers. ê teacher review

All That Trash Granted By John David Anderson. $16.99. Gr. 4–8. What happens when you wish upon a star or a coin? Anderson lyrically explores the complexities of human longing through the eyes of a fairy who must decide what she’s willing to do to grant a child’s wish—and which wish most deserves to be granted.

By Meghan McCarthy. $17.99. Gr. 1–3. Go back to 1987 for the story of a trash barge from Islip, New York, that spent five months at sea looking for a place to deposit 3,168 tons of waste. The story has an environmental message, without being too heavy. —Brian Smith, kindergarten teacher, Taylorsville, NC

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 By Helaine Becker, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. $17.99. Gr. 1–3. This illustrated bio about Johnson’s journey from child who counted everything to NASA’s



“human computer” is beautifully chronicled through succinct text and bold illustrations.

Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real By Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. $17.99. Gr. 2–4. The combination of watercolor illustrations and archival photos sets the scene for this true account of two mischievous girls who convinced the world in 1917 that fairies were real— until later confessing to the hoax.

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code By Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes. $16.99. Gr. 2–4. As a child, Chester Nez was told to leave his Navajo culture and language behind. And then, as a young man, the United States Army needed him. Through his eyes, learn how Navajo code talkers helped win World War II in this celebration of Navajo heritage.

The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome: A Handbook for Time Travelers By Jonathan W. Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella. $13.99. Gr. 3–7.

This first book in a nonfiction series takes a practical (and hilarious) approach to vacationing in ancient Rome, offering advice on attractions, where to stay…and what to do if you’re about to be fed to the lions!

What Would She Do? 25 True Stories of Trailblazing Rebel Women By Kay Woodward, various illustrators. $16.99. Gr. 4–8. The struggles and accomplishments of 25 women are powerfully described, alongside a clever “What would she do?” scenario for each, related to bullying, body shaming, academic pressure, and other issues girls face today. êlibrarian review

Frenemies in the Family By Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Maple Lam. $17.99. Gr. 4–8. Krull shares humorous profiles of 15 famous people and their siblings. The captivating stories are told through both witty prose and delightfully whimsical cartoons. —Sharron Rothberg, teacher-librarian, Foster, RI

Humor ê author review

Sheep 101

Misunderstood Shark

By Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. $17.99. Gr. K–2. The trouble starts when sheep #101, trying to help a boy fall asleep, crashes on the fence. We meet a cow masquerading as a sheep, Humpty Dumpty, and a Lego rescue squad, who manage to wreak havoc in their attempts to help.

By Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Scott Magoon. $17.99. Gr. K–2. Dyckman delivers a funny, sly story that tosses out fun shark facts like fish bait, while Magoon’s energetic illustrations leap off the page. Shark was just showing that small fish his new tooth! The baby seal was lost and Shark was only helping! Then Shark smells blood. What could go wrong? —Marc Brown, author, Arthur series

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates By Ryan T. Higgins. $17.99. Gr. K–2. Penelope Rex is so excited to start school. But when she eats her delicious classmates on the first day (no worries—she spits them out), she finds herself a lonely dino. A goldfish steps in to teach the little T. rex a lesson about self-control and making friends.

Grumpy Monkey By Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang. $17.99. Gr. K–2. Poor Jim Panzee swears he’s not grumpy, but it sure looks that way— he just doesn’t feel like singing, or swinging, or hugging anyone. When his buddy Norman the gorilla does have good reason for feeling down, the two join each other to sit out the end of a grumpy day—and begin to feel a little better.



Neck & Neck By Elise Parsley. $17.99. Gr. K–2. Leopold the giraffe is adored at the zoo—until a new guy, a balloon giraffe, arrives to steal his thunder. Leopold loathes the “grinning goofus” and sets out to destroy him, until he realizes coexistence might be his best tactic. ê librarian review

They Didn’t Teach This in Worm School! By Simone Lia. $14.99. Gr. 2–4. Heady themes of existence and philosophical questions of self-acceptance are among the topics addressed in this rollicking adventure involving two unlikely pals, Marcus the worm and Laurence the chicken. The cast of

characters, including the squirrel with the bad teeth who learns how to beatbox, will have you in fits of laughter. —Stacey Fisher, former media specialist, Holland, MI

Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School By Julie Falatko, illustrated by Colin Jack. $9.99. Gr. 2–6. Two dogs, one lazy, one enterprising, set out to rescue their boy from “an awful place called school.” They venture forth, only to find they love school—not only cafeteria “meat” and recess but also their teacher, and even the class bully, who “doesn’t smell like a bully [but] a cocker spaniel.”

How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens By Paul Noth. $13.99. Gr. 3–7. Absurdity reigns in this spoof on infomercials, mad inventors, and space aliens. A family is under the thumb of their nefarious grandmother, and it’s up to Hap Conklin Jr., a middle schooler with a beard, to save them from grandma and the aliens—with the help of his five sisters, who include a clairvoyant and a kleptomaniac. Flamenco dancing as self-defense? Why not?