Additional January Book Suggestions - Grades K-3
Adler, David. A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman.
Illustrated by Samuel Byrd. Holiday, 1992. (2)
For younger children, the life of the intrepid conductor of the underground railroad.
Adler, David. A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass.
Illustrated by Samuel Byrd. Holiday, 1993. (2-4)
Life story of one of the first African-American publishers and most important spokesmen for black Civil Rights.
Baldwin, James. The Brave Three Hundred in Book of Virtues.
See General Collections. (2, 5)
Story of Spartans heroically defending the pass at Thermopylae.
Barber, Antonia. Mousehole Cat.
Illustrated by Nicola Bayley. Macmillan Child Group, 1993. (K-3)
An old man and his cat brave storm and high winds to rescue their village from disaster.
Bible. Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace in The Kingfisher Children’s Bible.
See General Collections. (1)
Nebuchadnezzar condemns the three to the fiery furnace for worshipping their God and defying his orders. Good reinforcement for Mesopotamian unit in 1st grade.
Borden, Louise. Albie the Lifeguard.
Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles. Scholastic, 1993. (K-1)
Little Albie can’t bring himself to sign up for the swim team. His friends can swim the long, blue laps of the pool, but not Albie. He just watches. Then he pretends to be a life guard in his own pool, saving others, and giving orders and pretty soon he develops the confidence to try. A sweet story of a six-year-old’s quest for physical courage!
Bulla, Clyde Robert. A Lion to Guard Us.
Harper Collins, 2018. (1-3)
Set in seventeenth-century England and America. After their mother dies, a family of children set sail for Jamestown on their own to find their father.
Bunting, Eve. How Many Days to America?
Illustrated by Beth Peck. Houghton Mifflin, 1990. (K-4)
Fleeing political repression, a Caribbean immigrant family braves danger and open sea to make their way to the United States. A moving, contemporary Pilgrim story. Good for 2nd grade unit on immigration.
Burleigh, Bob. Flight.
Illustrated by Mike Wimmer. Putnam Publishing Group, 1997. (K-2)
Dramatic retelling of Charles Lindbergh’s daring trans-oceanic flight. Dangers of weather, sleeplessness, and technology.
Cech, John. My Grandmother’s Journey.
Illustrated by Sharon McGinley-Nally, 1991. Bradbury, Macmillan, 1991. (K-3)
Korie’s Russian Jewish grandmother tells of her arduous life in and flight from 20th century Russia. Good for 2nd grade unit on immigration.
Cohen, Barbara. Robin Hood and Little John.
Illustrated by David Ray. Putnam Publishing Group, 1995 (K-1)
Bold illustrations combine with entertaining text in this retelling of the classic tale. Two men become friends through their respect for each other’s courage and skill in combat. An excellent first Robin Hood for younger grades.
Coles, Robert. The Story of Ruby Bridges.
Illustrated by George Ford. Scholastic, 2010. (2-4)
True story movingly retold of the young African-American girl who was the first to integrate one of New Orleans all white schools. She is heckled and booed, but goes about her school work with dignity and prays for her tormentors. Courage, justice, and forgiveness are all themes.
Dalgliesh, Alice. The Courage of Sarah Noble.
Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. Scribner, 1991. (K-3)
This slender chapter book chronicles the life and adventures of the young pioneer girl, Sarah Noble. We experience the quiet strength of spirit needed to brave life on the frontier.
DePaola, Tomie. "Daniel in the Den of Lions" in Tomie DePaola's Book of Bible Stories. Scholastic, 1990 (2-6)
Classic bible story of moral courage. Daniel refuses to stop praying to his God and is sentenced by Persian King Darius to the lion’s den. He emerges uneaten! Good reinforcement for 1st grade World Religions unit or 2nd grade Persian unit.
DePaola, Tomie. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland.
Holiday, 1994. (K-4)
The adventures of Patrick, who is abducted from his Breton home, sold into slavery in Ireland,
escapes, and returns to the Irish people to preach about God.
