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Books your students need to read that discuss social themes

Welcome to the Kindness Clubhouse!

Oftentimes, when a student in struggling with an issue, reading about it is more helpful than just talking about because it provides the child a safe space to process what is going on.

In this post I provide you with book recommendations that you can use in your classroom or at home.  Links to each book will direct you to Amazon. All descriptions are provided by Amazon.

Book themes include:

Anxiety & Mental Health

Don’t Think about Purple Elephants (2017)
Author Susanne Merritt (Author), Gwynneth Jones (Illustrator)
Recommended Grade Level Preschool – 3rd
Sometimes Sophie worries — not during the day when she is busy with family and friends, but at night when everything is calm and quiet. Her family all try to help, but somehow they just make her worries worse.
The Goldfish Boy (2017)
Author Lisa Thompson
Recommended Grade Level 4th – 6th
A page-turning mystery with an emotionally-driven, complex character study at its core.
Finding Perfect (2019)
Author Elly Swartz
Recommended Grade Level 4th – 7th 
A girl deals with friendship, family, and OCD in this middle-grade novel 

Bullying & Teasing

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon (2001)
Author Patty Lovell (Author), David Catrow (Illustrator)
Recommended Grade Level Preschool – 3rd
Be yourself like Molly Lou Melon no matter what a bully may do.Molly Lo Melon is short and clumsy, has buck teeth, and has a voice that sounds like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor. She doesn’t mind. Her grandmother has always told her to walk proud, smile big, and sing loud, and she takes that advice to heart.But then Molly Lou has to start in a new school.
A horrible bully picks on her on the very first day, but Molly Lou
Melon knows just what to do about that.
Something Else (2011)
Author Kathryn Cave
Recommended Grade Level Preschool – 3rd
A simple story, about a small creature who does his best to join in with the others. But he’s different. No matter how he tries, he just doesn’t belong.

Then Something turns up and wants to be friends. But Something Else isn’t sure he’s like him at all…
The Bully Blockers Club (2004)
Author Teresa Bateman (Author), Jackie Urbanovic (Illustrator)
Recommended Grade Level 1st – 3rd
Lotty Raccoon is excited. This year she has a new teacher, new backpack, and new shoes. But her enthusiasm quickly wanes when Grant Grizzly begins bullying her. With the help of her fellow students, she forms the Bully Blockers Club.
Schooled (2008)
Author Gordon Korman
Recommended Grade Level 5th – 7th
Capricorn Cap Anderson has been homeschooled by his hippie grandmother, Rain. When Rain is injured in a fall, Cap is forced to attend the local middle school. Although he knows a lot about Zen Buddhism, nothing has prepared him for the politics of public school.
8th Grade SuperZero (2011)
Author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Recommended Grade Level 5th – 8th
After the worst first day back *ever*, Reggie’s been nicknamed “Pukey” McKnight at his Brooklyn school. He wants to turn his image around, but he has other things on his mind as well:  his father, who’s out of a job; his best friends, Joe C. (who’s a little too White) and Ruthie (who’s a little too intense); his ex-best friend Donovan, who’s now a jerk; and of course, the beautiful Mialonie. 
Backlash (2016)
Author Sarah Darer Littman
Recommended Grade Level 7th – 9th 
Lara just got told off on Facebook.  She thought that Christian liked her, that he was finally going to ask her to his school’s homecoming dance. It’s been a long time since Lara’s felt this bad, this depressed. She’s worked really hard since starting high school to be happy and make new friends.
American Born Chinese (2008)
Author Gene Luen Yang
Recommended Grade Level 7th – 9th
Jin Wang starts at a new school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn’t want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl.
Dear Bully, Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories (2011)
Author Dawn Metcalf
Recommended Grade Level Young Adult
Today’s top authors for teens and young people come together to share their stories about bullying—as bystanders, as victims, and as the bullies themselves—in this moving and deeply personal collection. 
Before I Fall (2016)
Author Lauren Oliver
Recommended Grade Level Young Adult
Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person’s life can affect others in unpredictable ways.


Why am I Me? (2017)
Author Paige Britt (Author), Selina Alko & Sean Qualls (Illustrators)
Recommended Grade Level PreK – 2nd
Presented as a thoughtful, poetic exchange between two characters — who don’t realize they are thinking and asking the very same questions — this beautiful celebration of our humanity and diversity invites readers of all ages to imagine a world where there is no you or me, only we.
Last Stop on Market Street (2015)
Author Matt de la Peña (Author), Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
Recommended Grade Level PreK – Kinder
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town.
But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
Come with Me (2017)
Author Holly M. McGhee (Author), Pascal Lemaître (Illustrator)
Recommended Grade Level  Kinder-3rd
When the news reports are flooded with tales of hatred and fear, a girl asks her papa what she can do to make the world a better place. “Come with me,” he says. The next day, the girl asks her mama what she can do—her mama says, “Come with me.”. After dinner that night, the little girl asks if she can do something of her own—walk the dog . . . and her parents let her go.

“Come with me,” the girl tells the boy across the hall. Walking together, onestep at a time, the girl and the boy begin to see that as small and insignificant as their part may seem, it matters to the world.
Just My Luck (2017)
Author Cammie McGovern
Recommended Grade Level 3rd – 7th
Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn’t founda 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.
A Handful of Stars (2017)
Author Cynthia Lord
Recommended Grade Level 3rd – 7th
When Lily’s blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar and runs away across the wide-open blueberry barrens of eastern Maine, it’s Salma Santiago who manages to catch him. Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, is in the small town with her family for the blueberry-picking season.

