Upper School Notable Books
The 2016 selections
“In the Country: Stories” by Mia Alvar. Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.
Exploring the Filipino experience spanning decades and continents, these fully rendered tales express wonder and sadness leavened with humor.
“The Sellout: A Novel” by Paul Beatty. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Poking the underbellies of many sacred cows, this biting social satire examines race, culture and politics in modern America.
“Did You Ever Have a Family: A Novel” by Bill Clegg. Scout Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
The aftermath of a tragedy and its rippling effects in a small Connecticut town.
“Delicious Foods: A Novel” by James Hannaham. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group.
Themes of race, addiction, wage slavery and corporate greed coalesce in this startling, darkly comic coming of age odyssey.
“Black River: A Novel” by S.M. Hulse. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
This modern literary Western explores a man's redemptive journey and the possibility (and cost) of forgiveness.
“Fortune Smiles: Stories” by Adam Johnson. Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.
Humanity: quirky, disturbing, endearing, striving, resigned and fascinating.
“The Prophets of Eternal Fjord: A Novel”” by Kim Leine, translated by Martin Aitken. Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton.
An epic and evocative tale of colonialism in Greenland; translated from the Danish.
“The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories” by Anthony Marra. Hogarth, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group.
Beauty and humanity are found in the darkest and grimmest of places in these interconnected pieces.
“The Sympathizer: A Novel”” by Viet Thanh Nguyen.Grove Press.
A half-French, half-Vietnamese man serves as a double agent after the war, and struggles with the contradictions of his identity and loyalties.
“This Is the Life: A Novel” by Alex Shearer. Washington Square Press, a division of Simon & Schuster.
Spare prose mixes with heart-wrenching humor in this gem of a story about two brothers coping with terminal illness.
“The Book of Aron: A Novel” by Jim Shepard. Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.
The perspective of a boy whose only goal is to live another day gives a sharp edge to the mind-numbing tragedies of the Warsaw Ghetto.
“A Little Life: A Novel” by Hanya Yanagihara. Doubleday, a division of Random House.
A visceral, provocative story of four New York City lives marred by ambition, abuse and addiction.
“The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission” by Jim Bell. Dutton, and imprint of Penguin Group.
An enthusiastic account of our reach for intergalactic space -- and the people who made it possible.
“Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America” by Ali Berman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
A sobering and impassioned popular history of the fight for universal suffrage in the United States.
“The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World” by Joel K. Bourne Jr. WW. Norton and Company.
An agricultural revolution supported our booming population in the twentieth century, but we’ll need another one to sustain us in the years to come.
“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House.
Framed as a letter to the author’s teenage son, this chronicle of race in America works as memoir, meditation, and call to action.
“The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle” by Lillian Faderman. Simon & Schuster.
An authoritative, affecting account of the effort to establish and solidify legal rights and cultural acceptance in the United States.
“Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter, Mary Shelley” by Charlotte Gordon. Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.
From A Vindication of the Rights of Woman to Frankenstein, this dual biography provides fresh insight about these groundbreaking authors.
“Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House.
A race to the finish, even though we know it won’t end well.
“The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough. Simon & Schuster.
A strong work ethic and keen observation fueled the quest to conquer manned flight.
“The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness” by Sy Montgomery. Atria Books, Simon & Schuster.
A charming, revelatory journey into the world of cephalopods.
“M Train” by Patti Smith. Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.
Part memoir, part travelogue and ultimately an elegy to her beloved husband, written by an iconic American artist.
“Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War” by Susan Southard. Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Bearing witness to hibakusha, those left behind.
“Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva” by Rosemary Sullivan. HarperCollins.
A portrait of a woman unable to escape the terrible shadow of her father.
2015 Notable Titles:
America is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell. By Don Brown, Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook Press. A straightforward account of the September 11th tragedy, Brown’s restrained watercolors and sensitive text focuses on small stories of those who were in the Towers and the people who responded to the disaster.
Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade. By Melissa Sweet, Illus. by the author. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. This story of Tony Sarg, the artistic inventor who conceived the huge balloons that float through New York City each Thanksgiving, joyously celebrates his life’s creative process. (2012 Sibert Medal Book)
Breaking Stalin's Nose. By Eugene Yelchin, Illus. by the author, Henry Holt. On the eve of his induction into the Young Pioneers, Sasha’s world is overturned when his father is arrested by Stalin’s guard. (A 2012 Newbery Honor Book)
The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale. By Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, Illus. by Barry Moser. Peachtree Publishers. Alley-cat Skilley finds a perfect home, gets help from a friend to return an injured raven to the Tower of London and saves all the Cheshire Cheese Inn mice from the evil Pinch.
Diego Rivera: His World and Ours. By Duncan Tonatiuh , Illus. by the author, Abrams Books for Young Readers The accomplishments of Mexican painter, activist, and muralist Diego Rivera are highlighted in stylized illustrations. (2012 Belpré Illustrator Medal Book)
Dream Something Big: The Story of the Watts Towers. By Dianna Hutts Aston, Illus. by Susan L. Roth. Dial Books for Young Readers. The human desire to make a mark is celebrated in this fictionalized account of Simon Rodia’s process in building the Watts Towers – a singular, eccentric, artistic creation now recognized as a National Landmark.
E-mergency! By Tom Lichtenheld, Illus. by Ezra Fields-Meyer. Chronicle Books. When the letter ‘E’ falls down the stairs and hurts her leg, the rest of the alphabet must do the best it can to limp along without its most-used letter. Puns aplenty pack every page.
Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. By Kristine O'Connell George, Illus. by Nancy Carpenter. Clarion Books. Sisterhood is complicated: partly embarrassing, partly affectionate, partly competitive, partly supportive, partly confining, partly empowering. The many facets of the relationship are deftly described by George’s poems and Carpenter’s pen and ink drawings.
The Great Migration: Journey to the North. By Eloise Greenfield, Illus. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. HarperCollins Children's Books/Amistad. Muted mixed media illustrations set the tone for somber yet hopeful free verse honoring the author's family as they journeyed north from the Jim Crow South. A haunting view of a pivotal moment in U.S. history. (A 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book)
Inside Out and Back Again. By Thanhha Lai. HarperCollins. Hà and her family flee war-torn Vietnam for the American South. In spare, vivid verse, she chronicles her struggle to find her place in a new world. (A 2012 Newbery Honor Book)
Junonia. By Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books. Alice knows just how her vacation on Sanibel Island should be: the same as the previous nine, except that this year she hopes to find a rare junonia shell. Alice's tenth birthday, however, brings unexpected changes.
Lemonade, and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word. By Bob Raczka, Illus. by Nancy Doniger. Roaring Brook Press. Think of a word, then compose a poem using only the letters in that word. Amusing challenges for poet and reader alike, these poem-puzzles are illustrated with similarly playful brush-paintings. Great fun for classroom or budding poets.
The Lily Pond. By Annika Thor. Trans. by Linda Schenck. Delacorte Press. This sequel to “A Faraway Island” continues the story of thirteen-year-old Stephie Steiner, a Jewish refugee whose parents have sent her from Nazi-occupied Vienna to Sweden. (2012 Batchelder Honor Book)
The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families. By Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, Illus. by Susan L. Roth. Lee & Low Books. Through a “This is the House That Jack Built” formula, the story of an ecological and environmental triumph is told so that even very young children can understand the interrelationships between plants, animals and people.
Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match /Marisol McDonald no combina. By Monica Brown, Illus. by Sara Palacios. Children's Book Press, an imprint of Lee and Low Books. Bright, vivacious Marisol, a Peruvian-Scottish-American girl, loves peanut butter and jelly burritos and speaks both English and Spanish, but her teacher and classmates do not appreciate Marisol’s mashing of cultures. (A 2012 Belpré Illustrator Honor Book)
Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller. By Xavier Garza. Cinco Puntos Press. Eleven-year-old Max discovers that his favorite Lucha Libre wrestler is coming to town and might have a strange connection with his own family. (A 2012 Belpré Author Honor Book)
Migrant. By Maxine Trottier, Illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. Groundwood Books. This unique story about a group of migrant workers – Mennonites – is told through the eyes of young Anna, who reflects upon their peripatetic life and the hardships it creates.
Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic. By Robert Burleigh, Illus. by Wendell Minor, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Sit with Amelia Earhart in her red Vega as she flies across the Atlantic and startles a farmer in Northern Ireland by landing in his field.
No Ordinary Day. By Deborah Ellis. Groundwood Books. Valli, a resourceful homeless nine-year-old, learns she has leprosy. An encounter with a kind doctor gives her the chance to heal and find a home. Illuminates harsh realities in contemporary India.
Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists. Ed. by Chris Duffy, Illus. by various artists. First Second. A lively compilation of 50 nursery rhymes interpreted and illustrated in diverse and distinctive styles by a different cartoonist or graphic artists. The introduction by Leonard Marcus puts it all in focus.
Soldier Bear. By Bibi Dumon Tak, Illus. by Philip Hopman. Trans. by Laura Watkinson. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Based on a true story and set during World War II, the novel follows the journey of refugee Polish soldiers and the mischievous young bear they acquire in the Iranian desert. (2012 Batchelder Award Book)
The Third Gift. By Linda Sue Park, Illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. Clarion Books. Ibatoulline’s sumptuous, highly finished gouaches invite the reader into a distant time and landscape where a young Arab boy and his father harvest myrrh for three mysterious strangers.
Thunder Birds: Nature's Flying Predators. By Jim Arnosky, Illus. by the author. Sterling. Arnosky describes and illustrates the qualities of magnificent raptors. Distinctive acrylic and chalk paintings depict birds gazing at readers from their natural environments. Four large fold out pages shows some birds in actual size.
Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters. By Donna Jo Napoli, Illus. by Christina Balit. National Geographic Society. From the chaos that spawned Gaia to the horrors of the Trojan War, this is the most comprehensive and lavishly illustrated compendium of Greek mythology since the D’Aulaires’ offering. Timeline, cast of characters, map appended.
The Trouble with May Amelia. By Jennifer L. Holm. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. May Amelia is always in trouble but never more than when she translates an offer from a con man for her father. A companion to My Only May Amelia, it stands sturdily on its own.
Underground. By Shane Evans, Illus. by Shane Evans. Roaring Brook Press. Spare text describes a long dangerous night time journey on the Underground Railroad. The striking illustrations with their dark palette burst into light as the travelers reach freedom. (The 2012 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Medal Book)
The Unforgotten Coat. By Frank Cottrell Boyce, Illus. by Carl Hunter, and Clare Heney. Candlewick Press. Julie recalls her sixth year classmates Chingis and Nergui, two Mongolian brothers, their strange polaroid photographs, sketchy descriptions of Mongolia, and their very real fear of demons in this offbeat, haunting story.
The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps. By Jeanette Winter, Illus. by Jeanette Winter. Schwartz & Wade Books. Winter presents inquisitive and independent Goodall from girlhood to the Gombe Stream and beyond in her search to understand chimpanzees. Stylized acrylics show scientist and animals in the abundant foliage of Africa.
Wonderstruck. By Brian Selznick, Illus. by the author. Scholastic. Two parallel stories set 50 years apart converge in this textual and visual story of adventurous Ben and Rose as it explores topics of deafness, silence, wolves, and museums. (A 2012 Schneider Family Award Book)
Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. By Lee Wardlaw, Illus. by Eugene Yelchin. Henry Holt. From animal shelter cage to a loving home, Won Ton’s experience is told from his point of view in senryu, a form of Japanese poetry similar to Haiku.
Young Fredle. By Cynthia Voigt, Illus. by Louise Yates. Alfred A. Knopf. Exiled from his home in the pantry, Fredle, a mouse with a sweet tooth and unusual curiosity, discovers the wonders and dangers of the outside world. He learns to question the rules and returns home a changed mouse.
Zita the Spacegirl. By Ben Hatke, Illus. by the author. First Second. When a little red button crashes to earth any self-respecting graphic novel character would push it. When Joseph is whisked through an inter-dimensional portal to an alien planet, Zita follows to rescue him.
