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Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2020

The Notable Social Studies list is a joint project of the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children’s Book Council. Titles selected to this list are written primarily for children in grades K-12 and is comprised of titles that are deemed exceptional books for use in social studies classrooms by social studies teachers. Random House Children’s Books is proud to have eight titles on their 2020 list!

Kindergarten to Second Grade

Third to Fifth Grade

Ninth to Twelfth Grade

2020 ALA Award Winners and Honorees

RANDOLPH CALDECOTT HONOR

Awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Double Bass Blues

Double Bass Blues By Andrea J. Loney; illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez

Nic is an aspiring musician whose life spans two different worlds–his suburban school where he wows his friends in the orchestra, and the busy city streets of his home where he’s jostled by the crowd. Nic makes his way home from a busy day at school with a double bass on his back, the symphony of his surroundings in his heart, and a sweet surprise for the reader at the end of his journey. This is a sweet, melodious picture book about how dedication, music, and family can overcome any obstacle.

CORETTA SCOTT KING - JOHN STEPTOE ILLUSTRATOR AWARD FOR NEW TALENT

This award affirms new talent and offers visibility to excellence in writing or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published book creator.

What Is Given from the Heart

What Is Given from the Heart By Patricia C. McKissack; illustrated by April Harrison

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service: the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temples’ “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart reaches the heart.

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD

MIDDLE-GRADE WINNER

Honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

Song for a Whale

Song for a Whale By Lynne Kelly

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she’s the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she’s not very smart. If you’ve ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to “sing” to him! But he’s three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

Full of heart and poignancy, this affecting story by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly shows how a little determination can make big waves.

STONEWALL – MIKE MORGAN & LARRY ROMANS CHILDREN’S & YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE AWARD

HONOR BOOK

Awarded to books for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.

Pet

Pet By Akwaeke Emezi

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend but also to uncover the truth and the answer to the question–How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD

MIDDLE-GRADE WINNER

This award is for outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.

White Bird: A Wonder Story

White Bird: A Wonder Story By R. J. Palacio

In R. J. Palacio’s bestselling collection of stories Auggie & Me, which expands on characters in Wonder, readers were introduced to Julian’s grandmother, Grandmère. Here, Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with Grandmère’s heartrending story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II; how the boy she and her classmates once shunned became her savior and best friend.

SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD

NOTABLE BOOK FOR TEENS

A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness By Albert Marrin

Janusz Korczak was more than a good doctor. He was a hero. The Dr. Spock of his day, he established orphanages run on his principle of honoring children and shared his ideas with the public in books and on the radio. He famously said that “children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today.” Korczak was a man ahead of his time, whose work ultimately became the basis for the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Korczak was also a Polish Jew on the eve of World War II. He turned down multiple opportunities for escape, standing by the children in his orphanage as they became confined to the Warsaw Ghetto. Dressing them in their Sabbath finest, he led their march to the trains and ultimately perished with his children in Treblinka.

YALSA EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION AWARD - FINALIST

This award honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18).

A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness By Albert Marrin

Janusz Korczak was more than a good doctor. He was a hero. The Dr. Spock of his day, he established orphanages run on his principle of honoring children and shared his ideas with the public in books and on the radio. He famously said that “children are not the people of tomorrow, but people today.” Korczak was a man ahead of his time, whose work ultimately became the basis for the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Korczak was also a Polish Jew on the eve of World War II. He turned down multiple opportunities for escape, standing by the children in his orphanage as they became confined to the Warsaw Ghetto. Dressing them in their Sabbath finest, he led their march to the trains and ultimately perished with his children in Treblinka.

Candace Fleming Nonfiction

New from the acclaimed author of THE FAMILY ROMANOV

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh By Candace Fleming

SIX STARRED REVIEWS!

Discover the dark side of Charles Lindbergh--one of America's most celebrated heroes and complicated men--in this riveting biography from the acclaimed author of The Family Romanov.


First human to cross the Atlantic via airplane; one of the first American media sensations; Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite; loner whose baby was kidnapped and murdered; champion of Eugenics, the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding; tireless environmentalist. Charles Lindbergh was all of the above and more. Here is a rich, multi-faceted, utterly spellbinding biography about an American hero who was also a deeply flawed man. In this time where values Lindbergh held, like white Nationalism and America First, are once again on the rise, The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh is essential reading for teens and history fanatics alike.

