This list was compiled by Linda Williams for the Connecticut State Department of Education. Most selected titles are loosely connected to Connecticut’s statewide summer reading theme, UNDERGROUND. Many have been selected as exemplary books by at least one of the following: American Library Association (ALA) the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), or the National Science Teachers Assocation (NSTA) or (USBBY). Note: There is little coverage of high school level titles by any of these organizations other than ALA. (Download a .pdf of the list)
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Regretting her decision to forfeit her life on Earth to become an immortal on Everneath, a world between Earth and Hell, teenaged Nikki is given the chance to return to the Surface for six months, in this story loosely based on the “Hades and Persephone” myth. Lexile: 590
VOYA Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror
Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
In September 1973, as the school year begins in his depressed Ohio town, high-school senior Kurt Shoemaker determines to be “normal,” despite his chaotic home life with his volatile, alcoholic mother and the deep loyalty and affection he has for his friends in the therapy group dubbed the Madman Underground. Lexile: 1040
Bone Dance by Martha Brooks
When her father wills her a cabin on land in rural Manitoba, Alexandra meets a young man who shares her Indian heritage and her experience of being haunted by spirits.
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
Eighteen-year-old New Zealand boarding school student Ellie Spencer must use her rusty tae kwon do skills and new-found magic to try to stop a fairy-like race of creatures from Maori myth and legend that is plotting to kill millions of humans in order to regain their lost immortality. Lexile: 790
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
The shaky marriage between Henry Mcallan and his city-bred wife Laura becomes even more unstable when his brother Jamie returns from World War Ii in 1946 to help work the family’s miserable cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta, along with his comrade-in-arms Ronsel Jackson, the oldest son of local sharecroppers, who soon learns that his heroics in battle mean nothing in the Jim Crow south.
The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee
Queen Victoria has a problem: there’s a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency assigns quick-witted Mary Quinn to the case. Posing as a domestic in the royal household and fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales are challenge enough, but when the prince witnesses a murder in an opium den — and scandal threatens the royal family — Mary learns that the accused killer may be someone very close to her. (The Agency series, book 3)
The Beet Fields: Memories of a Sixteenth Summer by Gary Paulsen
The author recalls his experiences as a migrant laborer and carnival worker after he ran away from home at age sixteen. Lexile: 1070
Buried Onions by Gary Soto
When nineteen-year-old Eddie drops out of college, he struggles to find a place for himself as a Mexican American living in a violence-infested neighborhood of Fresno, California. Lexile: 850
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
Born the bastard son of a Welsh princess, Myridden Emrys — or as he would later be known, Merlin — leads a perilous childhood, haunted by portents and visions. But destiny has great plans for this no-man’s-son, taking him from prophesying before the High King Vortigern to the crowning of Uther Pendragon … and the conception of Arthur — king for once and always. Lexile: 960
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Seventeen-year-old Karou, a lovely, enigmatic art student in a Prague boarding school, carries a sketchbook of hideous, frightening monsters–the chimaerae who form the only family she has ever known. Lexile: 850
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Enduring a hardscrabble existence as the children of alcoholic and absent parents, four siblings from a coastal Mississippi town prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups. Lexile: 890
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can. Lexile: 1020
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson
Collects eleven short stories from American author Kevin Wilson, including “Grand Stand-in,” Blowing Up On the Spot,”and “The Dead Sister Handbook: a Guide for Sensitive Boys.”
Pitch Black by Youme Landowne & Anthony Horowitz
Youme describes her unique collaboration with artist Anthony Horton, which began as the two traveled together on the New York subway system.
There’s a Hair in My Dirt!: A Worm’s Story by Gary Larson
A young earthworm, upset to discover a hair in his dinner dirt, gets a lesson about the realities of nature from his father, and learns about his importance in the perpetuation of life on Earth.
Corpses, Coffins and Crypts: A History of Burial by Penny Colman
Documents the burial process throughout the centuries and in different cultures. Lexile: 1190
Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese
Traces the history of coal, discussing how it has been used in different cultures, how it is mined, what negative effects it has had on people, economics, and the environment, and the role it has played in world history and development.
Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson
Tells the story of the discovery in 1991 of a World War II German U-boat, sunk sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey, by deep sea divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, and their six year obsession with identifying the submarine which sank with its crew onboard.
Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives by Albert Marrin
A history of the slick and foul-smelling substance that drives our existence and that becomes scarcer as our dependence on it grows. Lexile: 1070
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Explores how human cadavers have been used throughout history, discussing how the use of dead bodies has benefited every aspect of human existence. Lexile: 1230
Outstanding Books for the College Bound
The Ditchdigger’s Daughters by Yvonne S. Thornton
The author describes her experiences as an African American girl growing up in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and how she and her sisters formed a singing group to finance their education and went on to become successful despite the obstacles in their paths.
