The Sakura Medal Books, Librarian Recommended Children's English Picture Books, Graphic Novels and Chapter Books.

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The Sakura Medal Books

Librarian Recommended Children’s English Books

The Sakura Medal

The Sakura Medal Books Awards bring together students from international schools across Japan each year to vote for their favourite books.

Each year, librarians from various international schools meet and select 25-30 books in each of the Sakura Medal categories - Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Chapter Books, Middle School, High School, Japanese Picture Books, Japanese Chapter Books, Japanese Middle School, and Japanese High School.
Books are chosen that are no more than two years old and that are from a variety of backgrounds and across a wide range of reading abilities.

Students who read five books (four for Middle School and three for High School books) in any category will be eligible to vote for their favourite. Votes will then be tallied across all participating schools and the winning author in each category will receive a Sakura Medal.

While staff and parents are encouraged to participate, voting is only open to students.
Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossoms, which are celebrated in Japan each year as a sign of spring.

COVID-19 Update: Parents - there has never been a better time for you and your child to pick up a book! You may browse by school age, location, and book type in the sidebar. All books here are recommended by a committee of 60+ International School Librarians in Japan for the annual Sakura Medal Book Award.

Rebel Seoul - Axie Oh

Rebel Seoul - Axie Oh

EAST ASIA, 2199. After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the academy's ranks. Abandoned as a child in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past.

When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government's supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.
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Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld

Spill Zone - Scott Westerfeld

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone's twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.
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The Hearts We Sold - Emily Llyod-Jones

The Hearts We Sold - Emily Lloyd-Jones

Dee Moreno is out of options. Her home life sucks (to put it mildly), and she's about to get booted from her boarding school--the only place she's ever felt free--for lack of funds. But this is a world where demons exist, and the demons are there to make deals: one human body part in exchange for one wish come true.

The demon who Dee approaches doesn't trade in the usual arms and legs, however. He's only interested in her heart. And what comes after Dee makes her deal is a nightmare far bigger, and far more monstrous than anything she ever could have imagined. Reality is turned on its head, and Dee has only her fellow "heartless," the charming but secretive James Lancer, to keep her grounded. As something like love grows between them amid an otherworldly ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give James her heart when it's no longer hers to give?
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The lying woods - Ashley Elston

The lying woods - Ashley Elston

Owen Foster has never wanted for anything. Then his mother shows up at his elite New Orleans boarding school cradling a bombshell: his privileged life has been funded by stolen money. After using the family business, the single largest employer in his small Louisiana town, to embezzle millions and drain the employees' retirement accounts, Owen's father vanished without a trace, leaving Owen and his mother to deal with the fallout.
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The Perfect Candidate - Peter Stone

The Perfect Candidate - Peter Stone

When recent high school graduate Cameron Carter lands an internship with Congressman Billy Beck in Washington, DC, he thinks it is his ticket out of small town captivity. What he lacks in connections and Beltway polish he makes up in smarts, and he soon finds a friend and mentor in fellow staffer Ariel Lancaster. That is, until she winds up dead.

As rumors and accusations about her death fly around Capitol Hill, Cameron's low profile makes him the perfect candidate for an FBI investigation that he wants no part of. Before he knows it - and with his family's future at stake - he discovers DC's darkest secrets as he races to expose a deadly conspiracy. If it doesn't get him killed first.
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The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers - especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, whom her family can never know about.

With Mami's determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school's slam poetry club, she doesn't know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can't stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
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The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for "tattooist"), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism - but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
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The Traveling Cat Chronicles - Hiro Arikawa

The Traveling Cat Chronicles - Hiro Arikawa

The tender feelgood story of a man's journey around Japan with a streetcat. Translated by Philip Gabriel, a translator of Murakami.

It's not the journey that counts but who's at your side.

Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner, Satoru, in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why, and Satoru won’t say.

Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take. The Travelling Cat Chronicles has already demonstrated its power to move thousands with a message of kindness and truth. It shows, above all, how acts of love, both great and small, can transform our lives.
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The Wren Hunt - Mary Watson

The Wren Hunt - Mary Watson

Every year on St Stephen’s Day, Wren Silke is chased through the forest in a warped version of a childhood game. Her pursuers are judges - a group of powerful and frightening boys who know nothing of her true identity. If they knew she was an augur - their sworn enemy - the game would be up.

This year, the tension between judges and augurs is at breaking point. Wren’s survival, and that of her family, depends on her becoming a spy in the midst of these boys she fears most and using her talent, her magic, to steal from them the only thing that can restore her family’s former power for good. But Wren’s talent comes with a price. The more she uses it, the more she loses her grip on reality, and soon she’s questioning everything she’s ever known about her family, about augurs and judges and about the dangerous tattooed stranger who most definitely is not on her side..
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Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens - Marieke Nijikamp

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens - Marieke Nijikamp

This anthology explores disability in fictional tales told from the viewpoint of disabled characters, written by disabled creators. With stories in various genres about first loves, friendship, war, travel, and more, Unbroken will offer today's teen readers a glimpse into the lives of disabled people in the past, present, and future.
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Want - Cindy Pon

Want - Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.
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Warcross - Marie Lu

Warcross - Marie Lu

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
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Award winning English childrens books
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The Sakura Medal Book Award Winners

The Sakura Medal Book Award Nominees

The Sakura Medal Book Award Authors and Schools

Book type

Story Location

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The Sakura Medal Schools Book Award Japan
Preschool English story books
relating to the time before a child is old enough to go to school.
Graphic Novels
a novel in comic-strip format.
synonyms: comic, comic book, cartoon; manga
Picture books
a book containing many illustrations, especially one for children.
High School Books
For high school students
Chapter Books
A story book intended for intermediate readers, generally age 7-10
Early Reader
The first books that children will be able to read independently.
Jolly Phonics
The very best texts available to help students learn to read and write.
Jolly Phonics website
Jolly Phonics And The UK National Curriculum
Parent/Teacher Guide. English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Ukrainian versions.
Free Parent & Teacher Resources
Setting
International School students are very often interested in where the story is located. If it plays a key role in the story and is mentioned in the blurb then it has been tagged
All-new Kindle Kids Edition - Includes access to thousands of books - Rainbow Birds Cover

How to read books aloud

Teaching tips
• Ensure all students / your children can see the book
• Allow students to settle before you begin reading. Turn of nearby computers or TVs to avoid distractions
• Allow time for students to absorb the illustrations on each page before reading the text
• Different voices for each character are engaging for students and fun for you if you are reading the story multiple times - if you can keep track of voices of the characters
• Inform your audience of the author and illustrator so they may ask for the story again and foster an interest in writers and drawing
• Take your time
• There is no need to be shy. Children will delight in listening to you

How often should you read with your child?
• Everyday
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