Candace Fleming

 Why did I write Clever Jack Takes the Cake? Mostly for fun, but also because I wanted to try my hand at writing a fairy tale. I do that a lot as a writer—challenge myself to try new things—and tackling a fairy tale was definitely a new thing. So how to begin? 

I knew I wanted my story to have a classical feel, incorporating such wonderfully delicious fairy-tale elements as four-and-twenty blackbirds, enchanted forests, and hairy trolls. On the other hand, I wanted it to be totally original, a story like no other. I began writing, and within a few weeks had a tale. But let me tell you a curious truth about writers—they are the stories they write, the fictions they spin. And when I read back what I had written, I realized I had created a fairy tale about . . . me. Weird, but true! The story is filled with my favorite things—journeys and birthdays and cake. The princess, taking after my son Scott, is allergic to strawberries. And Jack? Just like me, he good-naturedly follows life’s road, gathering experiences he can spin into tales.

Spinning experiences into tales is what I did with The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School, too. I visit lots of school, and there’s nothing I like better than talking with kids, watching them in the lunchroom or on the playground, reading their essays and stories, listening to them tell jokes. And all the while I’m doing these things, I’m thinking about how I can use them in a book. Let me give you an example. A few years ago, I was visiting a school in Tennessee when a fifth-grade boy came up to me and said, “Look what I can do.” He stuck out his tongue, crossed his eyes and wiggled his ears – first the left one, and then the right one. I was impressed—but I hadn’t seen anything yet! Within seconds, the rest of the fifth graders surround me. Everyone, it seemed, had some special body trick to show me—double-jointed fingers and toes, eyelids that folded, lips that could be pulled up over noses, knuckles that cracked to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.” It was absurd and wonderful, and I knew I had to write about it. The result? Chapter five titled, “Hyper . . . Um . . . Hypermob . . . Um . . . Weird Body Tricks.”

This Is Me

Books to celebrate being yourself!

Bedtime Bonnet

Bedtime Bonnet By Nancy Redd; illustrated by Nneka Myers

This joyous and loving celebration of family is the first-ever picture book to highlight Black nighttime hair traditions--and is perfect for every little girl who knows what it's like to lose her bonnet just before bedtime.

In my family, when the sun goes down, our hair goes up!
My brother slips a durag over his locs.
Sis swirls her hair in a wrap around her head.
Daddy covers his black waves with a cap.
Mama gathers her corkscrew curls in a scarf.
I always wear a bonnet over my braids, but tonight I can't find it anywhere!

Bedtime Bonnet gives readers a heartwarming peek into quintessential Black nighttime hair traditions and celebrates the love between all the members of this close-knit, multi-generational family.

Perfect for readers of Hair Love and Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut!

Cool Cuts

Cool Cuts By Written and illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe

Boys and their cool, natural hair are celebrated in this bright, joyful read-together picture book that will have kids everywhere chanting the book's chorus: "I am born to be awesome!"

When the stars shine, the world is mine! I am born to be awesome! My hair is free, just like me! I am born to be awesome!

Boys will love seeing strong, happy reflections of themselves in this vibrant, rhythmic picture book celebrating a diversity of hip black hairstyles. From a 'fro-hawk to mini-twists and crisp cornrows, adorable illustrations of boys with cool curls, waves, and afros grace each page, accompanied by a positive call-and-response affirmation that will make kids cheer. It's a great read-aloud to promote positive self-esteem to boys of all ages, building and growing the foundation of self-love (and hair love!) and letting every boy know that "You are born to be awesome!"

And look for the companion book for girls, Happy Hair.

"a timely mirror for black boyhood and childhood."—Kirkus

"Readers of this work will relate to the book’s positive language, such as the way the author frames self-esteem’s connection to pride in hairstyles and looking and feeling awesome."—Booklist

Happy Hair

Happy Hair By Written and illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe

Girls and their beautiful, natural hair are celebrated in this bright, joyful read-together picture book that will have kids everywhere chanting the book's chorus: "I love being me!"

Full 'fro, cute bow! I love being me! Smart girl, cool curls! I love being me!

Girls will love seeing strong, happy reflections of themselves in this vibrant, rhythmic picture book celebrating the diversity of beautiful black hair. From a cute crop to pom-pom puffs, adorable illustrations of girls with gorgeous braids, blowouts, and bantus grace each page, side by side with a call-and-response affirmation that will make girls cheer. It's a great read-aloud to promote self-esteem for girls of all ages, building and growing the foundation of self-love (and hair love!) and letting every girl know "You are made beautiful!"

