COVID-19 Related Essay Contest!

How are you feeling during this time? Have you been reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic?

We’re partnering with the Chinese Culture Connection to host a COVID-19 related essay contest!

We are inviting Malden residents of *all ages* to submit their reflections on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted them personally, and their family, community, country, and the world. Winning essays will be published online on our social media pages.

Essay criteria: the length should between 200 – 500 words. Please indicate your age. We will be taking that into account when we select winners. We will offer cash prizes for the first 3 winners: $100 for first place; $50 for second place; and $30 for third place. And, there will be books for the 4th and 5th place winners.

The essay is due on Thursday, June 25 by 6 PM, and the winners will be announced on Friday, June 26.

Please send your essay to and

Please make sure that you include your name, home address, and phone number.


2019 Companion Books

Malden Reads is pleased to announce the selection of companion books for young readers, all of which complement the themes of the 2019 main book selection, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. These books were chosen by a group of educators, librarians, and other individuals in the community offering their support and input.

Themes explored include Chinese culture, what it means for one’s identity to be a minority; motherhood, families, and adoption; the challenges that families can face with immigration; and more.

Malden Reads will offer these books for students in the Malden Public Schools at no charge, and will provide options to schools to participate in programming, as well as other resource materials. The books will be available at the Malden Public Library for Malden families and in the Linden School Little Free Library. Beginning in mid-December, the books will also be available for purchase at The Gallery gift shop at 480 Main Street in Malden.

Nonprofit organizations that are interested in receiving a small number of copies of these book selections for use with children should email

2019 Companion Books for Young Readers

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (Grades 9–12)

The Kirkus Review writes “An iteration of a quintessential American myth—immigrants come to America and experience economic exploitation and the seamy side of urban life, but education and pluck ultimately lead to success.” Girl in Translation tells about a mom who brings her daughter Kimberly to the U.S. for a better life, but ends up working in her sister’s garment factory and living in an apartment with roaches. The story tells about Kimberly’s struggles growing up as a new immigrant.






Boston to Beijing by Gordon Mathieson and Hengjia Liu (Grades 7–9)

Amazon describes the book as follows: “Beijing to Boston is a new first for novels— Written in English and Chinese, a student exchange program brings Kayla and Lanhua together…Their journey brings surprises, humor and a respectful understanding of both countries customs, traditions and lifestyles. The cultural differences and similarity is the entertaining story— woven with comedy, emotion and a little mystery.”




First Crossing: Stories about Teen Immigrants Edited by Donald R. Gallo (Grades 7–9)

School Library Journal writes that this short story collection touches on a “variety of teen experiences, with enough attitude and angst to speak to young adults anywhere.” The anthology of immigration stories weaves together the theme of what’s common among immigration stories.





Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Grades 4–6)

Ten year old Mia takes on the front desk at the motel where her parents become managers. The Kirkus Review writes, “Debut author Yang weaves in autobiographical content while creating a feisty and empowered heroine. Heavy themes, including extortion, fraud, and racism, are balanced with the naïve dreams and determination of a 10-year-old.”





The Year of the Fortune Cookie by Andrea Cheng (Grades 2–5)

Anna reflects on her Asian American identity during her two week trip to China. The Kirkus Review writes, “Anna’s journey provides an opportunity to consider the question ‘Who am I,’ raised in her social studies class. Her narration clearly conveys the experience of foreign travel from a sixth-grade point of view.”’





Fortune Cookie Fortunes by Grace Lin
(Grades K–2)

Pacy observes the family opening their fortune cookies, and she wants to know if they’ll come true. A review on Amazon reads that as Pacy “… waits and watches, she notices magical things happening in her family. Could the fortunes really be right?”



A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza (Pre-K)

Award winning author Keiko Kasza wrote and illustrated this heartwarming story about Choco, a yellow bird with a blue beak, who seeks out his mother throughout the animal kingdom, reminding us that a family is made of love (and not necessarily family members who looks like one another).


2020 Kickoff Celebration

Malden Reads/NEA Big Read Kickoff Celebration Activities on January 11 Malden Reads: One City, One Book presents the “NEA Big Read 2020” kickoff celebration on Saturday, January 11, 2020. There will be a variety of activities offered throughout the day and evening to promote reading and celebrate community for the NEA Big Read: Malden, featuring the main book selection Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

For More Information The NEA Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The mission of the NEA Big Read is “to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.” Malden Reads: One City, One Book has received a grant from the NEA Big Read to host a program for the Malden Reads 10th anniversary year in 2020. For more information about Malden Reads, and all the details about the NEA Big Read: Malden, visit

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Companion Books for 2020


Malden Reads is pleased to announce the selection of companion books for young readers, all of which complement the themes of the 2020 main book selection, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. These books were chosen by a group of educators, librarians, and other individuals in the community offering their support and input.

