Off the Shelf: Librarians' Recommendations - December 2021

Dr. Heather Purcell, Lower School Librarian, and Colleen Boerner, Upper School Librarian

Lower School Librarian

Upper School Librarian


According to Harvard Health Publishing, gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. It is "a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible." Gratitude is a powerful and transformative emotion because it allows us to recognize and appreciate the good in our lives.

American psychologist Abraham Maslow, best known for his hierarchy of needs theory, discovered that the ability to experience and express gratitude is a vital component of people's emotional and mental health. He even found that those who practice gratitude are happier!

While gratitude should not be limited to special events and should be practiced year-round, we are using our recent Thanksgiving celebration and upcoming end-of-year festivities to highlight this sentiment.

The holiday season is a wonderful time to wind down and relax, and regardless of which holiday(s) you celebrate, you will most likely have extra free time and the motivation to read. Librarians Dr. Purcell and Ms. Boerner have selected books that promote family time and inspire gratitude to end 2021 on a positive note.

Lower School

Pre-primary - Grade 1 

Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill

This story, with a repeating pattern, sets a table filled with memories and love. Foods from different cultures are represented, which may spark a conversation about favorite family dishes for your own holiday traditions.

Grades 2-3 

The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang

The author based this gorgeous picture book on her personal experiences growing up poor in a loving, multigenerational Hmong family. As she comes to understand how difficult her beloved grandmother’s life has been, she appreciates what she has more. 

Grades 4-5 

Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu

A family dealing with tragedy tries to forget their pain by moving to a perfect town where they can live a perfect, predictable life. Elodee learns that happiness and love come with hard times and helps her family approach life with gratitude and hope. 

For more LS Library tales of gratitude, family, and holiday traditions, please check out this collection

Middle School

Grades 6-8

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden 

Seventh-grader Zoey feels out of place at school. Living in poverty, she does not have many nice things like her classmates. At home, she is responsible for watching her three younger siblings, which interferes with her ability to complete her schoolwork. After her English teacher convinces her to join the debate team, Zoey's perspective on issues expands, and she begins to discover her own voice.


High School

Grades 9-12

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee 

Based on the author's own family history, We Are Not Free chronicles the intertwined lives of 14 young Japanese teenagers during the three years they were incarcerated in United States internment camps during World War II. The teens' stories are emotionally compelling, and as readers, we experience the harsh realities of their camp experiences.



Parents, Faculty & Staff, Alumni, Grandparents

The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

Fourteen-year-old Adunni dreams of being a teacher, but after her mother dies, her father sells her into marriage to a much older neighbor with two wives. Determined to get an education, she flees to the city, only to end up trapped in a life of servitude. Despite many obstacles, she is determined to get an education. From Kirkus Reviews: "A moving story of what it means to fight for the right to live the life you choose."



For more stories of gratitude, family, and holiday traditions, please check out the following US Library collections: Middle SchoolYoung Adult, and Adult

Some of the titles listed might not appear to be directly related to the month's themes. However, I find that reading about other people's trials and tribulations allows me to empathize with their experiences and recognize the many blessings in my own life. Happy Holidays & Happy Reading!