Mentor Text Book List for Character Traits

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A teacher wrote to ask for a list of mentor text children’s books (picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books) that would help kids spot and study specific character traits. These titles depict characters whose behavior shows a specific character trait–which, often changes by the end of the story as a result of their arc, but will be apparent nonetheless.

Characters, just like people, tell us who they are through direct words and actions. In addition, notice what other characters say and their actions and behaviors when interacting with the main character. Use this direct and indirect evidence to show evidence for a specific personality trait. I’m including some feelings in addition to character traits — because sometimes those feelings like anger can be a personality trait.

Mentor Text Book List for Character Traits

PRINTABLE LIST

Here are the character traits for which you’ll find children’s books:

angry
artistic
bossy
clever / naive
competitive
confident
courageous
creative
cruel
curious
determined
energetic
friendly
generous
honesty / dishonesty
independent
imaginative
insightful
intelligent
jealous
kind
logical
lonely
loving
mean
mischievous
mistrustful
neurodivergent
perseverance
problem solver
sad
scared
shy
stubborn
worried
 

ANGRY


Frank and the Bad Surprise
 by Martha Brockenbrough, illustrated by Jon Lau
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
The humans forget all about Frank the cat when they add a new puppy to the family. It takes running away and (writing many angry letters) for Frank to appreciate his home and the new puppy. In fact, back at home, Frank gives the puppy a name — which he writes in a letter to his humans.

character traits
Patina by Jason Reynolds
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Patina’s anger sometimes gets the best of her but running helps. She’s mad about her dad dying, her mom’s legs being amputated, and her new school. When her track coach makes Patty work with her teammates in a relay, she’s forced to rely on them. And that changes things. Patina is a beautiful coming-of-age story that will tug at your emotions.

Compelling Hero's Journey Chapter Books for Ages 8 - 12
The Seventh Most Important Thing: One Kid. One Crime. One Chance to Make Things Right.
 by Shelley Pearsall
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Angry with grief, Arthur throws a brick at Junk Man’s head. The judge sentences Arthur to work for the Junk Man who asks Arthur to collect the items on the list of the Seven Most Important Things. Transformed by the experience, Arthur becomes an advocate for the Junk Man’s art. This is fictional but is inspired by the true story of American folk artist James Hampton whose work is in the Smithsonian. This story resonates emotionally and would make for a great bedtime or class read aloud.


The Sea in Winter
by Christine Day
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Maisie feels sadness, grief, and anger at not being able to dance due to a knee injury. Dance was her life, so she pretends her knee feels okay and is healing, even though it still hurts. She takes a hiking trip with her parents and little brother where she reinjures herself with a bad fall. Now she really won’t be able to return to dance. Her mom and therapist help Maisie work through the feelings and envision a different future for herself. With themes of grief, identity, and Native American heritage, this story resonates with anyone who has felt the pain of shattered dreams.

ARTISTIC


Drawn Together
 by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat
picture book, ages 4 – 8
This story shows how art brings together two generations separated by language and age. Mostly wordless, this is almost a graphic novel with exquisite artwork in comic-style panels. A boy arrives at his grandfather’s house. He’s frustrated because his grandfather doesn’t speak English. The two eat in silence. Then the boy begins drawing himself as a caped superhero. Excited, his grandfather draws himself as a superhero, too — only one garbed in what appears to be a traditional ceremonial dress. Their connection continues through art — each with his own unique style. It’s beautiful on so many levels.

Field Trip to the Moon
Field Trip to the Moon
 by John Hare
picture book, ages 4 – 8
A sweet story is about a young artist on a field trip who gets lost. He spends his time drawing, then meets and befriends aliens who join him in artistic expression. The illustrations are stunning.

Mentor Text Children's Book List for Character Traits
Violets Are Blue by Barbara Dee
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Wren’s mom is a nurse who starts skipping work, sleeping more, not eating, and locking her bedroom door. Despite her mom’s strange behavior, Wren finds solace and purpose in doing special FX makeup — which she learns from instructional videos online. At school, her friends convince Wren to do the makeup for the school musical, Wicked.  When Wren’s mom misses Wicked’s opening night and despite all her promises, misses the following day’s show, too, Wren discovers the secret her mom’s been keeping — she has an opioid addiction. Dee skillfully writes about addiction, divorce, and growing up in a compelling, relatable story with complex characters and an interesting plot.
 

New Kid
 
by Jerry Craft
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
This graphic novel is the Newbery winner for 2020Jordan’s parents make him go to a private school across town where he’s one of the only kids of color. Besides having the tricky business of navigating friendships, he now must deal with the two separate worlds of his neighborhood and his school along with racism and balancing academics with his artwork. This story feels truthful, relatable, and important.

BOSSY


Don’t Eat That!
by Drew Sheneman
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Gertie is a very talkative, punny, and enthusiastic scout with a BIG personality who is determined to get some merit badges in the woods. She can’t resist interrupting a brown bear when he tries to eat a rock. She announces that he cannot eat her, but she’ll help him find lunch. This, of course, isn’t easy. Bear doesn’t like water, he tries to eat the wrong things, and their search is so frustrating that Gertie gets mad and gives up. Not to worry, the friends work it out in the end. Readers crack up at Gertie’s antics and bossiness.


Shai and Emmie Star in Dancy Pants!
 by Quvenzhane Wallis with Nancy Ohlin, illustrated by Sharee Miller
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
Shai and her two friends are preparing for a dance contest. Regrettably, Shai makes an impulsive bet with a rival team. Now she’s pushing her friends harder than ever to be perfect instead of having fun. But her friends are irritated, and things aren’t looking good for the competition when Shai sprains her ankle. Relatable, appealing plot and characters.
 

The Startup Squad
by Brian Weisfeld and Nicole C. Kear
middle grade, ages 8 – 12
Resa’s class gets put into groups for a lemonade stand competition and Resa gets paired with her best friend, Didi, and a new girl named Amelia. Unfortunately, Resa demands to be in charge of everything and their communication problems affect how their team is doing in the competition. Even though their team doesn’t win, the girls, especially Resa, learn the importance of teamwork and listening to all ideas. It’s a great book for showing kids about entrepreneurship and communication.

