Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Reviews - Suggested Reading for 4th and 5th ALP Classes

I was asked to review the curriculum for the 4th and 5th grade self-contained gifted classrooms in our school district.  Here's a list of suggested books that I have collected information on.  I have only read a handful of these books myself so I am not necessarily providing my own opinions but rather just posting info and links I have found online.  Many of the books seem to be biographical (or autobiographical), historical fiction or realistic fiction.  Many also deal with social and cultural issues.  The teachers are not required to include these books - they are suggestions.

This post is long so read on if interested...

4th grade Novel Selection:

The Secret Garden
(I've seen teachers read this one at elementary school many times)
Two cousins -- one motherless, the other an orphan -- are so monstrously spoiled that no one can stand them and they can hardly stand themselves. With the help of a boy of the moors and some natural magic, they discover an abandoned garden and return it to abundance. As the garden grows the children grow -- into their own better selves.

4th grade suggested Titles for Literature Circle:

Crispin: The Cross of Lead 
In 1300s England, the night after Crispin's mother dies, he overhears a conversation between John Aycliffe, steward of the manor, and a stranger. Suddenly he finds himself hunted, accused of theft. When the priest who tries to help him turns up dead, Crispin is also accused of murder. Fleeing the village in which he has spent his entire life, he takes up with a wandering juggler called Bear.
Still pursued by Aycliffe and his men, they try to lose themselves in a large town, Great Wexly, where Bear has secret plans to meet with the revolutionary, John Ball. Crispin is thrilled just to see such a big town. But there is more to his past than he knows, and a much bigger reason why Aycliffe is so determined to kill him.

Year of Impossible Goodbyes
 It is 1945, and courageous ten-year-old Sookan and her family must endure the cruelties of the Japanese military occupying Korea.  Police captain Narita does his best to destroy everything of value to the family, but he cannot break their spirit.  Sookan's father is with the resistance movement in Manchuria and her older brothers have been sent away to labor camps.  Her mother is forced to supervise a sock factory and Sookan herself must wear a uniform and attend a Japanese school.  Then the war ends.  Out come the colorful Korean silks and bags of white rice.  But Communist Russian troops have taken control of North Korea and once again the family is suppressed.  Sookan and her family know their only hope for freedom lies in a dangerous escape to American controlled South Korea.  Here is the incredible story of one family's love for each other and their determination to risk everything to find freedom.

Words by Heart
Lena can recite the Scriptures by heart. Hoping to make her adored Papa proud of her and to make her white classmates notice her "Magic Mind," not her black skin, Lena vows to win the Bible-quoting contest. But winning does not bring Lena what she expected. Instead of honor, violence and death erupt and strike the one she loves most dearly. Lena, who has believed in vengeance, must now learn how to forgive.

Taking Sides
Lincoln is in a jam when his basketball team at his new school--where the students are rich and mostly white--faces his old team from the barrio on the boards. How can he play his best against his friends? No matter who wins, it looks like it will be lose-lose for Lincoln.
Lincoln Mendoza is a star basketball player for Franklin Junior High in the barrio of San Francisco, but when his house is broken into, his mother decides they should move to a better neighborhood—the prosperous white suburb of Sycamore ten miles away. Lincoln likes the change at first, but soon he begins to miss his old friends and school. There's more to Lincoln's plight than being homesick, though. He has a fight with Tony, his best friend from the barrio; his divorced mother has a white boyfriend whom Lincoln dislikes; his basketball coach doesn't like him; he hurts his knee; and his new house is broken into. What else can go wrong? Well, he has a fight with Monica, a girl from his new school whom he really likes, and his coach benches him for the big game between his new school and his old one. When the big game finally takes place, it forces Lincoln to figure out who he is and where he belongs.