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. By Candace Fleming. Schwartz & Wade Books. In her clear, readable style, Fleming shows how Earhart captured the public imagination. Chapters of background information alternate with the chilling account of her final flight. Enhanced with maps, archival documents, news photos, and other contemporary sources.
Anya's Ghost. By Vera Brosgol. First Second. This graphic novel tells the story of Anya, a Russian immigrant, whose lack of self-esteem changes when her life is almost taken over by a determined ghost.
Between Shades of Gray. By Ruta Sepetys. Philomel Books. Stalin’s deportation and imprisonment of Lithuanian families in Siberia is brought to vivid life in Sepetys’ searing novel, narrated by Lina, a 15-year-old who writes, “They took me in my nightgown.” (A YALSA Morris Award Finalist)
Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: The Story of Evolution. By Laurence Pringle, Illus. by Steve Jenkins. Boyds Mills Press. Pringle looks at the evidence from geology, biology, botany, and scientific reason to explain evolution. Readable text, pertinent illustrations matter of factly clarify concepts and the meaning of theory.
Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene 'Bull' Connor. By Larry Dane Brimner. Calkins Creek. This powerful examination of a crucial dichotomy in the civil rights movement focuses on two polar opposites—one man committed to ending segregation, and one just as determined to see it maintained. (A 2012 Sibert Honor Book)
Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917. By Sally M. Walker. Henry Holt. Clear and compelling description and analysis of scientific evidence and historic events brings this little-known tragedy to life, a history made personal by its focus on five families, some who survived, some who perished.
Bluefish. By Pat Schmatz. Candlewick Press. The significance of reading is personified by two eighth graders, functionally illiterate Travis and feisty, starved-for-affection Velveeta, who come together in a tenuous, prickly relationship.
Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition. By Karen Blumenthal. Roaring Brook Press. Lively prose and interesting anecdotes make the history of Prohibition accessible while the examination of unintended consequences make this chronicle relevant to today's political world. (A 2012 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist)
Dead End in Norvelt. By Jack Gantos. Farrar Straus Giroux. An achingly funny romp through a dying New Deal town. While mopping up epic nose bleeds, Jack narrates this screw-ball mystery in an endearing and believable voice. (2012 Newbery Medal Book)
Drawing from Memory. By Allen Say, Illus. by the author. Scholastic Press. Say, an esteemed children’s book creator, engagingly relays his early training, including the influences of his family and his artistic sensei. (A 2012 Sibert Honor Book)
The Elephant Scientist. By Caitlin O'Connell and Donna M. Jackson, Illus. by Caitlin O'Connell and Timothy Rodwell. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Power-packed photos and prose transport readers to the dusty world of African elephants and a woman who studies them. (A 2012 Sibert Honor Book)
The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman. By Meg Wolitzer. Dutton Childrens Books. Three 12-year-olds from different parts of the country participate in the national Youth Scrabble Tournament in Florida. Their discoveries about themselves, their friends and families turn out to be more important than winning in this perceptive story.
Flyaway. By Lucy Christopher. Chicken House. While Isla’s father is in the hospital, she befriends another patient, Harry. In this touching story, Isla tries to help Harry, her father and a swan, all of whom are struggling to survive.
Hidden. By Helen Frost. Farrar Straus Giroux. Six years have passed since Darra's father stole a car in which Wren was hiding. Now 14, Darra and Wren, once again cross paths. A suspenseful verse novel, told in two distinct voices.
The House Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China. By Ed Young and Libby Koponen, Illus. by Ed Young. Little, Brown. With multimedia scrapbook images that intrigue, astonish, and surprise, Ed Young recalls his childhood in war-torn Shanghai, introduces his extended family, and describes their life in the house his father designed.
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. By Georgia Bragg, Illus. by Kevin O'Malley. Walker & Co. A wildly humorous collective biography featuring horrifying medical treatments and deaths of nineteen famous men and women, this surprisingly heavily researched compendium is terrific book bait for reluctant readers.
Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck. By Margarita Engle. Henry Holt. This historical novel in verse is the story of Quebrado, son of a Taíno Indian mother and a Spanish father, who is kidnapped in 1510 from his island village (present-day Cuba) and enslaved on a pirate’s ship. (A 2012 Belpré Author Honor Book)
Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air. By Stuart Ross, Illus. by Stephen Biesty. Candlewick Press. How did those great explorers travel? What did they wear? Where did they pee? And what did they find on their journeys? Much is revealed in the text and unfolding cross-sections of this fascinating volume.
Jefferson's Sons: A Founding Father's Secret Children. By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Dial Books for Young Readers. Told from the point of view of three young slaves, two of them fathered by Thomas Jefferson, this well-researched and moving novel provides insight into their lives as it raises important and difficult questions.
Lost & Found. By Shaun Tan, Illus. by the author. Arthur A. Levine Books. By turns mysterious, dreamlike, nightmarish, goofily endearing, and spookily surreal, these stories by Shaun Tan seemingly transport us to three very different worlds. Each page is a work of art.
A Monster Calls: A Novel. By Patrick Ness. Candlewick Press. Thirteen-year-old Conor deals with a monster who tells him three stories in exchange for facing his greatest fear.
Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein. By Susan Goldman Rubin. Charlesbridge. This exemplary, inspiring biography chronicles the life of Leonard Bernstein from early childhood to his triumphant debut at age twenty-five, as conductor of the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. Engaging social history with appeal beyond music students. (A 2012 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist)
Okay for Now. By Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion Books. Unable to read and abused by his father, 13-year-old Doug befriends spunky Lili and a sensitive librarian who shows him how to draw Audubon’s birds. Both make a difference in his previously limited world.
Queen of Hearts. By Martha Brooks. Farrar Straus Giroux. In 1941 Manitoba, Marie-Claire tells the moving story of her coming-of-age as a 16-year-old in a tuberculosis sanitorium.
Raggin', Jazzin', Rockin': A History of American Musical Instrument Makers. By Susan VanHecke. Boyds Mills Press. Steinway on pianos, Zildjian on cymbals, Martin and Fender on guitars...we meet these people and their iconic instruments in this intriguing introduction. Generously illustrated with photographs of the instruments, musicians, and more.
The Scorpio Races. By Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic Press. Deadly horses emerge from the sea and collide with island inhabitants in a bloody annual race for prize money and the fulfillment of dreams. Rich language portrays characters, action, and setting leading to an intoxicating climax. (A 2012 YALSA Printz Honor Book)
Sita's Ramayana. By Samhita Arni, Illus. by Moyna Chitrakar. Groundwood/House of Anansi. Using a graphic novel format, this powerful saga of Rama is told from his abducted and mistrusted wife Sita’s point of view.
Space, Stars, and the Beginning of Time: What the Hubble Telescope Saw. By Elaine Scott. Clarion Books. An intriguing look at the creation and scientific revelations of the Hubble telescope. Complex science, clearly explained and beautifully illustrated with Hubble images
Stones for My Father. By Trilby Kent. Tundra Books. In evocative prose, Kent creates a compelling survival story of young Corlie Roux, a Boer girl in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War at the turn of the last century.
Tall Story. By Candy Gourlay. David Fickling Books/Random House Children's Books. Andi’s half brother is finally joining the family from the Philippines. Eight feet tall, it’s obvious that Bernardo is going to have trouble fitting in. A poignant and humorous novel.
Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust. By Ruth Thomson. Candlewick Press. Secret diary entries, excerpts from memoirs, and inmate artwork illuminate the dark story of the Nazi's transit camp Terezin. Young readers will appreciate the oversized, magazine type layout.
Under the Mesquite. By Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Lee & Low Books. The story of fourteen-year-old Lupita, growing up in a bicultural community in Texas and dealing with her mother’s terminal illness, is told in emotionally riveting free verse. (2012 Belpré Author Medal Book and a YALSA Morris Award Finalist)
Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem. By Rosalyn Schanzer, Illus. by the author. National Geographic Society. Readers will be stunned by the research and accusations in this pivotal drama of American history. This work of art presents an account of our past and asks questions of our future. (A 2012 Sibert Honor Book)