Relating to Fahrenheit 451, we will explore themes of empowerment, standing up against censorship, and the transformative power of books. Others are storytelling, the power of memory, and building meaningful connections with our neighbors, the community, and the larger world.

Malden Reads will offer these books for students in the Malden Public Schools at no charge, and will provide options to schools to participate in programming, as well as other resource materials. The books will be available at the Malden Public Library for Malden families and in Little Free Libraries throughout the community. The books will be available for purchase at the Malden Reads “Holiday Pop-Up Bookstore & More” one-day event on December 7, 2019, from 11am to 7pm hosted at J Malden Center (190 Pleasant Street, Malden). This is also one of the first public opportunities to visit the new J Malden Center community, which provides luxury apartments and new retail on the ground floor opening soon, and will be the new home of Malden City Hall.


Nonprofit organizations that are interested in receiving a small number of copies of these book selections for use with children should email

Here are the titles and descriptions for the companion books, along with suggested grade levels (which can be adapted based on level of interest and reading level).


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Grades 9–12)

Winner of numerous awards including the American Library Association (ALA)’s Best Books for Young Adults and adapted into a feature film, this book was described by The New York Times as “It’s the kind of book that can be life-changing, because without ever denying the essential amorality and randomness of the natural order, The Book Thief offers us a believable hard-won hope…” Common Sense Media states “This book will educate readers about living under Nazi rule, and it will inspire them to think about human nature and why some heroic people are able to put their lives on the line to do what they know is right.”


The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick (Grades 6–12)

Newbury Honor author Philbrick’s story is set in an apocalyptic future in which the narrator, a boy with epilepsy, meets an older man who is one of the only people left on earth who appreciate books and literature. Scholastic’s review is as follows: “Both chilling and inspiring, the story is ultimately about those who have the courage to become conscious in a world that invites us to choose illusion and denial. Here is a powerful tale of love, loss, and the challenges we all face to make thoughtful, moral choices.”

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz (Grades 3–6)

Called “A stout defense of the right to read” by Kirkus Reviews, this is a story about a shy fourth grader who fights back after her favorite book has been banned from her school library. A review in School Library Journal is as follows: “The story of Amy Anne’s personal triumph is also a celebration of literature, free speech, and finding one’s voice…Hand this to book lovers, aspiring librarians, or any kid who wants to make a difference.”

The Storyteller by Evan Turk (Grades 2–4)

This book was written up by Kirkus Reviews in a starred review as “The art of storytelling is celebrated as a life-giving force in this enthralling picture book set in Morocco … Original storytelling with the feel of the best folklore.” While many cultures have folktales involving water, the School Library Journal says “this tale is unusual in using water as a metaphor for story: just as we need water to nourish our physical selves, we need stories to feed our spirits.”

Light in the Darkness: A Story about How Slaves Learned in Secret by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Grades 1–2)

Kirkus review summarizes this beautifully illustrated book about a “slave mother and her daughter [who] learn to read in spite of the great danger inherent in their enterprise…Rosa’s mother awakens her at night to walk to a “pit school,” a hole dug in the ground and covered over where slaves gather to learn their ABC’s…In this tale, [the author] makes the point that learning was not just a dream of a few famous and accomplished men and women, but one that belonged to ordinary folk willing to risk their lives.” Booklist calls this book “Dramatic, deep-toned, full-page illustrations, mostly dark because of the nighttime setting, skillfully match the vivid, rich language of the text. The expressive faces of the characters shine through the darkness, clearly conveying the senses of determination, fear, and hope which permeate the story.” In addition to this story being a real-life tie-in with Fahrenheit 451, the Malden Reads committee is thrilled to include an author from Malden on its list of companion books.

Arthur and the Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club by Marc Brown (Grades K–3)

A review in School Library Journal says this book “…deals with an unusual theme for primary-grade audience censorship. Angry parents have demanded that a series of scary books be banned from the public library because they believe they are frightening their children, and Arthur and his friends decide to fight back.”

