Posts tagged ‘historical fiction’

141. Coming On Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson

Retell: Ada Ruth can’t wait for her mom to return home from Chicago.  The story takes place during World War II.  Ada Ruth’s mother has gone North to seek jobs on the railroad.  With help from her grandmother and her new feline friend, Ada Ruth is able to wait patiently for her mom to come on home.

Topics: goodbyes, World War II, Chicago, family, pets, cats, poverty, hunger

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

Tribes: personal best

Reading Skills: inference, prediction, interpretation

Writing Skills: tucking in details about setting, zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: This is a great text to read aloud during an Historical Fiction unit.  It’s a useful text for modeling how readers think about symbolism (or alternatively how writers incorporate symbolism).  For example, it would be helpful to point out the meaning of the kitten in the story.  One could read the story without giving much thought about the kitten’s importance.  However, upon closer reading, one could read into the kitten’s significance.  Perhaps the kitten is a symbol that represents Ada Ruth’s hope that her mother will write soon.  Perhaps the kitten symbolizes her loneliness.

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January 4, 2010 at 8:43 pm 2 comments

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

110. Peppe the Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone

peppe the lamplighterRetell: Peppe and his family live in a tenement on Mulberry Street.  Though he is just a boy, he must find work to help support his family.  After several attempts, he finally finds a job as a lamplighter.  His Papa imagines a better world for him in America.  He becomes upset with Peppe for taking such a menial job.  Though he loves his job, Peppe decides to take a break from it one evening in an effort to please his father.   Later that evening both Peppe and his father discover that being the lamplighter isn’t such a bad deal after all

Topics: tenements, New York, child labor, lamplighters, family, perspectives, work

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

Tribes: appreciations/no put-downs

Reading Skills: inference, envisionment, interpretation

Writing Skills: using the ‘rule of three’, angling a story

My Thoughts: What I love about this text, is that it’s short, but inspires the reader to do a lot of good thinking.  It’s a fabulous text for Reading and Writing Workshop as well as Social Studies.  Using the illustrations, students can envision what New York tenement life was like during the 1800s.  Though my students are currently writing Realistic Fiction, I’m planning on reading a section of this book tomorrow to a small group of students.  I’m going to teach them how authors often incorporate the ‘rule of three’ when crafting stories (“The Three Little Pigs”, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”).  In the beginning of the story, Peppe attempts to find a job.  The author could have chosen to describe the effort in a figurative way.  Instead, she decided to give three examples of where he looked for work:  the butcher, the bar, and the candy maker.

October 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

109. Encounter by Jane Yolen

encounterRetell: An account of Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of the Americas told from the point of view of a Taino boy.

Topics: Christopher Columbus, explorers, gold, Taino, trade, slaves

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Historical Fiction, Content-Area

Tribes: mutual respect

Reading Skills: interpretation, envisionment, inference

Writing Skills: using figurative language

My Thoughts: Yesterday was Columbus Day and to celebrate, here is one of my favorite Columbus Day read alouds.  Since the story is told from the perspective of a child, students will be able to relate to how powerless the boy feels.  He warns his people not to trust the “strange creatures” that were “spat out of the canoes”, but no one listens to him.  This is a fantastic text for teaching inference.  Yolen takes great care not to use terms that would have been foreign to the Taino people.  Readers must constantly infer what the boy is describing.  For example, Yolen describes beards as “hair growing like bushes on their chins”.  When Columbus claims the island for Spain she describes how people “knelt before their chief and pushed sticks into the sand”.  It’s important to model how readers constantly consult the illustration while reading the text in order to construct meaning.

October 13, 2009 at 7:44 pm Leave a comment

98. The Bus Ride by William Miller

the bus rideRetell: William Miller recreates the story of Rosa Parks and imagines what would have happened if a young girl refused to give up her seat.

Topics: taking a stand, segregation, laws, civil disobedience, bravery, boycotts, power

Units of Study: Social Issues, Historical Fiction, Character

Tribes: right to pass

Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks

Reading Skills: interpretation, prediction

Writing Skills: balancing description, reflection and dialogue

My Thoughts: When I read this book I thought back to a unit our fifth grade teachers did last year that was focused on power.  Students looked at power structures in the classroom, in school and at home.  Students looked at times when they were powerless and times when they had the power.  When reading this book it would be interesting to discuss the question, “Who has the power?”  This story inspires children to think about what risks they would be willing to take.  Imagine if an entire classroom decided to boycott McDonalds because they disagreed with how the company targets children.  Or what would happen if a classroom decided to boycott toys made in places that use child labor?

October 4, 2009 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

65. Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

mirette on the high wireRetell: Mirette works at her mother’s boarding house.  When a mysterious stranger asks for a room and takes his meals alone, Mirette is intrigued.  One day she discovers the stranger walking across the clothesline.  The stranger turns out to be the great Bellini, a famous tightrope walker.  Mirette falls in love with the high wire and is determined to walk high above a crowd.

Topics: artists, dreams, Paris

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: persistence, striving for accuracy

Reading Skills: interpretation, prediction

Writing Skills: incorporating diaglogue

My Thoughts: Though this book is not a true story, the tightrope walker is based on a real person–a daredevil named Blondin who walked over Niagara Falls on a high wire.  I like it when authors describe their inspiration in the author’s note.  I plan on using this book when we focus on the Habits of Mind ‘persistence’ and ‘ striving for accuracy.’  The author shows the main character making a lot of mistakes and having someone fine tune her every movement.

August 30, 2009 at 8:39 am 1 comment

40. Rent Party Jazz by William Miller

rent party jazzRetell: Sonny is worried.  His mom just lost her job at the fish market and is worried that they may not make rent.  Sonny meets the musician Smilin’ Jack who comes up with a solution that turns out to be both profitable and entertaining.

Topics: New Orleans, rent, money, jazz, parties, music, community

Units of Study: Social Issues, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best, attentive listening

Reading Skills: envisionment, interpretation

Writing Skills: using commas to tuck in details

My Thoughts: Great books teach us something new.  Rent Party Jazz not only tells a story of Sonny and his family, but tells the story of the origin of rent parties throughout African-American communities in the South.  The book will be great to read when your class needs to be reminded of the power a strong, supportive community.  Even something as bleak as not being able to pay rent can be conquered when people work together.

August 5, 2009 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

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