Tag Archives: Award Book

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin

Title: Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin


Author: Duncan Tonatiuh


Publisher and Year: Abrams Books for Young Readers 2010


Number of Pages: 27


Tags: Award Book, Culture, Family, Friendship, K-1, Joe Marras


Descriptive Annotation: This is a very simple story about two cousins, one that lives in Mexico and one that lives in New York City, that write each other letters telling each other what they do in their lives.  They have many similarities in what they do, but they can differ on how they do them. They both are very interested in one another and want to have their Primo, cousin in spanish, visit them sometime soon.


Classroom Application: This can be used to show similarities among kids throughout the world.  Both kids went to school, had recess, went to the store/market, but they just differ on how or what they do while there.  In New York they play basketball at recess, but in Mexico they play soccer, but they are both playing games at recess! This can also be used to introduce students to the spanish language as there are many spanish words throughout the story as well as pictures labeled so they can know what the word means.


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents Mexican and American culture, but I can see how it can be used to show that kids across the world are more alike than they know.  “Every morning I ride my bicicleta to school.” “I ride the subway to school. The subway is like a long metal snake, and it travels through tunnels underground.” They both go to school, but they get there differently, and they are both exciting ways of getting to school.  In Mexico his favorite meal is quesadillas, and in America his favorite is pizza. It brings to light the similar things they do, and shows that they do them in different ways sometimes and that is perfectly okay and exciting.


Title: Harlem


Author: Walter Dean Myers


Illustrator: Christopher Myers


Publisher and Year: Scholastic Press 1997


Number of pages: 32


Tags: Award Book, Culture, Emotion, Non-fiction, 6-12, Joe Marras


Descriptive Analysis:  This poem brings the reader on an adventure through the burrough of Harlem.  This is a very powerful poem that captures the mood of Harlem through words and pictures.  This is a poem that describes Harlem through its music, its people, its smells, and its sadness.  There are many things in here that are historically relevant so prior knowledge on African American history is helpful to fully understand the poem.  


Classroom Application:  This poem would be very useful in teaching about African American history.  This could also be used to teach about different ways of writing poems, that they don’t always have to rhyme or go in a specific template.  This poem does not have rhyming or any template style of writing and it still is extremely powerful. So it could help to show that there are many ways to convey powerful writing.


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This poem represents African American culture and its history in Harlem, but also from Africa.  “Harlem was a promise of a better life, of a place where a man didn’t have to know his place simply because he was black,” Harlem was supposed to be a place of equality and bring together many African Americans from different parts of the world.  “They brought a call, a song first heard in the villages of Ghana/Mali/Senegal,” people from all across Africa were brought together in Harlem and they united with one another to make Harlem a special place. This poem brings up many different countries and famous African Americans, so it can be used to introduce people like Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray.

In the Time of the Drums

Title: In the Time of the Drums

Author: Kim L. Siegelson

Illustrator: Brian Pinkney

Publisher and Year: Hyperion Books for Children 1999

Number of Pages: 30

Tags/Theme: Award Book, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, K-5, Joe Marras

Genre: Fable

Descriptive Annotation: There is a older woman, Twi, and her grandson, Mentu, and they are on an island near the Teakettle Creek where ships often land to bring slaves to work on the islands plantations.  Mentu was born on the island, but Twi was born in Africa and longs for her home. She teaches Mentu a lot of his culture and to respect and cherish his culture. One day a Spanish ship lands with Ibo people on it and they are singing for their home, and it rings hard with Twi and calls to her.  It urges her to journey home, so she joins hands with the Ibo people and leads them into the Teakettle Creek and walk down and through the water towards their home. They soon disappear in the water and hopefully to their homes.

Classroom Application: This story is good for the class probably during Black History Month, but also any time of the year.  This book can introduce slavery, but also teach about how important it is to hold on to culture and cherish and celebrate it and never let it go no matter how hard things get.  

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This story is a Gullah tale that has been passed down orally for generations, so this story shows another culture and can introduce slavery to younger kids, and also African cultures, “Because then the old ways will try to grow weak inside of you.  Don’t let ‘em! Takes a mighty strength not to forget who you are. Where you come from. To help others remember it, too.” Twi is telling Mentu that it is important to remember who he is and how important that is and to not forget it no matter how hard things get.  I think this is an important lesson to remember and celebrate cultures.

