Emil and Karl

Glatshteyn, Yankev. Emil and Karl. New Milford, Conn.: Roaring Brook Press, 2006.
Left alone after three men drag his mother away and threaten to return for him, nine-year old Karl runs to the home of his friend Emil. But he finds no safety. Emil’s mother is not well and is taken away, leaving both boys alone.  Aryan Karl and Jewish Emil struggle to survive in the dangerous world of Nazi-occupied Vienna, Austria. 
Many novels have been written about the Holocaust. But this one is unusual in that it was first published in 1940, before the United States even entered the war. Written in Yiddish and translated into English by Jeffrey Shandler, it is highly recommended for all readers 10 years old and up.

More books about World War 2 

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Novels of survival in extreme physical environments

Ada’s Violin

Hood, Susan. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 

Ada lives in a poverty-stricken town that serves as the main garbage dump for the capital city of Paraguay. She – along with thousands of other residents – spend their days picking through the trash to find things to recycle and sell. This poignant and inspiring story tells how a man sent to teach safety practices decided to teach the children how to make musical instruments. The orchestra he formed has now performed around the world!  Dramatically illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, this true story is recommended for readers 7 years old and up. 

More stories from South America

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Good Rosie!

DiCamillo, Kate. Good Rosie! Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2018.
Rosie is a good dog. But she’s lonely sometimes. George takes her to the dog park, but she feels overwhelmed. How will she find a friend? How can she make a friend? This delightful picture book, illustrated by Harry Bliss, will charm readers 4 to 12 years old.

The difference between popularity and friendship

Tips for making new friends

Famous fictional friends

The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer

Cali, Davide. The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2016.
What did you do this summer? A boy energetically responds with a wild tale of world travels.
The author of numerous picture books, including The Enemy: A Book about Peace, Cali excels in creating alternate visions of reality. Highly recommended for readers 7 to 11 years old.

More stories of summer vacations

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Emil and the Detectives

Kastner, Erich. Emil and the Detectives. New York: Overlook Press, 2014, 2007.

What a rollicking adventure! This classic novel from Germany – first published in 1929 and now translated into over 50 languages  – tells the story of Emil’s adventures while travelling to Berlin to visit his grandmother. Emil falls asleep on the train and when he wakes up, he discovers all his money has been stolen. Emil is not one to give up. He enlists the help of other boys and catches the thief, much to everyone’s delight. This new translation by W. Martin uses colloquialisms familiar to modern readers and includes an introduction by Maurice Sendak as well as the original line drawings by Walter Trier.

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A Fine Dessert

Jenkins, Emily. A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015.

A sweet story about one of the oldest desserts in Western culture: a fruit fool made of berries, sugar, and whipped cream. The first dessert is made of wild blackberries in 16th century England, the second in 18th century South Carolina, the third in 19th century Massachusetts, and the last in modern California. A recipe, a bibliography and historical information on both the story and the illustrations are included at the end. An excellent introduction to learning how cultures reflect their times and change over time. Recommended for readers – and their teachers – 7 years old and up.

More historical fiction

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Great Big Guinea Pigs

Roth, Susan L. Great Big Guinea Pigs. New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2006.

A fascinating history of guinea pigs told from the point of view of a parent telling a bedtime story: “Once upon a time, about eight million years ago, guinea pigs like us weren’t sweet, cute, and little….No one brought us fresh water or seeds and berries from the pet store….No one brought us to school for show and tell….”

But how can we be sure that this history really happened? The story was “in theTimes. Tomorrow morning,” the parent says,  “I’ll read it to you. You’ll have to wake up early, though, before the people clean our cage and change the newspaper.” Humorously, the bibliography at the end of the book includes an article from The New York Times

The cozy tone is complemented by vibrant collage illustrations and a bold font. Highly recommended for children and parents. 

More books to expand your general knowledge

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