Loose Canon helps your school organize independent book choices in your own private ecosystem. With our year to year tracking, your school can offer the most popular titles again the next year. Your students review those books and create the buzz for the next go-round of lit circles or summer reading or independent reading. Now is the time to create a culture of excitement around books.

Current research:

A brief round-up of the latest academic research on reading and choice in the classroom.

Loose Canon RecommendsTM:

  • The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

    By: Ashley Herring Blake
    Recommended for grade(s): 4, 5

    Twelve-year-old Sunny St. James navigates heart surgery, reconnecting with her lost mother, first kisses, and emerging feelings for another girl in this stunning, heartfelt novel–perfect for fans of Ali Benjamin and Erin Entrada Kelly. When Sunny St. James receives a new heart, she decides to set off on a “New Life Plan”: 1) do awesome amazing things she could never do before; 2) find a new best friend; and 3) kiss a boy for the first time. Her “New Life Plan” seems to be racing forward, but when she meets her new best friend Quinn, Sunny questions whether she really wants to kiss a boy at all. With the reemergence of her mother, Sunny begins a journey to becoming the new Sunny St. James. This sweet, tender novel dares readers to find the might in their own hearts.  –From Little, Brown

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.

  • Recommended for grade(s): 4, 5

    From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes the first book in an exciting new middle grade series about a fourth-grader with big dreams of basketball stardom. Fourth grader Zayd Saleem has some serious hoop dreams. He’s not just going to be a professional basketball player. He’s going to be a star. A legend. The first Pakistani-American kid to make it to the NBA. He knows this deep in his soul. It’s his destiny. There are only a few small things in his way. For starters, Zayd’s only on the D-team. (D stands for developmental, but to Zayd it’s always felt like a bad grade or something.) Not to mention, he’s a bit on the scrawny side, even for the fourth grade team. But his best friend Adam is on the Gold Team, and it’s Zayd’s dream for the two of them to play together. His mom and dad don’t get it. They want him to practice his violin way more than his jump shot. When he gets caught blowing off his violin lessons to practice, Zayd’s parents lay down the ultimate punishment: he has to hang up his high tops and isn’t allowed to play basketball anymore. As tryouts for the Gold Team approach, Zayd has to find the courage to stand up for himself and chase his dream.  –From Simon & Schuster

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.

  • Planet Earth Is Blue

    By: Nicole Panteleakos
    Recommended for grade(s): 6, 7

    Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challenger–it’s the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event on live TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has disappeared, and Nova is in a new foster home. While foster families and teachers dismiss Nova as severely autistic and nonverbal, Bridget understands how intelligent and special Nova is, and all that she can’t express. As the liftoff draws closer, Nova’s new foster family and teachers begin to see her potential, and for the first time, she is making friends without Bridget. But every day, she’s counting down to the launch, and to the moment when she’ll see Bridget again. Because Bridget said, “No matter what, I’ll be there. I promise.”   –From Wendy Lamb

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.

  • Mae Among the Stars

    By: Roda Ahmed
    Recommended for grade(s): 3

    An Amazon Best Book of the Month A beautiful picture book for sharing, inspired by the life of the first African American woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison. A great classroom and bedtime read-aloud, Mae Among the Stars is the perfect book for young readers who have big dreams and even bigger hearts! When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering. She wanted to be an astronaut. Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.” Little Mae’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her incredible success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space. This book will inspire other young girls to reach for the stars, to aspire for the impossible, and to persist with childlike imagination.  –From HarperCollins

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.

  • A Good Country

    By: Laleh Khadivi
    Recommended for grade(s): 12, College Plus

    Laguna Beach, California, 2011. Alireza Courdee, a 16-year-old straight-A student and chemistry whiz, takes his first hit of pot. In as long as it takes to inhale and exhale, he is transformed from the high-achieving son of Iranian immigrants into a happy-go-lucky stoner. He loses his virginity, takes up surfing, and sneaks away to all-night raves. For the first time, Reza–now Rez–feels like an American teen. Life is smooth; even lying to his strict parents comes easily. But then he changes again, falling out with the bad-boy surfers and in with a group of kids more awake to the world around them, who share his background, and whose ideas fill him with a very different sense of purpose. Within a year, Reza and his girlfriend are making their way to Syria to be part of a Muslim nation rising from the ashes of the civil war. Timely, nuanced, and emotionally forceful, A Good Country is a gorgeous meditation on modern life, religious radicalization, and a young man caught among vastly different worlds. What we are left with at the dramatic end is not an assessment of good or evil, East versus West, but a lingering question that applies to all modern souls: Do we decide how to live, or is our life decided for us?  –From Bloomsbury

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.

  • Recommended for grade(s): 8, 9

    Beatriz dreams of a life spent dancing–until tragedy on the day of her quinceanera changes everything. Up until her fifteenth birthday, the most important thing in the world to Beatriz Mendez was her dream of becoming a professional dancer and getting herself and her family far from the gang life that defined their days–that and meeting her dance idol Debbie Allen on the set of her favorite TV show, Fame. But after the latest battle in a constant turf war leaves her brother, Junito, dead and her mother grieving, Beatriz has a new set of priorities. How is she supposed to feel the rhythm when her brother’s gang needs running, when her mami can’t brush her own teeth, and when the last thing she can remember of her old self is dancing with her brother, followed by running and gunshots? When the class brainiac reminds Beatriz of her love of the dance floor, her banished dreams sneak back in. Now the only question is: will the gang let her go? Set in New Jersey in 1984, Beatriz’s story is a timeless one of a teenager’s navigation of romance, her brother’s choices, and her own family’s difficult past.   –Froom Charlesbridge

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.

  • Guts

    By: Raina Telgemeier
    Recommended for grade(s): 4, 5

    Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on? Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.  –From Scholastic

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.

  • Recommended for grade(s): 5, 6, 7

    From New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds comes a novel told in ten blocks, showing all the different directions a walk home can take. This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy— Talking about boogers. Stealing pocket change. Skateboarding. Wiping out. Braving up. Executing complicated handshakes. Planning an escape. Making jokes. Lotioning up. Finding comfort. But mostly, too busy walking home. Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.  –From Simon & Schuster

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.

  • The Downstairs Girl

    By: Stacey Lee
    Recommended for grade(s): 8, 9, 10

    By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. –From Penguin

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.

  • The Falconer

    By: Dana Czapnik
    Recommended for grade(s): 11, 12, College Plus

    New York, 1993. Seventeen-year-old Lucy Adler, a street-smart, trash-talking baller, is often the only girl on the public courts. At turns quixotic and cynical, insecure and self-possessed, Lucy is in unrequited love with her best friend and pick-up teammate Percy, scion to a prominent New York family who insists he wishes to resist upper crust fate.  As she navigates this complex relationship with all its youthful heartache, Lucy is seduced by a different kind of life—one less consumed by conventional success and the approval of men. A pair of provocative female artists living in what remains of New York’s bohemia invite her into their world, but soon even their paradise begins to show cracks.  –From Atria

    Where to Find

    Score a physical copy of the book.