Books in Overdrive based on Personal Identity and Safety

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Grades K-3

All Kinds of Children by Norma Simon

Norma Simon uses both the neighborhood and the international stage to celebrate children. Each carefully chosen example and comparison will help to forge a connection to friends and neighbors, other cultures, and faraway lands. As children enjoy this book, the world will grow a little smaller while understanding and acceptance will grow larger.

All the Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger

The essential resource for 20 years!
Celebrate the essence of one way we are all special and different from one another—our skin color! This bilingual (English/Spanish) book offers children a simple, scientifically accurate explanation about how our skin color is determined by our ancestors, the sun, and melanin. It’s also filled with colorful photographs that capture the beautiful variety of skin tones. Reading this book frees children from the myths and stereotypes associated with skin color and helps them build positive identities as they accept, understand, and value our rich and diverse world. Unique activity ideas are included to help you extend the conversation with children.

Be Quiet Marina! by Kirsten DeBear

Marina and Moira like playing together, but Marina is noisy and Moira like quiet. How two preschoolers, one with Cerebral Palsy and one with Down syndrome, become best friends is beautifully told in words and photographs.

Bully by Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco takes on cliques and online bullying
Lyla finds a great friend in Jamie on her first day of school, but when Lyla makes the cheerleading squad and a clique of popular girls invites her to join them, Jamie is left behind. Lyla knows bullying when she sees it, though, and when she sees the girls viciously teasing classmates on Facebook, including Jamie, she is smart enough to get out. But no one dumps these girls, and now they’re out for revenge.
Patricia Polacco has taken up the cause against bullies ever since Thank You, Mr. Falker, and her passion shines through in this powerful story of a girl who stands up for a friend.

Erik the Red Sees Green by Julie Anderson

Exuberant redhead Erik always tries his best, but he just can’t understand why he’s missing homework questions at school and messing up at soccer practice. Then one day in art class everyone notices that Erik’s painted a picture of himself with green hair! It turns out he’s not just creative, he’s color blind, too. Color blindness, also known as Color Vision Deficiency (CVD), affects a significant percentage of the population. The tendency to color-code learning materials in classrooms can make it especially hard for kids with CVD. But once Erik is diagnosed, he and his parents, teachers, coach, and classmates figure out solutions that work with his unique way of seeing, and soon he’s back on track.

Kids Need to Be Safe by Julie Nelson

“Kids are important… They need safe places to live, and safe places to play.” For some kids, this means living with foster parents. In simple words and full-color illustrations, this book explains why some kids move to foster homes, what foster parents do, and ways kids might feel during foster care. Children often believe that they are in foster care because they are “bad.” This book makes it clear that the troubles in their lives are not their fault; the message throughout is one of hope and support. Includes resources and information for parents, foster parents, social workers, counselors, and teachers.

Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama likes to sing.
Gilroy laughs at everything.
Llama sings out just the same.
Gilroy says a not-nice name.
Teacher has some things to say:
calling names is not OK.
Llama Llama is learning lots of new things at school and making many friends. But when Gilroy Goat starts teasing him and some of their classmates, Llama Llama isn’t sure what to do. And then he remembers what his teacher told him—walk away and tell someone. It works! But then Llama Llama feels badly. Can he and Gilroy try to be friends again?
Taking on a difficult but important part of children’s lives, Anna Dewdney gives readers a way to experience and discuss bullying in a safe and comforting way.

Maddie’s Fridge by Lois Brandt

With humor and warmth, this children’s picture book raises awareness about poverty and hunger

Best friends Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, go to the same school, and play in the same park, but while Sofia’s fridge at home is full of nutritious food, the fridge at Maddi’s house is empty. Sofia learns that Maddi’s family doesn’t have enough money to fill their fridge and promises Maddi she’ll keep this discovery a secret. But because Sofia wants to help her friend, she’s faced with a difficult decision: to keep her promise or tell her parents about Maddi’s empty fridge. Filled with colorful artwork, this storybook addresses issues of poverty with honesty and sensitivity while instilling important lessons in friendship, empathy, trust, and helping others. A call to action section, with six effective ways for children to help fight hunger and information on antihunger groups, is also included.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino

Morris is a little boy who loves using his imagination. He dreams about having space adventures, paints beautiful pictures and sings the loudest during circle time. But most of all, Morris loves his classroom’s dress-up center — he loves wearing the tangerine dress.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she?
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it–Yoon-Hey.

Rene has Two Last Names by Rene Colato Lainez

On the first day at my new school, my teacher, Miss Soria, gave me a sticker that said René Colato. The sticker was missing my second last name. Maybe Miss Soria’s pen ran out of ink. I took my pencil and added it. Now it looked right: René Colato Laínez.”

