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.

The Way to Bea - Kat Yeh

The Way to Bea - Kat Yeh

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride—or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia—the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances—one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.
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My Brigadista Year - Katherine Patterson

My Brigadista Year - Katherine Patterson

When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Nora has barely been outside of Havana — why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Nora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Nora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Nora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Nora know for sure when that time has come? Shining light on a little-known moment in history, Katherine Paterson traces a young teen’s coming-of-age journey from a sheltered life to a singular mission: teaching fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while helping with the work of their daily lives and sharing the dangers posed by counterrevolutionaries hiding in the hills nearby. Inspired by true accounts, the novel includes an author’s note and a timeline of Cuban history.
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Class action - Steven B Frank

Class action - Steven B Frank

Sixth-grader Sam Warren is sick of stressing over assignments, and that's exactly what he tells his teacher: NO. MORE. HOMEWORK!

Suspended from school, Sam recruits his elderly neighbor, ex-attorney Mr. Kalman, to the cause. He's ready to file a class action suit on behalf of all the children in Los Angeles, and eventually the country. Their argument? Homework is unconstitutional.

With his sister, Sadie, Mr. Kalman, and his besties, Sam takes his case to Washington, D.C., and the highest court in the land. Will Sam's case pay off and allow him and his friends some time to grow and play, or will he just look like the laziest kid in America?
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The Plot to kill Hitler - Patricia McCormick

The Plot to kill Hitler - Patricia McCormick

It was April 5, 1943, and the Gestapo would arrive at any minute. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had been expecting this day for a long time. He had put his papers in order - and left a few notes specifically for Hitler's men to see. Two SS agents climbed the stairs and told the boyish-looking Bonhoeffer to come with them. He calmly said good-bye to his parents, put his Bible under his arm, and left. Upstairs there was proof, in his own handwriting, that this quiet young minister was part of a conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler.

This compelling, brilliantly researched account includes the remarkable discovery that Bonhoeffer was one of the first people to provide evidence to the Allies that Jews were being deported to death camps. It takes listeners from his privileged early childhood to the studies and travel that would introduce him to peace activists around the world - eventually putting this gentle, scholarly pacifist on a deadly course to assassinate one of the most ruthless dictators in history. The Plot to Kill Hitler provides fascinating insights into what makes someone stand up for what's right when no one else is standing with them. It is a question that every generation must answer again and again.
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Harbor Me - Jacqueline Woodson

Harbor Me - Jacqueline Woodson

It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat--by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for "A Room to Talk"), they discover it's safe to talk about what's bothering them--everything from Esteban's father's deportation and Haley's father's incarceration to Amari's fears of racial profiling and Ashton's adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.
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The Night Diary - Veera Hiranandani

The Night Diary - Veera Hiranandani

It's 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it's too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can't imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.
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It Wasn’t Me - Dana Alison Levy

It Wasn’t Me - Dana Alison Levy

When Theo's photography project is mysteriously vandalized at school there are five suspected students who all say "it wasn't me."

Theo just wants to forget about the humiliating incident but his favorite teacher is determined to get to the bottom of it and has the six of them come into school over vacation to talk. She calls it "Justice Circle." The six students—the Nerd, the Princess, the Jock, the Screw Up, the Weirdo, and the Nobody—think of it as detention. AKA their worst nightmare.

That is until they realize they might get along after all, despite their differences. But what is everyone hiding and will school ever be the same?
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Shadow Weaver (Shadow Weaver #1) - Marcy Kate Connolly

Shadow Weaver (Shadow Weaver #1) - Marcy Kate Connolly

Emmeline's gift of controlling shadows has isolated her from the rest of the world, but she's grown to be content, hidden away in her mansion with Dar, her own shadow, as her only company.

Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal: Dar will change the noble's mind, if Emmeline will help her become flesh as she once was. Emmeline agrees but the next morning the man in charge is in a coma and all that the witness saw was a long shadow with no one nearby to cast it. Scared to face punishment, Emmeline and Dar run away.
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The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle - Leslie Connor

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle - Leslie Connor

Mason Buttle is the biggest, sweatiest kid in his grade, and everyone knows he can barely read or write. Mason’s learning disabilities are compounded by grief. Fifteen months ago, Mason’s best friend, Benny Kilmartin, turned up dead in the Buttle family’s orchard.

An investigation drags on, and Mason, honest as the day is long, can’t understand why Lieutenant Baird won’t believe the story Mason has told about that day.

Both Mason and his new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, are relentlessly bullied by the other boys in their neighborhood, so they create an underground haven for themselves. When Calvin goes missing, Mason finds himself in trouble again. He’s desperate to figure out what happened to Calvin and, eventually, Benny.
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Seafire (#1) - Natalie C. Parker

Seafire (#1) - Natalie C. Parker

After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, who have lost their families and homes because of Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric's armed and armored fleet.

But when Caledonia's best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all...or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?
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Skyward - Brandon Sanderson

Skyward - Brandon Sanderson

Spensa's world has been under attack for decades. Now pilots are the heroes of what's left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa's dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father's - a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa's chances of attending flight school at slim to none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, yet fate works in mysterious ways. Flight school might be a long shot, but she is determined to fly. And an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars.
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The Final Six - Alexandra Monir

The Final Six - Alexandra Monir

When Leo and Naomi are drafted, along with twenty-two of the world’s brightest teenagers, into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever changed. Overnight, they become global celebrities in contention for one of the six slots to travel to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—and establish a new colony, leaving their planet forever. With Earth irreparably damaged, the future of the human race rests on their shoulders.

For Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, this kind of purpose is a reason to go on after losing his family. But Naomi, an Iranian-American science genius, is suspicious of the ISTC and the fact that a similar mission failed under mysterious circumstances, killing the astronauts onboard. She fears something equally sinister awaiting the Final Six beneath Europa’s surface.
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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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