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The Best North Carolina Kids Books

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Overground Railroad
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

**A window into a child’s experience of the Great Migration from the award-winning creators of Before She Was Harriet and Finding Langston**.**

As she climbs aboard the New York bound Silver Meteor train, Ruth Ellen embarks upon a journey toward a new life up North– one she can’t begin to imagine. Stop by stop, the perceptive young narrator tells her journey in poems, leaving behind the cotton fields and distant Blue Ridge mountains.

Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the colored car is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view. As they travel, Ruth Ellen reads from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, reflecting on how her journey mirrors her own– until finally the train arrives at its last stop, New York’s Penn Station, and the family heads out into a night filled with bright lights, glimmering stars, and new possiblity.

James Ransome’s mixed-media illustrations are full of bold color and texture, bringing Ruth Ellen’s journey to life, from sprawling cotton fields to cramped train cars, the wary glances of other passengers and the dark forest through which Frederick Douglass traveled towards freedom. Overground Railroad is, as Lesa notes, a story “of people who were running from and running to at the same time,” and it’s a story that will stay with readers long after the final pages.

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Praise for Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Ransome’s Before She Was Harriet**, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and winner of the Christopher Award**

* “Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.”–Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

* “a powerful reminder of how all children carry within them the potential for greatness.”–Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

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Good Night Outer Banks
Written & illustrated by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Good Night Outer Banks highlights the Duck Town Boardwalk, North Carolina Aquariums, Jennette’s Pier, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Carova Beach and wild horses, Wright Brothers National Memorial, Currituck Beach Lighthouse, pirates, ghost crabs, and more. This book is part of the bestselling Good Night Our World series, which includes hundreds of titles exploring iconic locations and exciting, child-friendly themes. Many of North America’s most beloved regions are artfully celebrated in these board books designed to soothe children before bedtime while instilling an early appreciation for the North America’s natural and cultural wonders. Each book stars a multicultural group of people visiting the featured area’s attractions as rhythmic language guides children through the passage of both a single day and the four seasons while saluting the iconic aspects of each place. This charming and educational board book takes young readers on an unforgettable tour of the Outer Banks. From beaches and lighthouses to fishing and sea turtles, no seashell is left unturned!

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Caterpillar Summer
Written by Gillian McDunn
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond. When Chicken has a “meltdown”, Cat’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s always knows what he needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat is the glue holding her family together. When a summer trip doesn’t go as planned, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they’ve never met. With their help, Cat can be a kid again for the first time in years, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes. Perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, this special novel features an unforgettable voice and is brimming with heart.

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Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile
Written by Gloria Houston & illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When Dorothy was a young girl, she loved books, and she loved people, so she decided that she would become a librarian. Dorothy’s dearest wish is to be a librarian in a fine brick library just like the one she visited when she was small. But her new home in North Carolina has valleys and streams but no libraries, so Miss Dorothy and her neighbors decide to start a bookmobile. Instead of people coming to a fine brick library, Miss Dorothy can now bring the books to them—at school, on the farm, even once in the middle of a river! Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile is an inspiring story about the love of books, the power of perseverance, and how a librarian can change people’s lives.

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Wish
Written & illustrated by Barbara O'Connor
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

A touching story about a girl and her dog, perfect for young fans of A Dog’s Purpose Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all. From award-winning author Barbara O’Connor comes a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places. This title has Common Core connections.

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  • Willa of the Wood - From #1 New York Times best-selling author Robert Beatty comes a thrilling new series set in the magical world of Serafina. Move without a sound. Steal without a trace. Willa, a young night-spirit of the Great Smoky Mountains, is her clan’s best thief. She creeps into the homes of day-folk under cover of darkness and takes what they won’t miss. It’s dangerous work-the day-folk kill whatever they do not understand–but Willa will do anything to win the approval of the padaran, the charismatic leader of the Faeran people. When Willa’s curiosity leaves her hurt and stranded in the day world, she calls upon an ancient, unbreakable bond to escape. Only then does she discover the truth: not all day-folk are the same, and the foundations that have guarded the Faeran for eons are under attack. As forces of unfathomable destruction encroach on her home, Willa must decide who she truly is. To save the day-folk family that has become her own–and lift the curse that has robbed her people of their truth–Willa will meet deadly force with trusted alliance, violence with shelter, and an ever-changing world with a steady heartbeat of courage.

