Books by Esmé Raji Codell

MAYBE MOTHER GOOSE by Esmé Raji Codell
Released: June 21, 2016

"While there's rhyme, this text lacks reason. (Picture book. 3-5)"
Nursery rhymes provide playful opportunities for a diverse classroom. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2012

"Sweet. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)"
A simple introduction to an American legend turns up inspiration for making the world a better place. Read full book review >
IT'S TIME FOR PRESCHOOL! by Esmé Raji Codell
Released: July 1, 2012

"While this introduction may help a few pre-preschoolers, there are better options out there. (Picture book. 3-5)"
Codell walks children step by step through the sights, sounds and activities of preschool. Read full book review >
THE BASKET BALL by Esmé Raji Codell
Released: Sept. 1, 2011

Girl power on the b-ball court. Read full book review >
VIVE LA PARIS by Esmé Raji Codell
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Fifth-grader Paris McCray is a self-described polite person who tries to improve her vocabulary and makes lists of many kinds. She is a questioner and a reader and leads a school club designed to encourage her classmates to read. There is a school bully who targets her older brother Michael, a sweet-natured boy who marches to a different tune. With Michael sitting in, Paris also takes piano lessons from Mrs. Rosen, a Holocaust survivor. She understands only a little of what she is told of those events, and she equates Hitler and the Nazis to bullies and gangs. Her misconceptions lead to some disastrous, if well-intentioned actions. Michael, meanwhile, finds his own way to cope with the bullying. The children's loving relationship with Mrs. Rosen leads to changes for the whole family. Codell has again given her readers quirky, delightful characters while tackling some mighty big subjects. A fine tale with a strong sense of right and wrong. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

Codell borrows the plot of A Christmas Carol for this version set in the tenements and factories of New York City in the early 20th century. Scroogemacher is the transported Scrooge character, with his own waistcoat factory and a beholden nephew named Moshe, and the time is the last night of Hanukkah. Instead of three ghosts, Scroogemacher is visited by the Rabbi of Hanukkah Past, who explains the history of the celebration; the Rabbi of Hanukkah Present, who forces Scroogemacher to relive his own journey from Europe to New York; and the Rabbi of Hanukkah Future, a woman who shows Scroogemacher what today's society will be like. Lots of history, Jewish customs, Yiddish expressions and the entire plot of A Christmas Carol are all squeezed in along with full-page and spot illustrations that give the characters even more personality. Dickens purists may wince, but many others will find this effort quite an acceptable way to introduce or review the history behind the holiday. (glossary, bibliography, author's note, illustrator's note) (Fiction. 7-12)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2005

Hunky Dory is at the top of her class at charm school, destined to be the "wickedest witch wherever the four winds blow." But Hunky Dory would rather work on wishcraft than witchcraft to become an F.G. (Fairy Godmother). "I can't help it. It's who I am," she says. In a deliciously lively and inventive tale of one witch's path to self-fulfillment, Codell displays charming wordplay, and offers allusions to Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, Baba Yaga, Heckedy Peg and a host of other characters in tales that readers will love recognizing. There's plenty of wisdom about life here, too, and the admonition to be the best you can be. "If you're going to leave us to be an F.G., don't just be any F.G. Be the best one. The one everyone will talk about for years." When she meets Cinderella, it's a dream (or wish) come true. Similar to Susan Cooper's The Magician's Boy (p. 118), but for a bit older audience, this volume will send readers off to other tales they know but perhaps have never read. (Fiction. 7-11)Read full book review >
SAHARA SPECIAL by Esmé Raji Codell
Released: April 1, 2003

Sahara Jones really is Sahara Special. Although she's given the name because she receives Special Education services, it becomes a true description of the person hidden within her. Her mother recognizes these hidden depths and demands that she be removed from Special Education and given the chance to succeed or fail by her own will. Enter Miss Poitier, usually called Miss Pointy, an extraordinary new teacher who teaches "time travel," "puzzling," and other odd subjects. She challenges, probes, inspires, praises, chides, and otherwise awakens Sahara and most of her classmates. Sahara has always written in her secret journals, tearing out pages and hiding them in the back of the "900" shelves in the public library for them to be found and marveled at by some future reader. Some of her writing, especially unsent letters to her runaway father, have been confiscated and placed in an official school file. Now she has a school journal, read only by her teacher. At first terrified of writing anything that will be seen by a teacher, she spends her time really listening, soaking up the evocative vocabulary that fills every discussion, and immersing herself in the poetry that Miss Pointy provides without comment or direction. When she finally allows herself to raise her hand in class, to open herself to friendships, and most of all, to write from the heart, she recognizes that she truly is Sahara Special. Codell has created a remarkable, unforgettable cast of characters. Sahara's first-person account beautifully and poignantly captures her tenuous steps to a sense of self-understanding and maturity that is rare indeed. Oh that a teacher the likes of Miss Poitier could really survive and multiply in our regimented, standards- and test-driven public schools. An absolutely lovely debut for children from the author of Educating Esmé (1999). (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
EDUCATING ESMê by Esmé Raji Codell
Released: April 23, 1999

A spirited account of a gifted teacher's first year in an inner-city fifth-grade classroom. Codell seems to be that exceptional teacher who tirelessly devises new ways of engaging with her 31 students'she's determined to educate them and enrich their lives. At 24, Codell shows the bravado of youth, along with the savoir-faire of a far more experienced teacher. Hired after a perfunctory interview with a sexist, parochial, ineffectual principal of a Chicago elementary school, she has to throw too much of her energy into defending her modus operandi, which should evoke praise, not criticism. Particularly perturbing to her principal is her insistence that her students address her as Ms. EsmÇ. "It's against board policy," he constantly reminds her, with threats to cite her for insubordination. Able to ignore most of the bureaucratic pettiness that permeates the daily doings, EsmÇ organizes a schoolwide Fairy Tale Festival (replete with a Fairy Tale Fashion Show, carnival games, and bake sale); sets up a classroom library with sets of books that she herself purchases; publishes a lively class newsletter; and gains the respect of just about all the students and their parents. There seem to be no boundaries to Codell's innovative measures. To teach her students how to multiply double digits, she puts on "Mu-Cha-Cha" from Bells Are Ringing and dances along with her class, making her feet do the math. When a particularly obstreperous child makes her days exceedingly difficult, she changes places with him, inviting him to play the teacher and herself to play the confrontational student. (He never again presents a problem.) When a student is endangered by domestic violence, Madame EsmÇ opens her home to him and his sister for the night, without, of course, notifying the administration. Educating EsmÇ is that exceptional education book about an even more exceptional teacher. It deserves to be read by anyone who cares about children. (Author tour) Read full book review >