By Lucile Walgenwitz, ISB Parent and Library Committee Member

Reading bedtime stories to my children, ages two and four, ranks high on the list of things I love to do as a parent. Until recently, the bedtime routine in our home consisted of choosing up to three books, in French or in English, depending on the mood or as determined by what they happened to grab first from the shelves. A few months ago, my oldest child (Celeste in PreK4) started requesting stories “from our heads”—in other words, stories that we invent on the fly. We are no longer allowed to read anything from a book at bedtime. My husband, Conall, is much better at this exercise than I am, and embraced the challenge. I, on the other hand, miss reading books. This sudden change made me realize that I read to my children not only to entertain or to instill in them the joy of reading, but also for me: I take great pleasure in reading a good children’s book. There is much to be said for  good writing, pleasant rhythm, and stunning illustrations. Fortunately, Celeste will let me read from a book during the day—and since it’s winter time and we spend more time indoors, there are plenty of other opportunities to read to my children.

Below is a selection of great books to read aloud with your primary school children recommended by the ISB Community, in no specific order but organized by language. Members of the Library Committee and others were asked to recommend a book and share what they love about it. Most of the books listed below are meant to be enjoyed primarily as hard copies, especially when the illustrations are outstanding, but we have tried to make a note when a recording (podcast or audiobook) is available to supplement the experience. Recordings will be useful to ISB parents who do not speak the target language, or to those in need of a short break. 

Thank you to all the parents and faculty who contributed by sharing their favorite children’s book(s)! 

English Book Recommendations

Picture Books

Blackout by John Rocco: This picture book is inspired by an actual blackout that took place in New York City in 2003. It’s also available as an Audio book, but best to read—the illustrations are incredible!

“I love that it’s set in the city where we all live, and is about a family and neighborhood looking on the bright side of what at first seems like a bad situation. It’s illustrated almost like a graphic novel, with panels and few words,” writes Raquel, parent of Lulu in 6th Grade.

Elephant and Piggie, a series by Mo Willems: This is a series of 25 titles by award winning author and illustrator, Mo Willems.They are a delight to read aloud to younger kids (3-6 years old), and great for children who are learning to read on their own  (6-8 years old). 

“It’s funny and visually perfect,” says Anne-Sophie, parent of Livia in French Pre-K 4.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen: This picture book is in the ISB Library but only in Spanish: Hilo sin fin. An audiobook is also available in English.

“Fun story of magic and the triumph of good over evil, featuring a little girl and a special box of yarn. Love the illustrations and the simple yet compelling story,” writes Raquel, parent of Lulu in 6th Grade.

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho: A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.

“I love reading this book aloud to 1st Graders. It gives us an opportunity to talk about what makes each of us different and special. It celebrates all kinds of beauty,” says Amy Ribakove, Librarian.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison

“I love the relationship that Hair Love depicts between a black father and his daughter — one that is not commonly portrayed in mainstream media. I love that it also normalizes fathers taking care of their daughter’s hair, and mothers taking time away,” says Naomi, parent of Athena in Pre-K 4. 

Islandborn by Junot Díaz and Leo Espinosa
This book is also available in a Spanish edition titled “Lola” and as an audiobook narrated by the author himself.

Islandborn is the story of Lola, a Dominican girl living in the Bronx who goes to her family to ask about her origins. I love this book not only because of the beautiful illustrations but because we hear a hard story told by the character’s family with optimism and happiness,” says Guillaume Fructus, French PreK-4 Associate Teacher.

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney: This collection of books is appropriate for ages 3 to 5.

Itzel Mendoza, Spanish Pre-K 3 Teacher says: “It’s my favorite book to read at the beginning of the school year! It really verbalizes so many of the feelings our little ones are going through with their school-home transition.”

Pattern Fish and Pattern Bugs by Trudy Harris: These books are for ages 2 to 6.

“These picture books are amazing for teaching about patterns and also counting – I read these to my kids countless times when they were young, and I read to my young nieces whenever they visit- very fun to act out and for making predictions,” says Shayna, parent of Zac in 7th Grade.