“ “we are home! We are home!” the people drummed. But they were far from home.”  This helps show that this book has a sad, but real and truthful tone. The author doesn’t dress anything about slavery up, and shows it in its true colors which I think makes the message so much stronger and real.

The Way to Start A Day

Title: The Way to Start A Day

Author:  Byrd Baylor

Illustrator: Peter Parnall

Publication/ Year: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1977

Number of Pages: 27

Tags/ Themes: Award Book, Culture, Historical Fiction, Picture Book, Poetry, K-5

Genre: Non-Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: This book received a Caldecott Honor Award for its stunning simplistic illustrations. This book describes the best way to start off your day, by greeting the sunrise. Every illustration is of a different culture and how they greeted the start of a day, but all the illustrations are in simple line drawings with vivid colors to accentuate them. The story talks about cavemen, Peruvian, Mexican, Egyptian, Conga, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and many other traditions of people and how their cultures welcome the dawn of a new day.  Students may need to know a little bit about some of the cultures or at least have an understanding of how many different cultures there are around the world.

Classroom Application: This book would be really good to use to help inform students that everyone will have different traditions and cultures and that is okay! Because even though cultures are very varied and unique, they all share some similarities if you look hard enough. We are all people under the same sun, and it is important to acknowledge and respect other cultures as different from your own, but still special and wonderful! It could meet some social and emotional learning standards by talking about different cultures which may relate to some of my students’ cultures, which may not get represented in books that much. I would use this book to start a conversation between people. How do you start your day? Is there anything special you do at the start of any day? What about your grandparents? We could turn it into a writing prompt as well by reflecting about what cultures you’ve witnessed and what you participate in.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:  The language in this book is beautiful. It is very poetic, with phrases such as,

“And everywhere

They knew

To turn

Their faces


As the sun

Came up.”

This style is consistent throughout the book, adding pauses and beauty to the language that we don’t usually see in these books. There are many different cultures represented in this book, as I have mentioned, which is very good because it is important to expose young readers to books with a lot of diversity in them. The way the book is written provokes a calming tone to the reader, soothing and relaxing, almost meditative in a way. This is also important because it associates that calm and relaxed emotion with different cultures.


And Tango Makes Three

Title: And Tango Makes Three

Author:  Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell

Illustrator: Henry Cole

Publication/ Year: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005

Number of Pages: 28

Tags/ Themes: Animals, Award Book, Diversity, Family, Non-Fiction, Picture book, K-5

Genre: Non-Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: At the beginning of the book I found myself rolling my eyes, thinking this was just another story about a man and a woman who fell in love. But I was quickly surprised! It follows the story of two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who fall in love and want a baby. Finally, the zookeeper gives them another penguin’s egg and they have the baby they have always wished for. At the end of the book, there is an author’s note which explains that all of these events are things that truly did happen in the Central Park Zoo. Students wouldn’t necessarily need any background knowledge, just an open mind.

Classroom Application: This book would be great to use when teaching acceptance and appreciation of everyone regardless of what their preferences are. It appeals more to the Social and Emotional Learning Standards, encouraging kids to both see and accept others for who they are and also to be proud and confident in themselves, regardless of if they are part of the “norm” or not. This book would be great to start a conversation about social justice issues, and I could tie it in to a social studies lesson talking about gay rights or other civil rights movements. Additionally, it makes me wonder about how different species are wired psychologically! I bet there are more examples out there of animals showing gay tendencies! I might encourage someone to do research on that and see if they can bring any other information forward (if it was an older class).

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: As I mentioned before, this has great cultural diversity. In my opinion, there are not nearly enough books which depict homosexual love. In our society today, the LGBTQ+ population is bigger than ever, probably because more are willing to be open and honest about who they are. Despite this, there is still a ton of prejudice and discrimination against us. By using books which open kids’ eyes from an early age, such as this one, showing that love is love no matter what, it will help society continue to grow more and more accepting of everyone, despite our differences.


