First Book Releases “Title Raves” List: 10 Books that Make an Impact, According to Educators Serving Kids in Need in Book Deserts

Paired with First Book Bestseller List, Title Raves demonstrates educators’ use of books to meet unique needs of children from low-income families in book deserts

WASHINGTON (May 30, 2019)— First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise committed to equal access to quality education, today released the inaugural “First Book Title Raves,” a list of 10 newly-published books reviewed and recommended by educators exclusively serving children in need. The organization also released the “First Book Bestseller List,” the 10 most-purchased books for children in need based on sales data from the First Book Marketplace, its award-winning eCommerce site. Together, the lists illuminate challenges specific to children in need and offer a distinctive look into educators’ innovative use of books to address them. More than half of all children in U.S. public schools come from low-income households.[1]

Title Raves, which includes titles ranging from board books to young adult fiction, is curated based on five-star educator reviews on the First Book Marketplace that cited the books’ roles in expanding students’ world views, sparking a love of reading, or facilitating safe discussions around sensitive topics. Of “The Bridge Home,” by Padma Venkatraman, First Book educator Kristine P. said, “Whether you teach later elementary or middle grade, you need this touching read in your classroom library. A great read for kids who need to find their own sense of family, or who have to ‘adult’ too much, or who are grieving a loss.” In a survey of First Book member educators, more than 90 percent of respondents said they needed age-appropriate, relevant books and resources to help address the top social issues facing their students, including the effects of poverty and racism.[2]

The First Book Bestseller List reflects the significant need for relevant diverse books, including bilingual English/Spanish editions and titles that reflect the experiences and lives of children in need. Seven of the 10 books are part of the organization’s “Stories for All” section of the First Book Marketplace, a collection of thousands of titles that reflect diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, family structure, neighborhoods, and more, and comprising the largest global collection of inclusive children’s and young adult books curated for educators serving low-income communities.

“The value of this glimpse into the classrooms and programs serving kids in need provided by Titles Raves and the First Book Bestseller List cannot be overstated,” said Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO, and co-founder of First Book. “With these lists, we capture the recommendations of the educators who know kids in need better than anyone, in addition to examples of how they are using books to make a difference. We have a snapshot of how educators are stocking their classrooms, often with the goal of helping children see themselves in the books they read. This kind of data broadens our understanding of the kids who need us the most.”

Access to adequate resources is one of the greatest contributors to educational success in the United States. Research indicates that just the presence of books in the home improves educational outcomes,[3] yet low-income communities across the U.S. are plagued by vast ‘book deserts’—with one community having only a single book per as many as 830 children.[4] Additionally, members of the First Book Network, who exclusively serve kids in need, have indicated that without First Book, the children they serve would have access to very few books, if any at all.[5] 

First Book Research & Insights, the organization’s proprietary research initiative, leverages research and feedback provided by its network of educators to develop free professional resources aimed at helping teachers address the specific challenges in the lives of students in need, including remediating trauma, creating inclusive classrooms, and nurturing children’s social and emotional skills.

The complete Title Raves and Bestseller Lists are below.

First Book Title Raves (listed in alphabetical order by author, with the educator’s review)

