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The Sakura Medal Books

Librarian Recommended Children’s English Books

The Sakura Medal

The Sakura Medal Books Awards bring together students from international schools across Japan each year to vote for their favourite books.

Each year, librarians from various international schools meet and select 25-30 books in each of the Sakura Medal categories - Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Chapter Books, Middle School, High School, Japanese Picture Books, Japanese Chapter Books, Japanese Middle School, and Japanese High School.
Books are chosen that are no more than two years old and that are from a variety of backgrounds and across a wide range of reading abilities.

Students who read five books (four for Middle School and three for High School books) in any category will be eligible to vote for their favourite. Votes will then be tallied across all participating schools and the winning author in each category will receive a Sakura Medal.

While staff and parents are encouraged to participate, voting is only open to students.
Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossoms, which are celebrated in Japan each year as a sign of spring.

COVID-19 Update: Parents - there has never been a better time for you and your child to pick up a book! You may browse by school age, location, and book type in the sidebar. All books here are recommended by a committee of 60+ International School Librarians in Japan for the annual Sakura Medal Book Award.

Mustaches for Maddie - Chad Morris

Mustaches for Maddie - Chad Morris

Twelve-year-old Maddie has a quirky sense of humor and loves making her classmates laugh by slapping on fake mustaches every chance she gets. Being funny gets her noticed by class queen Cassie, and things are looking up when Maddie is cast as Juliet in the school play. Maybe Juliet could wear a mustache?

When Maddie starts tripping when she walks and her hand starts curling up at her side, her mom takes her to the doctor, who confirms Maddie has a brain tumor. In an instant, her world is turned upside down.

Maddie doesn't want anyone else to know. Especially Cassie, whose jealousy has turned to bullying. What about Maddie's chance to play Juliet opposite the cutest boy in the sixth grade? What if the doctors can't get the ugly tumor monster out of her brain?

As Maddie's surgery approaches, she wonders if her illness is giving her super powers because her imagination is bigger than ever, her courage is stronger than ever, and her compassion is about to be felt by more people than she ever imagined.
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We're Not From Here - Geoff Rodkey

We're Not From Here - Geoff Rodkey

The first time I heard about Planet Choom, we'd been on Mars for almost a year. But life on the Mars station was grim, and since Earth was no longer an option (we may have blown it up), it was time to find a new home.

That's how we ended up on Choom with the Zhuri. They're very smart. They also look like giant mosquitos. But that's not why it's so hard to live here. There's a lot that the Zhuri don't like: singing (just ask my sister, Ila), comedy (one joke got me sent to the principal's office), or any kind of emotion.

The biggest problem, though? The Zhuri don't like us. And if humankind is going to survive, it's up to my family to change their minds. No pressure.
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Aru Shah and the End of Time - Roshani Chokshi

Aru Shah and the End of Time - Roshani Chokshi

Aru is only just getting the hang of this whole Pandava thing when the Otherworld goes into full panic mode. The god of love's bow and arrow have gone missing, and the thief isn't playing Cupid. Instead, they're turning people into heartless fighting-machine zombies. If that weren't bad enough, somehow Aru gets framed as the thief. If she doesn't find the arrow by the next full moon, she'll be kicked out of the Otherworld. For good.

But, for better or worse, she won't be going it alone. Along with her soul-sister, Mini, Aru will team up with Brynne, an ultra-strong girl who knows more than she lets on, and Aiden, the boy who lives across the street and is also hiding plenty of secrets. Together they'll battle demons, travel through a glittering and dangerous serpent realm, and discover that their enemy isn't at all who they expected.
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Small Spaces - Katherine Arden

Small Spaces - Katherine Arden

After suffering a tragic loss, 11-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn't think - she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with "the smiling man", a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she's been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn't have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie's previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver's warning. As the trio head out into the woods - bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them - the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: "Avoid large places. Keep to small."
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Sweep; the Story of a Girl and Her Monster - Jonathan Auxier

Sweep; the Story of a Girl and Her Monster - Jonathan Auxier

For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on “climbing boys” - orphans owned by chimney sweeps - to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless, and brutally dangerous.

Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived - and a girl. With her wits and will, she’s managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come.

Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature - a golem - made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire.

Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life - saving one another in the process. By one of today’s most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope.
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Boy at the Back of the Class - Rauf Onjali

Boy at the Back of the Class - Rauf Onjali

There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it.

He's nine years old (just like me), but he's very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn't like sweets - not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!

But then I learned the truth: Ahmet really isn't very strange at all. He's a refugee who's run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.

That's where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we've come up with a plan. . .
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Atlantis United - Siggins, Gerard

Atlantis United - Siggins, Gerard

Joe knows he has no chance of catching the mysterious scout’s eye – he loves football, but he’s by far the worst player in his club. Despite this, he’s whisked away to a remote island and teamed up with four other kids: Kim, Craig, Ajit and Jess.