The Dreamer

Title:  The Dreamer

Author: Pam Munoz Ryan

Illustrator: Peter Sis

Publisher/Year: Scholastic Press, 2010

Number of Pages: 355

Tags/Themes:  Adventure, Award Book, Chapter Book, Emotion, Culture, Diversity, Family, Poetry, Historical Fiction, 4-5, Rebecca Cauthorn

 Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  This book was based on the famous poet Pablo Neruda’s life, except we don’t know this until the end. This emotional story is for anyone who is an outcast, who feels different than other people, or feels like they are letting their family down. We meet a young boy, Neftali, who is a dreamer. He loves to write, daydream, and imagine. His father thinks he is an absent-minded fanatic, who will amount to nothing. The story begins when Neftali is eight, and ends when he goes off to college. We watch him struggling to find a balance between being himself while pleasing his father, and root for him as he discovers his passion and gift for writing. Illustrations are included at the beginning of the chapter and sporadically throughout the book, accompanied with poetry that Pablo Neruda wrote later in his life (of course, we do not know yet that it is our beloved Neftali’s poetry we are reading). This book also comments on the issues of displacing native peoples for development, and uses little Spanish phrases throughout. This book would be excellent for someone who had a Chilean background, or anyone who felt like their differences were a bad thing. It is easy reading, but very long, so would be most appropriate for a 4th or 5th grade classroom.

Classroom Application: This book would be a great asset to help students recognize that we are all important and smart even if we are good at different things. Neftali wasn’t very good at math, but a very creative writer and thinker. It would also be good to assist a lesson on Native Americans to demonstrate that this displacement is still going on and to raise the question of right versus wrong. Another way to incorporate this book into the curriculum would be to have an entire mini unit devoted to it—for math, we could use leaves and twigs to illustrate multiplication by grouping, for social studies, we could investigate the displacement of Native Americans and native people all over, and for reading/writing we could write poetry that Neftali would have written, and then teach a lesson on Pablo Neruda and his poetry. We could also include art into this lesson by cutting out construction paper into a leaf or a beetle or a swan and write a poem on it and hang them in the classroom.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book does an exceptional job of raising awareness of and cultivating discussions about cultural diversity. Within the book, many different viewpoints are discussed about the diversity in the town Neftali is from, and this could raise a very stimulating discussion which could expand the minds of students. The depiction of Neftali as a dreamer who is on the outside is also very beneficial to the classroom to recognize that everyone is unique and awesome in their own way. Overall, this book contains a wide cultural vocabulary, from the Spanish words and the Chilean setting, to the discussion of native people, to the differences of Neftali from other boys and girls.

Waiting for Normal

Title:  Waiting for Normal

Author(s): Leslie Connor

Illustrator/Photographer: N/A

Publisher and Year: Harper Collins, 2008

Number of Pages: 290

Tags: Award Book, Chapter Book, Emotion, Family, Fiction, 2-3, 4-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

A young teenage girl, Addison, and her mother move into a trailer in a rundown area outside of the city after Mommers, Addison’s mother, divorces Addison’s stepfather. The story follows Addison for about a year as she navigates a new place, new school, and changes in her family dynamic. The story touches on things such as perceived mental illnesses, physical illness like cancer, and learning disabilities, giving students a glimpse into what life is like for people who deal with those things. It also has characters that are deep and are not featured much in literature, like families dealing with divorce and separation, as well as characters that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Students reading this book may encounter bigger words they do not know (as the main character keeps a vocab notebook) but the words are often defined and explained as a part of the plot.

Classroom Application:

This book would be more useful in teaching life lessons to students, rather than academic lessons. It could teach inclusion of others, through looking at the inclusion of a character that is gay or the way Addison is accommodated and included in her Stage Orchestra class, given her dyslexia. It could also be used to discuss more deep things, such as the affect of cancer on a person, the pain of grief, or the impact of a family being split apart.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

This story represents the culture of being poor in a rundown town in America. It gives the reader a look at what it is like to live check to check from Addison’s perspective, like when she says to her hamster, “‘Well, Pic, given the size of me and the size of you, if food is wealth, you’re the queen today’” (page 238). It also shows one perspective of what it is like to live with a person who potentially has a mental illness. I would have this as a book in my classroom library and explain it to students as a book that talks about real-world experiences that many people face in their lives, like cancer. Soula, one of Addison’s friends from the corner minimarket, tells her, “‘You’re seeing the worst of it, Cookie…This is cancer. And it stinks’” (page 65). This book was written relatively recently (2008) so it is more intentional about discussing big topics in today’s society, such as mental illness and inclusion.


