9 Honored Children’s Books for Elementary School Readers

Dr. Seuss, also known as Theodor Seuss Geisel, understood that books for kids sell… well.
How could he tell?

Geisel learned that children’s books, when embraced by librarians, have a pretty good chance of making it onto the shelves of school libraries, and then on their way home with kids.

In recognition of Geisel and International Children’s Book Day on April 2, we’ve compiled a handful of offerings to help teachers refine their choices. The nine children’s books we’ve selected are written for children ages 3 to 12.

Six of the books are 2015 award winners recognized by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). Three are 2014 Teachers’ and Children’s Choices from the International Literacy Association (ILA). We’ve grouped the books by grade levels, starting with beginning readers in pre-K through second grade. Next, young readers in third and fourth grades. Finally, advanced readers in fifth and sixth grades.

In honor of Dr. Seuss, let’s start with this year’s Geisel Award Winner.

‘You Are (Not) Small’

YouAreNotSmallReading Level: Beginning (pre-K to first grade)

Written by Anna Kang, “You Are (Not) Small” won the prestigious 2015 Geisel Award. Illustrated by her husband, “New Yorker” cartoonist Christopher Weyant, the book is described as clever and brief. But it makes a big point about looking at one another in perspective. Two furry creatures argue about who is large and who is small. Can they both be right? A native New Yorker who now resides in New Jersey, Kang won high praise for her “simple text.” Published by Pippin Properties, Inc.


‘The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend’

BeekleReading Level: Beginning (pre-K to first grade)

Written by Dan Santat, the gray cover belies this book’s magical interior. Beekle wears a crown, reminiscent of another famous children’s book character who roamed in “Where the Wild Things Are.” More than that, we cannot divulge, except to say that Beekle and his “unimaginary” friends encounter magnificent rainbows and starry nights. Described as kaleidoscopic and exquisite, it’s no surprise “The Adventures of Beekle” won the 2015 Caldecott Medal. Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.


‘Bear and Bee’

Bear-and-BeeReading Level: Beginning (kindergarten to second grade)

Written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, “Bear and Bee” puts a new spin on an old rivalry. Described by Indie Bound as a “teachable moment,” the book holds a mirror up to an uninformed bear, who assumes all bees are foreboding creatures. Eventually, he learns bears and bees both dig honey. The book has won several illustration and design awards. It was also recognized as a 2014 Children’s Choices selection by the International Reading Association. Published by Disney-Hyperion.


‘The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus’

The-Right-Word-Roget-and-His-ThesaurusReading Level: Young (third to fourth grade)

Written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, “The Right Word” is an adventuresome learning device for young readers. A book about synonyms seems an unlikely candidate for a best-seller. But this story about Peter Mark Roget hits the mark (also: bull’s eye). Winner of numerous awards that include the prestigious 2015 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and a Caldecott honoree, the book is magnificently illustrated and meticulously written. It’s somewhat advanced for third-graders, but for future wordsmiths “The Right Word” is a winner. Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


‘The Noisy Paint Box’

The-Noisy-Paint-BoxReading Level: Young (third to fourth grade)

Written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary GrandPre, this is a true story about artist Vasily Kandinsky. It’s an ambitious subject for a children’s book. But “The Noisy Box,” like the abstract artist, has received critical acclaim. A 2015 Caldecott Honor Winner, the book sheds light on turn-of-the-century themes — 1914 Russia and Germany, the Industrial Revolution — and synesthesia, a disorder that probably contributed to Kandinsky’s brilliance. Both Rosenstock and GrandPre take a peek inside the complex mind of the extraordinary artist. Published by Random House.


‘The Matchbox Diary’

The-Matchbox-DiaryReading Level: Young (third to fourth grade)

Written by Paul Fleischman, “The Matchbox Diary” rings true, with detailed illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline. There are lots of mysterious objects inside this book. Handsome illustrations reflect a taste for hardwood tables and desks with brass fixtures, leather-bound books and wall hangings, all geometrically aligned behind a distinguished elderly man. The writing is authentic, too. “You smoke cigars?” “No.” “Me, either.” Clearly, “The Matchbox Diary” contains authenticity, which explains why it’s among the Teachers’ Choices 2014 selections. Published by Candlewick Press.


‘The Crossover’

CrossoverReading Level: Advanced (fifth to sixth grade)

Written by Kwame Alexander with a syncopated style in the tradition of Dr. Seuss, “The Crossover” grabs readers like a talented basketball player gripping a hoop after a swish shot. Told through the energetic voices of 12-year-old twins, Josh and Jordan Bell, the book captures the essence of B-ball in a voice most sixth-graders will find honest and hip. The 2015 Newbery Medal Winner, “The Crossover” delivers like a catchy song that kids can’t stop singing. The more students read, the more words they learn and the more points they score! Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.


‘Frog Song’

Frog-SongReading Level: Advanced (fifth to sixth grade)

Written by Brenda Z. Guiberson, “Frog Song” leaps off the pages with illustrations by Gennady Spirin. Pardon the puns, but frogs have graced the literal pages of history for thousands of years. Guiberson and Spirin incorporate this mysterious creature into a children’s book that highlights themes about global interconnectedness and the nature of being. This 2014 Teachers’ Choices selection focuses on several types of frogs from six continents. The wonderful colors and rhythmic words nudge young readers to think about the balance of ecosystems. Published by Henry Holt and Co.


‘Brown Girl Dreaming’

Brown-Girl-DreamingReading Level: Advanced (fifth to sixth grade)

Written by Jacqueline Woodson, “Brown Girl Dreaming” has one of those covers that shouts, “Read me, I’m good.” From the catchy title and illustrious trio of prestigious medallions, to a poetic writing style that will inspire young writers, “Brown Girl Dreaming Delivers” on the title’s promise. A 2015 Sibert and Newbery Honor Book and National Book Award Winner, it isn’t hard to imagine Woodson’s story appearing on-screen someday — the inspiring tale of a South Carolina/New Yorker who “always felt halfway home in each place.” Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, a Penguin imprint.


What have readers learned today?

Children matter. Books matter. Librarians matter.

It’s the books teachers choose for their students to read, however, that receive the most attention inside classrooms.

More importantly, it’s the books that kids take home with them to read, over and over, and over again, that matter most.

Learn More: Click to view related resources.