Children’s English Books

The Sakura Medal Books and Librarian Recommended Books

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

Flight of swans - Sarah McGuire

Flight of swans - Sarah McGuire

Based on the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale Six Swans, The Flight of Swans follows Ryn's journey to save her family and their kingdom.

Princess Andaryn's six older brothers have always been her protectors—until her father takes a new Queen, a frightening, mysterious woman who enchants the men in the royal family. When Ryn's attempt to break the enchantment fails, she makes a bargain: the Queen will spare her brothers' lives if Ryn remains silent for six years.

Ryn thinks she freed her brothers, but she never thought the Queen would turn her brothers into swans. And she never thought she'd have to undo the Queen's spell alone, without speaking.
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The Extinction Trials - S.M. Wilson

The Extinction Trials - S.M. Wilson

Betrayal. Sacrifice. Survival. Welcome to The Extinction Trials...

In Stormchaser and Lincoln's ruined world, the only way to survive is to risk everything. To face a contest more dangerous than anyone can imagine. And they will do anything to win.

But in a land full of monsters – human and reptilian – they can't afford to trust anyone. Perhaps not even each other...
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To Night Owl from Dogfish - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Meg Wolitzer

To Night Owl from Dogfish - Holly Goldberg Sloan, Meg Wolitzer

Avery Bloom, who's bookish, intense, and afraid of many things, particularly deep water, lives in New York City. Bett Devlin, who's fearless, outgoing, and loves all animals as well as the ocean, lives in California. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and are both being raised by single, gay dads.

When their dads fall in love, Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same sleepaway camp. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends--and possibly, one day, even sisters.
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Dragon Pearl - Yoon Ha Lee

Dragon Pearl - Yoon Ha Lee

Rick Riordan Presents Yoon Ha Lee's space opera about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you'd never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min's mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She's counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds. When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name. Min's quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams. This sci-fi adventure with the underpinnings of Korean mythology will transport you to a world far beyond your imagination.
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Bernice Buttman Model Citizen - Niki lenz

Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen - Niki lenz

When you're a Buttman, the label "bully" comes with the territory, and Bernice lives up to her name. But life as a bully is lonely, and if there's one thing Bernice really wants (even more than becoming a Hollywood stuntwoman), it's a true friend.

After her mom skedaddles and leaves her in a new town with her aunt (who is also a real live nun), Bernice decides to mend her ways and become a model citizen. If her plan works, she just might be able to get herself to Hollywood Hills Stunt Camp! But it's hard to be kind when no one shows you kindness, so a few cheesy pranks may still be up her sleeve. . . .
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57 Bus A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives - Slater Dashka

57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives - Slater, Dashka

One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment.
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All's Faire in Middle School - Jamieson Victoria

All's Faire in Middle School - Jamieson, Victoria

From the author of the Newbery Honor winner Roller Girl comes a heartwarming graphic novel about starting middle school, surviving your embarrassing family, and life at the Renaissance Faire that's perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier.

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she's eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she'll need to prove her bravery. Luckily, Impy has just the quest in mind - she'll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled!

But it's not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice, until they don't. For the first time, she's embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family's unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. And when her new friends encourage her to do something mean, Impy goes along with it.

Before long, Impy doesn't even recognize herself. Is she the dragon in her own story or the heroic knight?

As she did in Roller Girl, Victoria Jamieson perfectly - and authentically - captures the bittersweetness of middle school life with humor, warmth, and understanding.
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Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora - Cartaya Pablo

Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora - Cartaya, Pablo

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can 13-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all, or is he in for a big, epic fail?

For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela's restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo's apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn't notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.
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Forgetting - Cameron Sharon

Forgetting - Cameron, Sharon

What isn't written, isn't remembered. Even your crimes. Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person's memories -- of parents, children, love, life, and self -- are lost. Unless they have been written.In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn't written the truth. Because she is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence -- before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.
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Freedom Swimmer - Chim Wai

Freedom Swimmer - Chim, Wai

Ming survived the famine that killed his parents during China's 'Great Leap Forward', and lives a hard but adequate life, working in the fields.

When a group of city boys comes to the village as part of a Communist Party re-education program, Ming and his friends aren't sure what to make of the new arrivals. They're not used to hard labour and village life. But despite his reservations, Ming befriends a charming city boy called Li. The two couldn't be more different, but slowly they form a bond over evening swims and shared dreams.

But as the bitterness of life under the Party begins to take its toll on both boys, they begin to imagine the impossible: freedom.
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Genius The Game - Gout Leopoldo

Genius: The Game - Gout, Leopoldo

Trust no one. Every camera is an eye. Every microphone an ear. Find me and we can stop him together.

The Game: Get ready for Zero Hour as 200 geniuses from around the world go head to head in a competition hand-devised by India's youngest CEO and visionary.

The Players:
Rex- One of the best programmers/hackers in the world, this 16-year-old Mexican-American is determined to find his missing brother.
Tunde-This14-year-old self-taught engineering genius has drawn the attention of a ruthless military warlord by single-handedly bringing electricity and internet to his small Nigerian village.
Painted Wolf-One of China's most respected activist bloggers, this mysterious 16-year-old is being pulled into the spotlight by her father's new deal with a corrupt Chinese official.

The Stakes: Are higher than you can imagine. Like life and death. Welcome to the revolution. And get ready to run.
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Ghost Boys - Rhodes Jewell Parker

Ghost Boys - Rhodes, Jewell Parker

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father's actions.
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Hidden Oracle - Riordan Rick

Hidden Oracle - Riordan, Rick

How do you punish an immortal? By making him human. After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus's favor. But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters, and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.
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Award winning English childrens books

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

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. The deadline for voting will vary for each participating school, so please contact your library for details.

Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossoms, which are celebrated in Japan each year as a sign of spring.

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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