Dharma Editorial Staff. The Rabbit Who Overcame Fear. Illustrated by Eric Meller. Dharma Publishing, 2013. (K-2)
A sleeping rabbit is startled into wakefulness when a large mango crashes beside him. He assumes it is an earthquake and proceeds to alert all fellow animals that the earth is breaking apart—causing a stampede. An encounter with a thoughtful lion calms the timid creature and helps him realize that he must first “look to see if there is real cause for fear.” Excellent on physical courage.
Early, Margaret. William Tell.
Abrams, 1991. (3)
William Tell confronts the Austrian tyrant, Gessler, and shoots the proverbial apple off his son’s head in order to save his life and win some measure of freedom for his country. Courage and devotion to freedom are twin themes in Early’s stunningly illustrated retelling.
Fleischman, Paul. Weslandia.
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Candlewick, 2002. (K-3)
This book may be more about “pluck” than courage, but young Wesley, a social outcast and boy genius, refuses to be other than what he is. Enamored of science (but not of soda and pizza), Wesley dedicates himself to cultivating a crop that becomes the basis for a new civilization. In this clever and boldly colored tale, “Weslandia” represents the triumph of his inventiveness, practicality, and courage to confront life on his own terms.
Garland, Sherry. The Lotus Seed.
Illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi. HMH Books, 1997. (2)
A Vietnamese woman leaves her homeland for a new life in America. She remains connected to her home only by the lotus seed she takes with her.
Greene, Carol. Pocahontas: Daughter of a Chief.
Children’s Press, 1988. (1)
A straightforward children’s biography of the princess who in legend risked her life for John Smith. Good reinforcement for 1st grade study of Jamestown.
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm K. Grimm. Hansel and Gretel.
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers. Dial, 1980. (1)
Retelling of classic German tale. Brother and sister bravely care for each other when they are lost in the forest and captured by a witch.
Hodges, Margaret. Joan of Arc: The Lily Maid.
Illustrated by Robert Rayevsky. Holiday, 1999. (1-3)
In a quiet and beautifully simplified retelling, Margaret Hodges presents the story of Joan of Arc for younger readers. The illustrations draw children into the medieval world. Hodges, with characteristic depth and dignity, tells the story of St. Michael and the angel voices that spur Joan to take up arms for France. Her courage stands highlighted against the background of betrayal.
Howe, John. Jack in the Beanstalk.
Little,Brown & Co. 1989. (1)
Fabulously illustrated English folktale of a young boy who climbs the beanstalk, confronts and
outwits the giant, as he acts to help his family.
Hutton, Warwick. The Trojan Horse.
Macmillan Child Group, 1992. (2,5)
Classic tale of Greek courage and inventiveness in defeat of the Trojan enemy.
Kellogg, Steven. Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett.
Morrow, 1995. (K-2)
Another of Steven Kellogg’s rip-roariously funny tall tales—this one about Davy Crockett’s wife, whose legendary strength and courage enable her to defeat bears, invent bald eagles, and rescue Davy Crockett! For those who like their courage a little silly. Works with 2nd grade tall tales unit.
Kinsey-Warnock, Natalie. Wild Horses of Sweetbriar.
Dutton Child Books, 1990. (2-4)
Set in early 1900s, a lone family struggles through the winter on blustery New England island near Nantucket.
Kipling, Rudyard. Rikki Tikki Tavi.
Illustrated by Lambert Davis. Harcourt Brace, 1992. (3)
Kipling’s classic tale of a mongoose’s faithfulness to his owner and courageous defense of his family. Great faithfulness book as well.
Kroll, Steven. Doctor on an Elephant.
Illustrated by Michael Chesworth. Henry Holt, 1994. (2-4)
Missionary doctor in India braves the rainy season and a charging elephant to aid an injured patient. Beautifully illustrated.
Kroll, Stephen. Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the Far West.
Illustrated by Richard Williams. Holiday, 1994. (1, 4)
Beautiful picture book of the true exploits of Lewis and Clark. The explorers head out the Missouri River and confront blizzards, starvation, the Sioux, and many other hazards in the regions of the Louisiana Purchase and beyond.
Lasker, Joe. The Great Alexander the Great.
Puffin Books, 1990. (2)
Exciting picture book biography of one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever known. This volume acts as a good springboard to a discussion of the difference between courage and hubris. Alexander had both.