CLEVER & NAIVE

 Best Children's Picture Books of 2019
The Donkey Egg
 by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Impressively educational while being funny, charming, and warmhearted! Fox tricks Bear to buy a so-called donkey egg. Bear takes good care of his egg before realizing it’s not an egg, it’s a watermelon that rolls away and breaks. But don’t worry, soon Bear’s farm will be growing a new crop! Filled with fun details about the passage of time.
 

Mina by Matthew Forsythe
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Study the character traits of clever and naive in this sweet father-daughter relationship and a daughter who knows the deal. Mina’s dad brings home a cat that he thinks is a squirrel. Mina, concerned, politely says she doesn’t think it’s a squirrel. Her dad reassures her, insisting the cat is a squirrel. When a doctor arrives to help the cat(s) eat, he takes one look and tells Mina’s dad that the so-called squirrels are indeed cats, cats who right then, decide to chase the little mice! In an unexpected turn of events, the cats are stopped by a stick insect who reads a story out loud, calming the cats into slumber and saving the mice.
 
Mentor Text Children's Book List for Character Traits
Front Desk
by Kelly Yang
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Mia and her parents have struggled ever since moving to America from China. When her parents take a new live-in job at a motel, they end up working around the clock for very little pay. Mia helps out by working at the front desk. She befriends the weekly tenants and uses her English skills to write letters advocating for other people in tough spots. This book is more than a memorable coming-of-age immigrant story, it’s also about tolerance and diversity. I loved this story— the writing, the characters, the plot, and the messages of inclusion and determination.
 

See You in the Cosmos
 by Jack Cheng
middle grade, ages 9 – 12 *naive
Luminous and heartfelt11-year-old Alex Petroski’s dream is to launch a rocket into space with his iPod of recordings about life on earth. The story is a transcription of what he records on the iPod: his solo journey to the rocket convention, the interesting people he befriends on the way, and his side trip to Las Vegas to find information about his deceased father, all through his unique, innocent perspective trying to make sense of the world.

COMPETITIVE


Mako and Tiger
by Scott Rothman, illustrated by Mika Song
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Competitive and rude (behaviors or character traits?) sharks steal each other’s food. Then, when one shark sees the other shark is near a fisherman’s hook, the other shark doesn’t believe him so he has to knock the hook away to get the other shark to listen. Now the sharks are allies, not enemies.
 

Lola Levine Is Not Mean
 by Monica Brown
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
Second-grade soccer-loving Lola, the daughter of a Peruvian mom and Jewish dad, is misunderstood. Her classmates think she’s mean but really she’s just a competitive person. When she accidentally hurts someone’s ankle playing soccer, she feels terrible especially since her classmates say she’s mean. But, things turn around for Lola when her class does science time with her brother’s kindergarten class. Many kids will be able to relate to this charming story.

CONFIDENT

2020 Best Picture Books
I Am Every Good Thing
 by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
picture book, ages 4 – 8
I love this exuberant celebration of a young boy’s infinite possibilities illustrated in bright, textured colors. Not only is this beautiful depiction of black boy joy, but it’s also a masterpiece of culture, writing, and art! “I’m the BOOM-BAP– BOOM-BOOM-BAP when the bass line thumps and the kick drum jumps. I’m the perfect beat, the perfect rhyme, keeping everything on point and always on time — but you already knew that.” AMAZING WRITING shows young boys of color that they have worth and that they can be anything. I adore everything about this book.


Once Upon a Tim
by Stuart Gibbs
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
Hilarious, illustrated, and perfect for fantasy and adventure fans!
Tim and his sister Belinda are peasants who hope to improve their lot in life, so they sign up as knights for a not-very-brave prince and his so-called magician sidekick to find and rescue Princess Grace from a monster. Helpful foreshadowing, a strong narrative voice, and humor throughout aren’t all that this book brings to readers with helpful life lessons from Belinda about the patriarchy and great vocabulary words (which are helpfully indicated so your parents will know the IQ benefits).


Awkward
 
by Svetlana Chmakova
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
My daughter found this book SO RELATABLE — just like she struggles with confidence and speaking up, so does the main character, Peppi. This well-done graphic novel tackles the issues of friendships and growing into confidence, among other things. (So glad I’m not in middle school anymore.) We highly recommend this graphic novel to study the character trait of confidence.

COURAGEOUS

Mentor Text Children's Book List for Character Traits
Jabari Jumps
 by Gaia Cornwall
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Jabari is ready to jump off the diving board. Mostly. His dad tells Jabari that he feels scared too, and sometimes after a deep breath and telling himself he is ready, the thing stops feeling scary and feels like a surprise instead. I really like this advice. And it works for Jabari, too. Beautiful illustrations, perfect text-to-picture ratio, and a helpful, relatable story showing a boy moving from fear to courage.

character traits
Necks Out for Adventure! by Timothy Basil Ering
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Edwin wonders about his life staying hidden inside his shell. His mom tells him, “Necks out for adventure,” and before he knows it, he’s forced on an adventure that will show him the world and save his kidnapped family. I love the illustrations and the courage of the main character.


Kaia and the Bees
by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
picture book, ages 4 -8
Kaia’s dad is a rooftop beekeeper but Kaia is scared of bees. She remembers how much it hurt to get stung. She even joins her dad on the roof one day, holding the bees in a frame, and gets stung again. Despite her fear, collecting honey in jars helps her realize that the bees are scary and also amazing. And something in her feels brave. A lovely character arc from fear to bravery!


My First Day
 by Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Detailed, rich, and immersive illustrations plus lyrical, metaphorical writing narrates the story of a young Vietnamese boy who paddles a boat through waves and a dark mangrove forest to his first day of school. It feels a little scary at first, but as the boy leaves the forest, the fish-filled river and colorful sky begin to feel welcoming and friendly. Soon, he arrives at school and waves hello to his classmates, also arriving in boats.


After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again
by Dan Santat
picture book, ages 4 – 8
After his fall off the wall, Humpty Dumpty isn’t quite all together again because now he’s afraid of heights. Humpty decides to make a paper airplane that can fly high since he is too afraid to go high anymore. But the airplane he spends so much time crafting flies over the high wall. Even though he’s terrified, Humpty wants his airplane back. So he musters up his courage and climbs the wall. One step at a time. Until he’s not scared anymore.


Punky Aloha
by Shar Tuiasoa
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Grandma sends Punky to get her butter for the banana bread. To help her be brave about going alone, Grandma gives her magical brave glasses. Grandma reminds her to share her aloha, “Be helpful. Be giving. Be brave.” On the way to the market, Punky uses that advice and helps a pig, a bee, and a little boy.