Call It Courage
Maftu was afraid of the sea. It had taken his mother when he was a baby, and it seemed to him that the sea gods sought vengeance at having been cheated of Mafatu. So, though he was the son of the Great Chief of Hikueru, a race of Polynesians who worshipped courage, and he was named Stout Heart, he feared and avoided tha sea, till everyone branded him a coward. When he could no longer bear their taunts and jibes, he determined to conquer that fear or be conquered-- so he went off in his canoe, alone except for his little dog and pet albatross. A storm gave him his first challenge. Then days on a desert island found him resourceful beyond his own expectation. This is the story of how his courage grew and how he finally returned home. This is a legend. It happened many years ago, but even today the people of Hikueru sing this story and tell it over their evening fires.

Elijah of Buxton
His closest experience of slavery has been the occasional rumors of slave catchers in the area, and when newly escaped slaves arrive at the settlement. That is, until the money Mr. Leroy was saving to buy the rest of his family out of slavery is stolen. Then Elijah, feeling partly responsible, agrees to cross over to America to try to get it back.
Includes Author's Note on Buxton, a real place, now a historic site.
4th grade suggested titles for Read-alouds:

Kamishibai Man
The Kamishibai man used to ride his bicycle into town where he would tell stories to the children and sell them candy, but gradually, fewer and fewer children came running at the sound of his clappers. They were all watching their new televisions instead. Finally, only one boy remained, and he had no money for candy. Years later, the Kamishibai man and his wife made another batch of candy, and he pedaled into town to tell one more story—his own. When he comes out of the reverie of his memories, he looks around to see he is surrounded by familiar faces—the children he used to entertain have returned, all grown up and more eager than ever to listen to his delightful tales.

The Weaving of a Dream: A Chinese Folktale
Heyer retells an engrossing Chinese folktale about an old woman who weaves exquisite brocades. Full-color illustrations.

5th grade novel selection:

Boy: Tales of Childhood
Roald Dahl's anecdotal autobiography focuses mostly on his unpleasant experiences at three schools. Between ages seven and nine, Dahl attended school in his Welsh hometown, where he and his friends declared war on the neighborhood sweetshop witch and were roundly caned by the schoolmaster. Attempting to save her son from such beatings, his mother sent him across the Channel to boarding school, where conditions were even worse and the boys had only each other in a world of authoritarian and often violent schoolmasters. At thirteen, he was graduated to Repton, where his athletic abilities and his size shielded him slightly from the general atmosphere of persecution, though he makes it clear that the headmaster was a genuine sadist. In this last section, Dahl also looks forward in time to his coming adventures in Africa, and allows himself some observations about how his childhood experiences shaped his later life.
5th grade suggested titles for literature circles:

A Girl from Yamhill
Generations of children have grown up with Henry Huggins, Ramona Quimby, and all of their friends, families, and assorted pets. For everyone who has enjoyed the pranks and schemes, embarrassing moments, and all of the other poignant and colorful images of childhood brought to life in Beverly Cleary books, here is the fascinating true story of the remarkable woman who created them.

Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir
A grandmother living in a Southern mill town at the turn of the century; a mother winning the hard-fought right to vote; a daughter born the year of the Great Depression. Three generations of black women remember their "childtime" in this lyrical memoir spanning a century of American history. Their memories are sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always vivid. Not simply a chronicle of one black family, this book preserves the lives and communities of times past for future generations.

How I Came to Be a Writer
Newbery Medalist Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's one hundred and more books are true to life, funny, and, most of all, well written -- you'd think that she doesn't have to work at writing at all. But that's not true. How I Came to Be a Writer is the story of one author's beginnings -- successes and failures, reviews and rejection slips -- things that mark the stages of a writer's life. Illustrated with photographs, and including samples of her earlier writing, this book will show you the inner workings of the writing process, from the spark of an idea to a book's actual publication.

A Day of Pleasure:  Stories of a Goy Growing Up in Warsaw
Nineteen autobiographical stories about the author's childhood in Poland from 1908 to 1918.

The Lost Garden
Fleeing war-torn London in 1941, gardener Gwen Davis leaves the "wild, lovely clutter" of the city for the safe haven of the English countryside. Unwilling to watch her beloved city crumble under the assault of incendiary German bombs, she accepts a position at a requisitioned estate in Devon, supervising the farming of potatoes for the war effort. 