Lattimore, Deborah Nourse. “Aladdin,” in Arabian Nights, Three Tales.
Harper Collins, 1995. (3)
Stunning retelling of Aladdin’s adventures, enterprise, courage, and selflessness, as he outwits the
evil Magician and frees the Genie.
Lattimore, Deborah Nourse. The Flame of Peace.
Harper Collins, 1991. (1-3)
An Aztec boy overcomes challenges and obstacles set by seven gods in pursuit of his goal of peace.
Stunning Aztec designs throughout. Works well with 1st grade Aztec unit.
Lawrence, Jacob. Harriet and the Promised Land.
Aladdin, 1997. (K-2)
Poetic retelling of the courage and mission of underground railroad conductor, Harriet Tubman. Fabulous illustrations by one of America’s leading artists.
Lee, Jeanne. The Song of Mu Lan.
Front Street, 1995. (2 or 4)
Set in China during the early middle ages (Tang Dynasty), a courageous Chinese girl dresses like a soldier and goes to battle, taking her father’s place. A Chinese Deborah Sampson tale. Excellent for use with medieval China unit.
Levinson, Riki. Watch The Stars Come Out.
Illustrated by Diane Goode. Puffin Books, 1995. (2)
Set in the early 1900s, this is a simple story of a Russian immigrant journey to the new world that is filled with trepidation and hope.
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Paul Revere’s Ride.
Illustrated by Ted Rand. Puffin, 1996. (1 or 4)
Beautiful and dramatic picture book retelling of Revere alerting village and farm to the threat of the marching British troops.
Lyon, George Ella. Cecil’s Story.
Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto. Orchard Books, 1991. (2-3)
Sometimes children are called to great courage and forbearance. Set in the Civil War, this poignant book explores a young boy’s feelings when his father is hurt and his mama goes to fetch him. The father loses an arm “but you wouldn’t be afraid, because he was still your papa, the man who taught you before he left to bait a hook and snare a rabbit, the man strong enough to lift you now with just one arm.” Works well with Civil War unit in 2nd grade.
Martin, Bill and John Archambault. Knots on a Counting Rope.
Illustrated by Ted Rand. Square Fish, 1997. (K-3)
A Native American boy learns to overcome his blindness, ride like the wind, and participate fully in the joy of life.
McGovern, Anne. The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson.
Illustrated by Harold Goodwin. Scholastic, 1990. (1,3)
The true story of a young woman who disguises herself as a man in order to serve in the Revolutionary army.
McSwigan, Marie. Snow Treasure.
Scholastic Inc, 1986. (3)
Fast-paced slender chapter book of courage and adventure set in Norway during World War II.
Norwegian children help smuggle gold bullion out of their country on sleds—right past Nazi guards.
Miller, William. Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery.
Illustrated by Cedric Lucas. Lee and Low, 2005. (2-4)
This powerful picture book is not about the last day Frederick Douglass lived as a slave; but the last day that he felt like a slave. When he is called to the whipping post, Douglass stands up to a slave-breaker, fights back and defeats him. In later years he would escape, but in the meantime he showed himself and others what it means to defend oneself against injustice. Good for use with 2nd grade ante-bellum unit.
Mipham, Lama. Great Gift and the Wish Fulfilling Gem: A Jataka Tale.
Illustrated by Terry McSweeney. Dharma Publishing, 2010. (K-3)
A prince, moved by the suffering of his people, sets forth on a dangerous quest to find the wish- fulfilling gem that will end all suffering. A story of courage and compassion.
Monjo, F.N. The Drinking Gourd.
Illustrated by Fred Brenner. Harper Collins, 1983. (2)
Moving picture book retelling of the underground railroad and the slaves who had the courage to run for freedom by following the Big Dipper north.
Moss, Marissa. In America.
Dutton Child Books, 1994. (K-2)
Lithuanian Jewish grandfather tells his grandson about the decision to come to America and why his brother Herschel couldn’t bring himself to come. Humorous but profound immigrant story of the courage it takes to leave the known behind and do something new.
Oldfield, Pamela. “Andromeda and Perseus” in Tales from Ancient Greece.
