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Best Librarian Recommended English Books for Children. Ideal for ESL, Preschool, Secondary and High School Students (and parents at home!)

Best Librarian Recommended English Books for Children. Ideal for ESL, Preschool, Secondary and High School Students (and parents at home!)

April 2020 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.

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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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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Award winning English childrens books

The Sakura Medal Book Award Winners

The Sakura Medal Book Award Nominees

Book type

Story Location

Other

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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
Sakura Medal Books
About the Sakura Medal
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
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