The Adventurers Guild
by Zach Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Zed and Brock don’t want to be chosen for the Adventurers Guild. Nobody does. Unlike the mages or merchants guild, the adventurers must leave the safety of their walled city to fight the monsters who live on the outside. Unfortunately, Zed and Brock are picked as Adventurers. And before they can finish training, Zed, Brock, and others are sent outside the city on a fact-finding mission that uncovers treachery, fiendish beasts, and Zed’s untapped magic. Imaginative world-building, intriguing plot twists, and complex characters!


We Were the Fire: Birmingham 1963
by Shelia P. Moses
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
An important, powerful book about civil rights, family, and agency set in segregated Birmingham in 1963. After Rufus’s mom gets remarried, his family moves from their Bully Hill shack into a bigger house in a white neighborhood–and it’s a problem for some of the white folks. Rufus watches it all– the way people are treated — and how the adults in his life stand up to racial inequality by protesting for human rights. His mom forbids him to attend the protests, afraid of what might happen to him, but Rufus disobeys her and stands up for what he believes is right. He joins thousands of other kids who peacefully protest later called the Children’s Crusade– even when the police and firemen spray them with water hoses.


96 Miles
by J.L. Esplin
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Dad always said if things get desperate, it’s okay to drink the water in the toilet bowl.” Isn’t this a great first sentence? An apocalyptic event has happened, there’s no electricity, the brothers are alone, and all their dad and their survival supplies were stolen at gunpoint. Now John and Stewart are on the road trying to get to a friend’s ranch for their supplies. It’s not going well–they’ve picked up a girl and her little brother not to mention Stewart is fighting nonstop with John. If you like survival stories, sibling stories, and adventure, this is a great choice.


Across the Desert
 
by Dusti Bowling
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Across the Desert is a stunning story about a brave girl who has been secretly dealing with her mother’s opioid addiction and who makes a daring (and possibly foolheartedly) trek to the desert to rescue her only friend. When Jolene watches her friend Addie’s live stream showing her crash her ultralight plane in the middle of the desert, Jolene knows that she is the only one who can save her. On the bus, she meets a kind and helpful teenager named Marty who, despite Jolene’s reluctance and mistrust, helps Jolene with advice and ultimately, helps find Addie. The story is about trust, relationships, boundaries, addiction, survival, and family; it’s also an emotional journey of inner and outer strength that leads to hope and healing and will be a wonderful mentor text for several character traits.

CREATIVE

Thunder Boy Jr
Thunder Boy
 by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Thunder Boy wants a name all his own, not just a little version of his dad’s name. So he begins brainstorming the best name, all the while figuring out who he is. The story is humorous and playful while placing importance on knowing yourself.


Cat Kid Comic Club on Purpose
by Dav Pilkey
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
These books just get better and better! In this third novel, the tadpoles are trying to get published — and feel dejected when they get rejected. But they keep trying and writing and collaborating, and their subsequent stories are creative and entertaining. If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it.

CRUEL

Mentor Text Children's Book List for Character Traits
When the World Was Ours
by Liz Kessler
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Three friends from Vienna, Leo, Max, and Elsa are separated by war, location, and ideology. Leo and Elsa are Jewish so their path includes ghetto housing, escape for one of them, and a prison camp for the other. But, Max is not Jewish, and his main goal is to get the approval of his brutal Nazi father. To do so, he gladly pursues Nazi beliefs and actions, behaving with cruelty–just one of the character traits you could study in this mentor text. The story’s conclusion weaves together their stories in a heartbreaking, beautiful ending that will leave you with a lot to discuss about humanity, morality, hope, and love.

CURIOUS


Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Curious Ada loves questions and thinking just as much as she loves science experiments. Even when in time out, Ada is thinking and wondering . . . all over the wall. Ada is a spunky science-loving (multicultural) main character of color that you’ll love.


Another
 by Christian Robinson
picture book, ages 4 – 8
In this exuberant celebration of imagination, a little girl is asleep in her bed when an oval door opens into the wall. She follows her black cat and the new cat into what seems to be another world of topsy-turvy colorful dots and rectangles, more oval doors, many diverse kids, and another girl and her cat that look exactly like them. The white space and repetition of shapes feel playful and fresh. A feast for the eyes and mind!


Looking for a Jumbie
 by Tracey Baptiste, illustrated by Amber Ren
picture book, ages 4 – 8
You will LOVE this picture book about mythological monsters, friendship, and bravery! Naya is a brave girl who goes out into the dark to search for a jumbie…even though her Mama says that jumbies are only in stories. “I’m looking for a jumbie. I’m going to find a scary one.” The refrain repeats as Naya searches the woods in the dark, meeting other mythological monstrous creatures that she compares to the illusive jumbie.


What’s in Your Pocket? Collecting Nature’s Treasures
 by Heather L. Montgomery, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga
picture book, ages 4 – 8
A delightful introduction to both collecting and to famous scientists when they were curious children and their later contributions as adults. Gorgeous illustrations and clear text will captivate readers as they learn about kids like Diego who collected snails as a child and later became a herpetologist, Mary who collected caterpillars and eventually wrote a book on metamorphosis, or Bonnie who collected sea slugs and later helped discover a new kind of sea slug. Readers will be inspired to start their own collections and see where their curiosities take them!

Diverse Beginning Chapter Books That Represent Our World
The Great Shelby Holmes
 
by Elizabeth Eulberg
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
A Sherlock-inspired book that is well-written and tells a great story. John Watson moves with his mom who has recently left both the military and John’s dad to Harlem. There, he meets a very unique girl named Shelby Holmes who reluctantly allows him to tag along with her as she solves her latest crime which is to figure out who took a posh, show-dog from a classmate’s secure house.


From the Desk of Zoe Washington
 by Janae Marks
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
On her 12th birthday, Zoe, a girl who loves to bake, discovers a letter to her from her incarcerated biological father, Marcus. She decides to write him back, even daring to ask him about the murder he’s in jail for — did he really do it? Marcus writes to Zoe that he’s innocent and he can prove it which sets Zoe on a quest to find out the truth for herself, even if her mom and dad forbid it. She enlists the help of her Grandma and her best friend, Trevor. You won’t be able to put down this winsome story with a heroine you can’t help but adore; a story that illuminates social justice with themes of family, friendship, and love.