This list was compiled by Linda Williams for the Connecticut State Department of Education. Some of the titles selected are loosely connected to Connecticut’s statewide summer reading theme, UNDERGROUND or are written or illustrated by Connecticut residents. Many listed titles have been selected as exemplary books by at least one of the following: American Library Association (ALA) the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Science Teachers Assocation (NSTA) or the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY). (Download a .pdf of the list).
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
An old hound that has been chained up at his hateful owner’s run-down shack, and two kittens born underneath the house, endure separation, danger, and many other tribulations before they finally end up reunited and free. Lexile: 830
ALA, National Book Award
Perloo the Bold by Avi
Perloo, a peaceful scholar who has been chosen to succeed Jolaine as leader of the furry underground people called the Montmers, finds himself in danger when Jolaine dies and her evil son seizes control of the burrow. Lexile: 730
Nutmeg Nominee 2003
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A ten-year-old orphan comes to live in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors where she discovers an invalid cousin and the mysteries of a locked garden. Lexile: 970
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
When eleven-year-old Gregor and his two-year-old sister are pulled into a strange underground world, they trigger an epic battle involving men, bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders while on a quest foretold by ancient prophecy. Lexile: 630
Nutmeg Nominee, Connecticut Author
Family Reminders by Julie Danneberg
In 1890s Cripple Creek, Colorado, when young Mary McHugh’s father loses his leg in a mining accident, she tries to help, both by earning money and by encouraging her father to go back to carving wooden figurines and playing piano. Lexile: 780
Where the Ground Meets the Sky by Jackie Davies
During World War II, a twelve-year-old girl is uprooted from her quiet, East coast life and moved to a secluded army post in the New Mexico desert where her father and other scientists are working on a top secret project. Lexile: 590
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
In the year 241, twelve-year-old Lina trades jobs on Assignment Day to be a Messenger to run to new places in her decaying but beloved city, perhaps even to glimpse Unknown Regions. Lexile: 680
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
One by one, a number of people of varying ages and backgrounds transform a trash-filled inner-city lot into a productive and beautiful garden, and, in doing so, the gardeners are themselves transformed. Lexile: 710
ALA, IRA, NCSS
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
In a series of poems, fifteen-year-old Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family’s wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression. Lexile: NP
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy’s attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site. Lexile: 760
Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
When a new family moves into the neighborhood, the animals of Rabbit Hill are very curious about how these human inhabitants will act. Lexile: 1050
ALA, Connecticut Author
The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
When Jake Limberleg brings his traveling medicine show to a small Missouri town in 1913, thirteen-year-old Natalie senses that something is wrong and, after investigating, learns that her love of automata and other machines make her the only one who can set things right. Lexile: 900
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy
Zulaikha, a thirteen-year-old girl in Afghanistan, faces a series of frightening but exhilirating changes in her life as she defies her father and secretly meets with an old woman who teaches her to read, her older sister gets married, and American troops offer her surgery to fix her disfiguring cleft lip. Lexile: 670
The Grave Robber’s Apprentice by Allan Stratton
Hans, a foundling raised by a grave robber, helps Countess Angela Gabriela, nearly thirteen, when she is torn away from her dream of being a professional puppeteer by an evil archduke out to destroy her and her parents. Lexile: 650
Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith
The adventure starts when cousins Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone are run out of Boneville and later get separated and lost in the wilderness, meeting monsters and making friends as they attempt to return home. (Bone series #6) Lexile: 430
Roots and Blues: A Celebration by Arnold Adoff
Lyrical text explores how Blues have been part of everyday life throughout history, from its origins in the sounds of the earth, through slaves’ voices singing of freedom, to today’s greatest performers–and listeners.