The Questioneers, a series by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts: A series of picture books that celebrate STEM and diversity. The three original titles include: Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist. Two new titles were added recently: Sofia Valdez, Future Prez and Aaron Slater, Illustrator.

“The books are about believing in yourself and pursuing your passion. As an engineer myself, I am partial to Rosie Revere. I also love the rhyming text and beautiful illustrations” says Lucile, parent of Celeste in Pre-K4.

Chapter Books

Anne of Green Gables, a series by L.M. Montgomery: Perfect for ages 9-14 and lovers of classic books. These are also available as audiobooks. 

“It was one of my favorite series as a child. Anne is a wonderful heroine. She’s adventurous, engaged in her world, makes mistakes and learns from them, and the author does such a wonderful job of creating the world of Avonlea,” writes Leslie, parent of Lola in 6th Grade.

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen: This book is available at the Brooklyn Public Library catalog and is also available as an audiobook. 

“Loosely based on an actual event that took place in Maine, but mostly a fantastical tale. Wonderful rhyming text and fun illustrated characters. There’s a page in the book where 15 animals are hidden amongst a town scene and it’s fun to play “spot the animal,” recommends  Raquel, parent of Lulu in 6th Grade.

The Curious Lobster by Richard Hatch: This book is sometimes referred to as the American Wind and the Willows. It celebrates nature, friendship, and curiosity, and is great for ages 5 to 9.

“The adventures of this lobster are just so charming and wonderfully conveyed; he’s managed to survive getting captured by fishermen, and so he seeks out new thrills. I think a lot of kids can relate,” writes Jennifer, parent of Alma in 7th Grade.

Dragons in a Bag, a series by Zetta Elliot: In Brooklyn, nine-year-old Jax joins Ma, a curmudgeonly witch who lives in his building, on a quest to deliver three baby dragons to a magical world, and along the way discovers his true calling. 

“This award-winning series is an action-packed crowd-pleaser. I read the first one to a 2nd Grade class and they were so invested in the story, they begged me to read the second volume!” says Maria Falgoust, Head Librarian.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman: This hilarious New York Times bestselling story by author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young is great for young readers (8-12 years old) and for anyone young at heart.

“Plot: a father is left to feed his children breakfast and a time traveling adventure ensues. We like it because it’s funny, absurd, creative and has a fast paced plot with interesting characters throughout,” says Raquel , parent of Lulu in 6th Grade.

The Moongobble and Me, a series by Bruce Coville: The series includes five chapter books: The Dragon of Doom, The Weeping Werewolf, The Evil Elves, The Mischief Monster,  and The Naughty Nork, and is great for ages 5 to 12.

“This is such a fun series, with an amazing full-cast audiobook version as well. My family listened to the whole series in the car over several very long car rides and it appealed to all ages. It’s funny, imaginative, and full of surprises. Highly recommend the audiobook!” says Shayna, parent of Zac in 7th Grade.

Ways to Make Sunshine & Ways to Grow Love by Renee Watson

“This delightful award-winning chapter book series was a huge hit with our 2nd graders as a read-aloud. It tells the story of a feisty, fun girl named Ryan whose family is going through a lot of changes; a new house in a new neighborhood and a whole lot more. Ryan’s Dad has a new lower-paying job which means finances are tight.  Insightful, up beat and charming; you can’t go wrong with this series. I would recommend it for students in grades 2-6” writes Maria Falgoust, Head Librarian.

Spanish Books

Bocababa by Tina Vallès and Gabriel Salvadó: Great for all grades at ISB.

“This is a hilarious, smart picture book about misfits. “Bocababa” means, roughly, drooly mouth. The book even has a “study guide” at the end which is excellent,” says Kent , parent of Nico in 6th Grade.

El sueño de Lucas (Lucas’ dream) by Rodrigo Folgueira and Poly Bernalene: This picture book is the story of Lucas who wants a pet more than anything in the world. One night, a fairy comes and grants his wish and he asks for a rhinoceros. His parents are less than thrilled, but sometimes you must follow your dreams. 

