SFUSD Elementary Reading Lists
Humanities Reading Corner Picks
The following titles have been selected for their high interest level for students.
The following titles have been selected for their high interest level for students.
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson
What began as a spiritual has developed into one of America’s best-known songs, and now for the first time it appears as a picture book, masterfully created by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson. Through sublime landscapes and warm images of a boy and his family, Kadir has created a dazzling, intimate interpretation, one that rejoices in the connectedness of people and nature.
Inspired by the song’s simple message, Kadir sought to capture the joy of living in and engaging with the world. Most importantly, he wished to portray the world as a child might see it—vast and beautiful.
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que crecio en el Bronx by Jonah Winter
The inspiring and timely story of Sonia Sotomayor, who rose up from a childhood of poverty and prejudice to become the first Latino to be nominated to the US Supreme Court. Before Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her seat in our nation's highest court, she was just a little girl in the South Bronx. Justice Sotomayor didn't have a lot growing up, but she had what she needed -- her mother's love, a will to learn, and her own determination. With bravery she became the person she wanted to be. With hard work she succeeded.
Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass by Lesa Cline-Ransome
This picture book biography chronicles the youth of Frederick Douglass, one of the most prominent African American figures in American history. Douglass spent his life advocating for the equality of all, and it was through reading that he was able to stand up for himself and others.
Peeny Butter Fudge by Toni Morrison & Slade Morrison/Joe Cepeda
There is no one like Nana in the whole wide world. She is the best. Nana knows how to take an ordinary afternoon and make it extra special! Nap time, story time, and playtime are transformed by fairies, dragons, dancing, and pretending -- and then mixing and fixing yummy, yummy fudge just like Nana and Mommy did.
Momma, Where Are You From?
by Marie Bradby/Chris Soentpiet
A mother-daughter conversation becomes historical and personal.
Howard Thurman's Great Hope by Kai Issa
Born in segregated Daytona, Florida, in 1899, Howard Thurman grew up dreaming of a better life—a life where his mother and grandmother would not have to cook and clean for other people; a life where he could become a college man, honoring his late father’s wishes and his own dreams. Through hard work, perseverance, and the support of friends and family, young Howard transcended the limits on Negro education in Daytona and earned a scholarship to an out-of-town high school. His dream did not come easily and was nearly lost, until a kind act by a stranger at a railroad station aided Howard in a time of need.
The Rain Stomper
by Addie Boswell/Eric Velasquez
Today is the day of the big neighborhood parade. Baton twirler Jazmin is ready to lead the way for the dogs and kids, music and fun. But then the clouds crowd in. The sky darkens. Thunder roars. And the rain begins. SLAP clatter clatter SLAP SLAP! Is Jazmin’s parade ruined? Or can she use her spirit, her fearless energy, and her mighty baton to save the day?
Ron's Big Mission
by Rose Blue (Author), Corinne Naden (Author)
Nine-year-old Ron loves going to the Lake City Public Library to look through all the books on airplanes and flight. Today, Ron is ready to take out books by himself. But in the segregated world of South Carolina in the 1950s, Ron’s obtaining his own library card is not just a small rite of passage; it is a young man’s first courageous mission. Here is an inspiring story, based on Ron McNair’s life, of how a little boy, future scientist, and Challenger astronaut desegregated his library through peaceful resistance.
The Sandwich Swap (L)
by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah
Lily and Salma are best friends. The smallest things can pull us apart-until we learn that friendship is far more powerful than difference. In a glorious three-page gatefold at the end of the book, Salma, Lily, and all their classmates come together in the true spirit of tolerance and acceptance.
Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
by Nikki Grimes
Ever since Barack Obama was young, Hope has lived inside him. From the beaches of Hawaii to the streets of Chicago, from the jungles of Indonesia to the plains of Kenya, he has held on to Hope. Even as a boy, Barack knew he wasn’t quite like anybody else, but through his journeys he found the ability to listen to Hope and become what he was meant to be: a bridge to bring people together. This is the moving story of our 44th President, told by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Bryan Collier, both winners of the Coretta Scott King Award.
by Allen Say
The Kamishibai man used to ride his bicycle into town where he would tell stories to the children and sell them candy, but gradually, fewer and fewer children came running at the sound of his clappers. They were all watching their new televisions instead. Years later, the Kamishibai man and his wife made another batch of candy, and he pedaled into town to tell one more story—his own.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music
by Margarita Engle
Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule—until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream. Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers, Drum Dream Girl tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere.