  • Where the Watermelons Grow - Fans of The Thing About Jellyfish and A Snicker of Magic will be swept away by Cindy Baldwin’s debut middle grade about a girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness. When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren’t there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time. With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations. But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.

  • Stella by Starlight - When a burning cross set by the Klan causes panic and fear in 1932 Bumblebee, North Carolina, fifth-grader Stella must face prejudice and find the strength to demand change in her segregated town.

  • Aim - As World War II threatens the United States in 1941, fourteen-year-old Junior Bledsoe fights his own battles at home. Junior struggles with school and with anger–at his father, his insufferable granddaddy, his neighbors, and himself–as he desperately tries to understand himself and find his own aim in life. But he finds relief in escaping to the quiet of the nearby woods and tinkering with cars, something he learned from his Pop, and a fatherly neighbor provides much-needed guidance. This heartfelt and inspiring prequel to the author’sBlue andComfort also includes an author’s note and bibliography.

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Ernestine's Milky Way
Written & illustrated by Kerry Madden
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

In Maggie Valley, North Carolina, in the 1940s, Ernestine, who is five years old and a big girl, carries fresh milk to needy neighbors through thickets, down paths, and over a barbed-wire fence, despite her fears.

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Pocket Bios: Blackbeard
Written & illustrated by Al Berenger
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A colorfully illustrated, pocket-size picture book biography of the notorious English pirate Blackbeard. Blackbeard, born Edward Teach, was a notorious and much-feared English pirate who famously conquered and captained the Queen Anne’s Revenge and prowled the seas around the West Indies and the eastern coast of Britain’s North American colonies. Rather than ruling through force and bloody intimidation, it’s believed that Blackbeard largely let his fierce image and reputation drive his success. Pocket Bios are full of personality, introducing readers to fascinating figures from history with simple storytelling and cheerful illustrations. Titles include men and women from history, exploration, the sciences, the arts, the ancient world, and more.

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Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton
Written & illustrated by Don Tate
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Based on true events of important US history, this non-fiction narrative, the biography of George Moses Horton introduces students to a story of determination and a profound love of words. In the nineteenth century, North Carolina slave George Moses Horton taught himself to read and earned money to purchase his time-though not his freedom. Horton became the first African American to be published in the South, protesting slavery in the form of verse. Told with vivid, figurative language; metaphor, simile and hyperbole. Students will use story elements; setting, plot and character development as they understand themes of determination, pride, talent, freedom, slavery, abolition and poetry as a form of expression. There is informational back matter- Author’s Note.<br> Curriculum Connections: Biography; George Moses Horton, narrative non-fiction, vivid, figurative language, story elements; setting, plot and character development, cause and effect, Themes: slavery, love of words, poetry, determination, talent, pride, freedom, abolition. Informational back matter- Author’s Note

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Surviving the Applewhites
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The side-splittingly funny Newbery Honor Book about a rebellious boy who is sent to a home-schooling program run by one family--the creative, kooky, loud, and loving Applewhites!

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Every Missing Piece
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
A stunning voice-driven novel about grief, family, and putting the pieces back together for "fans of Rebecca Stead and Erin Entrada Kelly" (BCCB) and "readers who enjoyed The Thing About Jellyfish (Booklist).
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  • Great Smoky Mountains Salamander Ball - Children will delight in this fantastic tale of a young girl’s vacation in the Smoky Mountains. Wandering from her tent late one summer’s night, Sara finds an invitation she just can’t resist! She watches the grand ball from safely behind a tree until suddenly she is discovered. <p/>Author Lisa Horstman is the winner of the Dr.Seuss Picture Book Award for her first children’s book <i>Fast Friends</i>. <i>The Great Smoky Mountains Salamander Ball</i> won the National Park Service First Place Award for Excellence.<br>

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