If Stones Could Speak by Marc Aronson
Explores the mysterious monument of Stonehenge and reveals some of its secrets and history. Lexile: 1070
Growing Up in Coal Country by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Describes what life was like, especially for children, in coal mines and mining towns in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Lexile: 1110
Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature’s Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson
Examines real-life accounts of zombies in nature, including a fly-enslaving fungus, a suicide worm, and a cockroach-taming wasp, and related topics. Lexile: 800
Beneath the Streets of Boston by Joe McKendry
Presents an illustrated study of America’s first subway system built in Boston in 1897, and explores how it was dug, problems encountered, and opposition to it.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola
A picture book biography of oceanographer Sylvia Earle, discussing her childhood along the Gulf of Mexico, her passion for the environment, and her experiences in ocean exploration. Lexile: 1170
The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China by Jane O’Connor
Describes the archaeological discovery of thousands of life-sized terracotta warrior statues in northern China in 1974, and discusses the emperor who had them created and placed near his tomb. Lexile: 980
The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families by Susan L. Roth
A cumulative verse, alternating with additional narrative, describes the ecological and social transformation resulting from the work of Dr. Gordon Sato, a Japanese American cell biologist who made saltwater and desert land productive through the planting of mangrove trees in the tiny African country of Eritrea. Lexile: 1190
Buried Alive!: How 33 Miners Survived 69 Days Deep Under the Chilean Desert by Elaine Scott
Describes the 2010 mining accident in San JoseÌ, Chile, in which thirty-three men became trapped underground for over sixty days, and details the rescue efforts and the worldwide media coverage of the event. Lexile: 1060
Some Books by Connecticut Authors & Illustrators
Lunch-Box Dream by Tony Abbott (Trumbull)
Told from multiple points of view, a white family on a 1959 road trip between Ohio and Florida, visiting Civil War battlefields along the way, crosses paths with a black family near Atlanta, where one of their children has gone missing. Lexile: 800
The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin (Milford)
Puzzle-crazy, twelve-year-old Winston and his ten-year-old sister Katie find themselves involved in a dangerous mystery involving a hidden ring. Puzzles for the reader to solve are included throughout the text.
Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach (Easton)
Simon, Henry, and Jack Barker decide to ignore their parents’ warning to stay away from Superstition Mountain in order to search for their missing cat Josie, but they begin to see the wisdom of their mom and dad’s advice when they find three human skulls.
Happenstance Found by P. W. Catanese
A boy awakens, blindfolded, with no memory of even his name, but soon meets Lord Umber, an adventurer and inventor, who calls him Happenstance and tells him that he has a very important destiny–and a powerful enemy.
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor (Madison)
Twelve-year-old Addie tries to cope with her mother’s erratic behavior and being separated from her beloved stepfather and half-sisters when she and her mother go to live in a small trailer by the railroad tracks on the outskirts of Schenectady, New York.
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Glastonbury area)
Carley struggles with being open to love after she suffers a betrayal that forces her to move in with a foster family. Lexile: 520
The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin (Weston)
Twelve-year-old best friends and relatives, Julia and Eliza are happy to spend the summer together while Julia’s mother is serving in the National Guard in Iraq but when they meet a neighborhood boy, their close relationship begins to change. Lexile: 720
Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal
Writing poetry helps fifth-grader Harper Lee Morgan cope with her father’s absence, being evicted, and having to skip school to care for her brother while their mother works, and things look even brighter after she befriends a mute girl and a kindly disabled woman.
The Underdogs by Mike Lupica
Small but fast twelve-year-old Will Tyler, an avid football player in the down-and-out town of Forbes, Pennsylvania, takes matters into his own hands to try and finance the city’s football team, giving the whole community hope in the process.
True Blue by Jane Smiley, illustrations by Elaine Clayton (Westport)
In 1960s California, eighth-grader Abby Lovitt has trouble with True Blue, the newest horse on her family’s ranch, a beautiful dappled gray who is so often spooked, Abby wonders if he is haunted by the ghost of his deceased former owner. Lexile: 950
At the Sea Floor Cafe: Odd Ocean Critter Poems by Leslie Bulion (Durham)
An illustrated collection of poems that provides information about some of the creatures that live in the sea. Includes a glossary of scientific terms. Lexile: 1130.
Tsunami Warning by Taylor Morrison (Meriden)
Describes tsunamis and how people can be warned about them.
Across the Wide Ocean by Karen Romano Young (Bethel)
In the world’s last uncharted frontier, most things are on the move–often a long move. Using maps and charts, oceanography and navigational tools, intrepid explorers and researchers have followed the ocean’s pathways and created some of their own
This list was compiled by Linda Williams for the Connecticut State Department of Education. Many of the titles selected are loosely connected to Connecticut’s statewide summer reading theme, UNDERGROUND. Most listed titles have been selected as exemplary books by at least one of the following: American Library Association (ALA) the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Science Teachers Assocation (NSTA) or the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY). (Download a .pdf of the list).