Niño Wrestles the World
by Yuyi Morales
Fwap! Slish! Bloop! Krunch! He takes down his competition in a single move! No opponent is too big a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño―popsicle eater, toy lover, somersault expert, and world champion lucha libre competitor! Niño Wrestles the World is in English with Spanish vocabulary, and is a fun, colorful story about a boy wrestling with imaginary monsters (including an Olmec Head and La Llorona) and adversaries like his younger sisters.
Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X
by Ilyasah Shabazz
Malcolm X grew to be one of America’s most influential figures. But first, he was a boy named Malcolm Little. Written by his daughter, this inspiring picture book biography celebrates a vision of freedom and justice. Together with acclaimed illustrator AG Ford, Ilyasah Shabazz gives us a unique glimpse into the childhood of her father, Malcolm X, with a lyrical story that carries a message that resonates still today—that we must all strive to live to our highest potential.
The Name Jar (N)
by Yangsook Choi
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. While Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it--Yoon-Hey.
Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews
Why wait for someone to write the children’s book of your life when you can do it yourself? New Orleans musicians Trombone Shorty gives us a slice of that Tremé Second Line life.
Fortune Cookie Fortunes
by Grace Lin
This beautifully illustrated story about every kid’s favorite part of a Chinese meal also includes a brief history of the fortune cookie.
The Trip Back Home
by Janet Wong
These are the gifts brought across the ocean to Korea: Leather gloves; An apron with pockets like flowers; A book with pictures and simple words. What is given in return? Simple gifts like these--and so much more. Janet S. Wong invites us to join her on the trip back home, revealing that even when family members speak different languages, there is still much they can share.
Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery
by Jeanette Winter
Meet two heroes of Pakistan who stood up for the rights to freedom and education in these inspirational nonfiction tales from acclaimed author-illustrator Jeanette Winter. Two stories of bravery including the story of Malala Yousafzai, a winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize!
by Jane Bahk
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 good-bye. Juna is heartbroken and left to wonder who will on go on adventures with her. Determined to find Hector, Juna turns to her special kimchi jar for help each night in search of her friend. What Juna finds is that adventure and new friends can be found in the most unexpected places. Juna's Jar is a heart-warming and whimsical tale about the power of the imagination.
When the Circus Came to Town
by Laurence Yep
Ursula always wanted to see the circus. That is, until she caught smallpox. Now all she wants is to hide her scarred face from everyone. But Ah Sam, her parents' Chinese cook, has other ideas.
One day Ah Sam surprises Ursula by bringing a circus to town, but there's one problem -- there's no music. Ursula is the only one who can play the harmonica, but that means she'll have to go outside and face the world again. Will Ursula save the circus or will she hide forever?
Children of the Longhouse
by Joseph Bruchac
When Ohkwa'ri overhears a group of older boys planning a raid on a neighboring village, he immediately tells his Mohawk elders. He has done the right thing—but he has also made enemies. Grabber and his friends will do anything they can to hurt him, especially during the village-wide game of Tekwaarathon (lacrosse). Ohkwa'ri believes in the path of peace, but can peaceful ways work against Grabber's wrath?
The Heart’s Language
by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
How do you listen with your heart? For one small boy, the heart's language is the only one he knows. With his heart he can speak to animals, trees, and creatures of the sea. But he cannot be understood by the people around him, even those who love him most-his mother and father. One day, when he is feeling sad and alone, he is visited by a magical blue bird. With the bird's encouragement, the boy finds a way to make himself heard. And when his parents try to speak the boy's language, they are finally able to express their love, and truly communicate with the shared language of the heart. This lyrical story of love and understanding will speak to anyone whose life has been touched by an exceptional child.
Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
by Laurie Ann Thompson
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah's inspiring true story—born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.