Young René is from El Salvador, and he doesn’t understand why his name has to be different in the United States. When he writes Colato, he sees his paternal grandparents, René and Amelia. When he writes Laínez, he sees his maternal grandparents, Angela and Julio. Without his second last name, René feels incomplete, “like a hamburger without the meat or a pizza without cheese or a hot dog without a wiener.”

His new classmates giggle when René tells them his name. “That’s a long dinosaur name,” one says. “Your name is longer than an anaconda,” another laughs. But René doesn’t want to lose the part of him that comes from his mother’s family. So when the students are given a project to create a family tree, René is determined to explain the importance of using both of his last names. On the day of his presentation, René explains that he is as hard working as Abuelo René, who is a farmer, and as creative as his Abuela Amelia, who is a potter. He can tell stories like his Abuelo Julio and enjoys music like his Abuela Angela.

This charming bilingual picture book for children ages 4 – 8 combines the winning team of author René Colato Laínez and illustrator Fabiola Graullera Ramírez, and follows their award-winning collaboration, I Am René, the Boy / Soy René, el niño. With whimsical illustrations and entertaining text, this sequel is sure to please fans and gain many new ones while explaining an important Hispanic cultural tradition.

What does it Mean to be Kind? by Dana DiOrio

A girl in a red hat finds the courage to be kind to the new student in class. Her kindness spreads, kind act by kind act, until her whole community experiences the magical shift that happens when everyone understands—and acts on—what it means to be kind. The fifth book in Rana DiOrio’s award-winning What Does It Mean To Be …?® series, What Does It Mean To Be Kind? was named a 2015 Moonbeam Gold Medalist and won a Mom’s Choice Gold Award.

What does it Mean to be Safe? by Dana DiOrio

Children need easy guidelines to help them understand how to protect themselves and feel secure in their environments. Rana DiOrio’s newest addition to her award-winning series explores physical, emotional, social and cyber safety in unthreatening ways that spark meaningful conversation between adults and children about staying safe.

When I Feel Worried by Cornelia M. Spelman

Everybody worries. Children worry, too—in new or confusing situations, or when someone is angry with them. This new addition to the acclaimed The Way I Feel Series uses reassuring words and touching illustrations to address a child’s anxieties and shows him ways to help him feel better. Cornelia Maude Spelman and Kathy Parkinson team up once again to provide a comforting and empowering book that’s helpful to all families. Includes a foreword for parents and caregivers.

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Grades 4-8

Angel Square by Brian Doyle

Young Tommy is seeing Angel Square through new eyes since his best friend’s father was beaten up just because he’s a Jew. Brian Doyle brings his award-winning blend of humor and wisdom to bear in this mystery that confronts the issue of racial hatred.

Blubber by Judy Blume

Blubber is a good name for her, the note from Wendy says about Linda. Jill crumples it up and leaves it on the corner of her desk. She doesn’t want to think about Linda or her dumb report on the whale just now. Jill wants to think about Halloween.
But Robby grabs the note, and before Linda stops talking it has gone halfway around the room.
That’s where it all starts. There’s something about Linda that makes a lot of kids in her fifth-grade class want to see how far they can go — but nobody, least of all Jill, expects the fun to end where it does.
A New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year

Carrying Mason by Joyce Magnin

When Luna’s best friend Mason dies, she’s determined to hold onto his memory. Moving in with Mason’s mentally disabled mother, Ruby Day, Luna takes over the cooking and cleaning. But trouble arrives in the form of Ruby Day’s aunt, who wants her niece put away in a mental institution. It will take all Luna’s willpower to defeat the aunt, and along the way she’ll learn what it means to lay down one’s life for a friend.

Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

The Crazy Man by Pamela Porter

Novelist and poet Pamela Porter uses free verse to tell this moving, gritty and award-winning story that is accessible to a wide range of ages and reading abilities.

It is 1965 and 12-year-old Emaline must deal with a family that is falling apart. Her father accidentally runs over her leg, leaving her with a permanent disability and then leaves Emaline and her mother on their own. Despite the neighbors’ disapproval, Emaline’s mother hires Angus, a patient from the local mental hospital, to work their wheat farm. Though the small town’s prejudice creates a cloud of suspicion around Angus that nearly results in tragedy, in the end he becomes a force for healing as Emaline comes to terms with her injury and the loss of her father.

