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Book Lists & Teacher Resources

Finding good books for kids is extremely important. Putting the right books in a child's hands could spark a lifelong love of reading and learning. Mary N. Oluonye is an author based in Cleveland, Ohio, who has created book lists for parents and teachers. She also offers teaching resources for teachers who want to use her books in the classroom.

Multicultural Early Chapter Book Series Featuring Girls (Reading Level: Grades 2 - 4)

The book series listed below feature simple stories with relatively short chapters interspersed with illustrations. Most contain between one and three illustrations per chapter. The girls in the books are African-American, Canadian and African, and Chinese-American.


Anna Hibiscus — Written by Atinuke; Illustrated by Lauren Tobia

If you haven't heard of Anna Hibiscus, you are missing out on a delightful series. Irresistible Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa with her Canadian mother and her African father (the name of the actual African country is never mentioned). They live in a big compound along with her grandmother, grandfather, aunties, uncles, lots of cousins, and her twin brothers, Double and Trouble. Each book features four linked stories ranging from 26 to 30 short pages, accompanied by adorable illustrations on almost every other page, giving the stories a distinctly tropical African feel and look. The charm of this series is the humorous stories with universal themes and the realistic portrayal of African family tradition and culture within the context of a loving extended family. Each story imparts a lesson learned without being too obvious. From front cover to back cover, and throughout the pages in between, Atinuke and Tobia deliver a winning series.


Sassy
Written by Sharon Draper

Nine year old Sassy is the youngest member of her family. Her full name is Sassy Simone Sanford, but to her chagrin, her family insists on calling her, Little Sister. Sassy, like her name implies, is a girl with her own unique personality and style. She's never without her snazzy and mysterious purse-like Sassy Sack that always seems to hold some useful item which can be used to help save the day. She is inquisitive, funny, takes the initiative and has a great imagination. This series captures adventures in the life of a young girl, along with a realistic portrayal of a loving, close-knit African-American family (grandparents, mom, dad, older brother and sister).


Niki and Deja
Written by Karen English; Illustrated by Laura Freeman

Follow the delightful adventures, misadventures and lessons learned with Nikki and Deja – third graders who are neighbors, best friends and classmates at Carver Elementary School. The appeal of these books are the universal themes of ordinary life in elementary school, such as friendship, new kid in school, student body election politics, newsy goings-on, choices to be made … and consequences of choices made.


Sugar Plum Ballerinas
Written by Whoopi Goldberg and Deborah Underwood; Illustrated by Maryn Roos

The Sugar Plum Ballerinas are a group of predominantly African-American girls who take ballet lessons under the watchful eye of instructor, Ms. Debbe. Each book in the series is told from the point of view of one of the dancers, and the same friends are present in the books. The ballerinas are adorable, each having her own distinct personality and way of dealing with individual challenges. They are there for each other whenever the need arises. These humorous books are about dance, friendship, working hard, cooperation, overcoming obstacles, having and reaching goals and having fun in the process.


Dyamonde Daniel
Written by Nikki Grimes; Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Meet third grader, Dyamonde Daniel – a girl with spirit, determination and compassion - and her friends, especially best friend, Free, in these upbeat adventures which tackle some of today's challenges in a way that children can easily understand and relate to. These stories of school, friendship, family and life lessons are wonderful and heartwarming.


Ruby Lu
Written by Lenore Look; Illustrated by Stef Choi

In one of the Ruby Lu series, Ruby Lu, Star of the Show, third grader, Ruby Lu and her extended family have to tighten their household budget when her father suddenly loses his job. Ruby is worried. So with some help from her classmates, she comes up with a list of thirteen things to do to survive hard times. As the story progresses, Ruby's mother gets a job and her father stays at home. All is well for a while, until Lucy grades begin to suffer and the stress begins to take its toll on her parents. The appeal of this story is Ruby Lu's engaging, resourceful personality, her friends, and the schemes they help Ruby come up with to help out the Lu household finances. The sprinkling of Chinese words is a nice touch, as is the humor of the stories even as serious topics are addressed. 


Katie Woo
Written by Fran Manushkin; Illustrated by Tami Lyon

Meet Katie Woo, an inquisitive and spunky six year old girl, in this series of books. With its universal themes, three short chapters and bright colorful illustrations, these engaging books will appeal to young readers just starting to read chapter books on their own. An added bonus at the end of each book includes a glossary, discussion questions and other activities. There are twenty-five books in the series, so far.


Keena Ford
Written by Melissa Thompson; Illustrated by Frank Morrison

Mix-ups seem to occur wherever Keena Ford is. In Keena Ford and The Second-Grade Mix-Up, Keena and her best friend Eric are about to begin second grade. The bad news is, they are not going to be in the same class. Boys are in one class, girls in another. Keena ends up liking her second grade classroom décor and her teacher, Ms. Campbell. Eric, however, is not as excited about his new class, nor is he too happy that Keena is making new friends. When a mistake occurs regarding Keena's birthday in which the teacher believes Keena's birthday is sooner than it actually is, Keena allows the mistake to stand. After all, Ms. Campbell gives students celebrating birthdays, a birthday crown and birthday cake. Keena later feels bad about the mix-up and tries to devise a way to correct the situation without getting into trouble. Meanwhile, Eric gets into some trouble of his own. Told in Keena's voice through her written entries in her journal, this entire story takes place during the first week of school and is about friendship, school and life lessons learned.


Teacher Resources

Use Mary N. Oluonye's books in your classroom! The author has created a range of resources to help teachers and students engage with the material. Use the online contact form to request these materials for use in your school.

Madam C.J. Walker: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Millionaire

Genre — Non Fiction/Biography
Reading Level — Grades 2-4, Adult New Reader
Pages — 12 (PDF Pages)
Formats — eBook or Downloadable PDF

Teaching Resource Includes:

Book Summary
Books About Madam C.J. Walker
The Official Madam C.J. Walker Website
Words for Students to Know
Introduction to the Book's Features
Discussion Questions for Students Prior to Reading the Book
Discussion Questions for Students After Reading the Book
A Few Ideas for Extension Activities
Word Find

The Day the Library Didn't Open

Genre — Fiction
Reading Level — Grades 2-4, Adult New Reader
Pages — 29

Teaching Resource Includes:

Book Summary
Words for Students to Know
Introduction to the Book Features
Discussion Questions for Students Prior to Reading the Book
Discussion Questions for Students After Reading the Book
A Few Ideas for Extension Activities
Word Find

Garrett Augustus Morgan: Businessman, Inventor, Good Citizen

Genre — Non Fiction/Biography
Reading Level — Grades 2-4, Adult New Reader
Pages — 56

Teaching Resource Includes:

Book Summary
Words for Students to Know
Introduction to the Book Features
Discussion Questions for Students Prior to Reading the Book
Discussion Questions for Students After Reading The Book
A Few Ideas for Extension Activities
Word Find