"A book that pays homage to the versatility of black hair. . . . Fun to read aloud.”—Kirkus

And look for Cool Cuts tooa hip and positive hair book for boys!

Just Like Me

Just Like Me By Vanessa Brantley-Newton

An ode to the girl with scrapes on her knees and flowers in her hair, and every girl in between, this exquisite treasury will appeal to readers of Dear Girl and I Am Enough and have kids poring over it to find a poem that's just for them.

I am a canvas
Being painted on
By the words of my family
Friends
And community

From Vanessa Brantley-Newton, the author of Grandma's Purse, comes a collection of poetry filled with engaging mini-stories about girls of all kinds: girls who feel happy, sad, scared, powerful; girls who love their bodies and girls who don't; country girls, city girls; girls who love their mother and girls who wish they had a father. With bright portraits in Vanessa's signature style of vibrant colors and unique patterns and fabrics, this book invites readers to find themselves and each other within its pages.

"A dynamic, uplifting, and welcoming world of girls."--Kirkus 

"Thoughtful, inclusive, and celebratory"--Publishers Weekly

"Bursting with positivity, this would be a great book to use in primary school classrooms when discussing issues of friendship, diversity, and self-esteem."--Booklist

We're All Wonders

We're All Wonders By Written & illustrated by R. J. Palacio

The unforgettable bestseller Wonder, now a major motion picture, has inspired a nationwide movement to Choose Kind. Now parents and educators can introduce the importance of choosing kind to younger readers with this gorgeous picture book, featuring Auggie and Daisy on an original adventure, written and illustrated by R. J. Palacio.
 
Over 8 million people have fallen in love with Wonder and have joined the movement to Choose Kind. Now younger readers can meet Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face, and his beloved dog, Daisy.
 
Countless fans have asked R. J. Palacio to write a book for younger readers. With We’re All Wonders, she makes her picture-book debut as both author and artist, with a spare, powerful text and striking, richly imagined illustrations. Palacio shows readers what it’s like to live in Auggie’s world—a world in which he feels like any other kid, but he’s not always seen that way.
 
We’re All Wonders may be Auggie’s story, but it taps into every child’s longing to belong, and to be seen for who they truly are. It’s the perfect way for families and educators to talk about empathy and kindness with young children.

Praise for Wonder:
A #1 New York Times Bestseller
A USA Today Top 100 Bestseller
An Indie Bestseller
A Time Magazine 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time Selection
A Washington Post Best Kids’ Book
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
An NPR Outstanding Backseat Book Club Pick
An Entertainment Weekly 10 Great Kids’ Books Selection


“A beautiful, funny and sometimes sob-making story of quiet transformation.” —The Wall Street Journal

“A crackling page-turner filled with characters you can’t help but root for.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Rich and memorable.” —The New York Times Book Review

Chris Grabenstein Author Essay

Dear Reader:

Welcome to my very first picture book!

A few years ago, both our neighbors in our New York City apartment building had baby girls. Annalise on the right; Devin on the left. I would go to events and festivals to promote my books for upper-elementary and middle-grade readers, and come home with a stack of autographed picture books to give to my newest, tiniest neighbors. Since both girls had pretty unusual names, I started thinking that I might have to be the one to, someday, write a picture book with their names in it.

Well, one day, my wife (and coauthor of Shine!), J.J., was out walking our dog, Fred. She told me a very funny story about a girl in a stroller screaming “I don’t want to take a nap! I don’t want to take a nap!” She told the girl, “My dog loves to take naps. If you don’t want one, he’ll take it.” That inspired an elderly gentleman on a park bench to cry out, “I’ll take one of those naps, too!”

And that was the seed that grew into No More Naps! featuring Annalise Devin McFleece (neither of our neighbors are the McFleeces, but I couldn’t resist the rhyme). Imagine my delight when Random House married the brilliant (and fun) Leo Espinosa’s pictures to my text. I’ve read this book at least ten dozen
times, and I am always finding something new in his clever illustrations. For instance, if you look closely, you will find a self-portrait of our
artist, Leo, on two of the pages. And, if you look even closer, you might find an illustration of me. Hint: I did write a book called Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s LIBRARY!