DETERMINED


Anni Dreams of Biryani
 by Namita Moolani Mehra, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Anni enters a determined quest to find the ingredients to make the best biryani just like Uncle makes in the cafe across the street. This is a delicious story you can use as a mentor text filled with dreams, culture, perseverance, and food.


Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna 
by Alda P. Dobbs
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Set in historical Mexico, 1913, Petra Luna, her abuela, her little sister, and her baby brother flee their home when Federales burn the village. Petra’s Abuelita calls reading and writing barefoot dreams, meaning they’re not meant to go far but when they’re helped by a female rebel captain, Petra reaffirms that she can be more than her Abuelita thinks — that she can keep her promise to save her family and realize her barefoot dreams, too. Their trials culminate in a harrowing and life-threatening experience as they wait with throngs of other people trying to cross the bridge into the United States before the Federales arrive on the Mexican side. Exciting, interesting, and inspiring.


Brothers Keeper by Julie Lee
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
A powerful read that captures the fearful culture of North Korea, the marginalization of females, and the bond between siblings. As war erupts with South Korea, Sora and her family decide to flee from North Korea while they might still have a chance. Sora and her little brother are separated from their family yet continue on to the south. They experience death, kidnapping, starvation, killings, and winter’s brutal cold, all the while the Red Army marches right behind them, and her brother, Youngsoo gets sicker and sicker. Amazingly, the two make it to the south where they’re reunited with the rest of their family, but it’s a bittersweet ending.


Ali Cross
by James Patterson
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
If you want an enthralling adventure & mystery that you can’t put down, read this one next. It’s Christmas Eve and Ali’s friend Gabe is missing, his FBI agent dad is falsely accused of murdering an old man, and someone broke into their house while they were at church and stole his dad’s service weapon. Ali knows he has to try to fix things, starting by finding his friend Gabe. Don’t miss book two, Like Father, Like Son.


Amari and the Night Brothers
 by B.B. Alston
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few of the reasons you’ll love this middle grade book. On top of that, you’ll find an exciting action-packed, suspenseful story about Amari whose brother vanishes mysteriously. He sends her a message that she’s a magician and should attend a special school. There, she discovers she’s a magician with outlawed dark magic, but she’s determined to stay in the school and find her brother.

ENERGETIC


You Will Be My Friend
 by Peter Brown
picture book, ages 4 – 8
I love how hilarious this book is! Really seriously funny. Lucy is very enthusiastic about making friends with ANY forest critter. Her good intentions go awry and soon Lucy is yelling at animals — “Come back here and have fun with me” and “You WILL be my friend.” Which turns out to not be a great way to make friends. Will Lucy ever make a friend?


Goodnight, Butterfly
by Ross Burach
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Burach brings us a new hilarious story starring our favorite, very talkative, curious little butterfly! Butterfly meets a nocturnal animal and he has SO MANY questions...which are hilarious and annoying to his new porcupine friend who likes quiet. To help Butterfly sleep, Porcupine suggests a good book. It doesn’t work. Then, he recommends Butterfly think calming thoughts. Eventually, Butterfly goes to sleep, but his snoring wakes up all the other butterflies. A delightful read-aloud mentor text for studying the character traits of Butterfly and Porcupine!

FRIENDLY


Daniel’s Good Day
 by Micha Archer
picture book, ages 4 – 8
A boy walks through his neighborhood talking to neighbors about what makes a “good” day. From the neighbor painting to the nanny pushing a stroller to a gardener and even his Grandma, Daniel listens and observes…and has a good day, too. Exquisite artwork plus a beautiful message about finding joy in the little things make this a wonderful, memorable story.


Luli and the Language of Tea
 by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Hyewon Yum
picture book, ages 4 – 8
I love this sweet story of friendship in an ESL classroom. Luli brings tea to share with her classmates (and cookies!) and sharing tea helps them connect in friendship because despite speaking different languages, they all love tea. It’s fun to see that some of the words for tea are the same or similar in the students’ different languages.

good books for 10 year old 5th graders
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
by Karina Yan Glaser
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Like The Penderwicks, you’ll fall in love with this quirky, wonderful family from the first page. The Vanderbeekers’ landlord wants them out by the end of December but the Vanderbeeker kids are determined to change his mind, even though he hates noise, kids, and their family. But it’s almost Christmas, and their persistent but kind efforts are only making things worse. What will they do? Charming and heart-warming.

GENEROUS


Bilal Cooks Daal
by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Bilal tells his friends all about daal. Together, they carefully prepare the ingredients and wait as the flavors mix together. This story makes me want to eat daal, too — it’s a savory introduction to this lentil dish from South Asia as well as a warm-hearted example of sharing traditional foods with friends from other cultures.
 
Children's Books to Read for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (AAPI)
A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India
 by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Mariona Cabassa
picture book, ages 4 – 8
A little girl excitedly explores the market to find her Amma a gift. She notices the colors — orange saffron and marigolds, white jasmine and goats, pink lotus flowers and sweets…I love how many senses the author engages from sights to sounds and tastes and smells. “Tumeric yellow like sunshine dust, Plenty of powdery spice at home. A yellow rickshaw pedals by — Ding-a-ling! I scoot to the side.” Beautiful illustrations perfectly illuminate the celebration of the market’s colors and the girl’s excitement to give generously to her mother.
 

Measuring Up
by Lily LaMotte, illustrated by Ann Xu
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
A beautiful graphic novel to use as a mentor text that is about food, a close-knit, multigenerational family, finding your place in a new culture and country, and staying proud of your heritage…Cici moves to the U.S. from Tawain and wants her A’má to come, too. She hopes to win the grand prize in a cooking contest and use the money to buy her A’má a plane ticket. Cici wants to cook American food like her cooking contest partner…She learns from Julia Child, but in the end, Cici returns to her Tawainese roots to win the contest.

HONESTY / DISHONESTY


A Day’s Work
by Eve Bunting
picture book, ages 4 – 8
In a story about honesty and immigration, a young boy named Francisco accompanies his non-English speaking grandfather to look for a day labor job. Francisco lies to get his grandfather a job as a gardener, even though the grandfather knows nothing about it. The grandfather learns of the lie and the two of them tell the client and work to fix the client’s gardens.
 