5th grade suggested titles for Read-alouds:

The Important Book
The important thing about The Important Book -- is that you let your child tell you what is important about the sun and the moon and the wind and the rain and a bug and a bee and a chair and a table and a pencil and a bear and a rainbow and a cat (if he wants to). For the important thing about The Important Book is that the book goes on long after it is closed.What is most important about many familiar things -- like rain and wind, apples and daisies -- is suggested in rhythmic words and vivid pictures. 'A perfect book . . . the text establishes a word game which tiny children will accept with glee.'

Couldn't find anything on this one.  Need the author's name.

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother
My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother is the story of Patricia Polacco’s childhood relationship with her brother Richard, and their unending battle to outdo one another. As Patricia is convinced that Richard can "climb the highest, get the dirtiest, and spit the farthest" to name a few, she makes an important wish upon a falling star, "to do something—anything—better than my brother." The morning following her big wish, a traveling carnival comes to town, and Patricia decides the perfect revenge on her rotten, older brother. However the next thing she knows, Patricia awakes in her bed alongside Richard, who announces that she fell from the merry-go-round. "Looks like you finally did something special," he says.  In My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, Patricia and Richard both learn a valuable lesson: not to let competition stand in the way of their kinship. Richard proves not to be such a rotten brother after all, by carrying his wounded sister to safety and running for the doctor. And the young Patricia Polacco learns that "Sometimes (wishes) come true differently than you think they will."

Tar Beach
Illus. in full color. "Ringgold recounts the dream adventure of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who flies above her apartment-building rooftop, the 'tar beach' of the title, looking down on 1939 Harlem. Part autobiographical, part fictional, this allegorical tale sparkles with symbolic and historical references central to African-American culture. The spectacular artwork resonates with color and texture. Children will delight in the universal dream of mastering one's world by flying over it. A practical and stunningly beautiful book."

The Relatives Came
In a rainbow-colored station wagon that smelled like a real car, the relatives came. When they arrived, they hugged and hugged from the kitchen to the front room. All summer they tended the garden and ate up all the strawberries and melons. They plucked banjos and strummed guitars. When they finally had to leave, they were sad, but not for long. They all knew they would be together next summer.

When I was Young in the Mountains
"An evocative remembrance of the simple pleasures in country living; splashing in the swimming hole, taking baths in the kitchen, sharing family times, each is eloquently portrayed here in both the misty-hued scenes and in the poetic text."

The Wall
There were two books with this title that I found online.  Not sure which one they are suggesting so I listed both.  One is a picture book and one is a novel.
A young boy and his dad have traveled all the way to Washington, DC to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They have come to find the name of the boy's grandfather, his dad's father. The little boy calls the memorial "my grandfather's wall." As the father and son look for the grandfather's name, they meet others who are visiitng the memorial, including a veteran in a wheelchair and a couple weeping while hugging one another.  They see flowers, letters, flags, and a teddy bear that have been left at the wall. When they find the name, they do a rubbing and leave a school photograph of the boy on the ground below his grandfather's name. When the boy says, "It's sad here," his father explains, "It's a place of honor."
Riveting and compelling, The Wall tells the inspiring story of forty men and women who escape the dehumanizing horror of the Warsaw ghetto. John Hersey's novel documents the Warsaw ghetto both as an emblem of Nazi persecution and as a personal confrontation with torture, starvation, humiliation, and cruelty -- a gripping and visceral story, impossible to put down.
When Everyone Wore a Hat
This is the story of when I was a boy, almost 100 years ago, when fire engines were pulled by horses, boys did not play with girls, kids went to libraries for books, there was no TV, you could see a movie for a nickel, and everybody wore a hat.
5th grade Additonal Titles for Consideration
Helen's Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller's Teacher
The epic story of Annie Sullivan’s perseverance and triumph in the face of hardship will enthrall readers of every age. This pioneering teacher overcame disability and misfortune before achieving her success as one of the most famous educators of all time. This is the inspiring photobiography of Anne Mansfield Sullivan, a woman born into a life of daunting disadvantage and social obstacle. She grew up poor, with little education, the child of struggling Irish immigrants. By the age of eight, Annie was almost blind because of untreated trachoma. Following her mother’s death, the young girl entered an almshouse, where she spent four years among the most wretched of society’s outcasts. Her inquiring intellect and determination helped her escape this bleak detention, and she was sent to the Perkins School for the Blind. There, at the age of 14, her education began, and her lively mind soon blossomed. After graduation, she was hired as a teacher for Helen Keller, a six-year-old girl who was blind and deaf due to illness. With patience and compassion, Annie reached into the dark, silent world of the little girl, opening her mind and soul to life’s beauty. She became "Helen’s eyes." Because of her inspired breakthroughs and accomplishments with Helen, Annie was soon known as the "Miracle Worker." Annie and Helen spent the rest of their lives together—two complex women with feisty personalities who achieved international acclaim. Marfé Ferguson Delano’s evocative account of teacher and student breaking down barriers to enjoy the wonders of intellectual discovery is a profoundly moving story.

Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini
Children's author, magician, and friend of Bess Houdini (the magician's wife) Sid Fleischman sorts out the myths from the reality in the life of Harry Houdini.  Born Erich Weiss, son of a rabbi in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874, he emigrated to American as a small boy, and ended up in Appleton, Wisconsin, which he later claimed as his birthplace. Impoverished, Erich ran away from home at age 12, hoping to make enough money to send some back to his family.  But working at shining shoes, selling papers, and carrying messages earned him barely enough to scrape by. In his teens he began to study magic, and named himself after a famous French illusionist. Eventually he became the most famous magician, escape artist, and debunker of spiritualists of all time.

Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor Roosevelt's Remarkable Life
No matter how the question is answered, one thing is clear: There has hardly been a life in the last century that Eleanor Roosevelt has not affected, in one way or another. From securing safe, low-cost housing for Kentucky's poor, to helping her grandchildren hang a tire swing on the White House's south lawn, to representing America as the first female delegate to the United Nations, Eleanor rarely kept a second of her life for herself -- and she wouldn't have had it any other way. In this stunning "scrapbook" biography, Candace Fleming, author of the acclaimed Ben Franklin's Almanac, turns her keen eye to our nation's premier First Lady. Filled with photographs of everything from Eleanor's speech at the 1940 Democratic National Convention to her high school report card, as well as fascinating stories about life in and out of the White House, Our Eleanor gives us a remarkable perspective on a remarkable woman, and presents to a new generation an Eleanor to call its own.

High Hopes: A Photobiography of John F. Kennedy
A glossy take on the life of the 35th president. The text, which begins with a foreword by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is frankly admiring, and successfully captures the spirit that makes Kennedy an enduring figure in our history. Heiligman covers her subject’s life from his childhood to his assassination, including events from his administration such as the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the establishment of the Peace Corps, and his 1962 order to send 30,000 Army and National Guard troops to the University of Mississippi campus…This well-designed book features large, well-chosen, black-and-white photographs; black, white, and silvery-gray type highlights important quotations from Kennedy’s speeches.”—School Library Journal

Bull's-Eye: A Photography of Annie Oakley
At last, National Geographic's award-winning photobiography of Annie Oakley bursts into paperback. This stirring story of an enduring American heroine has won widespread acclaim and was named a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.   Annie's amazing life comes sharply into focus in a compelling narrative, period photography, and in her own words. Two historical maps and a chronology ground the legend in time and place.   Readers ride through a life filled with adventure. Annie grows up in the backwoods of Ohio, hunting game to feed her family. Discovered by Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, she wows crowds with target shooting and daring horse riding.   Annie's hardships are examined too, as is her inspirational status as a role model for women. 