Yesterday I Had the Blues by Jeron Ashford Frame
Ever had the blues? Yesterday one boy had them bad--not just the ordinary blues, the "deep down in my shoes" blues, the "go away Mr. Sun quit smilin' at me" blues. But today he's traded in those blues for greens, the "runnin' my hands along the hedges" greens, the kind of greens that make him want to be Somebody. With text that begs to be read aloud, and bold, colorful paintings, this book will have readers big and small pondering the spectrum of moods and how they can change from day to day.
Monster Trouble by Lane Fredrickson/Michael Robertson
A girl who not only isn’t scared of monsters, but sets out to show them why they should be scared of her.
Hawaii Is a Rainbow
by Stephanie Feeney
The author uses colors of the rainbow--red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple--as a way to organize pictures of some of the people, places, plants, and animals of Hawaii. Hawaii is a Rainbow has been created to help children learn about colors and about Hawaii and to help both children and adults appreciate the rich variety and the special beauty of the Islands.
More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby
"A fictionalized story about the life of young Booker T. Washington. Living in a West Virginia settlement after emancipation, nine-year-old Booker travels by lantern light to the salt works, where he labors from dawn till dusk. Although his stomach rumbles, his real hunger is his intense desire to learn to read.... [A] moving and inspirational story." - School Library Journal
Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes
by Floyd Cooper
This book is a simple, touching biography of Langston Hughes, the poet, with vivid pictures and simple text.
My Dream of Martin Luther King
by Faith Ringgold
In My Dream of Martin Luther King, Faith Ringgold brings her unique artistic sensibility to the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the history of the Civil Rights movement. Framing this dream is a uniquely personal vision of Ms. Ringgold's own in which she visualizes the people of the world gathering in King's memory to trade in their prejudice, fear, and hate for hope, peace, and love--the fulfillment of King's dream of nonviolent social change.
Jump!: From the Life of Michael Jordan
by Floyd Cooper
Michael Jordan was once just an ordinary little boy growing up in a North Carolina suburb, trying to keep up with his older brother Larry. Michael never gave up, and his practicing began to pay off. Then one summer day during a backyard game of one-on-one, Larry Jordan's "little" brother took him--and the whole family--by surprise!
Float Like a Butterfly
by Ntozake Shange (Author), Edel Rodriguez
Muhammad Ali, considered by many to be the finest athlete of the twentieth century, is also one of the most famous Americans of his time. Here is a compelling testimony to his courage, resilience in the face of controversy, and boxing prowess by Obie Award-winning author Ntozake Shange. In her own words, Shange shows us Ali and his life, from his childhood in the segregated South, to his meteoric rise in boxing to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo
by Monica Brown
In this vibrant bilingual picture book biography of musician Tito Puente, readers will dance along to the beat of this mambo king's life. Tito Puente loved banging pots and pans as a child, but what he really dreamed of was having his own band one day. From Spanish Harlem to the Grammy Awards—and all the beats in between—this is the true-life story of a boy whose passion for music turned him into the "King of Mambo."
Side by Side/Lado a Lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez/La Historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez
by Monica Brown
Every day, thousands of farmworkers harvested the food that ended up on kitchen tables all over the country. But at the end of the day, when the workers sat down to eat, there were only beans on their own tables. Then Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez teamed up. Together they motivated the workers to fight for their rights and, in the process, changed history.
by Becky Ray McCain
While Kimmy's parents look for a house close to Daddy's job, Kimmy stays with her Chippewa grandmother. The bad dreams she has had still bother her. But with her grandmother's help, she learns about dreamcatchers.
My Name Is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela (Rise and Shine)
by Monica Brown
Gabriela Mistral understood the power of words. She worked hard in school and became a teacher and a poet.
Pele, King of Soccer/Pele, El rey del futbol
by Monica Brown
An “inspiring blend of art and story,” about the most famous soccer star in the world, Pelé. This bilingual picture book will inspire, teach, and amaze readers as they learn about the man who revolutionized the sport of soccer. This is the true story of Pelé, King of Soccer, the first man in the history of the sport to score a thousand goals and become a living legend.
How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend
by Jerrie Oughton
This retelling of a Navajo folktale explains how First Woman tried to write the laws of the land using stars in the sky, only to be thwarted by the trickster Coyote.