Clean Getaway
by Nic Stone
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Sometimes growing up means seeing the difficult truth about someone you love…Scoob takes a spontaneous road trip with his beloved G’ma in her new camper, escaping his dad’s spring break punishment. As they visit places from his G’ma’s past, their trip turns out differently than he expects. What begins as only a fun adventure turns into a revelation of current and historical racial prejudices (Scoob is black and his grandmother is white). What’s more, things become strange and confusing as Scoob notices more weird behaviors from G’ma. Was she trying to steal jewelry in the store? And why are there stacks of cash hidden in the camper? Perfect pacing, an intriguing plot, and memorable characters with traits of honesty and dishonesty.

IMPULSIVE

Mentor Text Children's Book List for Character Traits
David Dixon’s Day as a Dachshund
by Kathryn Holmes
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
David is a boy full of ideas that often cause chaos like bringing his new puppy to school for show and tell. When the puppy escapes, David turns into a dog, too. The two dogs race in and out of the school with playful joy until David’s best friend catches Bandit the puppy and brings them back inside. The class guinea pig Bagel helps David learn how to think through ideas before he acts– and that’s when he turns back into a boy. Delightful!
 

INDEPENDENT


Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios
picture book, ages 4 – 8
You’ll adore Marisol because she’s a spunky girl with a unique Peruvian-Scottish-American background. To her, this means that she doesn’t match. She doesn’t fit into a box or to a label and– that’s okay! A fun story about self-acceptance!
 

Mary Had a Little Plan
 by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
picture book, ages 4 – 8
In rhyme, read an updated story of Mary, a girl with agency and plans. With help from others, Mary cleans up an abandoned lot and makes an inviting common space for the neighborhood.
 

A Duet for Home
by Karina Yan Glaser
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
A powerful, hopeful story with complex, three-dimensional characters about grief, family, community, and homelessness. When their family becomes homeless after her dad dies, June helps her little sister and non-functional mom get settled at Huey House. Despite the shock of their new situation, June finds kindness from many of the people at the shelter including a music-loving boy named Jeremiah and Abuela who helps June find viola lessons.  Through many ups and downs including helping Jeremiah get music lessons and grieving for her dad, June discovers that home isn’t a place and family isn’t always blood.

IMAGINATIVE

summer themed picture books
Sandcastle
 by Einat Tsarfati
picture book, ages 4 – 8
What happens when this little girl builds a sandcastle? She makes a castle with turrets and domes that kings and queens visit and host grand parties. But the guests don’t like the sand food or the sand in their clothes, so how will the little girl fix things? (A sand ball fight!)
 
Pizza with Everything on It
Pizza with Everything on It
 by Kyle Scheele, illustrated by Andy J. Pizza
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Wildly imaginative — this is the story of a pizza-loving boy who decides he should add EVERYTHING on top of his pizza. Pickles and apples, books and pencils, the White House, and a particle accelerator,…so many toppings! Before long, the pizza begins to collapse in on itself and turns into a black hole!! Will it ever become a pizza again? Take a wild ride in this funny picture book that will have kids begging for multiple readings!
 

The Year We Learned to Fly
 by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Use your imagination to dream! Even though the sister and brother must stay inside when it’s raining, their grandma tells them to use their beautiful and brilliant minds to believe and imagine — and they learned to fly — both inside and outdoors and in their minds and hearts. Just like their ancestors who were enslaved dreamed of flying and eventually did. Then when the siblings move to a new place that feels unfamiliar and unwelcoming, they keep flying. And soon, other kids joined them in flight…
 
Planet Omar by Zanib Mian
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
Playful writing, whimsical illustrations, and rich Pakistani-American culture…One of the best things about Omar is his HUGE imagination! He uses his imagination to deal with moving, starting a new school, bullying, and racism. It’s a great mentor text to show a character with great imagination.

INTELLIGENT

Mentor Text Children's Book List for Character Traits
Winterhouse
by Ben Guterson, illustrated by Chloe Bristol
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Elizabeth, an orphan, is unexpectedly sent to a large, stately hotel with a kind, grandfatherly proprietor for Christmas vacation. There, she discovers a magical book, a sinister couple, a family mystery, and a new friend who loves puzzles as much as she does. The writing is mesmerizing, the mystery fascinating, and the characters, enchanting. This is a wonderful, atmospheric read.
 

The Hacker’s Key
by Jon Skovron
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Sometimes you just need a good escape novel — and this one hits the spot perfectly with an exciting adventure that zips along.  Ada is the prodigy daughter of an incarcerated thief. She escapes her reform school with two friends to search for the ultra-secretive “Hacker’s Key”– codes that could destroy the world if in the wrong hands. Ada and her friends need to steal the Key back and return it to the United Nations but they’ll need funds to travel the world, trust in their partners, and allies along the way. Loved it!
 

Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation
by Stuart Gibb
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
The CIA asks a super genius 12-year-old girl named Charlie to help find the missing and dangerous “Pandora” theory of Einstein’s. You will fall in love with Charlie—she’s a creative thinker and a survivor who despite all her knowledge still can act like a child yet also outwit bad guys in amazing ways. Terrorists, Moussed, cross-world travel, and mathematical clues combine with excellent writing to make the perfect action-adventure spy story starring a female protagonist you’ll love!

JEALOUS


Sophie and the Tiny Dognapping
by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Lorian Tu
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Sophie is jealous of her friend Mia’s dollhouse and its dog. Sophie wants that dog so she steals it — and then feels guilty. Sophie’s worried she’ll get in trouble, but she decides to admit the truth and return it. Her friend Mia forgives her and reminds her that everyone makes mistakes.
 
Beginning Chapter Books with diverse main characters
Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Eliazbet Vukovic
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
Jasmine is so jealous that the older kids in her family have important jobs on the mochi-making day –– she wants to do what the older boys and men are doing, pound the mochi rice. Her understanding father figures out a way for Jasmine to join in. And even though it didn’t work out how she wanted, her family is proud of her and decide it’s okay to break some rules like who gets to pound the rice. Not only is the story’s message very sweet, you’ll love how Jasmine’s Japanese-American culture and warm family community shine throughout.
 

