Category Archives: Kid Life

Immigrant Stories

Immigrant Stories

Here are some favorite books that will give you a chance to walk in the shoes of someone coming to America from somewhere new. You will meet some good friends in these stories. They are so strong and brave! Many of the stories are based on real people, often the author or a relative of the author.

anna-and-solomon_1Anna and Solomon – Based on the story of the author’s grandparents’ migration to the United States from late-nineteenth-century Russia, shares how Solomon moved to the U.S. first, where he worked to save money for Anna to join him.

cora-cooks-pancit_1Cora Cooks Pancit – When all her older siblings are away, Cora’s mother finally lets her help make pancit, a Filipino noodle dish. Includes recipe for pancit.

the-day-of-the-pelicanThe Day of the Pelican – In 1998 when the Kosovo hostilities escalate, thirteen-year-old Meli’s life as an ethnic Albanian, changes forever after her brother escapes his Serbian captors and the entire family flees from one refugee camp to another until they are able to immigrate to America.

drita-my-homegirlDrita My Homegirl – When ten-year-old Drita and her family, refugees from Kosovo, move to New York, Drita is teased about not speaking English well, but after a popular student named Maxine is forced to learn about Kosovo as a punishment for teasing Drita, the two girls soon bond.

esperanza-risingEsperanza Rising – Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression. Disponible en español: Esperanza Renace, Pura Belpré medal winner for narrative, 2002.

four-feet-two-sandals_1Four Feet Two Sandals – Two young Afghani girls living in a refugee camp in Pakistan share a precious pair of sandals brought by relief workers.

going-home_1Going Home  Although a Mexican family comes to the United States to work as farm laborers so that their children will have opportunities, the parents still consider Mexico their home.

grandfathers-journey_1Grandfather’s Journey – A Japanese American man recounts his grandfather’s journey to America which he later also undertakes, and the feelings of being torn by a love for two different countries. Caldecott Medal Winner, 1994.

heart-of-a-samurai_2Heart of a Samurai – In 1841, rescued by an American whaler after a terrible shipwreck leaves him and his four companions castaways on a remote island, fourteen-year-old Manjiro, who dreams of becoming a, learns new laws and customs as he becomes the first Japanese person to set foot in the United States. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2013-2014, 4-6 Nominee.

home-of-the-brave_1Home of the Brave – Kek, an African refugee, is confronted by many strange things at the Minneapolis home of his aunt and cousin, as well as in his fifth grade classroom, and longs for his missing mother, but finds comfort in the company of a cow and her owner. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2009-2010, 6-8 Nominee.

im-new-here_1I’m New Here – Three children from other countries (Somalia, Guatemala, and Korea) struggle to adjust to their new home and school in the United States.

in-the-year-of-the-boar-and-jackie-robinsonIn the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson – In 1947, a Chinese child comes to Brooklyn where she becomes Americanized at school, in her apartment building, and by her love for baseball.

kiki-and-jacquesKiki and Jacques – Eleven-year-old Jacques, who must contend with difficult family dynamics and pressure from an older boy to help him commit a crime, is surprised to discover that he has much in common with Kiki, one of the many new Somali refugees who have immigrated to his Maine town.

it-aint-so-awful-falafelIt’s Ain’t So Awful Falafel – Eleven-year-old Zomorod, originally from Iran, tells her story of growing up Iranian in Southern California during the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis of the late 1970s.

just-like-meJust Like Me – In this story about unlikely friendships and finding your place in the world, three very different girls, adopted as babies from the same Chinese orphanage, spend a week at a summer camp, where the adoption agency coordinator wants them to journal their “bonding” experience.

The Keeping Quilt – A homemade quilt ties together the lives of four generations of an immigrant Jewish family, remaining a symbol of their enduring love and faith.


kira-kiraKira Kira – Chronicles the close friendship between two Japanese-American sisters growing up in rural Georgia during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the despair when one sister becomes terminally ill. Newbery Medal Winner, 2005.

the-land-of-forgotten-girlsThe Land of Forgotten Girls – Abandoned by their father and living in poverty with their heartless stepmother in Louisiana, two sisters from the Philippines, twelve-year-old Sol and six-year-old Ming, learn the true meaning of family.

landed_1Landed – After leaving his village in southeastern China, twelve-year-old Sun is held at Angel Island, San Francisco, before being released to join his father, a merchant living in the area. Includes historical notes.