  • “The Benefits of Being an Octopus,” by Ann Braden: “This title follows the journey of Zoey, a girl raised in poverty and chaos, as she learns to claim space in the world and see herself as worthy. My students and I love it.”—Wendy G.
  • “Yasmin the Fashionista,” by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly: “Our school has so many Muslim families but the options for representation in literature for early readers is limited. These books were a hit! Parents were asking where to buy copies for their home libraries. Grandparents are positively represented in several of the books as well. The art is FABULOUS.”—Sheila B.
  • “Potato Pants!” by Laurie Keller: “If you are looking for a hilarious, laugh out loud perfect read aloud for K-5, this book is potato-ey perfect! Laurie Keller doesn’t disappoint with her humor, word play and fantastic author’s message. I read this aloud 20 times in our school library and the kids ALL loved it!”—Colleen M.
  • “Darius the Great Is Not Okay,” by Adib Khorram: “This is a such a tender story that focuses on one young man’s struggle to not only see who he is, but who he is in this world. It is such a touching tale of family, friendship, and how even though we may live worlds apart, there is acceptance and understanding to be had. This is a great book for any student struggling to find where they are in this world.”—Brian M.
  • “Baby 101: Anatomy for Babies,” by Jonathan Litton, illustrated by Thomas Elliott: “Great book for moms to read to ages 0-3. Has a lot of great colorful pictures. Great way of explaining to toddlers their anatomy and how it works. AWESOME!”—Patrice A.
  • “The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague,” by Julia Finley Mosca, illustrated by Daniel Rieley: “I used the book for the beginning of the year to immerse the students into the minds of great mathematicians. It was exciting for the 4th and 5th graders to listen to a story about a person who had to overcome a lot of obstacles to pursue her dream. It also opened up the minds of my female students to pursue math.”—Erin I.
  • “Lu,” by Jason Reynolds: “The Track Series is a popular read in my classroom library. My students have been anxiously awaiting the fourth book. They have devoured it within days of reading it. If you do not have these series in your classroom library, you must get it. My reluctant readers and my engaged readers love it.”—Anna F.
  • “The Wind Called My Name,” by Mary Louise Sanchez: “So far my students have loved this book! Having many students of diverse cultures, many of whom are immigrants or first generation born here, it is easy to relate to, and one of the books that they seem not to be able to put down. It is full of history, facts, culture and adventure. I would definitely recommend this book to add to your classroom libraries.”—Joann D.
  • “The Bridge Home,” by Padma Venkatraman: “Whether you teach later elementary or middle grades, you need this touching read in your classroom library. A great read for kids who need to find their own sense of family, or who have to ‘adult’ too much, or who are grieving a loss.”—Kristine P.
  • “The Day You Begin,” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López: “This was the most beautiful book that I have read in years! I believe that this book will hit a chord with every single child that reads it and it will give many the courage that they need to face each day. If you only buy one book all year, this is the one to get!”—Lenna B.

First Book Bestseller List (2019 to date)

  • “Diary of a Wimpy Kid #13: The Meltdown (First Book Special Edition),” by Jeff Kinney
  • “The Very Hungry Caterpillar (First Book Special Edition Board Book),” by Eric Carle
  • “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio
  • “Ish (First Book Special Edition),” by Peter H. Reynolds
  • “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas
  • “Lola Plants a Garden/Lola planta un jardín (Bilingual, English/Spanish, First Book Special Edition),” by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
  • Jabari Jumps (First Book Special Edition), by Gaia Cornwall
  • “The Very Hungry Caterpillar / La oruga muy hambrienta (First Book Special Edition Bilingual Board Book),” by Eric Carle
  • “Green Pants (First Book Special Edition),” by Kenneth Kraegel
  • “Big Dog… Little Dog / Perro grande… perro pequeño (Bilingual, English/Spanish),” by E.D. Eastman

First Book will publish Title Raves and the Bestseller List twice yearly.



About First Book 

First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. Through a sustainable, market-driven model, First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its network of more than 425,000 registered teachers, librarians, afterschool program leaders, and others serving children in need with thousands of free and affordable new, high-quality, books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site.

Since 1992, First Book has distributed more learning materials than any other program of its kind: 175 million books and educational resources, worth more than $1.5 billion. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing network of formal and informal educators serving children in need, reaching more than 5 million children annually.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of particular need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books.

Eligible educators, librarians, providers, and others serving children in need can sign up at For more information, please visit or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

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[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Common Core Data, 2015

[2] First Book Social Issues Impact Study, 2017

[3] Joanna Sikora, M.D.R. Evans, Jonathan Kelley. “Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 31 societies.” Social Science Research 77, 1–15 (2019).

[4] Susan B. Neuman, Naomi Moland. “Book Deserts.” Urban Education, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/0042085916654525

[5] First Book member survey, 2018