Worser
by Jennifer Ziegler
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Worser is floundering after his mom’s stroke left her unable to talk and his exuberant artsy aunt is taking care of them. He still finds solace in words and grammar but it’s not the same without his mom. Worser invites the Literary Club, run by a girl he has a crush on, to meet at the used bookstore. Slowly, he begins to share his love of words with other word-loving kids. As he develops friendly connections with the other group members, he finds that he likes being part of something and having friends. Then, jealousy leads him to a terrible decision that changes everything –but maybe the lessons learned will be what he and others need.

KIND


I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
 by Kerascoët
picture book, ages 4 – 8
When a classmate is being bullied, what can you do? This wordless picture book shows that sometimes it’s about showing someone that they are not alone. You can do what this girl does: show kindness and walk home with a lonely, hurting person.
 

Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English
 by Donna Jo Napoli and Naoko Stoop
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Two girls meet in the wintery snow. They play together, trading words in their respective languages like “Let’s play!” / “Asobou“, and build bridges of friendship while making a snow Godzilla together. It’s a sweet example of how friendship can cross language barriers with play.

The Sleepover and Other Stories (Fox + Chick)
by Sergio Ruzzier
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
The Fox & Chick series continues with another very funny book of stories illustrated with cartoon panels and dialogue bubbles about two best friends, Fox and Chick, each who has totally lovable and very different personalities. Fox is serious and kind while Chick is goofy and playful making this a lovely mentor text to study character traits. In this group of stories, they have a sleepover where Chick is scared of kangaroos but needs his stuffed kangaroo to sleep. Fox is puzzled by this. In another story, Chick asks Fox for a surprise birthday party — which is hilarious because it turns out that it’s not even Chick’s birthday.
 

Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door
by Hilary McKay
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
Lulu and her cousin help their neighbor Arthur learn to love and care for his rabbit. She does this by writing George the rabbit notes and giving him gifts — not from her but from her pet rabbit named Thumper.
 

Born Behind Bars
 by Padma Venkatraman
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Kabir is too old to continue living in jail with his mom who was unjustly imprisoned. He’s forced to leave the jail without his mom and quickly realizes that his so-called uncle is trying to sell him into slavery. Kabir runs away and meets a worldly-wise girl named Rani who helps him survive the streets. Together, the two journey to another city where they hope Kabir’s grandparents live and where Kabir and Rani find kindness and second chances. This powerful story illuminates the problem of homelessness and the justice system in India, yet gives readers hope in human kindness and the possibilities of change. 
 

Invisible
 by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, illustrated by Gabriela Epstein
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Spanish-speaking kids are thrown together to complete before-school community service hours. When the kids notice the homeless mom and her child living in a van, they try to help with leftover food. But they get into trouble with the mean cafeteria lady who thinks they’re stealing and watches them like they’re delinquents. This is a story about kindness, racism, differences, and marginalized individuals — both non-English speakers and homeless individuals. It’s excellent, and I love the Spanish dialogue written first with English-translated text second.

LOGICAL


Chicken Little: The Real and Totally True Tale
by Sam Wedelich
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Chicken Little is adorable and a critical thinker and heroic. so when something bonks her on the head, she thinks it’s ridiculous that the sky would be falling. Just to be sure she has a conversation with the sky. As she’s talking with the sky, another chicken panics and tells the barnyard that the sky is falling. To stop the panic of fake news, she works to calm down the masses explaining that she just got bonked on the head and was investigating.

LONELY


By the Light of the Moon
 by Frann Preston-Gannon
picture book, ages 4 – 8
I love both the rhyme and repetition of this story about a lonely frog who finds swamp friends to sing with her. When they all sing together, it’s a beautiful celebration of the swamp.


Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle
by Nina LaCour, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
picture book, ages 4 – 8
In a loving family with two moms, Mommy takes a trip. Her daughter misses her so much. Each day, the girl keeps in touch and does things with Mama. When the week is over and they’re reunited, the little girl gathers a bouquet of flowers to welcome her Mommy home. I adore the illustrations.


Nerdy Birdy
 by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Matt Davies
picture book, ages 4 – 8
This is a wonderful story about friendship, clicks, and acceptance! Nerdy Birdy is not cool . . . and he’s lonely. When he finds other nerdy birds, they invite him to be friends. But Nerdy Birdy learns that his new friends aren’t as accepting as he thought. They won’t let Vulture join their group! So Nerdy Birdy befriends Vulture. Both birds know what it’s like to be lonely and think there’s always room for another friend.


The Impossible Destiny of Cutie Grackle
 
by Shawn K. Stout
middle grade, ages 9 – 12 Cutie Grackle is a survivor who lives in the mountains with her troubled Uncle Horace. When a persistent one-eyed Raven arrives and brings Cutie memories from the past, she learns about the curse on her family. But it’s confusing and she needs to figure out the whole story.  She and a new friend find her mom’s map and begin to piece together what happened and how they might break the curse. It’s an excellent story of a lonely girl dealing with themes of family, heritage, poverty, and survival set in the Appalachian mountains.

LOVING


I’ll Go and Come Back
by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Sara Palacios
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Jyot visits her beloved Sita Pati in India. The language difference isn’t a problem; they play games, make art, buy food, and eat meals. Instead of goodbye, Jyoti says, “I’ll go and come back.” Later, Sita Pati visits Jyoti in the U.S. and they play games, make art, buy food, and eat meals. Filled with culture and love, this is a sweet story about a loving grandparent-grandchild relationship that bridges countries and languages.


Dad Bakes
 by Katie Yamasaki
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Beautiful illustrations capture the loving relationship between a girl and her dad who rises early for a job at the bakery then returns home to his daughter. At home, they make dough that the dad rolls the dough into a bear shape for the daughter. Inspired by muralist Katie Yamasaki’s work with formerly incarcerated people.

MEAN


Lunch Every Day
by Kathryn Otoshi
picture book, ages 4 – 8
This is a story about a boy who, day after day, steals another boy’s lunch. In a surprising turn of events, he gets invited to the boy’s birthday party and that boy’s mom gently approaches him. In another surprise, the mom tells the boy that she will make him a second lunch. Read between the lines (infer) –what do you notice about the boy’s family life that might make him behave the way he does? Do the mom’s actions surprise you?

MISCHIEVOUS


B is for Baby
 by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
picture book, ages 4 – 8
You’ll love this story about a mischievous baby, West Africa, and words that begin with the letter B. Baby stows away in the banana basket on Brother’s bike. As Brother rides, he passes a baobab, baboon, bus, and other words that start with the letter B before arriving at Baba’s. When Baba looks in the basket, out pops Baby! Gorgeous illustrations.