A Long Walk ta-long-walk-to-water_2o Water – When the Sudanese civil war reaches his village in 1985, eleven-year-old Salva becomes separated from his family and must walk with other Dinka tribe members through southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya in search of safe haven. Based on the life of Salva Dut, who, after emigrating to America in 1996, began a project to dig water wells in Sudan. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2012-2013, 6-8 Nominee.

mariama-different-but-just-the-same_1Mariama Different But Just the Same – Everything’s new for Mariama after a long journey by car, train, boat, and plane from Africa. She’s going to discover a world where the streets, her school, and the food are all different. But what about the people?  Disponible en español: Mariama: Diferente Pero Igual

the-matchbox-diaryThe Matchbox Diary – An elderly man shares his story of coming to America with his great granddaughter. Since he did not know how to read or write when he was younger, he created a diary by keeping items inside matchboxes. Together, they open each one like you would a book and learn about where the man came from and his new life in the United States. Disponible en español: El Diario de las Cajas de Fósforos

miss-bridie-chose-a-shovel_1Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel Miss – Bridie emigrates to America in 1856 and chooses to bring a shovel, which proves to be a useful tool throughout her life.  Young Hoosier Book Award, 2007-2008, K-3 Nominee.

mollys-pilgrim_1Molly’s Pilgrim – Told to make a Pilgrim doll for the Thanksgiving display at school, Molly is embarrassed when her mother tries to help her out by creating a doll dressed as she herself was dressed before leaving Russia to seek religious freedom.

90-days-to-havana_190 Miles to Havana – When unrest hits the streets of Havana, Cuba, Julian’s parents must make the heartbreaking decision tosend him and his two brothers away to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation. But when the boys get to Miami, they are thrust into a world where bullies seem to run rampant and it’s not always clear how best to protect themselves.

a-piece-of-homeA Piece of Home – A child-friendly story about the trials and triumphs of starting over in a new place while keeping family and traditions close.


The Red Pencil
– After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp, where she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education in the form of a single red pencil and the friendship and encouragement of a wise elder.

return-to-senderReturn to Sender – After his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure, eleven-year-old Tyler befriends the oldest daughter, but when he discovers they may not be in the country legally, he realizes that real friendship knows no borders.
Pura Belpré Award for narrative, 2010. Disponible en español: Devolver al Remitente

save-me-a-seatSave Me a Seat – Ravi has just moved to the United States from India and has always been at the top of his class; Joe has lived in the same town his whole life and has learning problems–but when their lives intersect in the first week of fifth grade they are brought together by a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and the need to take control of their lives.


Serafina’s Promise
– In a poor village outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Serafina works hard to help her family, but dreams of going to school and becoming a doctor–then the earthquake hits and Serafina must summon all her courage to find her father and still get medicine for her sick baby brother as she promised. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2016-2017, 4-6 Nominee.

shooting-kabulShooting Kabul – Escaping from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, eleven-year-old Fadi and his family immigrate to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Fadi schemes to return to the Pakistani refugee camp where his little sister was accidentally left behind.

somewhere-amongSomewhere Among – Eleven-year-old Emma’s life in Tokyo changes for the worse when she and her American mother, who is pregnant, must move in with her Japanese grandmother the summer before 9/11 changes the world.


The Turtle of Oman
– When Aref, a third-grader who lives in Muscat, Oman, refuses to pack his suitcase and prepare to move to Michigan, his mother asks for help from his grandfather, his Siddi, who takes Aref around the country, storing up memories he can carry with him to a new home.

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Kind is the New Cool

Kind is the New Cool

Believe it or not, there is a movement going on in schools around the country involving KINDNESS. Students are being taught the importance of kindness towards others, then asked to perform random acts of kindness themselves. Kids can change the world by acting with kindness!

Be Cool. Get in on the KINDNESS craze by reading one of these books!



