Curriculum Guides


Grades 3 - 5

A Dog's Life. By Martin, Ann M. (Retta Eiland)

Each Little Bird That Sings. By Wiles, Deborah. (Mary Harmon)

The Flag With Fifty-Six Stars.. By Rubin, Susan (Kathleen Flanagan)

The Journey That Saved Curious George.. By Rey, Margret & HA (Sharon Sharpe)

Let Them Play. By Raven, Margo Theis (Amy Brownlee)

Lowji Discovers America. By Fleming, Candace (Mary Ann Sadler )

The Missing Manatee. By DeFelice, Cynthia. (Kathleen Flanagan)

Moon Runner. By Marsden, Caroly. (Kim Glover)

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale.. By Birdsall, Jeanne (Wendy Morris)

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs. By Birney, Betty G. (Arlene Wiler)

Shanghai Messenger. By Cheng, Andrea. (Suzanne Eastman)

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds.. By Yoo, Paula. (Kim Glover)

Grades 6 - 8

Adam Canfield of the Slash. By Winerip, Michael. (Heather Collins)

Airball: My Life in Briefs. By Harkrader, L.D. (Barb Bahm)

Black Storm Comin'. By Wilson, Diane Lee. (Barb Stransky)

Defiance. By Hobbs, Valerie. (Barb Stransky)

The Misadventures of Maude March. By Couloumbis, Audrey. (Bev Nye)

The Naked Mole-Rat Letters. By Amato, Mary. (Arlene Wiler)

On Etrucsan Time. By Barrett, Tracy. (Suzanne Murray)

Out of Order. By Hicks, Betty. (Barb Stransky)

Princess Academy. By Hale, Shannon. (Bev Nye)

Project Mulberry. By Park, Linda Sue. (Susan Perkins)

Sacrifice. By Duble, Kathleen Benner. (Barb Bahm)

Shakespeare's Secret. By Broach, Elise. (Kathleen Flagan)

Wing Nut. By Auch, MJ. (Barb Stransky)

A Dog’s Life


A Dog’s Life. Martin, Ann M.; New York, Scholastic, 2005.

Grade Level: 3-5

Hardback ISBN: 0-439-71559-8 ISBN-13: 978-0439715591

Cost Paperback: January 1, 2007 $5.99

Other formats: Audio CD, Cassette, Ebook


Synopsis: Squirrel, a stray dog, tells her life story, from starting life with her mother and brother, living alone in the forest, experiencing mean, unkind humans, to life with a kind, loving owner when she is old.


General Review: This book would make a wonderful introduction for a unit on pets, animals, and animal shelters. It is a serious, thought provoking account of the life of a stray dog from the dog’s point of view. As Squirrel, a stray dog, confronts humans and other animals, she learns many lessons. Just like humans, what she has learned affects her decisions from then on.


Themes: Dogs, Homeless animals, Animal shelters, Animal rescues, Orphaned animals


Author Information:


Discussion Questions: 

1. Discuss the difference in Bone and Squirrel’s life from the farm to the house in the city.

2. How was life different for Squirrel after the female Moon came to live with her in the forest by the mall?

3. What happened when Moon and Squirrel crossed the highway and were hurt?

4. After wondering for many years, what was life like with Susan?

Activity suggestions: 

1. Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast our pets with a stray animal. Standard 3, Benchmark 1

2. Interview your local veterinarian about pet care and the number of unclaimed animals in your area. Standard 7, Benchmark 1

3. Arrange to have someone from the animal shelter or police department speak to the children about stray animals. Standard 7, Benchmark 1

4. Visit an animal shelter. Standard 3, Benchmark 2

5. After reading the story, write a creative narrative from a pet’s point of view. What would their pet think about its life with them? Standard 9, Benchmark 4

6. Select a significant event from the book and draw an illustration. Be sure to include the page number(s) where the event takes place and write an original caption for the illustration. Standard 5, Benchmark 3

7. Using Internet and book research, have students make a list of Top Ten Facts about the Homeless Animals or write a report on the problem of homeless animals. Standard 1, Benchmark 5


Similar Books for Further Reading: 

  • The Good Dog by Avi
  • Sarah Clark Jordan's The BossQueen, Little BigBark and the Sentinel Pup
  • Sheila Burnford's The Incredible Journey

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Each Little Bird That Sings

Each Little Bird That Signs . Deborah Wiles; Gulliver Books, Harcourt, Inc. 2005
Grade Level: 3 - 5
ISBN & Cost: 0152051139 $16.00

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Comfort Snowberger knows firsthand about death because her family owns and operates the local funeral home in Snapfinger, Mississippi. With the death of two of her beloved family members, Comfort struggles with dealing with her own emotions, the emotions of her family, and her best friend.