Dory Fantasmagory
by Abby Hanlon
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
Dory’s family calls her Rascal (and a baby) because, well, she is. And proud of it. Especially when she’s playing with her invisible monster friend, Mary. Dory’s brother and sister invent a baby-stealing robber named Mrs. Gobble Gracker to try to scare Dory only it backfires. Dory is sort of scared and sort of fascinated, has a million questions about the robber, and excitedly asks her fairy godmother (who is really a gnome-like man) to turn her into a dog so the robber lady won’t see her. This early chapter book is totally hilarious and I love the child-like illustrations.


Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life
 by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Rafe’s goal in middle school is to break every single rule. You can imagine how his plan will go, right? A funny middle grade book filled with cartoon-like illustrations, this story will crack you up. BOX SET HERE.

MISTRUSTFUL


The War That Saved My Life
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when the London children are evacuated during WWII and go to live with a grieving woman in a small country town.
It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust but slowly the trust grows and all three regain something lost – hope and love. “I slipped my hand into hers. A strange and unfamiliar feeling rand through me. It felt like the ocean, like sunlight, like horses. Like love. I searched my mind and found the name for it. Joy.” I can’t recommend this book enough, it just touched my heart at such a deep level.

NEURODIVERGENT

 

Abdul’s Story 
by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Tiffany Rose
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Abdul loves stories but struggles with getting the words down on paper. When a visiting writer helps teach the class, all the students learn that good writing is more than spelling and handwriting — it’s good ideas and the rest can come later. It’s an important lesson for ALL kids, parents, and teachers as it shows that learning disabilities don’t mean lacking ideas or intelligence.
 

Flipping Forward Twisting Backwards
by Alma Fullerton
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Claire is the best at gymnastics, but she’s not the best at reading. In fact, she can’t read AT ALL–and has fooled everyone for years. She lashes out to protect her secret and gets sent often to the principal. The principal figures out that Claire needs learning testing, but Claire’s mom is adamantly against testing. Claire’s friends, her sister, and a supportive teacher help her with word recognition — but she continues to ask her mom to let her get tested, which she eventually does. There’s so much to love about this fast-paced book in verse. I love that Claire is a fully developed character with efficacy who shows readers (and her mom) that having a learning disability doesn’t mean you’re not smart; it means your brain learns differently.
 

Tornado Brain 
by Cat Patrick
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
When 7th grade Frankie’s former best friend, Colette, vanishes, Frankie begins to search for her friend. As she does, we see how complicated it is to be in her brain. Loud noises, changes, touch, and so many things affect her intensely. The mystery of Colette’s whereabouts keeps every moment of the story suspenseful. Frankie and her twin sister piece together Colette’s last known locations. As they do, it helps Frankie accept herself and forgive Colette and her sister. It’s a brilliant, touching first-person story that gives fifth grade readers insights into a neurodivergent character’s brain in a suspenseful mystery story.
 

The Unforgettable Logan Foster
 by Shawn Peters
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Logan is a neurodivergent, orphan main character who is fostered out of the orphanage by a friendly new couple, Gil and Margie. Then, Logan and his neighbor, a super cool older girl named Elena, discover that his foster parents are actually superheroes who get double-crossed and captured by an evil villain. In an exciting, fast-paced adventure, Logan and Elena use their wits and strength to save his foster parents and other supes from the villains and the traitor.

PERSEVERANCE


My Day with the Panye by Tami Charles, illustrated by Sara Palacios
picture book, ages 4 – 8
In Haiti, a little girl wants to carry the payne on her head just like her mother. Her mother tells her that little by little, she’ll get strong enough to carry it, too. And when they arrive home, the girl tells the same thing to her little sister. It’s a heartwarming story of family, culture, and perseverance.
 
Mentor Text Children's Book List for Character Traits
Halal Hot Dogs
by Susannah Azia, illustrated by Parwinder Singh
picture book, ages 4 – 8
It’s Musa’s turn to pick the food after the Jummah Prayer at the masjid — and he picks halal hot dogs. But first, he shares which food treats his other family members picked for their turns, then he has to wait until after masjid. He’s a bit wiggly and hungry but finally, it’s time. Musa waits in a long line, eager to share with his family. But, when he arrives home, the bag doesn’t have the sauce or hotdogs inside. Now, what will he do? Find another halal hot dog stand, of course!
 

Swim Team
by Johnnie Christmas
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Bree and her dad move to Florida where she has to take Swim 101 at school. But, she ditches because she can’t swim and is afraid. luckily, her neighbor and babysitter is a former swim team captain, and she teaches Bree how to swim. When Bree accidentally makes the swim team, she learns about teamwork and friendship. This is a wonderful feel-good story about failure, perseverance, and teamwork.
 

The Canyon’s Edge
by Dusti Bowling
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Written in verse, this is a heart-wrenching, heart-stopping, suspenseful adventure you could read as a mentor text to show perserverence. Shifting perspectives between before and after her mom was shot, Nora and her dad climb into a Sonoran Desert canyon for the first time in the year since her mom died. Just as Nora tells her father she hates him, a flash flood careens through the canyon, carrying her father and their supplies away. Alone and terrified, Nora forces herself to find shelter and keep searching for her father, even with the venom from a scorpion bite slowing her down. As she faces her fears and continues on, she overcomes a metaphorical war with the “beast” who has been giving her nightmares for the past year.

PROBLEM SOLVER

Mentor Text Children's Book List for Character Traits
Piper and Purpa Forever!
 by Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Olivia Feng
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Most stories have a problem and a solution, but this story is a great example showing a little girl’s ability to creatively problem solve with a beautiful solution to her problem. Piper loves her beloved purple sweater, Purpa, and is so sad when she grows out of it. Will she be able to keep her sweater somehow?
 

In These Magic Shoes
by Yamile Saied Mendez
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
A tenderhearted, beautiful mentor text about a family, asking for help when you need it, racism, and grit. When their mom doesn’t return home from work, Minerva steps up to care for her siblings and herself. She doesn’t tell anyone that her mom’s missing so they won’t get sent to foster care or a holding center. She knows her mom would never leave them, but why are they alone? Minerva bravely faces each day with strength but desperately wants to just be a kid again with no responsibilities — like pulling her little sister out of an abusive daycare. At school, Minerva tries out for the Peter Pan musical and speaks up against the play’s racism. At home, her sisters talk about the fairies they see just like the fairies from her mamá’s stories. Finally, Minerva contacts her mom’s estranged mother, their abuela, for help because the kids are out of food and money and desperately need help.
 

