The California Reads Committee offers teacher-approved quarterly book recommendations for multiple age groups. View all recommendations for Grades 1-2.
By Eric Velasquez
What do you do when an octopus captures Grandma? Put on your superhero cape and rescue her! This clever picture book tells two stories in one, from award-winning Afro-Latino artist Eric Velasquez.
The octopus Grandma is cooking has grown to titanic proportions. “¡Tenga cuidado!” Ramsey shouts. “Be careful!” But it’s too late. The octopus traps Grandma!
Ramsey uses both art and intellect to free his beloved abuela.
Then the story takes a surprising twist. And it can be read two ways. Open the fold-out pages to find Ramsey telling a story to his family. Keep the pages folded, and Ramsey’s octopus adventure is real.
This beautifully illustrated picture book, drawn from the author’s childhood memories, celebrates creativity, heroism, family, grandmothers, grandsons, Puerto Rican food, Latinx culture and more.
With an author’s note and the Velasquez family recipe for Octopus Stew!
A Bank Street Best Book of the Year
Publish Date: September 17th, 2019
Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story
By S. D. Nelson
A stunning picture book biography of a 19th century Hidatsa woman, from award-winning author and illustrator S. D. Nelson
Buffalo Bird Girl (ca. 1839-1932) was a member of the Hidatsa, a Native American community that lived in permanent villages along the Missouri River on the Great Plains. Like other girls her age, Buffalo Bird Girl learned the ways of her people through watching and listening, and then by doing. She helped plant crops in the spring, tended the fields through the summer, and in autumn joined in the harvest. She learned to prepare animal skins, dry meat, and perform other duties.
There was also time for playing games with friends and training her dog. When her family visited the nearby trading post, there were all sorts of fascinating things to see from the white man’s settlements in the East.
Award-winning author and artist S. D. Nelson (Standing Rock Sioux) captures the spirit of Buffalo Bird Girl by interweaving the actual words and stories of Buffalo Bird Woman with his artwork and archival photographs. Back matter includes a history of the Hidatsa and a timeline.
Publish Date: August 11th, 2015
I Color Myself Different
By Colin Kaepernick, Illustrator: Eric Wilkerson
An inspiring story of identity and self-esteem from celebrated athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick.
When Colin Kaepernick was five years old, he was given a simple school assignment: draw a picture of yourself and your family. What young Colin does next with his brown crayon changes his whole world and worldview, providing a valuable lesson on embracing and celebrating his Black identity through the power of radical self-love and knowing your inherent worth.
I Color Myself Different is a joyful ode to Black and Brown lives based on real events in young Colin’s life that is perfect for every reader’s bookshelf. It’s a story of self-discovery, staying true to oneself, and advocating for change… even when you’re very little!
Publish Date: April 5th, 2022
Ben and Emma’s Big Hit
By Gavin Newsom, Illustrator: Alexandra Thompson
From California Governor Gavin Newsom comes an empowering picture book about a young boy with dyslexia who discovers a new way to look at reading.
Ben loves baseball. He loves the lines of diamond-shaped field and the dome of the pitcher’s mound. What Ben doesn’t like is reading. Ben has dyslexia, which means letters and sounds get jumbled up in his brain, and then the words don’t make sense. But when Ben starts looking at reading like he looks at baseball, he realizes that if he keeps trying, he can overcome any obstacle that comes his way.
In this empowering story by California Governor Gavin Newsom, inspired by his own childhood diagnosis of dyslexia, readers will learn that kids with the determination to try (and try again) can do big things.
*This book is set in a font specifically designed to be easier for people with dyslexia to read.
Publish Date: December 7th, 2021
Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind
By Cynthia Grady, Illustrator: Amiko Hirao
A touching story about Japanese American children who corresponded with their beloved librarian while they were imprisoned in World War II internment camps.
When Executive Order 9066 is enacted after the attack at Pearl Harbor, children’s librarian Clara Breed’s young Japanese American patrons are to be sent to prison camp. Before they are moved, Breed asks the children to write her letters and gives them books to take with them. Through the three years of their internment, the children correspond with Miss Breed, sharing their stories, providing feedback on books, and creating a record of their experiences. Using excerpts from children’s letters held at the Japanese American National Museum, author Cynthia Grady presents a difficult subject with honesty and hope.
Publish Date: 2017
Gratitude is My Superpower: A Children’s Book About Giving Thanks and Practicing Positivity
By Alicia Ortego
Do you want to teach your children how to be grateful for the things they already have?
Little Betsy will learn that happiness is made up of simple things in life, both small and big. With the help of the magic stone, she will begin to feel gratitude for her parents, friends, and toys. But what happens when little Betsy forgets to use the magic of her stone? She will realize that the power of gratitude is hidden in her heart.
