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.

Sakura's Cherry Blossoms - Robert Paul Weston

Sakura's Cherry Blossoms - Robert Paul Weston

Sakura's dad gets a new job in America, so she and her parents make the move from their home in Japan. When she arrives in the States, most of all she misses her grandmother and the cherry blossom trees, under which she and her grandmother used to play and picnic. She wonders how she'll ever feel at home in this new place, with its unfamiliar language and landscape. One day, she meets her neighbor, a boy named Luke, and begins to feel a little more settled. When her grandmother becomes ill, though, her family takes a trip back to Japan. Sakura is sad when she returns to the States and once again reflects on all she misses. Luke does his best to cheer her up -- and tells her about a surprise he knows she'll love, but she'll have to wait till spring. In the meantime, Sakura and Luke's friendship blooms and finally, when spring comes, Luke takes her to see the cherry blossom trees flowering right there in her new neighborhood.

Sakura's Cherry Blossoms captures the beauty of the healing power of friendship through Weston's Japanese poetry-inspired text and Saburi's breathtaking illustrations.
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Home Sweet Home - Mia Cassany

Home Sweet Home - Mia Cassany

Kids will have their imaginations captured by this beautiful, non-fiction picture book that looks at home from around the world. Home from Home celebrates the wide diversity of living quarters people around the world live in.

Find out who lives in a Brooklyn brownstone or a Tokyo apartment! What about a London townhouse, or a cabin in Reykjavik?

Up and coming talent Paula Blumen illustrates all of these great views of home. There’s never been a better time to remember the importance of home for everyone.
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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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The City on the Other Side - Mairghread Scott

The City on the Other Side - Mairghread Scott

In The City on the Other Side, a young girl stumbles into a pitched war between two fairy kingdoms, and the fate of San Francisco itself hangs in the balance!

Sheltered within her high-society world, Isabel plays the part of a perfectly proper little girl—she’s quiet, well-behaved, and she keeps her dresses spotlessly clean. She’s certainly not the kind of girl who goes on adventures.

But that all changes when Isabel breaches an invisible barrier and steps into another world. She discovers a city not unlike her own, but magical and dangerous. Here, war rages between the fairies of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Only Isabel, with the help of a magical necklace and a few new friends, stands a chance of ending the war before it destroys the fairy world, and her own.

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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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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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Before the Fall - Noah Howley

Before the Fall - Noah Howley

On a foggy summer night, eleven people--ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter--depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are the painter Scott Burroughs and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.

Was it by chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something more sinister at work? A storm of media attention brings Scott fame that quickly morphs into notoriety and accusations, and he scrambles to salvage truth from the wreckage. Amid trauma and chaos, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy grows and glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, morality, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.
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Love, Hate and Other Filters - Samira Ahmed

Love, Hate and Other Filters - Samira Ahmed

Seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school.

But in the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.
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The lying woods - Ashley Elston

The lying woods - Ashley Elston

Owen Foster has never wanted for anything. Then his mother shows up at his elite New Orleans boarding school cradling a bombshell: his privileged life has been funded by stolen money. After using the family business, the single largest employer in his small Louisiana town, to embezzle millions and drain the employees' retirement accounts, Owen's father vanished without a trace, leaving Owen and his mother to deal with the fallout.
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The Perfect Candidate - Peter Stone

The Perfect Candidate - Peter Stone

When recent high school graduate Cameron Carter lands an internship with Congressman Billy Beck in Washington, DC, he thinks it is his ticket out of small town captivity. What he lacks in connections and Beltway polish he makes up in smarts, and he soon finds a friend and mentor in fellow staffer Ariel Lancaster. That is, until she winds up dead.

As rumors and accusations about her death fly around Capitol Hill, Cameron's low profile makes him the perfect candidate for an FBI investigation that he wants no part of. Before he knows it - and with his family's future at stake - he discovers DC's darkest secrets as he races to expose a deadly conspiracy. If it doesn't get him killed first.
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The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers - especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, whom her family can never know about.

With Mami's determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school's slam poetry club, she doesn't know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can't stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
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Her Right Foot - Eggers Dave

Her Right Foot - Eggers, Dave

If you had to name a statue, any statue, odds are good you'd mention the Statue of Liberty.

Have you seen her?

She's in New York.
She's holding a torch.
And she's in mid-stride, moving forward.
But why?

In this fascinating and fun take on nonfiction for kids, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris investigate a seemingly small trait of America's most emblematic statue. What they find is about more than history, more than art. What they find in the Statue of Liberty's right foot is the powerful message of acceptance that is essential of an entire country's creation.

An ideal patriotic gift for kids, this book as received accolades from a number of reputable publications:
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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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