General Review: Ten-year old Comfort Snowberger is very strong willed little girl. Comfort has been to over 200 funerals, since her dad is the mortician, but the death of Great-uncle Edisto and Great-great-aunt Florentine are really tough for Comfort, especially Great-great-aunt Florentine who was Comfort’s partner is just about everything. As if this weren’t enough, Comfort must deal with her over-emotional cousin, Peach Shuggars, and her waning friendship with best friend, Declaration Johnson. But through it all, she can depend upon her faithful dog, Dismay, to help her through these touch times. When a flash flood creates danger in a nearby creek, Comfort shows all just how strong-willed she can be. Comfort is that type of person you want to meet. She lives by the Snowberger motto which has been passed down from generation to generation, “We live to serve.” She has a positive outlook on life and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right…although it may not always end up as she would like. Readers will see Comfort’s strength of character as she deals with loss of family and faithful friend.

Themes: Funerals, Death, Grief, Family, Mississippi, Dogs

Author Information: Deborah Wiles lives in Atlanta, Georgia and has written four books. One Wide Sky and Freedom Summer are both picture books. Love, Ruby Lavender and Each Little Bird That Sings are her other two novels. Both of her novels have been nominated for and received many awards. She holds a MFA from Vermont College where she now teaches classes on writing for children and young adults.



Discussion Questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3

  1. Instead of obituaries, Comfort wrote Life Notices. What information would you include in your life notice?
  2. Comfort and her Great-great-aunt Florentine were working together on a cookbook entitled “Fantastic (and Fun) Funeral Food for Family and Friends”. Why do you think they started this cookbook? Why do you think that Comfort is continuing to add recipes?
  3. Comfort chose to go to Listening Rock and to her closet when she wanted to do some serious thinking. Where do you go when you want to be by yourself and do some serious thinking?

Suggested Activities:

1. Similes are figures of speech in which unlike things are compared to give the reader a mental picture to use as they read. Below are five similes found in the story. Tell what they mean. Now write a simile that describes you. (Standard 5, Benchmark 2)

p. 3 – The sky opened wide and rain sheared down like curtains.

p. 72 – Aunt Florentine had love to work on my hair. “Straight as a stick, thin as a lie, and tangled as a spider’s web!”

p. 88 – I flopped myself back onto my pillow, flipped the covers over my head, and held them bunched in my hands at my ears, which made the sheet fit tightly against my face. I was sure I looked like an Egyptian mummy (Discovering Our World Magazine, issue 12), and I began to picture myself in my pyramid, closeted away from everybody.

p. 148 – Leaves snapped in the breeze like little flags.

p. 159-160 – I grabbed Peach by his polka-dot tie and help on as we swung around in the current, banging into trees and each other—screaming like we were part of a carnival ride—all the way to te other side of the big oak tree where we slammed into the rose of Sharon bushes, water splashing over our heads, the current pulling us away, away.

2. Comfort created the” Top Ten Tips for First-rate Funeral Behavior” (page 47) so that everyone would know the proper etiquette when attending a funeral. Now it’s your turn. Create three or four tips for a “Top Ten Tips for First-rate School Behavior”. You may work independently or with a partner. When complete, share your tips with the class. As a class, create the “Top Ten Tips for First-rate School Behavior.” (Standard 9, Benchmark 1)

3. The author has created a map to help you understand the setting of the story as it unfolds. Draw a map of your classroom, then write a short paragraph about the classroom so that the reader can use you map and have a better understanding of the setting. For example, you might write about procedures for handing in homework, or how to get from your desk to the door, or where you sit and where your best friend sits. Use the map to help you. (Standard 5, Benchmark 3)

4. Read the interview with the author, Deborah Wiles, at the web site listed below. Using a Venn diagram, compare and contrast the author with Comfort Snowberger. What type of summary statement could you make based on the completed Venn Diagram? (Standard 3, Benchmark 1)