“Gratitude is my superpower” will teach your little ones to appreciate the warmth of home, time spent playing with friends, and family relationships.
Publish Date: July 7th, 2021
MARIO and the Hole in the Sky: HOW A CHEMIST SAVED OUR PLANET
By Elizabeth Rusch, Illustrator: Teresa Martinez
The true story of how a scientist saved the planet from environmental disaster.
Mexican American Mario Molina is a modern-day hero who helped solve the ozone crisis of the 1980s. Growing up in Mexico City, Mario was a curious boy who studied hidden worlds through a microscope. As a young man in California, he discovered that CFCs, used in millions of refrigerators and spray cans, were tearing a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer. Mario knew the world had to be warned–and quickly. Today Mario is a Nobel laureate and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His inspiring story gives hope in the fight against global warming.
Publish Date: April 3rd, 2018
WE ARE Water PROTECTORS
By Carole Lindstrom, Illustrator: Michaela Goade
Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption–a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.
Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.
Publish Date: March 17th, 2020
By Matthew A. Cherry, Illustrator: Vashti Harrison
When mommy is away, it’s up to daddy to do his daughter’s hair in this ode to self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters from former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry and New York Times bestseller Vashti Harrison.
Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it is beautiful. When mommy does Zuri’s hair, she feels like a superhero. But when mommy is away, it is up to daddy to step in! And even though daddy has a lot to learn, he LOVES his Zuri. And he will do anything to make her—and her hair—happy.
Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair—and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.
Publish Date: May 2nd, 2019
THE PROUDEST BLUE: A Story of Hijab and Family
By Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali, Illustrator: Hatem Aly
A powerful, vibrantly illustrated story about the first day of school–and two sisters on one’s first day of hijab–by Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad.
With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand-new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.
Paired with Hatem Aly’s beautiful, whimsical art, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and Morris Award finalist S.K. Ali bring readers an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, and of being proud of who you are.
Publish Date: September 10th, 2019
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution.
By Rob Sander, Illustrator: Jamey Christoph
Celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising with the very first picture book to tell of its historic and inspiring role in the gay civil rights movement.
From Rob Sanders, author of the acclaimed Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, comes this powerful and timeless true story that will allow young readers to discover the rich and dynamic history of the Stonewall Inn and its role in the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement–a movement that continues to this very day. In the early-morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by police in New York City. Though the inn had been raided before, that night would be different. It would be the night when empowered members of the LGBTQ+ community–in and around the Stonewall Inn–began to protest and demand their equal rights as citizens of the United States. Movingly narrated by the Stonewall Inn itself, and featuring stirring and dynamic illustrations, Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution is an essential and empowering civil rights story that every child deserves to hear.
Publish Date: 2019
Don’t Touch My Hair!
By Sharee Miller
An entertaining picture book that teaches the importance of asking for permission first as a young girl attempts to escape the curious hands that want to touch her hair.
It seems that wherever Aria goes, someone wants to touch her hair. In the street, strangers reach for her fluffy curls; and even under the sea, in the jungle, and in space, she’s chased by a mermaid, monkeys, and poked by aliens…until, finally, Aria has had enough!
Author-illustrator Sharee Miller takes the tradition of appreciation of black hair to a new, fresh, level as she doesn’t seek to convince or remind young readers that their curls are beautiful–she simply acknowledges black beauty while telling a fun, imaginative story.
Publish Date: November 6, 2018
By Juan Felipe Herrera, Illustrator: Lauren Castillo
Have you ever imagined what you might be when you grow up? When he was very young, Juan Felipe Herrera picked chamomile flowers in windy fields and let tadpoles swim across his hands in a creek. He slept outside and learned to say good-bye to his amiguitos each time his family moved to a new town. He went to school and taught himself to read and write English and filled paper pads with rivers of ink as he walked down the street after school. And when he grew up, he became the United States Poet Laureate and read his poems aloud on the steps of the Library of Congress. If he could do all of that . . . what could you do? With this illustrated poem of endless possibility, Juan Felipe Herrera and Lauren Castillo breathe magic into the hopes and dreams of readers searching for their place in life.
Publish Date: September 25, 2018
When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana
By Michael Mahin , Illustrated by Jose Ramirez
Carlos Santana loved to listen to his father play el violín. It was a sound that filled the world with magic and love and feeling and healing–a sound that made angels real. Carlos wanted to make angels real, too. So, he started playing music. Carlos tried el clarinete and el violín, but there were no angels. Then he picked up la guitarra. He took the soul of the Blues, the brains of Jazz, and the energy of Rock and Roll, and added the slow heat of Afro-Cuban drums and the cilantro-scented sway of the music he’d grown up with in Mexico. There were a lot of bands in San Francisco but none of them sounded like this. Had Carlos finally found the music that would make his angels real? Publish date: September 4, 2018
Alma and How She Got Her Name
By Juana Martinez-Neal
What’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.