Light Shining Through the Mist: A Photobiography of Dian Fossey
In 1966, with no experience or formal scientific training, Dian Fossey left the United States and set up her gorilla observation camp in the Virunga mountains of Africa. Under the sponsorship of Dr. Louis Leakey, the 34-year-old Fossey had embarked on a 19-year project that began as a field study of gorillas but expanded into a labor of love and a mission to protect the magnificent species from extinction. No human ever came closer to the mysterious mountain gorillas than Fossey; but as her relationship with the animals grew, her fierce battle against poachers did also. Fossey was murdered by poachers in 1985 but her legacy endures. This dramatic story of Fossey's vital work is an important record for young generations of readers.

E.E. Cummings: A Poet's Life
(My opinion is that they could have picked another poet to study)
Even before his groundbreaking style helped change the landscape of American poetry, E. E. Cummings was going against the grain. Defying the traditionalists of the early 20th century, Cummings lived a life devoted to the shifting archetypes of art and literature, and wrote some of the most celebrated poetry of the modern era. Nearly a century after his first works were published, E. E. Cummings is still inspiring readers. Noted nonfiction writer Catherine Reef provides a well-rounded portrait of Cummings while examining the culture in which he lived as he developed his craft. Serving as both an exploration of his rich and sensational life as well as a foundation from which readers can learn about his work, this comprehensive biography includes Cummings’s original sketches and paintings, quotes from friends and family, photographs, and the poetry of Cummings and his peers.

6th grade suggested titles for Literature Circles

Moon Shadow was eight when he sailed from China to join his father Windrider in America. Windrider lived in San Francisco's Chinatown and worked in a laundry. Moon Shadow had never seen him.  But he soon loved and respected this father, a man of genius, a man with a fabulous dream. And with Moon Shadow's help, Windrider was willing to endure the mockery of the other Chinese, the poverty, and the longing for his wife and his own country to make his dream come true.  Inspired by the account of a Chinese immigrant who made a flying machine in 1909, Laurence Yep's historical novel beautifully portrays the rich traditions of the Chinese community as it made its way in a hostile new world.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
(When I sub at school I've seen junior high kids read this book as part of a lit circle)
Nightriders, arson, lynching--in the course of one turbulent year, 9-year-old Cassie Logan's family is traumatized by inequality and racism in their small Mississippi town. Yet the novel effectively conveys, even in the midst of violence and hatred, the importance of family loyalty, as well as pride in the face of adversity.

Esperanza Rising
(I personally LOVED this book)
Esperanza thought she'd always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico--she'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances--Mama's life, and her own, depend on it.

Code Talker
After being taught in a boarding school run by whites that Navajo is a useless language, Ned Begay and other Navajo men are recruited by the Marines to become Code Talkers, sending messages during World War II in their native tongue.

Farewell to Manzanar
Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp--with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons and a dance band called the Jive Bombers who would play any popular song except the  nation's #1 hit: "Don't Fence Me In."  Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention . . . and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States.

The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano
Prince Olaudah Equiano was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. Despite his circumstances, young Olaudah learns to live a purposeful and positive life, eventually purchasing his freedom and fighting to abolish slavery. Eloquent and moving.

Taking Sides
(see 4th grade suggested titles for literature circles earlier in this post)

Rising Voices:Writings of Young Native Americans
A collection of poems and essays written by young contemporary Native Americans. Words of protest against prejudice and oppression, poems of estrangement and pain, cries for lost worlds and lost identities -- but also songs of celebration and joy for the future.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Regarding the book "The Wall," it is the picture book that is part of the curriculum.

I LOVED "Esperanza Rising." It reminded me of my own great-grandparents who immigrated from the Alps of Italy. They were expert on grapes and fruit trees. This story made me want to learn more about their experiences. I loved the theme of supportive family in this book.

I just finished "Code Talkers" and loved it. I loved how as a child he was quietly stubborn about maintaining his talent - speaking his Navajo language. Later, in the Marines, he felt "proud, not in a self-important way, but in a quiet humble way" that his family tongue could help America. The narrator shared how he maintained inner strengths during times of turmoil and shared experiences of mutual respect that occurred between people of different races. This book could be used in discussions regarding developing resilience during difficult experiences, and being true to your gifts and using those gifts to benefit others.

I will be purchasing “Esperanza Rising” and “Code Talkers” for our family library!