The California Reads Committee offers teacher-approved quarterly book recommendations for multiple age groups. View all recommendations for Pre-K/TK/K.
My Papi Has a Motorcycle
By Isabel Quintero, Illustrator: Zeke Peña
A celebration of the love between a father and daughter, and of a vibrant immigrant neighborhood, by an award-winning author and illustrator duo.
When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her.
But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.
With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a young girl’s love letter to her hardworking dad and to memories of home that we hold close in the midst of change.
Publish Date: May 14, 2019
By Yuyi Morales
Winner of the 2019 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award
A New York Times / New York Public Library Best Illustrated Book of 2018
In 1994, Yuyi Morales left her home in Xalapa, Mexico and came to the US with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn’t come empty-handed.
She brought her strength, her work, her passion, her hopes and dreams. . . and her stories. Caldecott Honor artist and six-time Pura Belpré winner Yuyi Morales’s gorgeous picture book Dreamers is about making a home in a new place. Yuyi and her son Kelly’s passage was not easy, and Yuyi spoke no English whatsoever at the time. But together, they found an unexpected, unbelievable place: the public library. There, book by book, they untangled the language of this strange new land, and learned to make their home within it.
Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It’s a story about family. And it’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam.
Publish Date: September 4, 2018
By Suzanne Lang, Illustrator: Max Lang
The hilarious New York Times bestselling picture book about dealing with unexplained feelings…and the danger in suppressing them!
Jim the chimpanzee is in a terrible mood for no good reason. His friends can’t understand it–how can he be in a bad mood when it’s SUCH a beautiful day? They encourage him not to hunch, to smile, and to do things that make THEM happy. But Jim can’t take all the advice…and has a BIT of a meltdown. Could it be that he just needs a day to feel grumpy?
Suzanne and Max Lang bring hilarity and levity to this very important lesson. This picture book is an excellent case study in the dangers of putting on a happy face and demonstrates to kids that they are allowed to feel their feelings (though they should be careful of hurting others in the process!).
Publish Date: May 15, 2018
By Phyllis Root, illustrator: G. Brian Karas
For any anywhere farm, here’s all that you need: soil and sunshine, some water, a seed.
You might think a farm means fields, tractors, and a barnyard full of animals. But you can plant a farm anywhere you like! A box or a bucket, a boot or a pan — almost anything can be turned into a home for green, growing things. Windows, balconies, and front steps all make wonderful spots to start. Who knows what plants you may choose to grow and who will come to see your new garden? Phyllis Root delivers a modern rhyming mantra for anyone hoping to put their green thumbs to good use, while G. Brian Karas’s cheerful urban illustrations sprout from every page. After all, anywhere can be a farm — all it takes is one small seed and someone to plant it.
Publish Date: 2017
They All Saw a Cat
By Brendan Wenzel (Author / Illustrator)
A 2017 Caldecott Honor Book
A New York Times bestseller
“An ingenious idea, gorgeously realized.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review “Both simple and ingenious in concept, Wenzel’s book feels like a game changer.” —The Huffington Post
The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws .. .In this glorious celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?
Publish Date: August 30, 2016
We Forgot Brock!
Written/Illustrated by Carter Goodrich
The importance of imaginary friends is very real in this picture book adventure from the author of Say Hello to Zorro! and lead character designer for Despicable Me, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc. Phillip and Brock are best friends. Everyone can see Phillip, but only Phillip can see Brock. A night at the Big Fair is all fun and games until Phillip gets sleepy, heads home, and forgets Brock!
Publish Date: August 25, 2015
Red: A Crayon’s Story
By Michael Hall (Author, Illustrator)
A blue crayon mistakenly labeled as “red” suffers an identity crisis in this picture book by the New York Times–bestselling creator of My Heart Is Like a Zoo and It’s an Orange Aardvark! Funny, insightful, and colorful, Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall, is about being true to your inner self and following your own path despite obstacles that may come your way. Red will appeal to fans of Lois Ehlert, Eric Carle, and The Day the Crayons Quit, and makes a great gift for readers of any age!
Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let’s draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries! Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He’s blue! This funny, heartwarming, colorful picture book about finding the courage to be true to your inner self can be read on multiple levels, and it offers something for everyone.
Publish Date: February 3, 2015
The Bear and the Piano
By David Litchfield (Author / Illustrator)
One day, a bear cub finds something strange and wonderful in the forest. When he touches the keys, they make a horrible noise. Yet he is drawn back again and again. Eventually, he learns to play beautiful sounds, delighting his woodland friends.
Then the bear is invited to share his sounds with new friends in the city. He longs to explore the world beyond his home, and to play bigger and better than before. But he knows that if he leaves, the other bears will be very sad . . .
This gorgeously illustrated tale of following one’s dreams reminds us of the value of friendship, wherever we go.
Publish Date: September 3, 2015
By Yuyi Morales, Photographer: Tim O’Meara
A 2015 Caldecott Honor Book
A 2015 Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award
Frida Kahlo, one of the world’s most famous and unusual artists is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases. Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida’s life and work in this elegant and fascinating book
Publish Date: September 2, 2014 | A Neal Porter Book
By Jorey Hurley
From birth, to first flight, to new friend, the first year of a bird’s life is full of activity and wonder. Artist Jorey Hurley pairs vivid, crisp artwork with simple, minimal text—often just one word per spread—to create a breathtaking, peaceful chronicle of nature and life’s milestones.
Publish Date: February 4, 2014
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
By Dan Santat
This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and-at long last-is given his special name: Beekle.