In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby
A fictionalized account of how plant scientist George Washington Carver came to an Alabama school and taught the children how to grow plants and reap the rewards of nature’s bounty. Includes factual note about George Washington Carver. Lexile: 990
Boy of the Deeps by Ian Wallace
James, the son of a coal miner, goes with his father for the first time to work in the mines of Cape Breton. Lexile: 690
Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Dinosaur Bones by David A. Adler
When she notices some bones missing from a dinosaur skeleton exhibited in the museum, a young girl with a photographic memory tries to discover who has been taking them and why. Lexile: 490
The End of the Beginning by Avi
Avon the snail and Edward, a take-charge ant, set off together on a journey to an undetermined destination in search of unspecified adventures. Lexile: 620
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
Three farmers, each one meaner than the other, try all-out warfare to get rid of the fox and his family. Lexile: 600
Tales From the Waterhole by Bob Graham
During the dry season, Morris the crocodile and his animal friends enjoy playing in and near the water hole. Lexile: 490
Watch Out World, Rosy Cole is Going Green! by Sheila Greenwald
Rosie’s team comes up with some creative ideas for the Read School Fall Fair, whose mission is to sell “green-themed” products. Lexile: 760
Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy
Although Aunt Arlene tries to interest her in clothing and growing up, ten-year-old Mildred is entirely focused on growing a pumpkin big enough to win the annual Circleville, Ohio, contest, as her mother dreamed of doing before she died. Lexile: 790
Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise
In this story told mostly through letters, children’s book author, I. B. Grumply, gets more than he bargained for when he rents a quiet place to write for the summer. Lexile: 730
Nutmeg Nominee 2004
Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner
With help from her Grandma Barb, Marty builds a habitat for worms in her school cafeteria as part of the Save the Earth Project.
Nanny Piggins and the Wicked Plan by R. A. Spratt
When Mr. Green announces his diabolical plan to remarry, his children are horrified at the thought of losing their beloved Nanny Piggins. Includes a story called “Nanny Piggins and the Tunnel to China.” Lexile: 880
Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst
Lulu’s parents refuse to give in when she demands a brontosaurus for her birthday and so she sets out to find her own, but while the brontosaurus she finally meets approves of pets, he does not intend to be Lulu’s. Lexile: 910
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura and her family move to Minnesota where they live in a dugout until a new house is built and face misfortunes caused by flood, blizzard, and grasshoppers. Lexile: 720
Leo Geo: And His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth by Jon Chad
Armed with scientific knowledge and a magic dagger, Leo is determined to outwit man-eating Quadclops giants and Malvisors and travel to the center of the earth.
The Secret of the Stones by Robert D. San Souci
When they try to find out who is doing their chores while they are working in the field, a childless couple discovers that the two stones they have brought home are actually two bewitched orphans. Lexile: 700
Wild Tracks!: A Guide to Nature’s Footprints by Jim Arnosky
Learn how to read the secret language of animal tracks. Find out how to tell how fresh tracks are, which animals made the, how fast they might have been traveling, and more. Lexile: 1040
A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston
Introduces readers to rocks and minerals, describing how they are created, what they can be used for, and their different forms and types. Lexile: 1110
Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator by Sarah Campbell
Stunning photographs and a fact-filled story deliver a closeup look at a day in the life of a tiny, and unexpected, predator-the seriously slimy wolfsnail.
If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian
Celebrates the variety of rocks that can be found, including skipping rocks, chalk rocks, and splashing rocks. Lexile: 930
Bones: Skeletons and How They Work by Steve Jenkins
A guide to human and animal skeletons provides informative comparisons while sharing such facts as the number of bones in the human body and the ways that skeletal structures work. Lexile: 980
Muddy as a Duck Puddle: And Other American Similes by Laurie Lawlor
A collection of 26 American similes–one for each letter of the alphabet–including notes on the origins and meanings of each.
Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Tracey Fern
Documents the work of an early twentieth-century paleontologist, named after the famous circus icon by his ambitious parents, who grew up to work for the American Museum of Natural History and discovered the first documented skeletons of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and other noteworthy species. Lexile: 1010
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli
The story of Wangari Maathai, who in 1977 founded the Green Belt Movement, an African grassroots organization, and in 2004 was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Lexile: 710
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley
The true story of Victorian artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who built life-sized models of dinosaurs in the hope of educating the world about what these awe-inspiring ancient animals and what they were like. Lexile: 550
This list was compiled by Linda Williams for the Connecticut State Department of Education. Many of the titles selected are loosely connected to Connecticut’s statewide summer reading theme, UNDERGROUND. Most listed titles have been selected as exemplary books by at least one of the following: American Library Association (ALA) the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), or the National Science Teachers Assocation (NSTA). (Download a .pdf of the list).
Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond
Thirteen-year-old Kit goes to live with his grandfather in the decaying coal mining town of Stoneygate, England, and finds both the old man and the town haunted by ghosts of the past. Lexile: 470
The Compound by S. Bodeen
After his parents, two sisters, and he have spent six years in a vast underground compound built by his wealthy father to protect them from a nuclear holocaust, fifteen-year-old Eli, whose twin brother and grandmother were left behind, discovers that his father has perpetrated a monstrous hoax on them all. Lexile: 570
Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan W. Eckert
A shy, lonely six-year-old wanders into the Canadian prairie and spends a summer under the protection of a badger.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Nobody Owens is a normal boy, except that he has been raised by ghosts and other denizens of the graveyard. Lexile:
The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt
Traces the hard life, filled with losses, adversity, and adventure, of Amos, son of a trapper and dowser, from 1833 when his mother dies giving birth to him until 1859, when he himself has grown up and has a son of his own.
