2021-2022 Illinois State Bluestem Reader's Choice Award List (Grades 3-5)

  • Because of the Rabbit

    by Cynthia Lord Year Published: 2019

    On the last night of summer, Emma and her Maine game warden father rescue a small domestic rabbit stuck in a fence. The very next day Emma starts fifth grade after years of being home schooled, excited and apprehensive about making new friends. Then she is paired with Jack who does not seem to fit in with anyone--except that they share a love of animals, which draws them together, because of the rabbit. (Grades 3-5)

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  • Blended

    by Sharon Draper Year Published: 2018

    Piano-prodigy Isabella, eleven, whose black father and white mother struggle to share custody, never feels whole, especially as racial tensions affect her school, her parents both become engaged, and she and her stepbrother are stopped by police. (Grades 4-7)

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  • Does it Fart? A Kid's Guide to the Gas Animals Pass

    by Nick Caruso & Dani Rabaiotti/Alex Griffiths, Year Published: 2019

    This hilariously informative book of scientific facts, farts, and fun answers kids' questions about whether or not various animals pass gas. (Grades 1-4)

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  • Framed! A T. O. A. S. T. Mystery

    by James Ponti Year Published: 2016

    In Washington, D.C., twelve-year-old Florian Bates, a consulting detective for the FBI, and his best friend Margaret help thwart the biggest art heist in United States history. (Grades 4-7)

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  • Hana’s Suitcase: The Quest to Solve a Holocaust Mystery

    by Karen Levine Year Published: 2002/2016

    A Japanese woman is determined to uncover the identity and destiny of the owner of a suitcase sent by a Holocaust museum. Her investigation takes her around the world before she finally solves the mystery, while using the journey to teach her students about the tragedy of the Holocaust. (Grades 5 and up)

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  • Handimals: Animals in Art and Nature

    by Sylvia Lopez & Daniele, Guido Year Published: 2019

    A fascinating and visually stunning collection of hands modeled and painted into sixteen creatures--ranging from polar bears to alpacas to Komodo dragons--paired with facts to raise awareness of each creature.

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  • Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat

    by Emily Chenoweth & Johnny Marciano/Robb Mommaerts Year Published: 2019

    Klawde, the exiled ruler of the planet Lyttyrboks, and Raj, who just moved from Brooklyn to tiny Elba, Oregon, forge an unlikely friendship as they find their footing in a strange new world. (Grades 3-5)

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  • Let the Children March

    by Monica Clark-Robinson/Frank Morrison Year Published: 2018

    Told from a child's point of view, this moving historical picture book focuses on a monumental moment in the civil rights movement: the Children's Crusade of 1963. Thousands of African American children and teens marched through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama to end segregation and to inspire change and hope for the future. 

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  • The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

    by Rita L. Hubbard/Oge Mora Year Published: 2020

    Imagine learning to read at the age of 116! Discover the true story of Mary Walker, the nation's oldest student who did just that, in this picture book from a Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator and a rising star author. 

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  • One-Third Nerd

    by Gennifer Choldenko//Églantine Ceulemans Year Published: 2019

    Ten-year-old Liam and his two younger sisters, precocious third-grader Dakota and second-grader Izzy, who has Down syndrome, face the possibility of losing their beloved dog, Cupcake, who keeps urinating on their apartment's carpet. (Grades 3-5)

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  • Other Words for Home

    by Jasmine Warga Year Published: 2019

    Jude never thought she'd be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. (Grades 4-8)

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  • Pie in the Sky

    by Remy Lai Year Published: 2019

    Knowing very little English, eleven-year-old Jingwen feels like an alien when his family immigrates to Australia, but copes with loneliness and the loss of his father by baking elaborate cakes. (Grades 3-6)

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  • Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet

    by Zanib Mian/Nasaya Mafaridik Year Published: 2020

    Imaginative Omar goes through the ups and downs of starting a new school and making new friends with the help of his wonderful (and silly) Muslim family. (Grades 3-5)

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  • Prairie Lotus

    by Linda Sue Park Year Published: 2020

    In Dakota Territory in the 1880s, half-Chinese Hanna and her white father face racism and resistance to change as they try to make a home for themselves. (Grades 5-8)

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  • Project Z: A Zombie Ate My Homework

    by Tommy Greenwald/Dave Bardin Year Published: 2019

    Ombee has escaped a secret government lab that's developing zombies. Fortunately, he's found by the Kinders, a warmhearted human couple who are determined to help keep his zombie status under wraps. (Grades 3-5)

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  • Roll With It

    by Jamie Sumner Year Published: 2019

    Twelve-year-old Ellie, who has cerebral palsy, finds her life transformed when she moves with her mother to small-town Oklahoma to help care for her grandfather, who has Alzheimer's Disease. (Grades 4-8)

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  • Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines

    by Adam Gidwitz/Hatem Aly Year Published: 2018

    After encountering a Jersey Devil while on a field trip to the Pine Barrens, Elliot and his new friend Uchenna help their weird teacher Professor Fauna rescue the mythological creature from a pair of greedy billionaire brothers. (Grades 2-5)

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  • The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Hero

    by Joan DiCicco/Ebony Glenn Year Published: 2019

    The biography of Garrett A. Morgan, an African American entrepreneur and prolific inventor, whose bravery saved lives at the Cleveland Waterworks Disaster in 1916. Includes timeline and author's sources.