5. Comfort makes many references throughout the book about Discovering Our World Magazine. Although this is a fictitious magazine, where might you go (print or internet) to find information about the Lewis and Clark expedition that Comfort references (Discovering Our World Magazine, issue 14) p. 32, as she is hiking to the top of Listening Rock? Since the Lewis and Clark expedition did not go as far south as Mississippi, what was Comfort referring to? (Standard 1, Benchmark 4 & 5)

6. Comfort refers to “metamorphic” rock p. 32. Using the following web site or another dictionary web site, write the definition of “metamorphic”. Remember to cite you source. (Standard 8, Benchmark 3)

Similar Books for Further Reading: 


    • Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles
    • Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas
    • Where is Grandpa? by T. A. Barron
    • Flapjack Waltzes by Nancy Wilson
    • Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park
    • A Dog’s Life: An Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M. Martin

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The Flag with Fifty-six Stars: A Gift from the Survivors of Mauthausen.


The Flag with Fifty-six Stars: A Gift from the Survivors of Mauthausen. Rubin, Susan Goldman; ill. Farnsworth, Bill; Holiday House, 2005.

Grade Level: 3-5

ISBN-10: 0-823-41653-4 (hardcover); $16.95

ISBN-10: 0-823-42019-1 (paperback); $ 6.95


Synopsis: This is a brief yet moving true story of a “special” concentration camp. It was started in 1938 to house people who were opposed to Hitler and the Nazis. While living and working there some of the prisoners heard that the Americans may be nearby and that there’s a good chance they will be rescued before Hitler kills them. To show their gratitude the prisoners pool their resources and make a flag with which to greet their liberators, the American soldiers.


General Review: Booklist

Gr. 4-6. When the Americans liberated Austria's Mauthausen concentration camp, a group of survivors presented the commander with an American flag they had secretly sewn from scraps, a symbol of their hope and gratitude. Now that flag (which the prisoners inadvertently made with an extra row of stars) hangs in Los Angeles' Simon Wiesenthal Center and Library Archives, named in honor of the famous Mauthausen survivor. Through the story of that flag, this stirring picture book for older children tells the history of the brutal labor camp and its liberation. There is none of the festivity of Margaret Wild's Let the Celebrations Begin! (1991). Rubin draws on eyewitness accounts and extensive interviews with liberators and prisoners, including Wiesenthal, to document the suffering, the resistance, and, finally, the hope. Farnsworth's somber, dark, unframed paintings show the camp and the marching laborers as well as close-ups of emaciated people sewing in the shadows--and then, free at last. Hazel Rochman


General Themes: Mauthausen (concentration camp), World War, 1939-1945, Concentration camps, Liberation-Germany, Flags-American, History


Author Information:



Illustrator Information:



Discussion Questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3

1. Why did some people survive life in the concentration camp and others died?

2. This is a true story. What were the other things going on around Mauthausen at this


3. What do you know about concentration camps? Where can you learn more?

4. Why do you think Mauthausen was kept as a secret from the world?

5. How did the inmates help the Allies win the war? Why was this important to them?

6. What is hope? Why does it figure so prominently in this book?



1. Visit online the Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Center.

/ List five things you learned. Why is tolerance important in today’s world? Standard 3 Benchmark 3

2. Have you ever felt hopeless? Write about it. Brainstorm in a small group things a

person can do to regain hope. Standard 2 Benchmark 2

3. There is a saying: History repeats itself. What are things you can do so that this

period in our history is not repeated. There are many resources listed on pp.37-39.

Standard 5 Benchmark 3

4. Interview someone who has been discriminated against because of race, religious

views and/or non-traditional beliefs. Share what you learned with your class.

Standard 5 Benchmark 3

5. Locate Austria and Mauthausen on a map. How does its location lend itself to secrecy?

Standard 3 Benchmark 2

6. Draw a timeline for the events chronicled in this story, beginning in 1938. Standard 3

Benchmark 1

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The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey

 The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey by Louise Borden, Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

Grade Level: 3 rd -5 th

ISBN-10: 0618339248 ISBN-13: 978-0618339242 List Price: $17.00


Synopsis: Biography of Margret and H.A. Rey, authors of Curious George books. Both German born Jews, they flee France in advance of the Nazi takeover. They take only the manuscripts for Curious George and other books and make their perilous way to the U.S.