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter (Grades K–2)

The School Library Journal’s starred review calls this book “an important story that puts a human face on the victims of war and demonstrates that a love of books and learning is a value that unites people everywhere.” Barnes and Noble gives this overview: “In this incredible true story of a war-stricken country where civilians seem powerless in the face of battle, this feminist and inspirational tale about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us how, throughout the world, the love of literature can unite us all.”

In addition to the books listed above that are companions to Fahrenheit 451, the following are tenth anniversary celebration books:


Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Grades 4–8)

In 2014, Malden Reads selected Wonder by R.J. Palacio as a companion book to the main book selection The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and we explored themes of self-identity, the power of acceptance, and the power of character, acceptance, and empathy. Current high school students who read Wonder in middle school will have opportunities to read it to middle school students this school year.


We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio (Grades PreK–2)

Booktrust says this book “… deals with issues of difference and bullying. The book ends on an uplifting note as Auggie muses that people can learn to see differently, implying that the acceptance he seeks may be closer than he thinks.” We’re All Wonders was read to children at the annual stargazing event in fall 2019, and older students who previously read Wonder will read We’re All Wonders to younger students this school year.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (Grades PreK–2)

Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal and several other awards, this book celebrates community, family, friendship, inclusivity and diversity, volunteering, and supporting each other – just as Malden Reads does! The Boston Globe wrote: “The sharp illustrations — in bold, and cheerful primaries — get CJ’s restless energy and curious postures exactly right. The voices of CJ and his grandmother carry the story along in subtle point and counterpoint so that at this book’s quiet close you feel like you’ve been listening to a song.”


2020 Book Selection

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house.” – Fahrenheit 451

Called ‘the book for our social media age’ by the New York Times, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a gripping story that is at once disturbing and poetic. Bradbury takes the materials of pulp fiction and transforms them into a visionary parable of a society gone awry, in which firemen burn books and the state suppresses learning. Fahrenheit 451 is a ‘masterpiece … everyone should read’ (Boston Globe).”

The Malden Reads team has long been planning to select a classic, and the team is thrilled to choose Fahrenheit 451 for the 10th year of the program, this year known as the “NEA Big Read.” Considered one of the major novels of the 20th century, Fahrenheit 451 has won many awards, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, a Prometheus “Hall of Fame” Award, and a Hugo Award.

What’s the title mean? Bradbury asserts that Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper burns. In the dystopian world of the novel, firefighters start fires instead of putting them out, and they burn home libraries, which are forbidden. Fahrenheit 451 follows the growth of fireman Guy Montag, who has begun questioning their way of life: always fast, never thinking or reflecting, and full of technological distractions. (Though published in 1953, the novel eerily foretells ear buds, reality television, and more.) The rest of the book reads like an action thriller, with a message of hope for the future at its end.

In Fahrenheit 451, all books are banned and replaced by sanctioned entertainment to make people not think, have feelings, or have concerns so that they can, therefore, “be happy.”  We know from the protagonist, Guy Montag, and the dissidents he encounters that many people want to explore their memories and feelings and that they are not happy with what they are being fed.


Bradbury stated “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

In the lead-up to our tenth year, Malden Reads participated in Banned Book Week in September, to stand up for Fahrenheit 451 and other banned books (including some previous Malden Reads book selections), beginning the exploration of censorship and how that affects our community.

The 2020 program will continue to look at how censorship is a unifying issue for recent immigrants from countries that repressed their freedom of speech. We will examine the intrusion of media into our lives, loss of privacy, and the distraction of thoughts and feelings. Even though the book is dystopian, we will be celebrating the transformative power of books and meaningful connections among people. Other programs will relate to storytelling, the power of memory, and connections with our neighbors.


Malden Reads Programming

Join the Malden Reads community as they kick off their tenth year with a celebration on January 11, 2020, with a broad selection of activities and programs during the day and evening.

For anyone looking to get a head start with reading the book or purchasing it for a holiday gift can do so on December 7 at the “Malden Reads Pop-up Holiday Bookstore & More,” which will be a one-day fundraiser held at J Malden Center at 190 Pleasant Street. By the kickoff event, library copies will be available in English, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish, along with digital editions (both e-book and audio versions).

In addition, the Malden Reads team has selected companion books for younger readers, sparking a range of programming for children and families related to the themes of Fahrenheit 451.

The Malden Reads committee looks forward to deepening connections in the Malden community. To contact the committee with questions about the book, to collaborate on a program or to volunteer, or to be added to the email newsletter list, please email or use the contact forms on this website.

Companion Books for Younger Readers