The Breaker Boys by Pat Hughes
In 1897, Nate Tanner, the hot-tempered twelve-year-old son of wealthy Pennsylvania mine owners, goes against his father’s wishes by befriending some of the boys who work in the mines and gets caught up in a disasterous clash between mine workers and the law. Lexile: 640
Bone by Bone by Bone by Tony Johnston
In 1950s Tennessee, ten-year-old David’s racist father refuses to let him associate with his best friend Malcolm, an African American boy. Lexile: 680
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Throughout her high school years, as her mother battles cancer, Lupita takes on more responsibility for her house and seven younger siblings, while finding refuge in acting and writing poetry. Includes glossary of Spanish terms. Lexile: 990
Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar
When her father is injured, fourteen-year-old Nazia is pulled away from school, her friends, and her preparations for an arranged marriage, to help her mother clean houses in a wealthy part of Karachi, Pakistan, where she finally rebels against the destiny that is planned for her. Lexile: 770
Holes by Louis Sachar
As further evidence of his family’s bad fortune which they attribute to a curse on a distant relative, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hellish correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself. Lexile: 660
Downsiders by Neal Shusterman
When fourteen-year-old Lindsay meets Talon, who lives in the secret Downsider community that evolved in the subterranean passages of the subway built in New York in 1867, she and her new friend try to bridge the differences between their two cultures. Lexile: 1110
Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith
When fourteen-year-old Alex is framed for murder, he becomes an inmate in the Furnace Penitentiary, where brutal inmates and sadistic guards reign, boys who disappear in the middle of the night sometimes return weirdly altered, and escape might just be possible.
Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples
During the 2001 Afghan War, the lives of Najmal, a young refugee from Kunduz, Afghanistan, and Nusrat, an American-Muslim teacher who is awaiting her huband’s return from Mazar-i-Sharif, intersect at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. Lexile: 1010
ALA, IRA, NCSS
Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
On the day in 1935 when her mother vanishes during the worst dust storm ever recorded in Kansas, Callie learns that she is not actually a human being. Lexile: 700
Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem by Marilyn Nelson
A series of poems on the life of Fortune, an eighteenth-century African-American slave in New England whose skeleton came to be an exhibit at Connecticut’s Mattatuck Museum; includes notes and archival photos.
Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners From 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert by Marc Aronson
Tells the story of thirty-three miners trapped in a copper-gold mine in San Jose, Chile and how experts from around the world, from drillers, to astronauts, to submarine specialists, came together to make their remarkable rescue possible. Lexile: 1070
Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850 by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Draws from letters, diaries, and other documents to chronicle the Irish potato famine of 1845-50, describing the political and personal impact it had on Ireland and its people, and presenting illustrations from contemporary newspapers. Lexile: 1040
The Prairie Builders: Reconstructing America’s Lost Grasslands by Sneed B. Collard
Join the scientists working in the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge as they work to rebuild the tallgrass prairie that once covered much of the Midwest and restore the native plants and animals to the region. Lexile:
Bodies From the Ash by James M. Deem
Describes the archaeological excavations that began on the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum which had been buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79. Lexile: 1120
ALA, NCSS, NSTA
Faces From the Past: Forgotten People of North America by James M. Deem
Describes the discovery of bodies in North America from fifteen to twenty thousand years ago, and discusses the evidence their remains reveal about themselves and the civilizations in which they lived. Lexile: 1190
Alien Deep: Revealing the Mysterious Living World at the Bottom of the Ocean by Bradley Hague
Embarks on a recent, specific deepwater exploration that illuminates new knowledge about our oceans and enable young readers to observe the processes involved in marine exploration. Lexile: 1120
Mysterious Bones: The Story of Kennewick Man by Katherine Kirkpatrick
Presents the story of Kennewick Man, one of the oldest and most complete skeletons found in America near the Columbia River in Washington. Lexile: 1150
Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl by Albert Marrin
The causes and results of the Dust Bowl and how the lessons learned are still used today. Lexile: 1040
Every Bone Tells a Story by Jill Rubalcaba & Peter Robertshaw
When did language begin? How did early humans populate the globe? By looking closely at four of the most significant hominins ever discovered, the authors explain how Turkana Boy, Lapedo Child, Kennewick Man, and Iceman have influenced debates about the nature of the earliest members of the family Hominidae. Lexile: 1010
ALA, NCSS, NSTA
Secret Subway: The Fascinating Tale of an Amazing Feat of Engineering by Martin Sandler
In 1869, Alfred Beach wanted to build America’s first air-powered railway below New York City, but Boss Tweed, powerful politician and notorious crook, opposed. Working under night cover, Beach and his crew carved a three-hundred-foot tunnel beneath a department store. Before long, the project was discovered and the public raved about its potential. But no further tunnels were ever built. What happened to Beach’s railway, and where is it now? Lexile: 1260
Secrets of a Civil War Submarine by Sally M. Walker
Tells the story of the “H. L. Hunley,” the Confederate submarine that in 1864 became the first to ever sink an enemy ship but lay missing on the ocean floor for more than a century, describing its creation, its discovery, skeletons and objects found onboard, and facial reconstructions of several crew members by forensic anthropologists. Lexile: 1060
Saga of the Sioux by Dwight Jon Zimmerman
An illustrated adaptation for children of Brown’s account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. Lexile: 1140
This list was compiled by Linda Williams for the Connecticut State Department of Education. Some of the titles selected are loosely connected to Connecticut’s statewide summer reading theme, UNDERGROUND or are written or illustrated by Connecticut residents. Many listed titles have been selected as exemplary books by at least one of the following: American Library Association (ALA) the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Science Teachers Assocation (NSTA) or the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY). (Download a .pdf of the list). These titles were selected as books that could be read by children going in grades K-2. Lexile measures are noted where known. According to the Lexile Framework for Reading, Lexile measures from 0-300 = Grade 1 and from 140-500 = Grade 2 reading levels.