General Review: This fast paced book is a perfect way to tell the story behind the story of Curious George. The book pages features copies of primary documents and artifacts. Teachers will find the book a great springboard to discussion regarding persecution, immigration laws, and war.


Themes: Biographies, Authors, Voyages and Travels, World War II, Immigration Laws.


Author Information:

Louise Borden was born October 30, 1949 and reared in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Denison University with a degree in history. Louise lives with her husband, Pete, in Terrace Park, Ohio, and has three grown children. This book is one of twenty-two books she has written for children. Her web site is


Discussion: (Standard 3, Benchmark 3) 


1. Hans Rey like to draw and write about monkeys and other animals. Do you have a
favorite animal? Why do you like about that animal?

2. Describe the planning that Hans and Margret did to escape the Nazis.

3. Hans and Margret left their home on bicycles with only what they could carry in
four baskets. If you had to leave your home and travel by bicycle to another country, 
Hans and Margret, what you put in your baskets and why?




1. Would marmoset monkeys make good pets? Research the habits and needs of the
marmoset monkey. Write a report explaining how to take care of a pet marmoset
monkey. (Standard 2, Benchmark 4, Standard 3, Benchmark 2) 


2. Research embassies and consulates. How do they help citizens traveling in foreign
countries? Write a summary explaining why the Reys kept going to the various
countries’ consulates. Use web site and There are student and educator sections. 
(Standard 3, Benchmark 2 and Benchmark 3) 


3. Hans and Margret were both born in Germany but became legal citizens of Brazil. 
They had Brazilian passports that allowed them to leave Germany. Make a list of
the information you would need to obtain a United State Passport? How much does a
passport cost? Use web site

(Standard 3, Benchmark 2 and Benchmark 3) 


4. Obtain a map of Europe and mark the Reys’ travels. The book reported their mileage
kilometers. Research how to convert kilometers into miles. Create a chart showing
how many miles they rode each day. (Standard 3, Benchmark 1 and Benchmark 3) 


Additional Resources: 


This site features activities for The Journey That Saved Curious George.


This site features information and activities for the Curious George books.


This site is for individuals seeking additional research about the Reys. The Reys collection is part of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi.


Follow-up Books: 


A partial bibliography of books by Margret and H.A. Rey can be found on page 72 of

The Journey That Saved Curious George. 


Books that deal with escaping Europe during World War II:


Borden, Louise. Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands.

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Lily’s Crossing

Haywood, Carolyn, Primrose Day

Lowry, Lois, Number the Stars


Books about authors:


Anderson, William. Pioneer Girl: The Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Anderson, William. Prairie Girl: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Anderson, William. River Boy: The Story of Mark Twain

Blegvad, Lenore. Kitty and Mr. Kipling: Neighbors in Vermont

Carle, Eric. Flora and Tiger: 19 Very Short Stories About My Life

Cohen, Charles. Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing But the Seuss: 
A Visual Biography of Theodor Seuss Geisel

Crew, Donald. Bigmama’s

De Paola, Tomie. 26 Fairmount Avenue

De Paola, Tomie. Christmas Remembered

De Paola, Tomie. Here We All Are

De Paola, Tomie. I’m Still Scared

De Paola, Tomie. On My Way

De Paola, Tomie. Things Will Never Be the Same

De Paola, Tomie. What a Year

Hesse, Karen. Young Hans Christian Anderson

Jones, Brenn. Learning About Achievement From the Life of Maya Angelo

Kull, Kathleen. Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to
Dr. Seuss

Lester, Helen. Author: A True Story

Marcus, Leonard. Side by Side: Five Favorite Picture-Book Teams Go to Work

McGinty, Alice. Meet Jerry Spinelli

Rau, Dand Meachen. Dr. Seuss

Ruffin, Frances. Meet Cynthia Rylant

Ruffin, Frances. Meet Lois Lowry

Ruffin, Frances. Meet Patricia MacLachlan

Ruffin, Frances. Meet Paula Danziger

Ruffin, Frances. Meet Roald Dahl

Ruffin, Frances. Meet Sid Fleischman

Wallner, Alexandra. Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Author of Anne of Green Gables

