Posts tagged ‘historical fiction’

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

27. The Road to Santiago by D.H. Figueredo

the road to santiagoRetell: Every year Figueredo and his family return to Santiago, Cuba for Christmas.  When calls for revolution sounded throughout Cuba the author recalls how his family almost didn’t make it home for his favorite holiday.

Topics: Cuba, Christmas, rebels, family, kindness of strangers, traditions

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Reading Skills: making connections, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, incorporating vocabulary from another language, generating notebook ideas

My Thoughts: A common thread thoughout the story is kindness.  Each scene highlights how people were kind to the author’s family:  a mill worker helps them fix a flat tire, a young man gives up his seat on the bus. Though this is technically a personal narrative I could see reading this book during a unit on writing historical fiction.  The story takes place during the 1950s revolutionary period in Cuba.  He threads details of the time period throughout the story making this a good historical fiction mentor text.

July 23, 2009 at 9:00 am Leave a 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

15. Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

henry's freedom boxRetell: This is the true story of Henry “Box” Brown.  After his family was sold to another plantation, Henry decides to escape to freedom via the postal service.

Topics: underground railroad, slavery, perseverance

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area Reading and Writing, Historical Fiction

Tribes: personal best

Reading Skills: inference, emapthy

Writing Skills: incorporating symbolism, using setting details

My thoughts: I can see why this won a Caldecott Award.  The illustrations by Kadir Nelson are larger than life.  What’s nice about this book, as well as many biographies written for young readers, is its author’s note.  Reading both the story and the author’s note is a nice way to compare narrative and expository nonfiction.  Though Henry’s Freedom Box is a biography, I could also see reading this book during a unit on historical fiction to examine how an author tucks in historical details.

July 11, 2009 at 9:00 am 1 comment

8. The Lucky Star by Judy Young

the lucky starRetell: Ruth, a young girl growing up during The Great Depression, discovers that her school will be closed down before she enters her 5th grade year.  Ruth learns a lesson of perseverance and counting one’s lucky stars.

Topics: The Great Depression, perseverance, family,

Unit of Study: Historical Fiction, Character

Tribes: Personal best

Reading Skills: inference, making connections, prediction

Writing Skills: incorporating setting details, using sensory details

My Thoughts: This book would be a great mentor text during a unit on reading and writing historical fiction.  However, I’m tempted to use this at the beginning of the year when I introduce partner work and independence.  The Lucky Star teaches that smart people persevere through difficult situations.  A closure of a school, or similarly an absence of a teacher or a change in schedule, does not mean that learning stops completely.

July 4, 2009 at 6:47 pm Leave a comment

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