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.

Wildwitch Wildfire - Lene Kaaberbøl

Wildwitch Wildfire - Lene Kaaberbøl

From Lene Kaaberbøl, known as the Danish J.K. Rowling: Book one in the Wildwitch series, an acclaimed new children's fantasy series about a young girl who can communicate with and control the natural world.

Twelve-year-old Clara is an ordinary girl, so small and shy that her mum calls her Little Mouse. Then, one day, she meets a cat. A huge, strange, black cat, with glowing yellow eyes. And so begins her new life as a wildwitch.

Suddenly, Clara is plunged into a world of mystery and magic. With her Aunt Isa to guide her, she finds she can talk to animals and walk the mysterious Wildways. But then she is captured by the dreaded Chimera...
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Riddle of the Runes - Janina Ramirez

Riddle of the Runes - Janina Ramirez

Alva rushes through the trees in the dead of night with her sniffer wolf, Fen. Being out alone when there's a kidnapper on the loose is reckless, but if she ever wants to be an investigator like her Uncle Magnus, she'll need to be first to the crime scene. But what Alva discovers raises more
questions than it answers, drawing her into a dangerous search for truth, and for treasure.
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Mac undercover - Mac Barnett ill by Mike Lowery

Mac undercover - Mac Barnett ill by Mike Lowery

An Amazon Best Book of 2018

Before Mac Barnett was an author, he was a kid.
And while he was a kid, he was a spy.
Not just any spy.
But a spy...for the Queen of England.

James Bond meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid with this groundbreaking fully-illustrated chapter book series Mac B., Kid Spy. The precious Crown Jewels have been stolen, and there's only one person who can help the Queen of England: her newest secret agent, Mac B. Mac travels around the globe in search of the stolen treasure...but will he find it in time?

From secret identities to Karate hijinks, this fast-paced, witty and historically inspired chapter book will keep readers guessing until the very last page. With full-color illustrations and fascinating historical facts masterfully sprinkled throughout, this series offers adventure, intrigue, absurdity, history and humor. Discover this totally smart and side-splittingly funny series, and experience what it's really like to be a kid spy.
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A boy called Bat - Elana K Arnold

A boy called Bat - Elana K Arnold

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.
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Apple cake and Baklava - Kathrin Rohmann

Apple cake and Baklava - Kathrin Rohmann

Leila is the new girl in Max’s class in rural Germany, and they soon become close friends. She has fled Syria with her family, having left her beloved grandmother and father behind. Her most cherished object is a walnut from her grandmother’s garden. Max is close to his own grandmother, who is very understanding of Leila’s situation, having fled her home in Pommern as a little girl. Leila is desperately sad when she loses her beloved walnut and, in a failed attempt, sets out to return to Syria.


Apple Cake and Baklava is a story about otherness, openness and the willingness to come to know one another. Many children will be aware of the latest surge of refugees and their plight. Leila’s is a sadly universal and timeless story of leaving behind a home country forever. While set in rural Northern Germany, it could equally take place in most European countries.
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Yours Sincerely, Giraffe - Megumi Iwasa

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe - Megumi Iwasa

Giraffe is bored, as usual. He'd love a friend to share things with. So he writes a letter and sends it as far as possible across the other side of the horizon. There he finds a pen pal―Penguin.

Giraffe knows nothing about penguins and his letters are full of questions. Where is a penguin's neck? Can a penguin fly? Penguin answers as best he can.

But no one expects what happens when the pen pals come face to face at last.

An enduring bestseller in its native Japan, Yours Sincerely, Giraffe is a funny tale of mistaken assumptions and friendship.
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The Mapmakers' Race - Eirlys Hunter

The Mapmakers' Race - Eirlys Hunter

Sal, Joe, Francie and Humphrey misplace their famous mapmaker mother as they begin the Great Race to map a rail route through an uncharted wilderness. Their father didn't return from his last expedition and now their money is gone. This race is their last chance.

They have 28 days to find and map the best route. There'll be bears, bees, bats, river crossings, cliff falls, impossible weather—but worst of all, they're racing five teams of adults who do not play by the rules.
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Front Desk - Kelly Yang

Front Desk - Kelly Yang

Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number one: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, 10-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

Number two: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

Number three: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?
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Property of the Rebel Librarian - Alison Varnes

Property of the Rebel Librarian - Alison Varnes

When twelve-year-old June Harper's parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval.

But June can't give up books . . . and she realizes she doesn't have to when she spies a Little Free Library on her walk to school. As the rules become stricter at school and at home, June keeps turning the pages of the banned books that continue to appear in the little library. It's a delicious secret . . . and one she can't keep to herself. June starts a banned book library of her own in an abandoned locker at school. The risks grow alongside her library's popularity, and a movement begins at Dogwood Middle--a movement that, if exposed, could destroy her. But if it's powerful enough, maybe it can save Ms. Bradshaw and all that she represents: the freedom to read.

Equal parts fun and empowering, this novel explores censorship, freedom of speech, and activism. For any kid who doesn't believe one person can effect change...and for all the kids who already know they can!
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The Trail - Meika Hashimoto

The Trail - Meika Hashimoto

Toby has to finish the final thing on The List. It's a list of brave, daring, totally awesome things that he and his best friend, Lucas, planned to do together, and the only item left is to hike the Appalachian Trail. But now Lucas isn't there to do it with him. Toby's determined to hike the trail alone and fulfill their pact, which means dealing with the little things -- the blisters, the heat, the hunger -- and the big things -- the bears, the loneliness, and the memories.When a storm comes, Toby finds himself tangled up in someone else's mess: Two boys desperately need his help. But does Toby have any help to give?The Trail is a remarkable story of physical survival and true friendship, about a boy who's determined to forge his own path -- and to survive.
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Chester and Gus - Cammie McGovern

Chester and Gus - Cammie McGovern

Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn't found a new best friend at school. He's still not a great bike rider—even though his brother George, who's autistic, can do tricks. And worst of all, he worries his dad's recent accident might be all his fault. Benny tries to take his mom's advice and focus on helping others, and to take things one step at a time. But when his dad ends up in the hospital again, Benny doesn't know how he and his family will overcome all the bad luck that life seems to have thrown their way.

Just My Luck is a deeply moving and rewarding novel about a down-on-his-luck boy whose caring heart ultimately helps him find the strength to cope with tragedy and realize how much he truly has to offer his friends and family.
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Endling: The Last - Katherine Applegate

Endling: The Last - Katherine Applegate

Byx is the youngest member of her dairne pack. Believed to possess remarkable abilities, her mythical doglike species has been hunted to near extinction in the war-torn kingdom of Nedarra.

After her pack is hunted down and killed, Byx fears she may be the last of her species. The Endling. So Byx sets out to find safe haven, and to see if the legends of other hidden dairnes are true.

Along the way, she meets new allies - both animals and humans alike - who each have their own motivations for joining her quest. And although they begin as strangers, they become their own kind of family - one that will ultimately uncover a secret that may threaten every creature in their world.
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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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