Ward, S. Meet Beverly Cleary

Ward, S. Meet J.K. Rowling

Ward, S. Meet Shel Silverstein

Winter, Jeanette. Beatrix: Various Episodes From the Life of Beatrix Potter

Yolen, Jane. Perfect Wizard: Hans Christain Anderson


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Let Them Play


Let Them PlayMargot Theis RavenSleeping Bear Press2005

Grade Level: 3-5

ISBN & Cost: 1-58536-260-3, $16.95


Synopsis: Set in South Carolina in 1955, this is the story of the Cannon Street All-Stars, a Little League baseball team made up of all black players who face discrimination when the white teams withdraw from their league, leaving them with no teams to play. They are league champions by default, but the lack of competition makes it impossible for the Cannon Street team to qualify to play in the Little League World Series. The team is allowed to travel to the tournament and warm up on the field, and they dream of the day when they will be treated as equals—both on the baseball field and anywhere else they choose to go.


General Review: Although the book’s fluency falters in places, this story is the perfect way to introduce the concept of racial discrimination and injustice to children. It does not depict violence, and its effective discussion of the phrase “separate but equal” on a page picturing separate “white” and “colored” drinking fountains makes the concept of segregation accessible to young audiences. The sports theme will pique children’s interest in the book, paving the way for a valuable history lesson. Through the author’s descriptions of how the entire black community invested in this team was bitterly disappointed, kids can readily understand how blacks were affected by discrimination. A moving epilogue describes how the boys of the Cannon Street team overcame obstacles and grew into productive citizens but still carried the scars of racism. Beautiful illustrations add to the effectiveness of the story.


Themes: Segregation; discrimination in sports; little league baseball.


Author information: 

Author Biography from Sleeping Bear Press


Discussion Questions: (Standard 3, Benchmark 3) 

1. Explain what “separate but equal” means. How did that rule affect the lives of the Cannon Street community and other black people?

2. What obstacles did the Cannon Street All-Stars face? How did they deal with their problems?

3. Describe how the people of Cannon Street supported the baseball team. What does this show about their community?

4. When the boys stayed in the college dorm, the author says they had a pillow fight to “tamp down lots of feelings.” What does this mean?

5. Why did it mean so much for the boys to hear the crowd shout, “Let them play!”?

6. Why do you think the author included the epilogue? How does it add to the story?



1. The story mentions Jackie Robinson several times. He is best known for “breaking the color barrier.” What does that mean? Research this man. There are some excellent periodical articles about him available through SIRS Discoverer (available FREE to all schools in Kansas). (Standard 1, Benchmark 5; Standard 2, Benchmark 4) 


2. Ruby Bridges is a well-known figure in the fight against segregation. Learn about her courage through her autobiography, Through My Eyes, and a biography by Robert Coles called The Story of Ruby Bridges. What is the difference between a biography and autobiography? How could Ruby Bridge’s actions affect the people of Cannon Street? (Standard 3, Benchmark 2; Standard 3, Benchmark 3; Standard 5, Benchmark 1) 


3. Rehearse and perform the baseball poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer. Aaron Shepard has a reader’s theater version that can be downloaded free at This would be a great vocabulary and fluency lesson. (Standard 5, Benchmark 2) 


4. Invite students to wear baseball caps to a baseball themed story time. Sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Visit this Web site for the complete lyrics, plus “karaoke style” musical accompaniment for your sing along: 5, Benchmark 2) 


5. Write a persuasive letter to the white Little League teams in the story asking them to rejoin the league, or to the Little League World Series officials asking them to allow the Cannon Street All-Stars to compete in the tournament. (Standard 3, Benchmark 4; Standard 9, Benchmark 1) 


6. Research some statistics or record holders in baseball (a great chance to use an almanac). Choose some interesting facts and create a chart or graph to illustrate the statistics. (Standard 1, Benchmark 5; Standard 3, Benchmark 4) 


Similar Books for Further Reading

  • Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack (fiction picture book)
  • The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson (fiction picture book)
  • Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey (historical fiction picture book)
  • Mighty Jackie: the Strike Out Queen by Marissa Moss (biography picture book)
  • Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges (autobiography picture book)
  • The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (biography picture book)
  • First in the Field: Baseball Hero Jackie Robinson by Derek T. Dingle (biography)
  • Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer, illustrated by Christopher Bing (poetry with outstanding Caldecott Honor Medial illustrations)
  • Teammates by Peter Golenbock (nonfiction)
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord (historical fiction novel)
  • Jackie and Me by Dan Gutman (historical fiction novel)
  • January 2007 issue of Kids Discover magazine features Jackie Robinson