After their initial chance meeting, Salma and Lily bond over painting bee boxes for Lily’s grandfather, and Salma’s friendship transforms Lily’s summer. But when Salma decides to run in the upcoming Blueberry Queen pageant, they’ll have to face some tough truths about friendship and belonging.

Should an outsider like Salma really participate in the pageant — and
possibly win?
The Warden’s Daughter (2017)
Author Jerry Spinelli
Recommended Grade Level 4th – 7th
Cammie O’Reilly lives at the Hancock County Prison–not as a prisoner,
she’s the warden’s daughter. She spends the mornings hanging out with
shoplifters and reformed arsonists in the women’s exercise yard, which
gives Cammie a certain cache with her school friends. 
A Fish in a Tree (2017)
Author Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Recommended Grade Level 5th – 6th
Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb?

However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. 
A List of Cages (2017)
Recommended Grade Level Young Adult
Author Robin Roe
When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends.

Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian–the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

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Expressing Emotions

No Fits, Nilson (2013)
Author Zachariah OHora
Recommended Grade Level PreK – 1st
Nilson and Amelia do everything together. But if one little thing goes wrong, Nilson throws the biggest, most house shaking-est fit ever! Amelia helps Nilson control his gorilla-sized temper by promising him banana ice cream and letting him play with her froggy coin purse. But, sometimes, Amelia needs to be calmed down, too.
Emily’s Tiger (2011)
Author Miriam Latimer
Recommended Grade Level PreK – 1st
Watch out Emily is off and running again! This little girl has a problem with her temper. Every time she gets angry she turns into a little tiger. Then grandma comes to stay and she knows about tigers and tempers!
Juna’s Jar (2018)
Author Jane Bahk (Author), Felicia Hoshino (Illustrator)
Recommended Grade Level PreK – 2nd
Sometimes a simple, everyday object can take you away on great adventures. Juna and her best friend, Hector, have many adventures together, and they love to collect things in empty kimchi jars. Then one day, Hector unexpectedly moves away without having a chance to say goodbye. Juna is heartbroken and left to wonder who will on go on adventures with her. 
When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry (2014)
Author Molly Bang
Recommended Grade Level PreK-3rd
Everybody gets angry sometimes. For children, anger can be very upsetting.
Parents, teachers, and children can talk about it. People do lots of different
things when they get angry.

In this Caldecott Honor book, kids will see what Sophie does when she gets angry. What do you do?
Alexander, and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Author Judith Viorst (Author), Ray Cruz (Illustrator)
Recommended Grade Level 4th – 6th
Alexander knew it was going to be a terrible day when he woke up with gum in this hair.And it got worse…His best friend deserted him. There was no dessert in his lunch bag. And, on top of all that, there were lima beans for dinner and kissing on TV!
Raymie Nightingale (2018)
Author Kate DiCamillo
Recommended Grade Level 5th – 6th
Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home.

To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.
Ghost (2017)
Author Jason Reynolds
Recommended Grade Level 5th – 6th
Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team,but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.
Sticks and Stones (2017)
Author Abby Cooper
Recommended Grade Level 5th – 7th
Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about.

Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.

New in School

The Recess Queen  (2002)
Author Alexis O’neill and Laura Huliska-Beith
Recommended Grade Level PreK -3rd
A fresh & original twist on the common issue of bullying. Kids will relate, & parents & teachers will appreciate the story’s deft handling of conflict resolution (which happens w/o adult intervention).
First Day Jitters (2000)
Author Julie Danneberg (Author), Judy Love (Illustrator)
Recommended Grade Level Kinder – 3rd
Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach just before diving into a new situation. Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn’t want to start over at a new school. She doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. This charming and familiar story will delight readers with its surprise ending.
The Fourteenth Goldfish (2016)
Author Jennifer L. Holm
Recommended Grade Level 3rd – 7th 
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer. Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far? Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish.

Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this gawky teenager really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?
Hound Dog True (2012)
Author Linda Urban
Recommended Grade Level 5th – 7th
Do not let a mop sit overnight in water. Fix things before they get too big for fixing. Custodial wisdom: Mattie Breen writes it all down. She has just one week to convince Uncle Potluck to take her on as his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. One week until school starts and she has to be the new girl again. But if she can be Uncle Potluck’s apprentice, she’ll have important work to do during lunch and recess. Work that will keep her safely away from the other fifth graders.

But when her custodial wisdom goes all wrong, Mattie’s plan comes crashing down. And only then does she begin to see how one small, brave act can lead to a friend who is hound dog true.
The Chocolate War (2004)
Author Robert Cormier
Recommended Grade Level 7th – 9th
After suffering rejection from seven major publishers, The Chocolate War made its debut in 1974, and quickly became a bestselling—and provocative—classic for young adults. This chilling portrait of an all-boys prep school casts an unflinching eye on the pitfalls of conformity and corruption in our most elite cultural institutions.
What Happened to Goodbye (2013)
Author Sarah Dessen
Recommended Grade Level 7th – 9th
A new day. A new place. A new life.In the past few years, Mclean has pretended to be so many different people that she hardly remembers who she really is anymore. The adorable guy next door might be able to help her figure it out. But is she ready for it?
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen (2014)
Author Susin Nielsen
Recommended Grade Level Young Adult
Darker than her previous novels, Susin peoples this novel about the ultimate cost of bullying with a cast of fabulous characters, dark humor, and a lovable, difficult protagonist struggling to come to terms with the horrible crime his brother has committed.
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