Picture Book: I am an English Language Learner by Melissa Campesi

Middle Grade Novel (Younger):  Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac

Middle Grade Novel (Upper):  The 47 People You'll Meet in Middle School by Kristin Mahoney

Graphic Novel: New Kid by Jerry Craft

Melissa Campesi

Our Picture Book winner is I Am an English Language Learner  by Melissa Campesi. 

When children come to the United States from other countries and need to learn English, they become English language learners. I Am an English-Language Learner introduces eight children from various countries who are learning English in their new homes. They share what they miss about their native countries, how they feel about living in the United States, and what they dream of doing, helping everyone understand that the best education comes from learning about one another. 

The New Jersey author of this book, Melissa Campesi, grew up in a bilingual household filled with music, writing, cooking, playing, and laughter. She is certified as an ESL educator in New Jersey. Her hope is to inspire our youth to explore their natural creative channels to enhance their everyday life. Her most recent book, Imagine Song, is an inspiring story about a young girl named Melody who has been awakened by the gift of songwriting.


Joseph Bruchac

Middle Grade Novel (younger) Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac

Rez Dogs tells a powerful story of a girl who learns more about her Penacook heritage while sheltering in place with her grandparents during the coronavirus pandemic. Told in verse inspired by oral storytelling, this novel about the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the ways in which Indigenous nations and communities cared for one another through plagues of the past, and how they keep caring for one another today.

Dr. Joseph Bruchac is an Abenaki Indian author and storyteller. He is one of the most prominent contemporary Native American storytellers today having written over 120 books for children and adults. Bruchac's books about Native American life in the past and present are highly recommended for their accuracy and story quality. He continues to work with his family in projects involving the preservation of Abenaki culture, language and traditional Native skills.

Among Dr. Joseph Bruchac’s most notable literary works are Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children (with Michael Caduto), Code Talker: A Book About the Navajo Marines, and Crazy Horse’s Vision (illustrated by S.D. Nelson).  His book, A Peacemaker for Warring Nations: The Founding of the Iroquois League, has won numerous awards including being the Distinguished Favorite in the “Children’s Education” category of the 2022 NYC Big Book Awards.


Kristin Mahoney

Middle Grade Novel (Upper)- The 47 People You'll Meet in Middle School by Kristin Mahoney

The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School, is a true guide for anyone nervously approaching middle school. Publisher’s Weekly notes that “Mahoney authentically captures the universal indignities of middle school, the challenges of self-discovery, and the joy of making true friends."

New Jersey author and teacher Kristin Mahoney spent her hours as a child in North Carolina making up stories in her driveway and having adventures with her brother and neighborhood kids. Encouraged to write at a young age, she dreamed of growing up to write books for kids and is thrilled to enjoy that today. Her books include Annie’s Life in Lists, named one of A Mighty Girl’s Book of the Year, and Elfie Unperfect.

Jerry Craft

Graphic Novel: New Kid by Jerry Craft 

New Kid, a Newberry Medal winner, Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature, is an honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real. The protagonist, Jordan, is torn between two worlds and is not really fitting into either one.

Jerry Craft is the creator of Mama’s Boyz, a comic strip that was distributed by King Features Syndicate from 1995-2013, and won five African American Literary Awards. Jerry is a co-founder of the Schomburg’s Annual Black Comic Book Festival. He was born in Harlem and grew up in nearby Washington Heights. He is also the creator of the graphic novel Class Act and his latest novel is School Trip which continues the adventures of his characters from New Kid.

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BookSmiles: BookSmiles is an organization that seeks to end book deserts and aid in the creation of classroom libraries. If you or your students are in need of books, please register to visit BookSmiles today!

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