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Lowji Discovers America


Lowji Discovers America. Candace Fleming; Atheneum Books for Simon & Schuster, 2005

Grade Level: 3 – 5

ISBN & Cost: 0-689-86299-7; $15.95



Synopsis: For nearly nine year old Lowji the move from big, busy Bombay, India to Hamlet, Illinois in America is beginning to seem like a “bummer” until he finds the “silver” (silver linings). What Lowji discovers first is that “No! No you can’t have a pet,” works no matter where he lives until he finds the “silver.”


General Review: Lowji Sanjana is not happy to leave family and friends in Bombay until he realizes that he might be able to have a pet in America. Landlady Crisp has other ideas but outgoing. Lowji finds his silver linings in ways, to use an expression, “could only happen in America.” The story moves quickly as Lowji acquaints himself with Hamlet, Illinois. Candace Fleming has created an ebullient character in Lowji while giving insight into the culture of India.


Themes: Awareness of surroundings and situations; Persistence in seeking information and answers; Culture of India; Learning to compromise or as Lowji might eventually say, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”


Author Information: Candace Fleming’s web site

Meet Authors and Illustrators


Discussion Questions : Standard 3, Benchmark 3

1. In what ways did the glossary help you?

2. Using clues from the story, describe Jamshed.

3. What reasons can you give for the ways that the “All Mart boys” acted toward Lowji?

4. Explain to adults like Lowji’s parents why it was important for him to respond as he did to “Baseball Cap” and the “All Mart boys” in the bowling alley.

5. Predict and discuss what will happen during Lowji’s first weeks at Hamlet Elementary School.




1. Lowji Discovers America tells of many adventures. Make a time line to show the problems or events that Lowji encounters and his solutions to them.

(Standard 3, Benchmark 1)


  • Lowji is unsure about moving to America. His Bape tells him to look for the silver linings.

A. Explain what Bape means by silver linings.

B. When you understand the meaning of silver linings, thing of some examples

from your own life.

  • Using a Venn diagram or other graphic organizer, compare Lowji’s “silvers” with your own.

(Standard 6, Benchmark 1; Standard 9, Benchmark 1)

3. The author has created a lively and interesting character in Lowji. Using traditional web mapping or designing a more text-related web, show the special characteristics of Lowji . For example, what characteristics does Lowji display in the chapter, “Ironman” when he saves the pig? (Standard 2, Benchmark 2)


4. Lowji folded paper and created a “wish bird.” His paper folding is known as origami. Look for books on origami in your school library or public library. From books on origami and web sites you can learn to make your own “wish bird” and other creatures. Copier paper cut into squares works well when learning origami. (Standard 1, Benchmark 1)

Suggested web sites: and


5. Lowji and his parents are newcomers to America. If they plan to stay here for the rest of their lives, they could also be called immigrants.


When we hear the word, “Immigrant” in the news of 2007, we may be reading someone’s opinion about problems with the immigration of people into America. The treatment of people emigrating from India to America in the late 19 th and the early 20 th century was similar to the experiences that immigrating Hispanics are experiencing in the early years of the 21 st century. In 1890 a congressman wanted to stop admitting people from India into America because, “They wore turbans, ate rice and were not Christians.” At that time people from India were usually called “Hindus.” That word refers to just one of the many religions of India.


What do you know about immigrants? To find out more, get information from InfoTrac and SIRS Discoverer databases. Another good source for learning more about immigration is Appreciating America’s Heritage from the American Immigration Law Foundation. from the same source is The Passage from India. 2002. Basically, Appreciating America’s Heritage is a curriculum guide for K-12. It provides activities and resources within a few pages.

(Standards 1.1; 7.1; 8.1)


There are several books on India and its culture and geography. A recent publication with a theme similar to that of Lowji Discoverer America is Kashmira Sheth’s Blue Jasmine 2004. Hyperion Books for Children. ISBN-13: 9780768618556. $15.99 hardback.

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The Missing Manatee


The Missing Manatee. DeFelice, Cynthia; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.