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret
 by Trudi Trueit
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
This is National Geographic’s first fictional book series with full-color illustrations that hits the spot with an exciting mix of science, technology, adventure, and mystery. Newly accepted into the prestigious Explorer Academy for science and exploration, Cruz realizes that someone is trying to kill him; someone who doesn’t want him finding out about his mother’s mysterious research and untimely death. You’ll love the cool tech, amazing friendships, plot twists, and the intriguing premise. Cruz’s character traits show his problem solving strengths.

SAD


Ten Beautiful Things
 
by Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga
picture book, ages 4 – 8
A sad little girl sits in the back of her grandma’s car, traveling to her new home. As they drive, her grandma asks her to look for ten beautiful things along the way. She finds that even in her sorrow, there is beauty around her. Heartfelt and emotionally resonate.
 

Powwow Day
by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Because she’s recovering from an illness, River feels sad that she’s too weak to dance at the powwow. Instead of dancing, she watches, feeling tired and disappointed. But the last dance is the jingle dress and as her relatives and friends dance for ancestors, family, and health, it helps River feel her community’s love and support. River stands to watch as they come closer to where she’s sitting. She knows that she’ll join them at the next powwow. Beautiful artwork captures the tenderness of River’s emotions along with the beautiful celebration around her. Sorell’s writing invites us into this sweet, emotional story of community and healing.
 

Wishes by Muon Thi Van, illustrations by Victo Ngai
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Gorgeous illustrations and lyrical, personifying mentor text work together in beautiful harmony to narrate the bittersweet goodbye as a family leaves their Vietnamese village and then the country by boat. They eventually arrive at a new home. It’s an important story arc of sad endings, challenging middles, and hopeful beginnings with room for inference and connection about the themes of family and feelings and the topic of immigration.
 

Rain Rising
by Courtne Comrie
middle grade, ages 10 – 13
RAIN RISING is a multilayered story about mental health, racism, family, friendship, and self-love — with a main character that you’ll cheer on through her tricky and beautiful growing-up journey. Rain’s older brother Xander always has taken good care of her; he helps her on her saddest days, especially after their dad left and their mom is gone at work most of the time. But, when Xander gets brutally attacked, he’s a shell of himself and barely speaks…and Rain can barely cope. In an after-school group, she starts to make new friends, and slowly finds her way back to health through the group and therapy. In this case, Rain’s sadness is probably depression. (Sensitive readers: this story contains cutting.

SCARED


El Cucuy Is Scared, Too!
 
by Donna Barba Higuera, illustrated by Juliana Perdomo
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Ramón isn’t scared of El Cucuy anymore (the boogieman) because he’s more worried about his first day of school. And El Cucuy feels the same — he misses their old home and the desert. Ramon reassures El Cucuy that they’ll both get used to it and make new friends and that El Cucuy is strong and brave; they both are. It’s a sweet story of friendship with colorful, vibrant illustrations.
 

Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things
 
by Lenore Look
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
Second grader, Alvin Ho, is scared of everything, especially school. A school he’s quiet, but at home, he’s Firecracker Man, superhero. While not the most compelling read ever, I like that the main character deals with fears like many children and could be a helpful mentor text for several character traits.

SHY


Gustavo the Shy Ghost
 by Flavia Z. Drago
picture book, ages 4 – 8
Gustavo is a shy ghost which makes it hard to make friends.
 He uses his love for Day of the Dead to show the other monsters who he is which helps him make friends.
 
chapter book, ages 6 – 9
Loosely based on the author’s own childhood, 3rd grader Stella is very, very quiet in both Spanish and English. She feels separate, just like the word alien that describes her green card status being born in Mexico and moving to Chicago as a baby. A big fish research project for school helps Stella find her voice and overcome her fears, including making a new friend. Many children will be able to relate to Stella’s fears and feelings of differentness.

STUBBORN


Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends
 by Mike Reiss, illustrated by Ashley Spires
picture book, ages 4 – 8
The tortoise and turtle hatch and agree that they can’t be friends because they’re different even though they’re in the same pen and they each have interesting adventures. Their so-called action is hilarious because it’s so slow-moving. Like when they both try to get the ball that a kid tossed into the pen and it takes SEVEN YEARS to reach it. Eventually, these stubborn creatures learn that both are in the turtle family…and six years later they decide to be friends. A hilarious mentor text to teach the character trait of stubborness.

WORRIED

Truman
Truman
 by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
picture book, ages 4 – 8
A tender, well-crafted story about the first day of school from a pet tortoise’s perspective… When Sarah leaves, readers get a strong sense of place and emotion as Truman worries and waits for a thousand hours until he decides to go after his Sarah. Luckily, just as he’s about to leave the apartment, Sarah arrives home. Back in his habitat, he feels proud and Sarah reads him a story about her day. Absolutely wonderful.
 

Boy, Everywhere
by A.M. Dassu
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
Skillful writing transports us into Sami’s experience of modern Syrian life torn away by violence, his family’s sudden escape from the country, awful traveling conditions, detention in England, and his stay with hateful relatives.
We feel his emotions every step of this journey — from thinking about playing video games and soccer to his worry about capsizing in an overcrowded boat in the ocean and to blaming himself for his mom and sister being at the mall when it was bombed. In sharing his experiences, we see how much we relate to Sami because he’s just a regular kid trying to be safe.
 

Crenshaw
 by Katherine Applegate
middle grade, ages 9 – 12
After losing their home and living in their van for 3 months, the family is about to lose their apartment, too. Although Jackson’s parents don’t tell him this, he knows the signs. He knows why they’re having a yard sale. He knows it’s not his dad’s fault for having MS but he’s mad and worried and alone. It isn’t until Crenshaw shows up and pushes Jackson to speak the truth to his parents that Jackson learns that he’s not facing his worries alone. Oh, and who is Crenshaw? He’s Jackson’s large, imaginary cat friend from when he was little and returned to help Jackson in his time of need. I felt like it was a God metaphor. I wonder what you’ll think? 
 
Character traits mentor texts for all ages
 
KEEP READING
 
 

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    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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