But there’s more to this island than meets the eye, as Joe learns it is home to the world’s greatest Sports Academy. With the help of eccentric, genius coaches, he and his new friends are gradually transformed into serious players in their own sports. But the Academy’s secrets are wanted by many others .
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The Parker Inheritance - Varian Johnson

The Parker Inheritance - Varian Johnson

The letter waits in a book, in a box, in an attic, in an old house in Lambert, South Carolina. It's waiting for Candice Miller. When Candice finds the letter, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, after all, who left Lambert in a cloud of shame. But the letter describes a young woman named Siobhan Washington. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. Grandma tried and failed. But now Candice has another chance.

So with the help of Brandon Jones, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues in the letter. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert's history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter's promise before the summer ends?
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Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire - August John

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire - August, John

As Arlo looked around, the walls of his room began to vanish, revealing a moonlit forest. Only his bed remained, and the frame of his window, through which he saw the girl. The world on her side of the glass was sparkling with silver and gold, like a palace made of autumn leaves.
She looked off to her right. Someone was coming. Her words came in an urgent whisper: "If I can see you, they can see you . . . Be careful, Arlo Finch.”

Arlo Finch thought becoming a Ranger meant learning wilderness skills, like camping and knots. But upon arriving in the tiny town of Pine Mountain, Colorado, Arlo soon learns there's so much more. His new friends Indra and Wu teach him how to harness the wild magic seeping in from the mysterious Long Woods—a parallel realm of wonder and danger.
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Bad Dad - Walliams, David

Bad Dad - Walliams, David

Frank’s dad was a champion hot-rod racer, Gilbert the Great. But when a terrible accident sees him go from hero to zero, Frank and Gilbert are left with nothing—and in the grips of a wicked crime boss and his henchmen. After Gilbert is thrown in prison, only Frank can come to his rescue. . .
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Creature of the Pines - Gidwitz Adam

Creature of the Pines - Gidwitz, Adam

It’s been five years since Livy and her family have visited Livy’s grandmother in Australia. Now that she’s back, Livy has the feeling she’s forgotten something really, really important about Gran’s house.

It turns out she’s right.

Bob, a short, greenish creature dressed in a chicken suit, didn’t forget Livy, or her promise. He’s been waiting five years for her to come back, hiding in a closet like she told him to. He can’t remember who—or what—he is, where he came from, or if he even has a family. But five years ago Livy promised she would help him find his way back home. Now it’s time to keep that promise.

Clue by clue, Livy and Bob will unravel the mystery of where Bob comes from, and discover the kind of magic that lasts forever.
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Creature of the Pines - Gidwitz Adam

Creature of the Pines - Gidwitz, Adam

Unicorns are real. (At least we think they are.)

Are you ready to protect the creatures of myth and legend? Then you belong in The Unicorn Rescue Society. HURRY–THE CREATURES NEED YOU!

Elliot Eisner isn't exactly thrilled with the first day at his new school. His class is going on a field trip to a creepy forest called the Pine Barrens. The trip is being led by Professor Fauna, the weirdest teacher
Elliot has ever met. And the only kid who will talk to Elliot, Uchenna Devereaux, isn’t afraid of danger. She likes danger.

Elliot and Uchenna are about to become part of a secret group of adventurers, The Unicorn Rescue Society, whose goal is to protect and defend the world’s mythical creatures. Together with Professor Fauna, Elliot and Uchenna must help rescue a Jersey Devil from a duo of conniving, greedy billionaires, the Schmoke Brothers.
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Award winning English childrens books
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The Sakura Medal Book Award Winners

The Sakura Medal Book Award Nominees

The Sakura Medal Book Award Authors and Schools

Book type

Story Location

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The Sakura Medal Schools Book Award Japan
Preschool English story books
relating to the time before a child is old enough to go to school.
Graphic Novels
a novel in comic-strip format.
synonyms: comic, comic book, cartoon; manga
Picture books
a book containing many illustrations, especially one for children.
High School Books
For high school students
Chapter Books
A story book intended for intermediate readers, generally age 7-10
Early Reader
The first books that children will be able to read independently.
Jolly Phonics
The very best texts available to help students learn to read and write.
Jolly Phonics website
Jolly Phonics And The UK National Curriculum
Parent/Teacher Guide. English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Ukrainian versions.
Free Parent & Teacher Resources
Setting
International School students are very often interested in where the story is located. If it plays a key role in the story and is mentioned in the blurb then it has been tagged
All-new Kindle Kids Edition - Includes access to thousands of books - Rainbow Birds Cover

How to read books aloud

Teaching tips
• Ensure all students / your children can see the book
• Allow students to settle before you begin reading. Turn of nearby computers or TVs to avoid distractions
• Allow time for students to absorb the illustrations on each page before reading the text
• Different voices for each character are engaging for students and fun for you if you are reading the story multiple times - if you can keep track of voices of the characters
• Inform your audience of the author and illustrator so they may ask for the story again and foster an interest in writers and drawing
• Take your time
• There is no need to be shy. Children will delight in listening to you

How often should you read with your child?
• Everyday
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