Get on Out of Here Philip Hall by Bette Greene

When a stunning loss—to Philip Hall, of course—sends Beth Lambert reeling, she’ll have to show the town who’s number one, once and for all!   Beth Lambert has become the best student in Miss Johnson’s class, as well as the president and chief presiding officer of the Pretty Pennies Girls Club of Pocahontas, Arkansas. She’s even in the running for the Abner Jerome Brady Leadership Award from Old Rugged Cross Church, and Beth just knows she’s the clear winner.   So when Philip Hall gets the Abner Brady Award instead of Beth, she’s furious. She immediately begins to plot her revenge, coaching the Pretty Pennies to victory in a relay race against Philip’s own gang, the Tiger Hunters. But Beth is worried—what if she’s not born to be a leader after all?   This ebook features an illustrated biography of Bette Greene including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

Because of a bet, Billy is in the uncomfortable position of having to eat fifteen worms in fifteen days. The worms are supplied by his opponent, whose motto is “The bigger and juicier, the better!” At first Billy’s problem is whether or not he can swallow the worm placed before him, even with a choice of condiments from peanut butter to horseradish. But later it looks as if Billy will win, and the challenge becomes getting to the worm to eat it. Billy’s family, after checking with the doctor, takes everything in stride. They even help Billy through his gastronomic ordeal, which twists and turns with each new day, leaving the outcome of the bet continually in doubt.

Loser by Jerry Spinelli

From renowned Newbery-winning author Jerry Spinelli comes an incredible story about how not fitting in might just lead to an incredible life.

Just like other kids, Zinkoff rides his bike, hopes for snow days, and wants to be like his dad when he grows up. But Zinkoff also raises his hand with all the wrong answers, trips over his own feet, and falls down with laughter over a word like “Jabip.” Other kids have their own word to describe him, but Zinkoff is too busy to hear it. He doesn’t know he’s not like everyone else. And one winter night, Zinkoff’s differences show that any name can someday become “hero.”

With some of his finest writing to date and great wit and humor, Jerry Spinelli creates a story about a boy’s individuality surpassing the need to fit in and the genuine importance of failure. As readers follow Zinkoff from first through sixth grade–making this a perfect classroom read–and watch his character develop, it becomes impossible not to identify with and root for him through failures and triumphs.

Peacekeepers by Dianne Linden

13-year-old Nell Mackelwain has to share her mother, a Canadian peacekeeper, with the world, when she just wants her home in Edmonton, helping her deal with the bullies at school. Nell’s trying to be understanding about her mother’s chosen mission, to go halfway around the world to be a peacekeeper, even though she’s a single mom and has to leave Nell and her brother with their uncle Martin who doesn’t know anything about raising kids.

Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different – not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father.
When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.
Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

The Truth About Truman School by Dori Hillestad Butler

They just wanted to tell the truth. When Zebby and Amr create the website thetruthabouttruman.com, they want it to be honest. They want it to be about the real Truman Middle School, to say things that the school newspaper would never say, and to give everyone a chance to say what they want to say, too.But given the chance, some people will say anything—anything to hurt someone else. And when rumors about one popular student escalate to cruel new levels, it’s clear the truth about Truman School is more harrowing than anyone ever imagined.

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Grades 9-12

The Beckoners by Carrie Mac

When her mother suddenly moves them to a new town, Zoe is unhappy about leaving behind what passes for a normal life. And when the first person she meets turns out to be Beck, who rules her new school with a mixture of intimidation and outright violence, she is dismayed. But she has no idea how bad things will get. Unsure of herself and merely trying to fit in, Zoe is initiated, painfully, into the Beckoners, a twisted group of girls whose main purpose is to stay on top by whatever means necessary. Help comes from unlikely quarters as Zoe struggles to tear loose from the Beckoners without becoming a target herself, while also trying to save April — or Dog, as she is called — from further torment. A chilling portrait of the bullying and violence that is all too common in schools, The Beckoners illustrates the lure of becoming tormentor rather than victim, and the terrible price that can be exacted for standing up for what is right.

My Side by Norah McClintock

When quiet, shy Addie is lured into the woods, she is convinced she is going to die. She quickly finds out that there are worse things than terror—things like betrayal at the hands of her best friend and public humiliation in front of the entire school. Neely, Addie’s ex-best friend, is tired of the same old life and the same old friends. She is ready to take some chances to re-invent herself. Is she also ready to win new friends at the expense of old ones? There are two sides to every story, and it’s impossible to know the truth until you’ve heard them both. But sometimes you don’t ever learn the other side of the story. What drives these two friends apart? Who is right and who is wrong? You’ll only know if you read both sides.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

From her first moment at Merryweather High, Melinda Sordino knows she’s an outcast. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops — a major infraction in high-school society — so her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t know glare at her. She retreats into her head, where the lies and hypocrisies of high school stand in stark relief to her own silence, making her all the more mute. But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either — there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about. Try as she might to avoid it, it won’t go away, until there is a painful confrontation. Once that happens, she can’t be silent — she must speak the truth.

In this powerful audiobook, an utterly believable, bitterly ironic heroine speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while learning that, although it’s hard to speak up for yourself, keeping your mouth shut is worse.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

A modern-day classic and New York Times bestseller that celebrates the power of individuality and personal expression from beloved Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli.
Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

Don’t miss the sequel, Love, Stargirl, and Jerry Spinelli’s latest novel, The Warden’s Daughter, about another girl who can’t help but stand out.

Reviews by Overdrive

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