Illustrated by Nick Harris. Doubleday, 1988. (2, 6)
The beautiful Andromeda is rescued by Perseus after her boastful mother earns the wrath and curse of Poseidon. Highlights Perseus’s courage and the fatal flaw of hubris in the mother.
Oldfield, Pamela. “Theseus and the Minotaur,” in Tales from Ancient Greece.
Illustrated by Nick Harris. Doubleday, 1988. (2)
Theseus slays the evil minotaur and manages to escape unharmed. Terrific illustrations and graceful retelling.
Pattison, Darcy. The River Dragon.
Illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng. Lothrop, 1991. (2)
Chinese tale in which a young suitor confronts the danger of the river dragon on a nightly basis and finally outwits the hungry monster.
Poole, Josephine. Joan of Arc.
Illustrated by Angela Barrett. Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. (2-4)
The year is 1500. Orleans, an important French city, is besieged by English soldiers. In the countryside, a simple French peasant girl hears a call from God to ride to the defense of the French king. She has the courage to answer that call. This tale portrays Joan of Arc’s courage when triumphant and also her courage as a captive to be burned at the stake. The horrific ending makes the book inappropriate for children younger than 2nd grade. For older children, see the Stanley biography under Faithfulness. For younger children see the Hodges volume above. Use with medieval Europe unit in 4th grade.
Raphael, Elaine. Pocahontas: Princess of the River Tribes.
Illustrated by Don Bolognese. Cartwheel Books, 1995. (1-3)
A lovely retelling of the classic legend of Pocahontas, illustrating the courage of the princess as a young girl and later her perhaps even greater courage in marrying Englishman, John Rolfe.
Rappaport, Doreen. The Journey of Meng.
Illustrated by Yang Ming-Yi. Dial Books, 1991. (2-4)
Set in 3rd century BC China, a devoted wife sets out to find her husband who has been abducted to build the Great Wall. She sacrifices her life to redeem their honor. Do not use with children younger than 2nd grade, as the ending is too tragic. A very good support book to the ancient China unit in 2nd grade.
Russell, William. “The Battle of Marathon” in Classic Myths to Read Aloud.
See General Collections. (2)
Exciting retelling of the famous battle of the Athenians against the Persians. Athenians, fighting for their homeland and liberty, defeat Darius and his men. Phidippides makes the long run to Athens to announce victory, and sacrifices his life in the process.
Sabuda, Robert. Saint Valentine.
Macmillan, 1992. (3)
Story of the physician/priest who attempted to restore sight to a blind girl (270 AD). He was cap- tured by Roman officials and falsely charged with causing a popular uprising. Before being thrown to the lions, he sends a note and crocus to the young girl signed “From your Valentine.” She is cured. Excellent themes of courage and moral fortitude. Works well with ancient Rome unit. Illustrated in Byzantine, mosaic splendor.
San Souci, Robert D. Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure.
Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Simon and Schuster,2002. (1-4)
In this medieval Irish folktale, Margaret longs to travel beyond the rugged cliffs and crags of her home. She sets sail with Simon, King of the East, braves storm, sea monster, sly sorceress, and a hideous giant to save her true love from death and find happiness that lasts a lifetime. Marvelous illustrations and a great female exemplar of both physical and moral courage.
Schenk de Regniers, Beatrice. David and Goliath.
Illustrated by Scott Cameron. Orchard Books, 1996. (2-6)
A stunningly illustrated and fast-paced retelling of the Old Testament classic in which young David, the weakest and least respected of eight brothers, agrees to do battle against the Philistine giant, Goliath. With slingshot in hand and courage from above, David triumphs.
Schwartz, Howard and Barbara Rush. The Sabbath Lion.
Illustrated by Stephen Fieser. Harper Collins, 1992. (2-4)
A young Jewish boy is willing to risk traveling across the Sahara with a departing caravan in order to claim his mother’s inheritance in Egypt. Mother sells her most precious possession to pay caravan leader to stop on the Sabbath, so that her son can pray. He takes the money but then refuses to stop. The young boy refuses to travel on the Sabbath, the caravan moves on, and he is left alone in the desert, but is befriended by a Sabbath lion. A beautiful story of having the courage of one’s convictions.
