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Map Your Way with Great Books

Updated: Jan 28, 2023

Off we sail into a brand new school year complete with its treasure chest of opportunities. To accompany you on your scholarly journey, Clover’s got suggestions to help you “Map Your Way with Great Books.” Whether your eyes are gracing the page for pleasure or a required assignment, reading builds academic muscle and provides entertainment galore. With Clover as your captain, Paging On is a bee-light.

The Community Literacy Foundation, in partnership with Neighborhood Reads and with support from its sponsors, provides these books to 40 school and public libraries in Washington, Union, Pacific, St. Clair and surrounding communities. Learn more at

Youngest Read

While we know we learn in desks situated in buildings with four walls, are called to class by a bell, and taught by a teacher, how many of us consider knowledge can happen anywhere and continue throughout our lives? That’s the theme of “School is Wherever I Am,” an A+ picture book with text and illustrations by Ellie Peterson.

Readers meet a little boy with big glasses walking to Horace Mann Elementary School (research Mann and learn his connection to education). The boy’s classroom is traditional, like others throughout our land — “School is where I laugh and where I write. It’s where I create, where I solve and stumble. It’s where I wonder …”

Simple, expressive illustrations portray the boy on a typical school day. Then the book shifts showing ways he learns when he’s not solving math problems and printing within the lines. The world opens up offering an education that nature and family provide — everything from a trip to the zoo, to choosing a book from the library to cooking with grandma. In life and school, we occasionally make missteps, but we learn from those too.

This thoughtful book closes on an important note for learners of all ages: “Where is school? School is wherever I am.”

Middle Read

A good education is a brass ring we often take for granted, until we’re reminded it’s a privilege, a lesson made stunningly clear in “I Am Ruby Bridges: How One Six-year-old Girl’s March to School Changed the World,” by Ruby Bridges, with artful, symbolic illustrations by Nikkolas Smith.

Ruby narrates in an affectingly innocent 6-year-old child’s voice. She wonders about her name, Ruby, which her grandmother gave her, and proclaims “I will bridge the ‘gap’ between Black and white … and hopefully between all people.” But first Ruby has to experience trials.

It’s 1954 and the courts have banned segregation in public schools. Initially the court’s decision doesn’t affect Ruby, she goes to her usual school and “gets lots of gold stars,” but then her parents drop a bombshell. They want her to switch “To a better school … with better opportunities.”

For Ruby there’s no more walking to school with friends, instead she’s driven by four white federal marshals sent by the president. She’s told she’s the “first” but Ruby hasn’t got a clue what that means. Eventually it “hits (her).”

The message in this book is powerful a “School is just a school and kids are just kids,” a message that’s as timeless today as in 1954.

Oldest Read

Fantasy and adventure await in “The Last Mapmaker,” a shiver-me-timers story that will launch readers into a make-believe world. Maties will meet a brave heroine, experience a pulse-pounding voyage, and explore a perilous sea guarded by a dragon with a bad reputation. In her newest book, award winning author Christina Soontornvat gifts young readers with a page-turner they won’t soon forget.

After 20 years of war, the country of Mangkon is at peace—12-year-old Sai lives there with her slovenly father, whose only job is pick-pocketing. He’s far from a model for young Sai who lucks into a job as an assistant to one of the last mapmakers, Paiyoon. Under his tutorage Sai shows great promise in drawing maps and copying Paiyoon’s style, a talent that could elevate her from her low-class status.

Sai longs for a proper ancestry, to wear a lineal with links showing generations of family like others wear. It’s the key to the kingdom for Sai, so when the Queen of Mangkon offers a lineal or a cash prize for those brave enough to go on an expedition to the mysterious southern islands, Sai is overjoyed when Paiyoon invites her to accompany him and chart the voyage.

Neither of them knows what perils await, that the ship will end up in the Harbinger Sea, a “boundary between the human world and that of the spirits,” and that danger lurks on the ship itself. Sai gets her sea-legs as she’s buffeted about by storms, a stowaway, disease, questionable alliances, and a legendary beast. “The Last Mapmaker” is a thrill a minute, entertaining from first page to last.

Written by Chris Stuckenschneider. Copyright 2022, Community Literacy Foundation. Reprinted with permission.

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