If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.
Publish Date: April 2018
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World
By Chelsea Clinton, Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.
Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.
She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.
With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power.
This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.
Publish Date: May 30, 2017
Juana and Lucas
By Juana Medina (Author / Illustrator)
Winner of the 2017 Pura Belpré Author Award
Fans of Judy Moody and Clarice Bean will love Juana, the spunky young Colombian girl who stars in this playful, abundantly illustrated new series.
Juana loves many things — drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or going to dance class. And she especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense? But when Juana’s abuelos tell her about a special trip they are planning—one that Juana will need to speak English to go on—Juana begins to wonder whether learning the English might be a good use of her time after all. Hilarious, energetic, and utterly relatable, Juana will win over los corazones— the hearts — of readers everywhere in her first adventure, presented by namesake Juana Medina.
Publish Date: September 27, 2016
One of a Kind, Like Me/Único Como Yo
By Laurin Mayeno, Illustrator: Robert Liu-Trujillo
Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. Mommy supports him 100%, and they race to the thrift store to find his costume. It’s almost closing time will Danny find the costume of his dreams in time? One of A Kind, Like Me / Unico como yo is a sweet story about unconditional love and the beauty of individuality. It’s a unique book that lifts up children who don’t fit gender stereotypes, and reflects the power of a loving and supportive community. “
Publish Date: September 15, 2016
Year of Billy Miller
By Kevin Henkes
Award-winning, nationally bestselling author Kevin Henkes introduces second-grader Billy Miller in this fast-paced and funny story about friendship, sibling rivalry, and elementary school. The Year of Billy Miller includes black-and-white art by Kevin Henkes and is perfect for fans of the Ramona books; Frindle, by Andrew Clements; and the Clementine series.
Newbery Honor author and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes delivers a short, satisfying, laugh-out-loud-funny school and family story that features a diorama homework assignment, a school poetry slam, cancelled sleepovers, and epic sibling temper tantrums. This is a perfect short novel for the early elementary grades.
Publish Date: May 26, 2015
Last Stop on Market Street
By Matt de la Peña, illustrator: Christian Robinson
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2015
A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2015
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share, and comes to life through Matt de la Pena’s vibrant text and Christian Robinson’s radiant illustrations.
Publish Date: January 8, 2015
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music
By Margarita Engle, illustrator: Rafael López
“A beautifully illustrated, award-winning picture book inspired by a young Cuban woman who broke down a gender barrier in music because she wouldn’t give up on her dream. Perfect for reading with an older child and discussing the story’s powerful message of following your dreams and making a difference for others.” – Seira Wilson, Amazon Editor
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 keep quiet. 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.
Publish Date: 2015
Separate Is Never Equal
By Duncan Tonatiuh (Author / Illustrator)
Duncan Tonatiuh’s first book, Dear Primo, won the 2011 Pura Belpré Honor for Illustration, and Diego Rivera won the 2012 Pura Belpré Illustration Award. Tonatiuh lives in Mexico.
Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.
Publish Date: May 6, 2014
Creature Features: Twenty-Five Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do
By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Dear axolotl: Why do you have feathers growing out of your head? Axolotl: They aren’t feathers—they’re gills! They let me breathe underwater. Let’s face it. Even as babies, we humans pay close attention to faces. Observing another person’s features and expressions tells us whether they are happy, angry, excited, or sad. And when we look at an animal, it’s hard not to imagine that its face is communicating human feelings. This isn’t true, of course. Squinty eyes, an upturned mouth, or another odd expression is probably there because, in some way, it helps that animal survive.
Publish Date: 2014
The Noisy Paintbox: The Colors and Sounds of Kadinsky’s Abstract Art
By Barb Rosenstock, illustrator: Mary GrandPre
Vasya Kandinsky was a proper little boy: he studied math and history, he practiced the piano, he sat up straight and was perfectly polite. And when his family sent him to art classes, they expected him to paint pretty houses and flowers—like a proper artist.
But as Vasya opened his paint box and began mixing the reds, the yellows, the blues, he heard a strange sound—the swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a symphony! And as he grew older, he continued to hear brilliant colors singing and see vibrant sounds dancing. But was Vasya brave enough to put aside his proper still lifes and portraits and paint . . . music?
