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Top 10 Tuesday – Top Ten Read-Alouds to Link to Your Content Areas

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Using novels to link to your content areas is a great way to introduce an area of study or inquiry to your class. Reading these books aloud during your unit will keep your students engaged, build their background knowledge and give them many opportunities for making connections, questioning and inferring. While there are many to chose from, here are my top ten novels (plus 2!) for both primary and intermediate grades with links to content:

(Please note that the grades listed are only suggested and that pre-reading any book before reading it aloud to your class is strongly recommended.)

                     1.    Appleblossom, the Possum – Holly Goldberg Sloan

                            Content Link: science, animals, marsupials    Gr. 2-3

Delightful glimpse at the world from a charming little marsupial’s point of view.  Beautiful illustrations and a perfect read-aloud for a grade 2-3 class learning about animal families.

2. The Prince in the Pond:  Otherwise Known as De Fawg Pin – Donna Jo Napoli

Content Link – science, frogs, life cycles    Grade 2-4

A delightful fairy tale about a frog having been turned from a prince by a hag, making the best of his new life as he mates, has children, and instills a new kind of thinking into his his frog family.  Lots of frog life-cycle facts woven into this charming story.

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3. Nuts to You  -Lynne Rae Perkins

Content Link: nature, animals, tree conservation, environment     Gr. 2-4

Two courageous squirrels set out on an adventure to save their friend from a hawk.  Funny, heartwarming, suspenseful story of friendship.

4. Stinky Cecil in Operation Pond Rescue – Paige Braddock

Content – science, biology, pond life, conservation     Grades 2-3

A hilarious graphic novel for young readers featuring a cast of memorable animal characters who live in a small pond.  When they discover their home will soon be bulldozed to make way for a new highway, Stinky Cecil and his friends attempt to save their pond.

5. The Wild Robot – Peter Brown

Content: adaptation; environment; survival; community; climate change  Gr.  4-6

A robot discovers she is alone on a remote island.   This is an amazing survival story that would make a great read-aloud to stimulate rich discussions about what happens when nature and technology collide.  Heart-warming and action packed!

6. Ghost Voyages II: The Matthew – Cora Taylor

                           CONTENT – Social Studies, Canadian history, explorers, John Cabot   Gr. 4-6

When he touches his grandfather’s old stamp, 11 yr. old Jeremy travels back in time and finds himself sailing on a tall ship with John Cabot as he claims Newfoundland for England.   An exciting adventure story filled with important moments in Canadian history.

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7. Inside Out and Back Again – Thanhha Lai

         Content – Social Studies, immigration history, Vietnam war       Gr.  5-7

A beautifully written, moving story of immigration told in verse through the eyes of a young girl during a year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from her home country of Vietnam to Alabama.

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8. The War That Saved My Life – Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Content links – historical fiction, WWII; disabilities, survival.   Gr.   5-7

A heartbreaking and emotional story Ada, a young girl with a club foot who escapes with her brother from their abusive mother.  This novel is set in WWII England and weaves historical moments throughout.  I was particularly struck by the remarkable character development.

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                                               9.  Fatty Legs – Christy Jordan-Fenton

                        Content – Aboriginal issues, residential schools, social justice     Gr. 5-7

Fatty Legs tells the true story of an eight-year-old Inuit girl named Olemaun Pokiak and her experience with residential school.    Short, lyrical and straightforward memoir recounting the cruel treatment she endured and the hope, resilience, and unbreakable spirit she showed.

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10 . The Boundless – Kenneth Oppel

  Content link – Canadian history, building of the CPR    Suggested Grade  6-8

An action packed, rags-to-riches, adventure story of a boy on the maiden voyage of a cross country maiden journey of The Boundless – the world’s longest and most luxurious train. Sprinkled with facts about the history of the expansion of the Canadian railroad, facts and scenes from Halifax to Victoria, including some mythology of Sasquatches and the Hag of the Muskeg.           

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11 . Zombie Baseball Beatdown – Paolo Bacigalup

Content -Food safety, racism, immigration, activism     Gr. 7-9

A high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse that has underlying messages about the health of our meat supply and how policies on illegal immigrants allow employers to take advantage of them.   And how could you not like a zombie cow head?

12  . Paper Wishes  – Lois Sepahban

Content: historical fiction, WWII, Japanese internment camp.   Gr. 6-8

A fascinating and often painful truth of WWII’s Japanese internment camps is the setting for this beautifully written story of a loving family supporting each other through unimaginably difficult circumstances.

Thanks for stopping by!  Would love to know which book has caught your eye!