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin
A young worm discovers, day by day, that there are some very good and some not so good things about being a worm in this great big world. Lexile: 360
Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming
After planting the garden he has dreamed of for years, Mr. McGreely tries to find a way to keep some persistent bunnies from eating all his vegetables. Lexile: 560
Oh, No! by Candace Fleming
A series of animals falls into a deep hole, only to be saved at last by a very large rescuer.
Underground by Denise Fleming
Pulp paintings and rhyming text spotlight the underground world of burrowing, tunneling, and digging animals. Includes “Creature Indentification” page. Lexile: BR
Yucky Worms by Vivian French
While helping Grandma in the garden, a child learns about the important role of the earthworm in helping plants grow. Lexile: 620
Spike, the Mixed-Up Monster by Susan Hood
While Spike, a tiny axolotl salamander, practices being the monster he believes he is, other animals call him cute and funny but when a gila monster arrives and the other creatures hide, Spike shows his true nature.
Cooperative Children’s Book Center Best of 2012, Connecticut Author
Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst
A young man has a lifelong love of rock collecting that eventually leads him to work at a science museum. Lexile: 440
Water Hole Waiting by Jane Kurtz
A thirsty monkey waits as the larger animals drink from the water hole on the African savanna. Lexile: 280
I’m Dirty! by Kate McMullan
A busy backhoe loader describes all the items it hauls off a lot and all the fun it has getting dirty while doing so.
Goldie and the Three Hares by Margie Palatini
When Goldilocks, running from the three bears, falls down a rabbit hole and hurts her foot, a family of hares tries to help but she proves to be a very loud, demanding, and tenacious guest. Lexile: 610
Mud by Mary Lyn Ray
As winter melts into spring, the frozen earth turns into magnificent mud. Lexile: 320
Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds
The carrots that grow in Crackenhopper Field are the fattest and crispiest around and Jasper Rabbit cannot resist pulling some to eat each time he passes by, until he begins hearing and seeing creepy carrots wherever he goes.
Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? by Brianna Caplan Sayres
Illustrations and rhyming text reveal what trucks, tractors, and construction vehicles do to get ready for bed after a hard day’s work.
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
A child explores the ordinary life of his extraordinary great-grandfather, as expressed in his topiary garden. Lexile: 360
The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Janet Stevens
When a tennis ball lands in a prairie dog town, the residents find that their newfound frenzy for fuzz creates a fiasco. Lexile: 420
Demolition by Sally Sutton
This picture book follows the demolition of a building as well as the construction of something entirely different in its place.
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
On a cold winter night many animals gather to party in the cave of a sleeping bear, who then awakes and protests that he has missed the food and the fun.
The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins
Scorned by his new dog friends because he never learned to dig, Sam suddenly discovers his inherent dog talent and turns the countryside into a series of ruts and holes. Lexile: 340
Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
When a white dog with black spots runs away from home, he gets so dirty his family doesn’t recognize him as a black dog with white spots. Lexile: 370
Stinky by Eleanor Davis
Stinky, a monster who lives in a swamp, gets upset when a boy named Nick starts hanging around his swamp, and so he tries to scare Nick away. Lexile: 170
Clay Boy by Mirra Ginsburg
Wanting a son, an old man and woman make a clay boy who comes to life and begins eating everything in sight until he meets a clever goat. Lexile: 320
Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens
Hare turns his bad luck around by striking a clever deal with the rich and lazy bear down the road. Lexile: 580
Underground by Shane Evans
A family silently crawls along the ground. They run barefoot through unlit woods, sleep beneath bushes, take shelter in a kind stranger’s home. Where are they heading? They are heading for Freedom by way of the Underground Railroad.