Scott, Ann Herbert. Brave as a Mountain Lion.
Illustrated by Glo Coalson. Clarion Books, 1996. (K-2)
Set in the Shoshone country of northeastern Nevada, this is the story of Spider, a nine-year-old boy who overcomes his fear of participating in a spelling bee. Spider is a good speller, but he dreads the school’s annual bee, which takes place on the stage and before the general public. In this charming story Spider convinces himself that he must be “brave as a mountain lion, clever as a coyote, and silent as a spider” in order to be unafraid.
Sis, Peter. Follow the Dream.
Knopf, 1991. (K-2)
Beautiful picture book retelling of Columbus, his dream, and daring to pursue maverick scheme of sailing west to find the Indies.
Standiford, Natalie. The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto.
Illustrated by Donald Cook. Random Books, 1989. (K-3)
A dog who braves the worst of Alaskan winter in order to aid a sick child in need of medicine.
Van Leeuwen, Jean. The Amazing Air Balloon.
Illustrated by Marco Ventura. Phyllis Fogelman Books, 2003. (K-3)
This is another winner from Van Leeuwen as she tells the inspiring story of Edward Warren, the thirteen year old who became the first American to ascend in a hot air balloon. Set in colonial times, the story reinforces the themes of wonder and passionate pursuit of one’s dreams. The wiry teenager is able to take this flight because the balloon’s creator, Peter Carnes, is too heavy to take it up! Evocative oil paintings bring the period to life.
Van Leeuwen, Jean. Going West.
Illustrated by Thomas B. Allen. Puffin Books, 1997. (2-4)
In the tradition of Little House books, this picture book is a powerful portrait of a frontier family who leaves all behind, braves difficult journey, storms, drought, and failed crops to settle west.
Weiss, Jim. “Perseus” on CD Greek Myths.
Great Hall Productions, 1989. (2, 5)
Perseus’ courage in battle against Medusa.
Winter, Jeanette. Follow the Drinking Gourd.
Dragonfly Books, 1992. (2)
Moving picture book of slaves escaping to freedom on the underground railroad.
Winter, Jeanette. Klara’s New World.
Knopf, 1992. (2-4)
A superbly illustrated story of an immigrant Swedish family that leaves the stony fields of Sweden behind to find a new life in the fertile wilderness of Minnesota.
Wright, Courtni. Journey to Freedom: A Story of the Underground Railroad.
Illustrated by Gershom Griffith. Holiday, 1994. (2, 5)
Touching story of an African-American family traveling to freedom on the underground railroad. Not without its moments of humor when these Southern-born and bred children meet snow for the first time.
Yacowitz, Caryn. The Jade Stone.
Illustrated by Ju-Hong Chen. Holiday, 1992. (2-4)
Chinese tale of sculptor who is true to his vision and art despite fear of persecution. Artistic courage.
Yep, Laurence. The Shell Woman and the King: A Chinese Folktale.
Illustrated by Yang Ming-Yi. Dials Books, 1993. (2-4)
A Chinese tale of one woman’s bravery against an evil Chinese emperor.
Yolen, Jane. Greyling.
Illustrated by David Ray. Putnam, 1991. (K-3)
Beautifully illustrated Scottish tale of a selchie (seal turned child) adopted by a human family. When his father is drowning, the child leaps into the sea to save him. He loses his humanity as a result, but saves his imperiled father. Great themes of family devotion and courage.
Zeman, Ludmila. The Last Quest of Gilgamesh.
Tundra Books, 1998. (1-3)
The third in her extraordinary trilogy of the Epic of Gilgamesh for children. Gilgamesh has lost his best friend, Enkidu, and his beloved Shamhat to death. He sets out on a perilous quest for immortality. He overcomes a pit of scorpions, pushes through burning sands of the desert, braves the waters of death, and resists the temptation to rest in the Garden of the Sun God. Gilgamesh learns that he cannot achieve immortality, but that his legacy lives on in the courage and leadership he has shown to his people. Works with 1st grade unit on Mesopotamia, but can be read at much higher grade levels too.