In this exuberant celebration of creativity, Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPré tell the fascinating story of Vasily Kandinsky, one of the very first painters of abstract art. Throughout his life, Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds, and sounds as colors—and bold, groundbreaking works burst forth from his noisy paint box.
Publish Date: 2014
Rosie Revere, Engineer
By Andrea Beaty, illustrator: David Roberts
Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she’s a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal-to fly-Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true. But when her contraption doesn’t fly but rather hovers for a moment and then crashes, Rosie deems the invention a failure. On the contrary, Aunt Rose insists that Rosie’s contraption was a raging success. You can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit.
Publish Date: September 3, 2013
What Do You Do With an Idea?
By Kobi Yamada, illustrator: Mae Besom
This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens.
This is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It’s a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s just getting started.
Publish Date: 2013
Rosita y Conchita
By Eric Gonzalez and Erich Haeger
Rosita y Conchita is the story of twin sisters who are trying to find a way to get back together once again. Readers will enjoy how the book beautifully depicts the process of building an altar, as young Conchita carefully creates her own to remember her dearly departed twin, Rosita. I found the best part of the book to be how the authors cleverly discuss each ofrenda so that the children reading the book can understand the meaning behind each one. At the same time, the book tells Rosita’s story as she wanders through the “otherworld” looking for clues that will lead her to her sister one more time.
The entire story is written in rhyming verse—in both English and Spanish! I found the book to be well thought-out and engaging. In addition, Rosita y Conchita is beautifully illustrated. The illustrators’ bold use of color immediately catches the reader’s attention and holds it throughout the book. It is a remarkable testament to the authors’ creativity.
At the end of the book, Gonzalez and Haeger have included a history of the holiday, along with a simple recipe for making your own sugar skulls, and directions on how to draw Rosita’s character.
Publish Date: July 2010
By Ann Whitford Paul, illustrator: Ethan Long
¡Caramba! Iguana is planning a fiesta. Tortuga the tortoise, Conejo the rabbit, and Culebra the snake all want to come. But do they want to help Iguana deliver invitations or stuff the piñata or cook the food? No, no, and no! A lazy trio loses out in this clever update of the story of the Little Red Hen with a Mexican twist. A glossary of Spanish words is included.
Publish Date: September 1, 2004
Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook
By Michael Garland
When Zack meets his second-grade teacher, Miss Smith, he can tell right away that her class will be different. But he has no idea just how different it will be! Miss Smith has a knack for telling tales when she reads from her incredible book, the stories literally spring to life! Then one day Miss Smith is late for school. The principal takes over and things get out of hand. The classroom is swarming with storybook characters from princesses to pirates to the three little pigs? All it takes is one spectacular teacher.
My Name is Yoon
By Helen Recorvits
Getting to feel at home in a new country. Yoon’s name means “shining wisdom,” and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn’t sure that she wants to be YOON. At her new school, she tries out different names–maybe CAT or BIRD. Maybe CUPCAKE! Helen Recorvits’s spare and inspiring story about a little girl finding her place in a new country is given luminous pictures filled with surprising vistas and dreamscapes by Gabi Swiatkowska.
Publish Date: April 3, 2003
By Susan Lendroth, illustrator: Priscilla Burris
Natsumi is small but full of big exuberance, and puts her girl-power to good use when she discovers a Japanese tradition as energetic as she is.
When Natsumi’s family practices for their town’s Japanese arts festival, Natsumi tries everything. But her stirring is way too vigorous for the tea ceremony, her dancing is just too imaginative, and flower arranging doesn’t go any better. Can she find just the right way to put her exuberance to good use?
This heartwarming tale about being true to yourself is perfect for readers who march to their own beat.
Publish Date: 1st vol – 16 December 2000, last vol – 25 March 2005
Under the Lemon Moon
By Edith Hope Fine, illustrator: René King Moreno
One night young Rosalinda wakes up to a “Wsss-shhh-snap!” outside. She slips out of bed and peers out the front door into the darkness. Way back by the lemon tree, something is moving. It’s a man stuffing lemons, her very own lemons, into a cloth sack! To make matters worse, by the end of the week her lemon tree is very sick. As she wanders through the Mexican countryside seeking tree-healing advice, she sees the mysterious Night Man at the mercado – and he is selling her beautiful limones.
Publish Date: 1999
By Francisco Jiménez
It is Francisco’s first year at school in an English speaking classroom. He only knows a little bit of English which limits his understanding of what his teacher says to the class. During the school day, he is intrigued by a caterpillar that sits in a jar next to his desk, and decides to devote all of his energy into learning how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. This story addresses the struggles ELL learners face while they are learning a new language. It also shows how imaginative children can be and how we can incorporate what they are interested in into the curriculum.
Publish Date: 1998