Miraida, parent of Leyla in Pre-K4, says: “We love books in Spanish that are not bilingual (i.e. do not have the accompanying English translation). The illustrations are wonderful, and the story is about adventure, wonder, independence, and never letting go of your dreams.”

¡Eso no es normal! (That’s not normal!) by Mar Pavón and Laure Du Fay: A story about an elephant with an exceptionally long trunk for ages 3-6.

Itzel Mendoza, Spanish Pre-K 3 Teacher, says it’s “A fun picture book with repetitive opportunities for children to read along, while challenging our notion of “normal” and encouraging conversations around diversity and inclusion with children.”

French Books

ARIOL Un petit âne comme vous et moi by Marc Boutavant and Emmanuel Guibert: This graphic novel is one in a series of 17 titles (and counting!) and works for all ages.

“Ariol is a very funny and sympathetic comic series about a group of schoolchildren, all of whom are different types of animals. First in a series,” writes Kent, parent of Nico in 6th Grade.

Capitaine Maman (Captain Mom) by Magali Arnal: This is the story of an archeologist, Capitaine Maman, who also happens to be a cat, on the day she makes a significant discovery underwater. A recording of this book is also available as a free podcast (L’Ecole des Loisirs à écouter).

“We first experienced this book as a podcast. The podcast is well crafted with nice music and sound effects. Later, I found out that the book itself is beautifully illustrated. I love that the book does not shy away from explaining some very technical details (e.g. how to get in and out of a submarine via an airlock). It is very rich in details, well documented, and the story is original. It can be enjoyed at any age!” Recommended by Lucile, parent of Celeste in Pre-K 4. 

Hector, l’homme extraordinairement fort (Hector, the Extraordinarily Strong Man) by Magali Le Huche: Capable of the most incredible feats on the circus track, Hector, the extraordinarily strong man, is secretly very shy. After his show, he takes refuge in his trailer and knits for his beloved. Also available as an audiobook. Great for ages 4 to 6. *Fun fact: ISB hosted Magali for an author visit in the past.

 “It’s a sweet story about gender fluidity and judgment,” says Anne-Sophie, parent of Livia in Pre-K 4. 

Les toutous à Paris (The doggies in Paris) by Dorothée de Monfreid: This book is part of a collection. Some titles are available at the Brooklyn Public Library (in French and/or in English).

“This is a beautifully illustrated book that follows 9 dogs as they wander through Paris on their way to a birthday party. The dogs (Zaza, Popov, Kaki, Micha, Nono, Omar, Alex, Jane, Pedro) are hilarious and I love that the book takes us on a tour of Paris. There is even a map at the end to recap the itinerary through the city. A delight for the whole family!” Recommended by Lucile, parent of Celeste in PreK-4. 

Zékéyé, a series by Nathalie Dieterlé

Guillaume Fructus,  French Pre-K 4 Associate Teacher, says: “The series is inspired by Cameroonian tales. One of my favorites is ZÉKÉYÉ ET LE DJOUDJOUKALABA. We follow the adventures of Zékéyé, who meets with a mythical creature we would not have imagined. Most books have a moral at the end of the story about great qualities like cooperation, bravery or loyalty that can trigger conversations with children.”

Books Available in All Three Languages

The Little Prince / El Principito / Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: A timeless tale, shared from one generation to the next since the 1940s.

“It is a very special book for all ages. There are beautiful life lessons in the book for both children and adults. The book provides plenty of opportunity for discussion, interpretation and the illustrations are beautiful,” says María, Parent of Mila in 4th Grade.

Around the World with Mouk / La vuelta al mundo de Muk / Le Tour du monde de Mouk by Marc Boutavant: You can find English and Spanish versions of this book in the ISB Library. 

“A feast for the eyes! This is the story of a little bear (Mouk) who travels the world. Each page features a different city and is filled with detailed pictures depicting places, customs, animals, food, and phrases from each city. Mouk’s last stop is New York City.” writes  Raquel, parent of Lulu in 6th Grade.