Emmanuel’s Dream

Title: Emmanuel’s Dream

Author: Laurie Ann Thompson

Illustrator: Sean Qualls

Publisher and Year: 2015 Schwartz & Wade

Number of pages: 40

Tags/Themes: Award Book, Culture, Diversity, Non-fiction, 2-3, 4-5, Evan White

Genre: Africa, Biography, Non-Fiction, Children’s, Cultural, Picture

Descriptive Annotation: Emmanuel’s Dream is about a young boy, Emmanuel, who was born with one good leg in Ghana, West Africa.  His father left the family, but his mother supported him.  Emmanuel would shine shoes for money and bought a soccer ball to play with the school children.  Through this, the school kids respected Emmanuel playing soccer with one leg.  When he became older, Emmanuel went to the city of Accra to work for money.  In the city, he would get discriminated against for having a disability.  He decided he would buy a bike, ride it across and share a message of how people with disabilities can achieve great things.  He rode his bike over 400 miles and became a national image.  Film crews followed him to share his message.

Classroom Application: This text reinforces geography and culture.  The book shows how the boy lives in West Africa, an area the students probably won’t know much about. The story demonstrates Social and Emotional Learning Standards by demonstrating skills related to achieving personal and academic goals.  Emmanuel didn’t let society tell him what he could and couldn’t do.  He created a personal goal of showing his country people with disabilities are strong, and he accomplished it using his skills and using external resources, like getting a film crew and a bike.  This stretches the students mind by showing them they can be strong by destroying harmful norms in their society in ways that are small and unique to the individual student.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book shows the society of Ghana.  It can foster inquiry of how students from across the globe have strong goals and can achieve them, even when their society is trying to dictate how they should act. “Shopkeepers and restaurant owners told him to go out and beg like other disabled people did.  Emanuel refused. Finally, a food stand owner offered him a job and a place to live” (17).  With a little support, he was able to achieve his goal. “The farther Emmanuel rode, the more attention he got. Children cheered.  Able-bodied adults ran or rode along with him.  People with disabilities left their homes and came outside, some for the very first time.  The young man once thought of as a cursed was becoming a national hero” (30).  Emmanuel was changing the norms and culture in Ghana for how to view people with disabilities, and was met with enthusiasm for his actions.  In Ghana, the book shows the citizens view people with disabilities harshly, telling them to beg, or even abandoning them.  Emmanuel was changing that culture climate.  I might introduce this book by showing the students what Ghana is like, showing the students the landscape, grasslands, narrow highways, and the rain forest.  I think seeing the landscape will have the students think the bike riding is more impressive than the book depicts .  The book mostly shows Emmanuel talking to people, but I also want to the students to see how tough riding a bike would be to appreciate the work while reading or listening.

A Different Pond

Title: A Different Pond

Author: Bao Phi

Illustrator: Thi Bui

Publisher and Year: 2017 Capstone Young Readers

Number of pages: 32

Tags/Themes: Award Book, Culture, Diversity, Family, Historical Fiction, Picture Book, K-5, Evan White

Genre: Family, Picture Book, Children’s, Cultural

Descriptive Annotation: A young Vietnamese boy and his father wake up very early one day to go fishing.  The two go to a shop to buy some bait fish.  At the shop, the shop owner asked why they came so early, and the father explained how he got another job, so they needed to fish earlier for food.  Once at the fishing pond, the boys father shares a story how the pond reminds him of a pond in his old home in Vietnam before the “War” (implied Vietnam War).  The father shares how he would go fishing for food with his brother, how they would fight side by side.  After his brother died, the father went to America.  The young boy feels proud of himself for catching a big fish to eat later that day with his family.  When they arrive home, the mother starts cooking the fish, while the father goes to work. The authors note explains how the authors parents were refuges from the Vietnam War, and wanted to write a book similar to his experiences.  From the story, it is not clear the family are refugees until the reader reads the author’s note.  It might be helpful for students to know there was war in Vietnam, and possibly what a refuge is to explain why the father needed multiple jobs.