 

 

 

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Filed under Canada, Content links, Links to content, Middle Grade Novels, Novels, Read-Aloud, Science, Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday – Top Ten Favorite Middle Grade Novels (Gr. 5-8) of 2016 (So Far!)

top 10

It’s Tuesday, so I’m posting my own version of the Top 10 list!  I’ve been getting several requests from teacher friends for recommendations for middle grade read-alouds so I have put together a list of my top ten favorites from 2016.  There are so many extraordinary books to chose from and always difficult to narrow it down to just 10 (I ended up with 12!) Please note that even though I have included it on a list of my favorites, before reading aloud to your class, please read it through yourself to ensure it is a good fit for you and your class.

OK… grab a Kleenex box and here we go….

1. Raymie Nightingale – Kate DiCamillo

From one of my favorite writers comes a simple, strong and whimsical story of three friends during the summer of 1975.  A tale of friendship, perseverance, poverty, loss and growing up. I loved the characters, all of them – Love Raymie. Love Beverly. Love Louisiana. LOVE Louisiana’s Grannie.   While this is not my favorite KD book, it is high on my list of favorites of 2016.

2. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain – John B0yne

From the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas comes another story depicting the horrors of WWII.  After his father, a drunken German soldier, is killed by a train and his French mother dies of consumption, seven-yr. old orphan Pierrot is eventually taken in by his aunt, a housekeeper in large mountain retreat in Austria. While younger readers may not realize without some prompting, adult readers quickly infer that the home is that of Adolph Hitler.  I read this book in one sitting – could not put it down.  I would suggest pre-reading it to ensure appropriate content for your class, as there are some violent and tense scenes.  For older students, it would stimulate discussions around innocence corrupted, the attractions of power, and the resilience of youth.

3. Pax – Sara Pennypacker

Oh, this book.  This book.  A boy, a fox, a war – tender, so beautiful, so emotional.  So many ideas and themes are wrapped around the words: friendship, love, trust, betrayal, loyalty, war, peace.  Please read and share this book.

4. The Seventh Wish – Kate Messner

I highly recommend this book as a read-aloud in a grade upper elementary class.  A modern day fairy tale about a young Irish dancer who, trying to make some money to buy herself a new dance dress, catches a magic fish that grants wishes if she’ll let it go.   Sounds a little simple – but this book is so much more.  At times you will laugh, at times your heart will be breaking.   This book looks at family dynamics, addiction, middle school, and Irish dancing with insight and tenderness.   I follow Kate Messner on social media and know that she received some backlash from some schools about her including the subject of heroin addiction.  While I understand some may not be comfortable with this subject matter, I admire the way she presents this real-life problem gently and honestly.

5. The Wild Robot – Peter Brown

What would happen if a robot happened to arrive on an island that is humming with wildlife?  How would it survive?  And so begins this unique, unexpected and delightful survival story that somehow manages to hit many ‘hot topics’ including: disability, climate change, civilization, violence in nature, gun violence, balance in nature. While this sounds heavy handed – it’s not!  Peter Brown has created a very readable, authentic story with a unique voice given to all the creatures on the island.  This book is powerful and gentle and would make a great read-aloud in a grade 4-5 class.

6. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day – John David Anderson

The story of a brilliant teacher who sees the good in every single student, especially the little things that others don’t see. When her career gets cut short because of a cancer diagnosis, three boys decide to give her a good-bye party to remember.  I love the different voices in this book, as we discover through each boy, just why Ms. Bixby is so special to them.  Yes, you will cry – but you will also laugh along with your students.   I love this book.

7. Maybe a Fox – Kathi Appelt

Wow.  This story of grief and loss is haunting and magical; sad and heart-wrenching.  It is the story of two sisters, Jules and Sylvie, who are being raised by their father after their mother dies.  I loved the exquisite writing; I loved characters; I loved the fox; I loved the way the human world and the animal/nature world intersect; I loved the way death and grief (one of the sisters dies early in the book) are treated with dignity, grace and love. I cried and so will you.

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8. Hour of Bees – Lindsay Eager

I feel like a broken record but this book is extraordinary and lingers with you long after you finish it.  It has a wonderful setting (N ew Mexico desert), a fantastic group of characters, and completely enchanting magical elements. Oh, and did I mention beautiful writing? Instead of spending the summer before junior high with her friends in Albuquerque, Carolina is stuck in the New Mexico desert, with her mom, dad, little brother, half-sister Alta, and Grandpa Serge who she’s meeting for the very first time. Serge is suffering from dementia, and the family has come to help sell his house and move him to a seniors facility.  Caroline is drawn into Grandpa through his magical stories of the desert and soon the line between reality and magic becomes blurred.  Original, thought-provoking and beautifully written.

9. When Friendship Followed Me Home – Paul Griffin

Here is another book that takes you on an emotional roller coaster – one minute I was laughing, the next I was tearing up.  WOW.  Ben is a twelve year old, former foster child who has finally found a loving home and mother. Ben rescues a scruffy dog he names Flip and befriends a librarian’s daughter named Halley. When everything in Ben’s life suddenly changes, he discovers the true meaning of family and friendship.   I loved the characters in this book and the writing and dialogue is beautiful and authentic.  It’s a tear jerker and tackles some difficult issues, including foster care, physical abuse, cancer, and grief.  Recommended for mature grade 6 and up.

