Posts filed under ‘Chapter books’

135. Presidential Pets by Laura Driscoll

Retell: A history of presidents and their beloved pets.

Topics: pets, presidents, fun, friendship, dogs, Obama, Bo, family

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area

Reading Skills: synthesis, making connections, interpretation

Writing Skills: developing voice in nonfiction

My Thoughts: I picked this book up a few days ago at our school’s book fair.  I have a lot of animal lovers in my class who only read nonfiction about animals.  This book combines an interest in animals with an interest in presidential history and current events.  It’s a nice book for demonstrating how readers can often get distracted by seductive details but must work constantly to think about what the author is trying to say about the topic.

November 23, 2009 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

133. The Well by Mildred D. Taylor

Retell: During a drought, the Logan family shares water from their well with anyone who needs it, be they white or black.  Hammer, the narrator’s brother, finds it difficult to share with the Simms family who have tormented the Logans for being black.  After Hammer defends his brother David and beats up Charlie Simms, he and David are forced to work on the Simms’ farm to avoid jail.  Hammer, however, never quite manages to swallow his pride and gets involved in another altercation that causes Charlie to take revenge.

Topics: drought, racism, segregation, bullying, fighting, family

Units of Study: Historical Fiction, Talking and Writing About Texts, Social Issues

Tribes: mutual respect, right to pass, appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: managing impulsivity

Reading Strategies: inference, synthesis, interpretation, envisionment

My Thoughts: I’ve been trying to locate shorter chapter books to read aloud.  I’m finding that some of my favorite chapter books are too long to complete before the end of a unit. The Well is short, only 92 pages and can be completed within a month-long unit.  I think this could be a great book to read if a class is struggling with the issue of revenge.  In this story, Hammer cannot control his temper.  The situation is extremely unfair, and you empathize with Hammer for fighting with Charlie.  But on the other hand, his decision to take revenge led to his family’s well getting poisoned.  It raises the question whether or not it’s better to fight back with violence or fight back in other ways.

November 21, 2009 at 9:47 pm Leave a comment

85. Kat Kong by Dav Pilkey

kat kongRetell: Explorers from Mousopolis land on an uncharted island where they meet the terrifying “beast” Kat Kong.  They bring him back to Mousopolis in order to seek fame and fortune.  When Kat Kong escapes his shackles, citizens are terrified.

Topics: cats, mice, greed, exploration, monsters, humor, puns

Units of Study: Fantasy

Tribes: mutual respect

Habits of Mind: finding humor

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense

My Thoughts: This is the adorable sequel to Pilkey’s book, Dogzilla. Similar to the style of Dogzilla, Kat Kong includes ‘cheesy’ puns and idioms, all related to cats.  For example, when Kat Kong ravages the city the butcher cries, “The cat’s got my tongue!”  I plan to read this book aloud when I want to focus on the reading skill monitoring for sense.  I find that many books written for upper elementary students are highly engaging, but can also be really confusing.  Many of my students are English Language Learners and often don’t understand when an author slips in a joke.  Using Kat Kong as an a model could remind students to seek out humor throughout their reading.

September 20, 2009 at 8:18 pm 1 comment

81. The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales

the tequila wormRetell: Sophia is an intelligent, hardworking girl from McAllen, Texas.  When she receives a scholarship for a boarding school 400 miles, she must learn to live in two different worlds.  She longs to explore and be accepted by the people at St. Lukes, but she also wishes to be a good comadre and participate in her family’s traditions.

Topics: overcrowding, barrios, family, traditions, Mexican-Americans, friendship, ambition, choices, siblings, Day of the Dead, boarding school, scholarships

Units of Study: Social Issues, Character, Talking and Writing About Texts, Realistic Fiction

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly, thinking interdependently

Reading Skills: inference, synthesis, interpretation, envisionment

Writing Skills: bringing out the heart of a story

Thoughts: Though I believe this book is probably most appropriate for middle school students, I wouldn’t hesitate reading sections of this book to my fourth graders.   There are great examples of how writers collect stories from their lives and how people become the change they want see in the world.  I love Canales’ description of the various rituals and traditions of Sofia’s family.  The relationship between Sofia and Berta is interesting.  They made very different choices.  Sofia chose to move far away and attend college.  Berta married young, stayed in her hometown and had two children.  Readers could have an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of both characters’ choices.

