Wow! I feel the need to say right up front that this is one of the best books I have ever read. Wonder by R. J. Palacio (Lexile: 790, Reading Level: Grades 4-8) is a story about a boy named August who starts school for the first time in the 5th grade. Prior to the 5th grade, he was home-schooled because of the high number of surgeries he had to fix a facial deformity. This story is told from multiple points of view, including that of August, his sister, his friends and his sister's boyfriend. The story begins with August telling about his first visit to his new middle school, and his meeting with the students whom the principal picked to act as his friends. This is awkward for August, and it begins a year of glorious, if painful, growth as he daily encounters the mean behavior of other students. The story continues following August through the various things that happen during his first year at school, including his favorite holiday (Halloween, because he can wear a mask and look like anyone else), forming new friendships, having problems with these friends, and figuring out how to find the courage to continue going to school each day. I highly recommend this book to everyone because everyone has things that they need to overcome, and August's story gives us courage to stand up and be ourselves.
Billy Broccoli moves into a new house with his mother and new stepfather and stepsister in Zero to Hero by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver (Lexile: 800; Reading Level: Grades 3-5). This move means that he has to start a new school and make new friends. As nervous as that makes him, it doesn't help that his new next door neighbor is a bully who fancies himself a crime-fighter (spying on everyone in the neighborhood and calling the police when he sees anything wrong, including being a centimeter outside of a parking line). And to make matters even worse, he has to share his pink and purple rainbow room with a ghost.
In this first book of the new Ghost Buddy series, Henry Winkler introduces us to an unlikely friendship between two very different boys (as different as life and death) who must figure out how to help each other to become better than they are alone. This book was an easy, enjoyable read, in which the characters are real with well-fleshed out (okay, so maybe one doesn't have so much flesh) personalities. I think many students will enjoy the story of this book, as well as the lesson about how to deal with bullies that the boys figure out on their own.
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.