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
During a cross country ski trip through the winter woods, adventurers can discover all sorts of animals living under the snow. Lexile: 700
ALA, NCTE, NSTA
Seed, Soil, Sun: Earth’s Recipe for Food by Cris Peterson
Follows a corn plant from tiny seed to giant plant in an explanation of how air and water combine with seed, soil, and sun to grow food. Lexile: 1050
Subway Ride by Heather Lynn Miller, illustrated by Sue Rama
Follows five children as they ride subways in ten cities throughout the world.
Seeds by Ken Robbins
From flowers to fruits, everything begins with a tiny seed. Young readers will learn how seeds grow, and how they vary in shape, size, and dispersal patterns. From cherry pits to exploding pods, to sticktight seeds that cling to your shoes, acclaimed photographer and author Ken Robbins illuminates how wondrous nature springs up throughout the year before our very eyes.
Construction Zone by Cheryl Hudson Willis
Simple text and colorful photographs describe the excitement of a busy construction site. Lexile: 790
Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter by David Sheldon
The story of a young boy who wanted to grow up a dinosaur hunter and how he built an amazing dinosaur collection for the American Museum of Natural History. Lexile: 1060
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola
Tells the remarkable story of one woman’s effort to change the fate of her land by teaching many to care for it. An author’s note provides further information about Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement.
Some Books by Connecticut Authors & Illustrators
Easy as Pie by Cari Best (Weston)
Jacob watches his favorite television show, “Baking with Chef Monty,” and bakes a beautiful peach pie, which he gives to his parents for their anniversary.
Too Busy Marco by Roz Chast (Ridgefield)
Marco the bird does not want to take the time to prepare for bedtime because there are so many more important things for him to do.
The Obstinate Pen by Frank W. Dormer (Branford)
Uncle Flood is very pleased with his new pen until he tries to write with it and finds that it writes only what it wants to for him, and the series of people who try it after him, until finally his nephew Horace tries something new.
Ready for Pumpkins by Kate Duke (New Haven)
A classroom guinea pig learns about gardening by growing his own pumpkin.
Cows to the Rescue by John Himmelman (Killingworth)
After helping the Greenstalk family get to the county fair, the cows busy themselves finding solutions to many other problems that arise during the day. Lexile: 510
Shaggy Dogs, Waggy Dogs by Patricia Hubbell (Easton)
Although dogs enjoy riding in trucks and romping in parks, their favorite activity is loving you.
Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
A little girl who is obsessed with the color pink eats so many pink cupcakes that she herself turns pink.
Miranda’s Beach Day by Holly Keller (New Haven)
Miranda and Mama spend a fun day at the beach building castles and catching sand crabs, and Miranda learns that just like the sand and the sea, she and her mother will always be together.
Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman (Hamden)
An enterprising chicken attempts to help an artist paint the barnyard and accidentally turns the whole picture blue. Lexile: 270
The Tooth Mouse by Susan Hood (Southport)
Introduces readers to the Tooth Mouse, France’s version of the tooth fairy, and to Sophie, a sweet young mouse who must prove she is brave, honest, and wise enough to take over this important job. Lexile: 530
Think Cool Thoughts by Elizabeth Perry, illustrated by Linda Bronson (East Haddam)
On the hottest night of the hottest part of a very hot summer, Angel, her aunt, and mother drag their mattress to the rooftop to sleep and hope for cooler weather.
Abe Lincoln’s Dream by Lane Smith (Washington Depot)
When a schoolgirl gets separated from her tour of the White House and finds herself in the Lincoln bedroom, she also discovers the ghost of the great man himself.
When No One is Watching by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by David Johnson (Windham)
When alone, a young girl enjoys dancing, singing, growling, and cheering but when anyone other than her best friend is watching, she is quiet and shy.
Rocks! Rocks! Rocks! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (Branford)
Buddy likes looking at and collecting rocks. Mama suggests they visit the local nature center. They hike the Blue Diamond Trail to five rock stops. They meet Roxie, a Rock Ridge Ranger. Buddy learns lots about bedrock, erosion, and how rocks are formed. He finds out many surprising things about rocks.
The Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart selected by Mary Ann Hoberman (Greenwich)
A collection of more than 120 poems for children to learn, including selections from classic and contemporary poets, with tips and tricks from former Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman on memorization and recitation.
Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo, illustrated by Julia Denos (Cheshire)
Short biography of actress Audrey Hepburn. Lexile: 740
Bell, Julia. Dirty Work (Walker 2008)
Two teenaged girls with little in common must find a way to work together if they are ever to escape their captors after being abducted into an international prostitution ring.
Collins, Pat Lowery. The Fattening Hut (Houghton Mifflin 2003)
A teenage girl living on a tropical island runs away to escape her tribe’s customs of arranged marriages and female genital mutilation.
Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner (Douglas & McIntyre 2001)
Because the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, impose strict limitations on women’s freedom and behavior, eleven-year-old Parvana must disguise herself as a boy so that her family can survive after her father’s arrest.
Grindley, Sally. Spilled Water (Bloomsbury 2004)
After her father’s death, Lu Si-Yan’s uncle sells her to a rich family who expect her to work as their servant until she is old enough to marry their son, but when she runs away things only get worse.
Kessler, Cristina. No Condition is Permanent (Philomel 2000)
When shy fourteen-year-old Jodie accompanies her anthropologist mother to live in Sierra Leone, she befriends a local girl but encounters a cultural divide that cannot be crossed.
McCormick, Patricia. Sold (Hyperion 2006)(Guide)
Thirteen-year-old Lakshmi leaves her poor mountain home in Nepal thinking that she is to work in the city as a maid only to find that she has been sold into the sex slave trade in India and that there is no hope of escape.
Perkins, Mitali. Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge 2007)
In her Bangladesh village, ten-year-old Naimi excels at painting designs called alpanas, but to help her impoverished family financially she would have to be a boy–or disguise herself as one.
Purcell, Kim. Trafficked (Viking 2012)(Guide)
A seventeen-year-old Moldovan girl whose parents have been killed is brought to the United States to work as a slave for a family in Los Angeles.
Reedy, Trent. Words in the Dust (Scholastic 2011)
Zulaikha, a thirteen-year-old girl in Afghanistan, faces a series of frightening but exhilarating changes in her life as she defies her father and secretly meets with an old woman who teaches her to read, her older sister gets married, and American troops offer her surgery to fix her disfiguring cleft lip.
Russell, Ching Yeung. Child Bride (Boyds Mills 1999)
In the 1940’s in southeastern China, eleven-year-old Ying will do whatever it takes to avoid the marriage arranged for her by a grandmother she barely knows because it would take her away from the grandmother who is raising her.
Sheth, Kashmira. Keeping Corner (Hyperion 2007)
In India in the 1940s, twelve-year-old Leela’s happy, spoiled childhood ends when her husband since age nine, whom she barely knows, dies, leaving her a widow whose only hope of happiness could come from Mahatma Ghandi’s social and political reforms.
Whelan, Gloria. Homeless Bird (HarperCollins, 2000)(Guide)
When thirteen-year-old Koly enters into an ill-fated arranged marriage, she must either suffer a destiny dictated by India’s tradition or find the courage to oppose it.
Williams-Garcia, Rita. No Laughter Here (HarperCollins 2004)
In Queens, New York, ten-year-old Akilah is determined to find out why her closest friend, Victoria, is silent and withdrawn after returning from a trip to her homeland, Nigeria.
Anderson, Judith. An Equal Chance for Girls and Women (Sea-to-Sea 2010)
Follows the stories of four girls, in India, China, Afghanistan, and Angola to show the struggles faced by women around the world for equality, and looks at what is being done to remedy the problem.
Barakat, Ibtisam. Tasting the Sky (Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2007)
A memoir in which the author describes her childhood as a Palestinian refugee, discussing her family’s experiences during and after the Six-Day War, and the freedom she felt at learning to read and write.
Fountas & Pinnell (Guided Reading)(about Guided Reading)
DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) from Pearson
Reading Recovery from Reading Recovery Council of America
ATOS from Renaissance Learning
Level Comparison Charts
Detailed comparison chart from Spring Branch Independent School District, Texas
Graphic guide from Beaverton, Oregon
Quick graphic guide from Dillon, South Carolina and Houghton Mifflin
Another graphic guide from Dillon
Some Leveled Book Lists
Leveled Book Lists from Nancy Giansante, McCarthy-Towne School Acton, MA
Comsewogue Library (NY) Fountas & Pinnell Lookup.
Scholastic Classroom Books (by Guided Reading level)
DRA Leveled Books at Mr. Sapia’s Classroom
Sites for Looking Up Reading Levels
Articles On the Different Rating Systems
Reading Levels of Children’s Books: How Can You Tell? at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page
Readability at Timetabler (commercial enterprise)
5 Leveled Reading Programs You Should Know About at About.com
Beyond Leveled Books: Supporting Early and Transitional Readers in Grades K-5 by Franki Sibberson (Stenhouse, 2008 – 9781571107145)
Compilations of Resources on Other Sites