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Heaven Looks A Lot Like the Mall

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the MallHeaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall

By Wendy Mass

Genre: Poetry, Teen Ficiton

Curriculum Subjects: Teen Life: Family; Teen Life: Personal Development

Grades: 6 & up



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When 16-year-old Tessa suffers a shocking accident in gym class, she finds herself in heaven (or what she thinks is heaven), which happens to bear a striking resemblance to her hometown mall. In the tradition of It’s a Wonderful Life andThe Christmas Carol, Tessa starts reliving her life up until that moment. She sees some things she’d rather forget, learns some things about herself she’d rather not know, and ultimately must find the answer to one burning question–if only she knew what the question was.


Written in sharp, witty verse, Wendy Mass crafts an extroardinary tale of a spunky heroine who hasn’t always made the right choices, but needs to discover what makes life worth living.



“Funny and weird and poignant.” –KLIATT


“Funny, thought-provoking, and at times heartbreaking, this story will entertain and inspire readers.” –School Library Journal


“An entertaining and thought-provoking story that teens will enjoy.” –VOYA



Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song

Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song

By Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Social Studies: African American Heritage, Personal Development: Diversity, Guidance/Health: Women’s Studies

Grades: 1-17


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They were each born with the gift of gospel.

Martin’s voice kept people in their seats, but also sent their praises soaring.

Mahalia’s voice was brass-and-butter — strong and smooth at the same time.

With Martin’s sermons and Mahalia’s songs, folks were free to shout, to sing their joy.


On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and his strong voice and powerful message were joined and lifted in song by world-renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. It was a moment that changed the course of history and is imprinted in minds forever. Told through Andrea Davis Pinkney’s poetic prose and Brian Pinkney’s evocative illustration, the stories of these two powerful voices and lives are told side-by-side — as they would one day walk — following the journey from their youth to a culmination at this historical event when they united as one and inspiring kids to find their own voices and speak up for what is right.



The Black Media Archive – Hosts podcasts and other media featuring noteworthy African Americans.

Hear Mahalia Jackson sing I’m On My Way to Canaan Land.

Watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” on TeacherTube.



A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

A Booklist Editor’s Choice

An National Council of Teachers of English Notable Book

An Association of Library Services for Children Notable Book


*”[A] colorful, inspirational resource.” — Booklist, starred review


“Sure to become an indispensable part of annual Black History Month celebrations and library nonfiction collections on important African-Americans.” — Kirkus Reviews


*”This fascinating new lens for children on the often-depicted “Dream” speech during the March on Washington reveals how Jackson’s powerful voice stilled the crowds for King’s… Historical context and artistic inspirations wrap up this informative approach to the two icons and the effect of their partnership on history.” — School Library Journal, starred review

Strawberry Hill

Strawberry HillStrawberry Hill

By Mary Ann Hoberman

Genre: Historical Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Social Studies: History; Personal Development: Friendship; Family Life: School

Grades: 3 – 7

When 10-year-old Allie learns that her family will be moving from a two-family home to their very own house, she’s hesitant until she finds out they will be living on a street with the magical name of Strawberry Hill. That changes everything! But strawberries aren’t the only things Allie will have to look for in her new neighborhood. As Allie struggles to find a new “best friend” and adjust to all of the changes she faces, she takes readers on her journey to make Strawberry Hill feel like home.

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A New York Times Editor’s Choice


★ “Highly evocative… With story lines that are simple but never simplistic and perfectly crafted chapters in which the ordinary has the opportunity to become special.” – Booklist


“[Hoberman] knows how to bring detail and language into just the right balance…to pull you into the story.” – The New York Times


“Rich details bring the period to life…This is a gentle story with the sensibility of a novel written in an earlier time.” – SLJ


“Allie’s plight will be utterly relatable to contemporary readers and the resolution is both satisfying and realistic.” – Publishers Weekly


Once Was Lost

Once Was Lost

By Sara Zarr

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Curriculum subjects: Character Development, Family, Religion

Grade: 7 & up


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Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things.


When your father’s a pastor, it’s hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reasons to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam’s personal one, and the already worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.


In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed–about God, your family, and yourself–is transformed.



★ “Zarr sets a hard task for herself here: interweaving a number of strong story strands and giving them equal weight…add to the story’s depth.” — Booklist, starred review


★ “Riveting.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review


★ “Beyond delivering a gripping story, Zarr has a knack for exposing human weakness in the ordinary.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Sorta Like a Rock Star

Sorta Like A Rock Star

By Matthew Quick

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Curriculum subjects: Personal Development: Friendship, Loss, Individuality, Personal Development, Family, Jobs/Finances

Grade: 7-12


 2011 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction Finalist


Amber Appleton lives in a bus. Ever since her mom’s boyfriend kicked them out, Amber, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka Thrice B) have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (the school bus her mom drives). Still, Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope and girl of unyielding optimism, refuses to sweat the bad stuff. But when a fatal tragedy threatens Amber’s optimism–and her way of life, can Amber continue to be the rock star of hope?


With an oddball cast of characters, and a heartwarming, inspiring story, this novel unveils a beautifully beaten-up world of laughs, loyalty, and hard-earned hope. The world is Amber’s stage, and Amber is, well…she’s sorta like a rock star. True? True.


★ “This book is the answer to all  those angst-ridden and painfully grim novels in  the shortcut lingo of  short attention-span theater. Hugely enjoyable.” — School Library Journal



Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi

By Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young

Genre: Picture Book

Curriculum subjects: Animals, Individuality, Self-Discovery, Pets

Grade: P-1


2009 APALA Book Award  |  A 2008 New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book 


Wabi Sabi, a little cat in Kyoto, Japan, had never thought much about her name until friends visiting from another land asked her owner what it meant.


At last, the master

Says, “That’s hard to explain.” And

That is all she says.



This unsatisfying answer sets Wabi Sabi on a journey to uncover the meaning of her name, and on the way discovers what wabi sabi is: a Japanese philosophy of seeing beauty in simplicity, the ordinary, and the imperfect.


Using spare text and haiku, Mark Reibstein weaves an extraordinary story about finding real beauty in unexpected places. Caldecott Medal-winning artist Ed Young complements the lyrical text with breathtaking collages. Together, they illustrate the unique world view that is wabi sabi.


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