the-hundred-dresses The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes – Wanda Petronski is different from all the other girls in Room 13. Every day she wears the same faded blue dress to school, and every day she tells about her hundred dresses at home. Her classmates joke about her imaginary clothes – until they learn the wonderful secret of the dresses. Newbery Honor Book, 1945 Print, eBook,  eAudio
each-kindness Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson – Chloe realizes that she and her friends have been wrong in making fun of new student Maya’s shabby clothes and refusing to play with her. Print, eAudio
because-of-winn-dixie Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo – Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni describes her first summer in the town of Naomi, Florida, and all the good things that happen to her because of her big ugly dog Winn-Dixie. Newbery Honor Book, 2001. Print, CD, Spanish, eBook, eAudio
the-bfg The BFG by Roald Dahl – The Big Friendly Giant is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and it’s lucky for Sophie that he is. If she had been carried off by any of the other giants she would have been breakfast. When Sophie hears that the giants are headed to England to steal some little children, she and the BFG decide they must stop them once and for all. PrintSpanish, CD, eBook, eAudio
charlottes-web Charlotte’s Web by E.B White – Wilbur, the pig, is desolate when he discovers that he is destined to be the farmer’s Christmas dinner until his spider friend, Charlotte decides to help him. Print, CD, Large Print, Spanish, eBook, eAudio
thank-you-mr-falker Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco – At first, Trisha loves school, but her difficulty learning to read makes her feel dumb, until, in the fifth grade, a new teacher helps her understand and overcome her problem. Print, SpanisheAudio
great-joy Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo – Just before Christmas, when Frances sees a sad-eyed organ grinder and his monkey performing near her apartment, she cannot stop thinking about them, wondering where they go at night, and wishing she could do something to help. Print, Spanish
el-deafo El Deafo by Kate DiCamillo – Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful–and very awkward–hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear–sometimes things she shouldn’t–but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2016-2017, 4-6 Nominee. Print, eBook
wonder Wonder R.J. Palacio – Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2014-2015, 4-6 Nominee. Print, CD, Large Print, Spanish, eBook
tua-and-the-elephant Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris – In Chiang Mai, Thailand, nine-year-old Tua releases an abused elephant from its chains–can she complete the rescue by getting it to an elephant refuge without being caught herself? Print, eBook
boxes-for-katje Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming – After a young Dutch girl writes to her new American friend in thanks for the care package sent after World War II, she begins to receive increasingly larger boxes. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2006-2007, K-3 Nominee. Print
counting-by-7s Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan – Twelve-year-old genius and outsider Willow Chance must figure out how to connect with other people and find a surrogate family for herself after her parents are killed in a car accident. Print, CD, eBook, eAudio
somebody-loves-you-mr-hatch Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli – An anonymous valentine changes the life of the unsociable Mr. Hatch, turning him into a laughing friend who helps and appreciates all his neighbors. Print

Books recommended by: Kristen Williams, guest blogger and former Indianapolis school teacher

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Staff Pick: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Staff Pick: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Tara Feinstein, proud of both her East Indian and Jewish heritage, questions what it means to have a bat mitzvah and deals with her own doubts about her faith.

Like more and more American kids, Tara struggles to find her identity among two cultures: one Jewish, one East Indian. At the same time, she is going through the universal experience of being a teenager: learning to find her own voice within her family, navigating changing relationships and owning up to her mistakes. If you feel like a minority in your school or if you have diverse classmates you are curious about, this is a great read. Particularly fun if you like languages (includes a Hindi-Hebrew-Yiddish-English glossary at the back)!

Recommended by: Danielle Wilkins – College Avenue Branch

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Favorite Teachers in Fiction

Favorite Teachers in Fiction

World Teachers Day
October 5, 2016, World Teacher’s Day & May 3, 2016, National Teacher Appreciation Day are both great times to remember favorite teachers, thank-a-teacherboth real and imagined. Is this the year for a favorite teacher for you? Do you have anybody that is McGonagall good? Listed below are some all-time favorite teachers from kids’ books. When the librarians in Indianapolis made suggestions for this list – Miss Honey from Matilda was suggested the most often. She gets a gold star!

