I've been reading a LOT this summer (and when I count how many books I've read, I'm really surprised! 72! Holy cow! Did I do anything else?). I found a couple that I think will be awesome for the start of the year.
For the littlest kids, I just read one called "F is for Feelings" by Goldie Millar. It's an ABC book about a variety of feelings, both positive and negative. What's really great about this one, is that the sentences are short and both name the feeling and give a situation or describe the feeling. On top of that, there is beautiful artwork that shows not only the facial expression, but the body language and for most of the pictures, it shows the situation where this feeling might occur. I see this being a great book for vocabulary, for problem solving, for writing. I ordered two copies from Amazon yesterday because I'm pretty sure my teachers need this one RIGHT AWAY.
The second one is for the middle kids at my school. This one is a short chapter book called Ava and Pip by Carol Weston. It's about two sisters, Ava and Pip who's parents are Anna and Bob. Notice anything about their names? They are palindromes. And this is a family that LOVES words. They play word games and they use their words in lots of amazing ways. Ava is the younger sister but Pip has trouble with being shy so Ava is very protective. When Pip's birthday party gets usurped by a new girl, Ava tries to solve the problem by writing a fable based on the incident. The fable gets entered into a contest and although it's not THE winner, it gets read pretty widely and the new girl's feelings are hurt. However, the new girl, Bea, is not one to stand by and watch things happen so she confronts Ava. Ava apologizes and then she and Bea become friends and together come up with a plan to help Pip with her shyness. This is an awesome book on so many levels. First of all, you could read this one and completely ignore all the wonderful vocabulary and writing ideas that pop up in the book and just focus on the social skills and character traits in this one and have a lot of teaching points, but using it as a mentor text for writing is going to get a lot people remembering how much fun language can be. Don't miss this one.
For my biggest kids, I can't wait to get Chernobyl's Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone by Rebecca Johnson. This is a non-fiction book about the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in 1986, how the government handled the aftermath of the explosion and what's happened since then. I found this completely fascinating. I remember when the plant exploded and although it appears in the news every once in awhile, I wondered what had happened. It turns out that because of the radiation it's not safe for people to live there so the government (in Ukraine) has cordoned off about a 30 kilometer circle around the plant and it's really surprising what's happened with the animals there. This would be a great conversation starter about different kinds of energy (it references the Fukushima nuclear accident too) and the safety and cost of them, as well as the adaptability of animals and nature. It was fascinating.