First Grade

Open Books | Open Minds

For every purchase Open Books provides the same 3 or 5 books to kids in under-resourced Chicago communities.

Titles subject to change based on availability.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers
A Newbery Honor Book
A Caldecott Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
An Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Book
An Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor Book
A Society of Illustrators Gold Medal Book

Named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR, the Huffington PostPublishers WeeklyKirkus Reviews, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Horn Book Magazine, the News & ObserverBookPage, Chicago Public Library, and more

The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.

A fresh cut makes boys fly.

This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.


A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams

A 1983 Caldecott Honor Book

Acclaimed author/illustrator Vera Williams tells of a young girl, who along with her waitress mother, saves coins in a big jar in hopes that they can someday buy a big, new, comfortable chair for their apartment, the kind of chair her mother deserves after being on her feet all day in the Blue Tile Diner. Into the jar also goes the money Grandma saves whenever she gets a bargain at the market.

There hasn’t been a comfortable place to sit in the apartment since a fire in their previous apartment burned everything to “charcoal and ashes.” Friends and neighbors brought furniture to their new apartment downstairs, but no one brought anything big or soft or comfortable. Finally the jar is full, the coins are rolled, and in the book’s crowning moment mother, daughter, and Grandma search four different furniture stores, and after carefully trying several chairs, like Goldilocks, they find the chair they’ve been dreaming of at last.

Vera Williams enhances this heartwarming story about the values of saving and working together towards a common goal, with her own pleasant, folk-art inspired paintings. Each illustration is bordered with natty patterning, foreshadowing the family’s eventual acquisition of their new, magnificent chair.


I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoet

Named by Parents Magazine as the “Best Book that Champions Kindness”
A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year

This simple yet powerful picture book–from a New York Times bestselling husband-and-wife team–tells the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying. Inspired by real events,  I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help. By choosing only pictures to tell their story, the creators underscore the idea that someone can be an ally without having to say a word. With themes of acceptance, kindness, and strength in numbers, this timeless and profound feel-good story will resonate with readers young and old.


Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

A Neal Porter Book

Fwap! Slish! Bloop! Krunch! He takes down his competition in a single move! No opponent is too big a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño—popsicle eater, toy lover, somersault expert, and world champion lucha libre competitor!

Niño Wrestles the World is in English with Spanish vocabulary, and is a fun, colorful story about a boy wrestling with imaginary monsters (including an Olmec Head and La Llorona) and adversaries like his younger sisters. This is a joyful picture book about imagination, play, and siblings.


I Love My Hair! By Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

A Black Caucus American Library Association Top Recommended Book

Every night before she goes to bed, Keyana’s mother combs her hair. Though Mama is always gentle, sometimes getting her hair combed still hurts! To soothe her hurting places, Mama tells Keyana why she’s so lucky to have her head of hair and explores with her all the wonderful styles that she can wear. This imaginative story is a celebration of the special relationship between mother and daughter, as well as the qualities that make each of us unique and beautiful. Available in a board book edition.

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