Publish Date: April 8, 2014
I Am Mixed
By Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones, illustrator: James C. Webster
Book synopsis: Jay and Nia are the children of two worlds, and as they will discover, they can enjoy the best of both. From Mommy’s jazz beats to Daddy’s classical piano, we will dance with the twins through a book that explores what it is to be of mixed ancestry, proving that a child is more than the sum of their parents.
Publish Date: February 23, 2013
Tito Puente, Mambo King
By Monica Brown and Rafael Lopez
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.” Award-winning author-illustrator duo Monica Brown and Rafael López bring the remarkable story of this talented legend to life in this Pura Belpré Honor Book. Supports the Common Core State Standards.
Publish Date: 2013
By Candace Ryan, illustrator: Mike Lowery
Cow and Owl are best friends. Moo Hoo! They do everything together, like make music. Two Coo! But when a stranger arrives―Roo New! ―the two friends must decide whether their group can expand to form a New True Crew.
Publish Date: April 10, 2012
By Herve Tullet
Press the yellow dot on the cover of this book, follow the instructions within, and embark upon a magical journey! Each page of this surprising book instructs the reader to press the dots, shake the pages, tilt the book, and who knows what will happen next! Children and adults alike will giggle with delight as the dots multiply, change direction, and grow in size! Especially remarkable because the adventure occurs on the flat surface of the simple, printed page, this unique picture book about the power of imagination and interactivity will provide read-aloud fun for all ages!
Publish Date: January 28, 2010
By Kathryn Otoshi
One is an award winning book about colors and numbers in which Red bullies Blue, and although the other colors do not like what they see, they don’t speak up. Then Number One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up together against Red. This simple, but beautiful book has a powerful and uplifting message about bullying and standing up for ourselves and others. One is basic for preschoolers, but contains a message that resonates with children of all ages…maybe even adults!
Publish Date: 2008
By Linda Sue Park, illustrator: Ho Baek Lee
A wonderful paperback picture book about the joys of family and food, from Newbery Award winning author Linda Sue Park.
Bee-bim bop (“mix-mix rice”) is a traditional Korean dish. In bouncy rhyming text, a hungry child tells of helping her mother make bee-bim bop: shopping, preparing ingredients, setting the table, and sitting down to enjoy a favorite meal. The enthusiasm of the narrator is conveyed in the whimsical illustrations, which bring details from the artist’s childhood in Korea to his depiction of a modern Korean-American family. The book includes Linda Sue’s own bee-bim bop recipe!
Publish Date: 2005
I Like Myself!
By Karen Beaumont, illustrator: David Catrow
High on energy and imagination, this ode to self-esteem encourages kids to appreciate everything about themselves–inside and out. Messy hair? Beaver breath? So what! Here’s a little girl who knows what really matters.
At once silly and serious, Karen Beaumont’s joyous rhyming text and David Catrow’s wild illustrations unite in a book that is sassy, soulful–and straight from the heart.
Publish Date: May 1, 2004
All Families Are Special
By Norma Simon, illustrator: Teresa Flavin
When Mrs. Mack says she will soon be a grandmother, her students realize that teachers have families just like they do! Suddenly everyone in the class wants to share information about his or her own unique family.
Publish Date: 2003
The Name Jar
By Yangsook Choi (Author / Illustrator)
The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she? 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. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But 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.
Publish Date: July 10, 2001
It’s Okay To Be Different
By Todd Parr
It’s okay to need some help.
It’s okay to be a different color.
It’s okay to talk about your feelings.
From the bestselling author Todd Parr comes a reassuring book about being who you are.
Told with Todd Parr’s signature wit and wisdom, It’s Okay to Be Different cleverly delivers the important messages of acceptance, understanding, and confidence in an accessible, child-friendly format. The book features the bold, bright colors and silly scenes that made Todd a premiere voice for emotional discussions in children’s literature. Targeted to young children first beginning to read, this book will inspire kids to celebrate their individuality through acceptance of others and self-confidence–and it’s never to early to develop a healthy self-esteem.
It’s Okay to be Different is designed to encourage early literacy, enhance emotional development, celebrate multiculturalism and diversity, and promote character growth.
Publish Date: 2001
Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children
By Sandra L. Pinkney, Illustrated by Myles C. Pinkney
I am Black / I am Unique / I am the creamy white frost in vanilla ice cream / and the milky smooth brown in a chocolate bar… Using simple poetic language and stunning photographs, Sandra and Myles Pinkney have created a remarkable book of affirmation for African-American children. Photographic portraits and striking descriptions of varied skin tones, hair texture, and eye color convey a strong sense of pride in a unique heritage. A joyous celebration of the rich diversity among African Americans.
Publish date: 2000 | Activities
The Ugly Vegetables
By Grace Lin (Author / Illustrator)
It’s easy to appreciate a garden exploding with colorful flowers and fragrances, but what do you do with a patch of ugly vegetables? Author/illustrator Grace Lin recalls such a garden in this charming and eloquent story.
The neighbors’ gardens look so much prettier and so much more inviting to the young gardener than the garden of “black-purple-green vines, fuzzy wrinkled leaves, prickly stems, and a few little yellow flowers” that she and her mother grow. Nevertheless, mother assures her that “these are better than flowers.” Come harvest time, everyone agrees as those ugly Chinese vegetables become the tastiest, most aromatic soup they have ever known. As the neighborhood comes together to share flowers and ugly vegetable soup, the young gardener learns that regardless of appearances, everything has its own beauty and purpose.
THE UGLY VEGETABLES springs forth with the bright and cheerful colors of blooming flowers and bumpy, ugly vegetables. Grace Lin’s colorful, playful illustrations pour forth with abundant treasures. Complete with a guide to the Chinese pronunciation of the vegetables and the recipe for ugly vegetable soup! Try it . . . you’ll love it, too!
Publish Date: July 1, 1999