10. Save Me A Seat – Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan

This book is a realistic story set in a school and told in two different voices, making it a great choice for a read-aloud.  Joe and Ravi are struggling at school for completely different reasons: Ravi is a recent immigrant trying to fit in and Joe has some learning difficulties and is often bullied.  Over the course of a week, Ravi and Joe find common ground and a bond in their differences. Great book for making connections.  I loved the authentic voice and diversity of each character.  The added bonus was learning a bit more about their cultures from the descriptions of food – from school lunches to meals at home.   There are even recipes included at the end!

                                              AND BECAUSE I HAD TROUBLE COUNTING TO TEN…

11. The Land of Forgotten Girls – Erin Entrada Kelly

The school where I teach is attended by many Filipino families, so I was excited to read this book about two Filipino sisters. It is another heart-breaker but also a celebration of stories and sisters. Sol and her younger sister Ming live in poverty in Louisiana with their abusive stepmother after their father returns to the Philippines. Sol tells fairy tales which interweave with the plot and help give the sisters strength. A moving book for middle grade readers that highlights themes of sisterhood, friendship, survival and imagination.  As a mother, I found it difficult to read in parts, but the book is ultimately hopeful with strong female characters.

12. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary – Laura Shovan

Wow – this book, written in verse, is extraordinary, creative and unique.   You really need to read it to appreciate how amazing it is.  From start to finish, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary is completely delightful in every way. Through the voices of 18 very real and very lovable fifth graders, we experience their individual stories as well as the collective story of their class during a very momentous year in the history of their school – their school is being torn down.  So many authentic, diverse voices of family, culture, friendship and personality.  A perfect book for making connections and a must read-aloud book!

 There are SO MANY amazing new novels to read and share with your class this year!

Thanks for stopping by.  Would love to know which book has caught your eye!

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Filed under 2016 releases, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Read-Aloud

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – More great books!

 

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here:  Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

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The book blogging community has been going “wild” about Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown so I was anxious to get my hands on a copy!  This book is really all about letting loose and letting your inner “wild side” come out.  Mr. Tiger lives in a very proper society and conforms to what is expected of him.  One day, he decides to loosen up a little and walks on two legs instead of four.  Despite the frowns of disapproval from those around him, he continues to let loose a little more each day, jumping from rooftops and even taking off his clothes!  Eventually he is banished to the woods to be wild on his own.  When he returns, he discovers the others have followed his lead and “loosened up” a little!  Great illustrations and lots of humor makes this a wonderful read.  Great discussions about “getting wild” at the appropriate time and place.

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Up! Tall! and High! by Ethan Long is a hilarious introduction to the concepts of “up”, “tall” and “up” told in three separate short stories.   The cast of bird characters in this book are hilarious and the lift the flap pages make for an even more appealing read.  The bright, colorful illustrations remind me of Mo Willems.  Great for Pre-K and K.

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Diverse writer Linda Sue Park amazed many with her powerful novel last year A Long Walk to Water.  She has now released this delightful picture book  Zander’s Panda Party which describes the challenges of planning a birthday party.  The lyrical, rhyming text follows Xander as he tries to decide who to invite to the party.  He starts with inviting all the pandas, then all the bears, then is informed by the Koala that she is not really a bear but a marsupial.   Not only is this book a pleasure to read (some of the rhymes are rather unconventional!) but it’s a great introduction to different types of animals.  Top it off with the message of the importance of not wanting to leave anyone out – and you have a winner!

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If you are teaching your students about following rules, making good choices, consequences of action or being conscious of your community  – here is a book for you;  What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick   Simple, up-beat text and colorful illustrations is entertaining as well as putting a new perspective on how our choices impact the world around us.  A good reminder to us all – before you do anything or say anything, ask yourself, “what if everybody did that?”

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Caldecott winner Philip Stead is inching higher and higher up on my “favorite author” scale.  Everything he writes is heartfelt and his soft, whimsical illustrations add to tenderness to the text.  Bear has a Story to Tell is one of my all time favorites and Home for Bird  was a book I reviewed this summer.  In his latest book, Hello, My Name is Ruby, Stead once again touches the heart with his words and pictures.  Ruby is delightful  – she is tiny, brave, curious and compassionate.  She attempts to find her place in the world by making friends, introducing herself to different animals and birds and asking them thoughtful questions in order to learn more about them.   Could there be a better role model for children?   I felt a true sadness when one of the birds did not want to be her friend.  There is nothing not to love about this book.