Classroom Application: This book can be used to reinforce content from history or social sciences.  The book can be used to demonstrate how families have had to leave their home country because of war, but also how those families can still keep their family tradition, in this case, fishing.  This book can stretch students thinking about reasons why people need to work multiple jobs.  Thereir can be numerous reasons, and the students can be open to different reasons people need to work multiple jobs and fund ways to save money to make a living.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents Vietnamese American culture, especially those who are refugees. It teaches how refugees work very hard to survive in America. “ “You’re here early today,” the bait man says.  “I got a second job,” my dad explains. “I have to work this morning.” “On a Saturday?” the bait man asks. My dad nods.” (7).  From the bait, they caught a few fish. “Dad smiles, his teeth broken and white in the dark, because we have a few fish and he knows we will eat tonight.” (18).  This quote shows how this family have to be creative to get food showing the creativity and hard work of refuges to make a living.  I might introduce this book by having the students discuss a specific location the students spend time with their family or guardians. The pond is a place of recurring fishing for the father and boy, and the students might have a location where they spend a lot of time with their family.

As Fast As Words Could Fly

Title: As Fast As Words Could Fly

Author: Pamela M. Tuck

Illustrator: Eric Velasquez

Publisher and Year: Lee & Low Books  Inc. 2013

Number of pages: 32

Tags/Themes: Award Book, Diversity, Family, Historical Fiction, 6-8, Evan White

Genre: Historical fiction; Children’s; Cultural; Picture Books; Historical

Descriptive Annotation:  Mason is a young black boy during the civil rights movement era.  He types letters for his father to be sent to Congress to fight against inequality.  One day, Mason’s father told him the school bus was going to pick him up to bring him to a closer school.  Mason was scared since all the students were white in the new school.  The bus purposely didn’t pick up Mason the first two days, but eventually he got to school.  No one spoke to Mason or helped him.  Mason still did very well at school and eventually got a job as a typist in the library.  Masons father has to contact the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to fight with the Board of Education to make sure Mason could keep his job at the library.   Soon Mason won his school’s competition to go into a typing contest across many schools.  Many of the students were disgusted that Mason was representing their school.  Mason ended up winning the competition, but no one applauded for him and he got no award.  The book ends with his family being proud of him.  The students need a lot of historical knowledge for this book.  They need to know about the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Board of Education, and how integration in schools worked. They would also benefit from general knowledge of the civil rights era.

Classroom Application: This text can reinforce history.  This story is based off of real events and can be a gateway into what life was like for black students during the civil rights era.  The story has many historic references that could be expanded on like the SCLC and school integration.  This book can be used to expand students’ thinking by thinking how black people achieved in many ways not initially thought of to advance in equality.  Mason proved he had value and was capable of anything by showing his typing skills.  The white teachers and students didn’t expect anything from him, but Mason proved them wrong.  This stretches students to show there are many ways to fight against a system they don’t like and make change.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents the history of black culture and how Blacks were relentless during the civil rights movement.  Mason showed courage and strength for doing all his work in a white school.  This brings the black community closer to equality as each new change in society is a change for equality.  The story also shows the culture during this time period, how White people treated Black people.  The culture of schools is exposed to reject Black students. For instance, the book states,  “When the boys arrived at Belvoir High, the principal, Mr. Bullock barricaded the doorway.  He looked as if he had smelled a skunk” (15).  Mr. Bullock absolutely didn’t want the boys to be educated in his school, but the boys still succeeded.  Mason’s father also utilized the SCLS. “Mason had heard plenty of Pa’s stories about the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization that coordinated nonviolent actions to end segregation” (21).  This also shows the culture of how the black community seeks leadership in the church, as the church was their own institution to have control of, and a place for leadership.  I might introduce this book by having the students brainstorm ways the civil rights movements made changes in society.  From the list, we can talk about small victories are important for change to and read the story on Mason’s victory, showing there are many ways to win and create change.