Thank you so much for looking at our new book. I hope it makes you, and someone you love, very sleepy.

Chris Grabenstein

No More Naps!

No More Naps! By Chris Grabenstein; illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Imagine if you could steal your toddler's nap? This picture book debut from a #1 New York Times bestselling author turns the universal dilemma of getting kids to sleep upside down!

It's time for a nap but, just like stubborn toddlers everywhere, Annalise Devin McFleece won't have anything to do with bedtime. Dad tries to encourage sleepiness by pushing her around the park in her stroller. Along the way, they pass a man sitting on a bench, dog walkers walking dogs, a boy on a skateboard, kids playing ball, a girl practicing her juggling, and others. Each of them thinks that taking a nap is a great idea and if Annalise Devin McFleece doesn't want hers, they'll happy take it. And one by one, everyone falls asleep...except Annalise Devin McFleece. But when she's finally ready for her nap, all the naps are taken! Is there anyone who has an extra nap to spare?

With every turn of the page, the busy city scene becomes more and more quiet...except for Annalise Devin McFleece.

Will she ever take a nap?

Chris Grabenstein

When I talk to kids about my new book THE ISLAND OF DR. LIBRIS, I torture them with a tale of electronics deprivation.
     "My main character, Billy Gillfoyle," I say, "is spending the summer in a cabin on a lake.  There is no cable, no TV, no DVR, no X-Box, no PlayStation 3.  There isn't even an old-fashioned VCR."
     By this point, the kids' gasps become audible.
     "On his first day at the cabin," I continue, "Billy drops his iPhone and it shatters.  The nearest Apple store is several hundred miles away."
     Jaws drop.  The kids are practically weeping – just like my hero, Billy Gillfoyle.  He mopes around the cabin after the demise of his iPhone and ends up in this scene with his mother:
    
  "Billy, what do you think kids did back before video games or TV or even electricity?"
  "I don't know.  Cried a lot?"  He plopped down dramatically on the couch.
  "No, Billy. They read books.  They made up stories and games.  They took nothing and turned it into something."
 
     And that's what happens to Billy in this book:  He learns to start using and trusting his own imagination.
     Characters from books that he reads in Dr. Libris' study start coming to life out on the island in the middle of the lake.   In no time, Hercules, the monster Antaeus, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, The Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan, Pollyanna, and Tom Sawyer are all bumping into each other's stories.  It's up to Billy, with the help of his new friend Walter, and a bookcase filled with classic literature, to "imagine" a scenario that will bring all the conflicts to a tidy resolution. 
     Yep.  In THE ISLAND OF DR. LIBRIS, Billy Gillfoyle is learning how to become a writer.  He puts his characters into situations and conflicts that will, ultimately, take him to the happy ending he, and everybody else, is looking for.
     When all seems lost, he is on the island with his new friends Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and Hercules, despairing that he's not heroic enough to rescue his asthmatic friend Walter from the clutches of the evil Space Lizard (yes, hideous creatures from video games and fairy tales eventually come to life on the island, too.) 
 
  "Ho, lads and lassie!" said Robin Hood.  "All is not lost!  Look you, Sir William – I remember a time when Sir Guy of Gisbourne held me captive in his tower.  Did my band of merry followers let a moat or castle walls stand in their way?"
  "Nay!" said Marian.  "Little John and I didst lead the charge.  Oh, how the arrows did fly that day!"
  "I'm not Little John," Billy said quietly.  "Or you, Maid Marian.  I'm not a hero."  He looked down at Walter's inhaler.  "I'm just a kid who can't even save his own family."
  "Nonsense," said Maid Marian. "Each of us can choose who or what we shall be.  We write our own stories, Sir William.  We write them each and every day."
  "And," added Hercules, "if you write it boldly enough, others will write about you, too."
 
     In my book ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY, I wanted to make young readers excited about reading and doing research.  I tried to turn a trip to the library into an incredibly fun scavenger hunt, filled with puzzles and surprises.  (In my perpetually twelve-years-old mind, that's what doing research actually is.)
     With THE ISLAND OF DR. LIBRIS, I am hoping to excite young readers about the power and awesomeness of their own imaginations. I want them to take nothing and turn it into something.  To take two old ideas, toss them together, and create something new.
     And, when they write their own stories, maybe some of them will decide they want to become authors, writing stories for the rest of us, too!