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For all you Scaredy Squirrel fans out there – here’s the latest – just in time for Halloween!  In Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween,  Scaredy helps us plan for the spooky night – with everything from costume choices, making treats, pumpkin carving and safety tips!  In his familiar overly anxious approach to everything, Scaredy uses lists, maps, diagrams, charts and webs (love those nonfiction text features!) to get ready for the spookiest night of the year!

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Memoirs of a Hamster by Devin Scillian is a follow up to Memoirs of a Goldfish (published in 2010).  In a similar style as Diary of a Worm, this book is written in the voice of Seymour the Hamster.  Seymour is at first content with his life and describes the coziness of his cage.  But after a chat with a cat, he begins to feel he may be missing out on something beyond the confounds of his cage.  Great anchor book for writing “in person” as an animal and for developing voice.

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I Want a Dog! by Helga Bansch was published a few years ago but I came across it while searching for anchor books for persuasive writing lessons.  There are several books with a theme of a child trying to convince their parents to buy them a pet.  I was immediately drawn to this book by the cover – and the delightful images of different breeds of dogs.  Lisa desperately wants a dog but her parents don’t feel it realistic as they live in an apartment.  Lisa tries many different persuasive tactics to change her parents mind, but with no luck.   In the end, she doesn’t give up and comes up with a creative plan to solve her dog desire!  Great for predicting, problem solving and to introduce persuasion.

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I have a huge author crush on Chris Raschka.  Ever since his Yo! Yes! book topped my Infer book list – I have been using his books to teach inferring and questioning.   Chris Raschka won the Caldecott award in 2010 for  A Ball for Daisy.  As with many of his books, it was a perfect wordless picture book for practicing inferring with younger students.  I had many Daisy fans in my class so I know there will be much excitement when they see Daisy in a new adventure in the book Daisy Gets Lost.  I’m not sure how he does it, but Chris Raschka always manages to capture emotion with his swirly impressionistic illustrations and this book is no exception.  Daisy chases a squirrel at the park and suddenly finds herself in unfamiliar territory – and we can see the fear on her cute little face.  A great book for making connections to feeling lost and afraid.

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I adore anything Georgia Heard writes. I have likely used  For the Good of the Earth and Sun for teaching poetry more than any other professional resource.  I am starting a poetry unit with a grade 6 class this term so have been  gathering poetry books from my collection.  Amongst many amazing poetry anthologies and collections, I rediscovered Falling Down the Page, Georgia Heard’s amazing collection of list poems by contemporary poets (including Eileen Spinelli and Avis Harley – who was my teacher for one of my poetry classes at UBC many years ago!)   I sat and read through the every poem and marveled at how a simple list can tell so much.   A great anchor book for writing list poems!

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I am in the middle of reading two amazing novels.  First – is The Real Boy by Anne Ursu – a magical adventure.   (You can read a great review of this book by Linda Urban posted in  Nerdy Book Club )  So far, I am LOVING this book.  I adore Oscar, the main character, and the writing is wonderful.  Oscar is an orphan who works for a magician, gathering herbs and helping to prepare his potions.  He is quite content in his life until things start to suddenly change in the town when everyone starts to get sick and Caleb, the magician, is no longer around.   I have just met Callie, a girl who is going to help Oscar.  I can’t wait to find out what happens.  I think this will be a GREAT read-aloud to grades 4-6!

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I am a huge Kate Messner  fan and follower and first learned about her latest book Wake Up Missing  when she wrote about it on her website just before its release date on September 10th.  I have not finished this book yet but not because I don’t have time – but because I don’t want it to end!  All  I can say is WOW!  Four teens – a hockey star, a football star, a horse lover and a bird watcher – all meet when they arrive at an elite Brain Science center in Florida.  The four have nothing in common – except they have all experienced head injuries and have gone to the center for some concussion testing.  (Being a mom of two boys who play hockey, I make a lot of connections to the concussion discussion!)  But after a while at the center, the four begin to suspect that there is more to these “tests” – and they begin to suspect they are part of some strange experiment that may steal their identities.  How exciting does this sound?  SO EXCITING!  My son wants to read this but I’m not letting him until I finish it and find out how they escape!      12991201[1]

I have been inspired by reading other IMWAYR posts and particularly  Holly Mueller of Reading, Teaching and Learning, who always includes non-teaching books she and her family are reading.  I’m blessed to part of a wonderful book club that meets once a month.  (And yes, we DO read and discuss the books!)  So I’ve decided to share my book club books each month.  This month, we are reading The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan.  This historical novel is set in Paris in 1856 and is the story of two sisters whose lives are upended when their father is murdered.  This is the story of one of the girls who becomes a model for artist Edward Degas, while her family struggles to survive.  I have not read too far into it yet, but certainly getting a different perspective on the artist Degas!

Well, there you have my latest reads of the week.  What have you been reading lately?

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Filed under Connect, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Novels, Picture Book, Poetry, Writing Anchors