Anne of Avonlea Miss Shirley in Anne of Avonlea – Anne, now sixteen years old and a teacher atAvonlea school, finds that she isn’t much different than her mischievous and spirited pupils.
Because of Mr Terrup Mr. Terupt in Because of Mr. Terupt – Seven fifth-graders at Snow Hill School in Connecticut relate how their lives are changed for the better by “rookie teacher” Mr. Terupt. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2012-2013, 4-6 Nominee
Clemetines Letter Mr. D’Matz in Clementine’s Letter – Clementine’s beloved teacher, Mr. D’Matz might be leaving for the rest of the year to go on a research trip to Egypt. The only solution, she decides, is to hatch a plan to get Mr. D’Matz back even if it means ruining his once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Professors Dumbledore, McGonagallSnape in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School for Wizards and Witches.
Ida B Ms. Washington in Ida B. – In Wisconsin, fourth-grader Ida B spends happy hours being home-schooled and playing in her family’s apple orchard, until her mother begins treatment for breast cancer and her parents must sell part of the orchard and send her to public school. A Junior Library Guild selection; Young Hoosier Book Award, 2006-2007, 4-6 Nominee
Junie B Alohaha Mr. Scary in the Junie B. Jones, First Grader Aloha-ha-ha! – Junie B. and her family are going on a vacation to Hawaii! And ha! Mr. Scary is giving Junie a real, actual camera to keep a photo journal of her trip! But taking good vacation pictures is not always easy. ‘Cause what if your airplane is full of grouchy ladies? And what if there is an unfortunate inner tube incident at the swimming pool? (And, oh my! Let’s not even mention what happens if a tropical bird gets tangled in your hair!) Will Junie B.’s vacation end up picture perfect? Or will her trip to Hawaii be-horrible?
Mockingbird Mrs. Brook in Mockingbird – Ten-year-old Caitlin, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, struggles to understand emotions, show empathy, and make friends at school, while at home she seeks closure by working on a project with her father. Young Hoosier Book Award, 2013-2014, 4-6 Nominee.
Operation Yes Miss Loupe in Operation YES by Sara Lewis Holmes In her first ever teaching job, Miss Loupe uses improvisational acting exercises with her sixth-grade students at an Air Force base school, and when she experiences a family tragedy, her previously skeptical class members use what they have learned to help her, her brother, and other wounded soldiers.
Gooney Bird is so Absurd Mrs. Pidgeon in Gooney Bird is so Absurd – Mrs. Pidgeon’s second grade class studies poetry and her students write haiku, couplets, free verse, and finally, a tribute to Mrs. Pidgeon‘s mother organized by the irrepressible Gooney Bird Greene.
Love That Dog Miss Stretchberry in Love That Dog – A young student, who comes to love poetry through a personal understanding of what different famous poems mean to him, surprises himself by writing his own inspired poem.
Math Curse Mrs. Fibonnaci in Math Curse – When the teacher tells her class that they can think of almost everything as a math problem, one student acquires a math anxiety which becomes a real curse.
Matilda Miss Honey in Matilda – Matilda applies her untapped mental powers to rid the school of the evil, child-hating headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, and restore her nice teacher, Miss Honey, to financial security.
Mr Lincolns Way Mr. Lincoln in Mr. Lincoln’s Way – When Mr. Lincoln, “the coolest principal in the whole world,” discovers that Eugene, the school bully, knows a lot about birds, he uses this interest to help Eugene overcome his intolerance.
Science Verse Mr. Newton in Science Verse – When the teacher tells his class that they can hear the poetry of science in everything, a student is struck with a curse and begins hearing nothing but science verses that sound very much like some well-known poems.
The Art of Miss Chew Miss Chew in The Art of Miss Chew – Describes how a teacher named Miss Chew encouraged individuality, and accepted learning differences, and helped a young student with academic difficulties get extra time to take tests and permission to be in advanced art classes. Inspired by the author’s memories of her art teacher.
The Secret Life of Mrs Finkleman Miss Finkleman in The Secret Life of Ms Finkleman – Spurred by a special project from her social studies teacher, seventh-grader Bethesda Fielding uncovers the secret identity of her music teacher, which leads to a most unusual concert performance and a tutoring assignment.
Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School Miss Jewls in Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School – Join Mrs. Jewls’s class and try solving over fifty math puzzles and brainteasers.
The View from Saturday Mrs. Olinski in The View From Saturday – Four students, with their own individual stories, develop a special bond and attract the attention of their teacher, a paraplegic, who chooses them to represent their sixth-grade class in the Academic Bowl competition.
The Wednesday Wars Mrs. Baker in The Wednesday Wars – During the 1967 school year, on Wednesday afternoons when all his classmates go to either Catechism or Hebrew school, seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood stays in Mrs. Baker’s classroom where they read the plays of William Shakespeare and Holling learns much of value about the world he lives in.
Word After Word After Word Ms. Mirabel in Word After Word After Word – A visiting author teaches five friends about the power of wordsand writing. A Junior Library Guild selection
The Year of Miss Agnes Miss Agnes in The Year of Miss Agnes – Ten-year-old Fred (short for Frederika) narrates the story of school and village life among the Athapascans in Alaska during 1948 when Miss Agnes arrived as the new teacher.
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Staff Pick: The Rat with the Human Face

Staff Pick: The Rat with the Human Face

The Rat with the Human Face

While searching for the Rat with the Human Face, friendships fray as club members Dave and Lyle compete for Marilla.

Lyle, Dave and Marilla from The Poop Fountain are on another adventure. This time, the trio is out to find a rat with a human face that lives in the basement of a scientific research facility. Calling themselves the Qwikpick Adventure Society after the gas station owned by Lyle’s parents, the group overhears an electrician talk about the mysterious animal he saw while doing work in the building. They knew immediately they had to see this rat for themselves.

As with any plan, logistics are important. How do they get to the science building that is 40 miles away? How can they get away without their parents finding out? How can they avoid getting caught illegally entering a building?

The story is presented as an unofficial report of the society (with extra sheets paper clipped on to cover more personal matters not appropriate for the report) written by Lyle. We know from the beginning that after the adventure the society has been banned and that Marilla is not allowed to see Lyle anymore (which is too bad because he likes her and she may like him).

The kids are smart, fun and a little too curious for their own good. Their third adventure, To Kick a Corpse, is also available.

Recommended by: Will Smither – Decatur Branch

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