September 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

67. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

love that dogRetell: “I don’t want to because boys don’t write poetry.  Girls do.”  Jack reluctantly keeps a poetry journal.  With encouragement from his teacher he begins to write about his dog.  By using famous poems as mentor texts, Jack learns to be a prolific poet.

Topics: poetry, school, pets, loss, writer’s block

Units of Study: Independent Writing Projects, Poetry, Social Issues, Character

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: striving for accuracy, thinking interdependently, thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, making connections

Writing Skills: using mentor texts to improve writing

My Thoughts: This is one of my favorite books by Sharon Creech.  She captures the voice of a young writer so well.  I consider this a read aloud though I often use it as a text for doing shared reading.  Since each entry is dated, one could conceivably read the pages on or close to the dates in the book–a read aloud that lasts all year long.  In the back of the book are poems by:  Walter Dean Meyers, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost and Valerie Worth.  You could use the poems for shared reading at the same time you read the book aloud.

September 1, 2009 at 11:14 pm Leave a comment

30. A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

a young people's history of the united statesRetell: Like the title suggests, this is a young people’s version of his famous book, A People’s History of the United States. Together with Rebecca Stefoff, Zinn manages to tell a version of history that attempts to include the perspectives of groups that are usually left out (women, people of color, Native people, children, etc.)

Topics: United States, history, exploration, racism, slavery, colonialism, rights, justice, revolution, war, emancipation, industrialization, immigration, empire, protests, terrorism, resistance, freedom of speech

Units of Study: Content Area, Nonfiction, Social Issues, Personal Essay, Historical Fiction

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Reading Skills: questioning, synthesis, prediction, determining importance, inference, interpretation

Writing Skills: using evidence to support a thesis or main idea, inserting anecdotes and quotations

My Thoughts: I was so thrilled to find this book on the shelves.  I read A People’s History of the United States several years ago and often reread sections before embarking on Social Studies units.  Though I thought this book was going to present a child’s perspective of historical events, Zinn does manage to tuck in a few stories of young people working to make a difference.  For example, he includes the story about how children started the first milll strike in Paterson, New Jersey.  I intend to read aloud exerpts from this book to support and/or challenge what they may be reading in their own nonfiction texts.  This book is also available in two volumes.  Volume I covers Columbus to the Spanish-American War.  Volume II covers World War I to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

July 26, 2009 at 9:07 am 1 comment

21. The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake

the skin I'm inRetell: Every day students tease Maleeka Madison.  Whether it be her good grades, her homemade clothes or her dark skin, it seems like the world is against Maleeka.  She does others’ homework in exchange for friendship.  That is until Miss Saunders, a new teacher from the business world, challenges Maleeka to think for herself.

Topics: self-esteem, confidence, body image, race, middle school, peer pressure, money issues, assault, clothing, status, taking a stand, arson, bullying

Units of Study: Character, Social Issues, Historical Fiction (Writing), Literary Essay, Talking and Writing About Books

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs, right to pass

Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, synthesis, making connections

Writing Skills: keeping journals, writing poetry

My Thoughts: This is a fantastic text to read aloud in a middle school classroom.  I’m not sure that I would read the text as a whole to everyone in an upper elementary grade classroom.  I would encourage certain fifth grade book clubs to read and discuss this book.  I plan to read certain sections from this book.  For example, Maleeka keeps a journal which she writes from the perspective of an African girl aboard a slave ship.  There are several scenes throughout the book where Maleeka’s historical fiction writing parallel’s her own life.  This would be a great way to show how writers of historical fiction create characters who struggle with similar issues to their own.  This is an excellent cautionary tale detailing what can happen if you refuse to let others force you into situations that you know are wrong.

July 17, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

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