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  • The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

    by Karina Yan Glaser Year Published: 2017

    Humorous and heartfelt, the five Vanderbeeker children will do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved brownstone home in this sweeping family story that is as lively, diverse, and noisy as any street in Harlem. (Grades 3-6)

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  • What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting Our Planet

    by Jess French Year Published: 2019

    Discover shocking facts about the waste we produce and where it goes. Did you know that every single plastic toothbrush ever made still exists? Or that there's a floating mass of garbage twice the size of Texas drifting around the Pacific Ocean? Discover ways you can help to reduce the problem.

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2020-2021 Bluestem Illinois State Reader's Choice Award List (Grades 3-5)

  • A Dash of Trouble

    by Ana Meriano Year Published: 2018

    Wanting to be a part of her family's Dia de los Muertos preparations, Leonora sneaks out of school to discover her mother, aunt, and older sisters have been keeping a secret.

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  • A Whole New Ballgame

    by Phil Bildner Year Published: 2015

    Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new teacher named Mr. Acevedo who doesn't believe in tests or homework and likes off-the-wall projects - the more "off" the better. They also find themselves with a new basketball coach: Mr. Acevedo!

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  • Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics

    by Steve Jenkins Year Published: 2016

    An amazing look at numbers, facts, infographics, and the animals that inhabit them from the Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Steve Jenkins!

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  • Bob

    by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead Year Published: 2018

    Visiting her grandmother in Australia, Livy, ten, is reminded of the promise she made five years before to Bob, a strange, green creature who cannot recall who or what he is.

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  • Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code

    by Joseph Bruchac Year Published: 2018

    As a young Navajo boy, Chester Nez had to leave the reservation and attend boarding school, where he was taught that his native language and culture were useless. But Chester refused to give up his heritage. Years later, during World War II, Chester--and other Navajo men like him--was recruited by the US Marines to use the Navajo language to create an unbreakable military code.

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  • Click

    by Kayla Miller Year Published: 2019

    When a school variety show leaves Olive stranded without an act to join, she wonders why all of her friends have already formed their own groups without her.

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  • Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover

    by Markus Motem Year Published: 2017

    Full of eye-catching retro illustrations, a look at NASA's beloved Mars rover is sure to fascinate budding space explorers -- and set inquisitive minds soaring.

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  • Finding Langston

    by Lesa Cline-Ransome Year Published: 2018

    When 11-year-old Langston's mother dies in 1946, he and his father leave rural Alabama for Chicago's brown belt as a part of what came to be known as the Great Migration. It's lonely in the small apartment with just the two of them, and at school Langston is bullied. But his new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the local public library welcomes everyone. 

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  • Hope in the Holler

    by Lisa Lewis Tyre Year Published: 2018

    The poignant--and funny--story of a girl trying to be brave and find her place in the world after she's sent to live with scheming relatives.

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  • Lifeboat 12

    by Susan Hood Year Published: 2018

    In 1940, a group of British children, their escorts, and some sailors struggle to survive in a lifeboat when the ship taking them to safety in Canada is torpedoed.

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  • Max and the Midknights

    by Lincoln Peirce Year Published: 2019

    Max and a group of friends dubbed the Midknights go on a quest to rescue the Kingdom of Byjovia from the mean King Gastley!

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  • Otis and Will Discover the Deep

    by Barb Rosenstock Year Published: 2018

    The suspenseful, little-known true story of two determined pioneers who made the first dive into the deep ocean.

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  • Power Forward

    by Hena Khan Year Published: 2018

    Fourth-grader Zayd yearns to play basketball on the Gold Team, but when he skips orchestra rehearsal to practice, his parents forbid anything basketball-related, and tryouts are coming soon.

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  • Sergeant Reckless

    by Patricia McCormick Year Published: 2017

    When a group of US Marines fighting in the Korean War found a bedraggled mare, they wondered if she could be trained to as a packhorse. They had no idea that the skinny, underfed horse had one of the biggest and bravest hearts they'd ever known. And one of the biggest appetites!

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  • Stef Soto, Taco Queen

    by Jennifer Torres Year Published: 2017

    Estefania "Stef" Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family's taco truck. She wants nothing more than for Papi to get a normal job and for Tia Perla to be a distant memory. Then maybe everyone at school will stop seeing her as the Taco Queen.

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  • Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen

    by Candace Fleming Year Published: 2018

    A German shepherd is transformed from Etzel, a police dog in Berlin, to Strongheart, a silent movie star that will need his best acting skills to prove himself innocent of attacking a girl.

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  • The Ambrose Deception

    by Emily Ecton Year Published: 2018

    Melissa is a nobody. Wilf is a slacker. Bondi is a show-off. At least that's what their middle school teachers think. To everyone's surprise, they are the three students chosen to compete for a ten thousand-dollar scholarship, solving clues that lead them to various locations around Chicago.

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  • The Undefeated

    by Kwame Alexander Year Published: 2019

    The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree, Kadir Nelson.

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  • The Van Gogh Deception

    by Deron R. Hicks Year Published: 2017

    Dan Brown meets Jason Bourne in this riveting middle-grade mystery thriller. When a young boy is discovered in Washington DC's National Gallery without any recollection of who he is, so begins a high-stakes race to unravel the greatest mystery of all: his identity.

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  • Wedgie and Gizmo

    by Suzanne Selfors Year Published: 2017

    Fans of Stick Dog and My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish will love Suzanne Selfors's hilarious new illustrated series about the growing pains of blended families and the secret rivalry of pets.

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