Grade Level: 3-5

ISBN-10: 0-374-31257-5 (hardcover); $16.00

ISBN-10: 0-786-28178-2 (large print); $20.95


Synopsis: After overhearing his mother’s side of a phone conversation with his father telling him not to come back home, Skeet Waters takes off to think in the comfort of his boat. While meandering through the Florida inlets, he finds a manatee that has been shot in the head. He spends most of his spring break searching for the killer and learning some hard lessons in life.


General Review: Booklist

Gr. 5-8. While cruising in his small boat through the maze of Florida's coastal rivers, young Skeet Waters comes across a dead manatee. Close examination reveals that the manatee was shot through the head. However, when Skeet and a deputy sheriff return to the scene of the crime, they discover that the manatee has disappeared. Skeet is determined to solve the crime, but he takes a break in his efforts to go fly-fishing for tarpon with Dirty Dan, a legendary local guide. Eventually, Skeet discovers that Dirty Dan is responsible for the manatee's death and disappearance. With the help of his funny and free-spirited grandmother, Skeet also learns that administrating true justice is not always simple or easy. DeFelice delivers a fast-paced mystery with a strong sense of place. Her lengthy description of the subtleties of tarpon fishing will grab young lovers of outdoor adventures. These elements, along with strong characters and an effective first-person narration, create an exciting whole, sure to hook readers. Todd Morning


General Themes: Family life; Tarpon fishing; Manatees; Boats and boating; Florida


Author Information:


Discussion Questions: Standard 3 Benchmark 3

1. Skeet’s parents are separated. How does this affect him? What role does Memaw

play in his life?

2. Why do you think Skeet’s mother has all the rules for him while boating? Are they

reasonable? Why or why not?

3. Skeet seems to have a lot of freedom – going out by himself on his boat, riding his

bike all around town, etc. Why? Do you have many freedoms?

4. Why are some animals “protected species”? Discuss such terms as endangered,

protected, refuge and related laws.



1. What is the draw to tarpon fishing? Research this fish and design a sales pitch to give

to the class enticing them to go fishing with you. Standard 5 Benchmark 3

2. Are there any protected or endangered species in Kansas? If so, what are they and

how are they protected. Share what you learned with the class. Standard 5

Benchmark 3

3. Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast your family to Skeet’s.

Standard 3 Benchmark 1

4. Write a story about one of your more memorable spring breaks. Standard 2

Benchmark 2

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Moon Runner


Moon Runner. Carolyn Marsden, Candlewick Press, 2005

Grade Level: 3-5

Hardback ISBN: 076362117X (alk. paper) 9780763621179 $12.47

Paperback ISBN: July 2007 9780763633042


Synopsis: Mina has never been interested in being an athlete like her best friend Ruth but one day in P.E. that all changes. Mina discovers that running makes her feel wonderful and she is even faster than Ruth but will she have to choose between the two?


General Review

Moon Runner is a good and effortless read that addresses a real life problem, jealousy, something friends have to face at times. The plot is uncomplicated and the characters easy to identify with. Students will be able to relate to protagonist’s joy and sense of release when she is doing something that she enjoys and is good at, but also her turmoil at the idea she might have to choose between her best friend and her new passion.


Themes: Friendship; Running; Racing, Moon, Chinese Fall Moon Festival, Track


Author information: According to her bio on the Candlewick Press site, Carolyn Marsden has been an elementary teacher and is a mother and both roles have helped and inspire her as writer of children’s literature. Moon Runner was inspired by Marsden’s daughter who recently went through a similar experience as her protagonist Mina.

Candlewick Press Bios:


Discussion Questions: (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)


  1. Have you ever been surprised by enjoying something that you never thought you would like, like Mina and running?
  2. Have you ever been in a situation like Mina where you were willing to give up something you really liked to save a friendship?
  3. Mina and her friends share a special “friendship ball” that is a symbol of their friendship. Do you have a physical symbol of friendship that you share with your friends?
  4. In Moon Runner Mina and her classmates are studying the different phases of the moon and keeping a journal. Have you ever had a similar type of assignment? Did you have to keep a journal about something you were studying? What was it?



Standard 1: Benchmark 4 and Standard 7: Benchmark 1: Identifies a variety of potential sources of information:

In Moon Runner Mina talks about the Chinese Moon Festival and moon cakes. What are some resources you could use to find out more about the Chinese Moon Festival?


Standard 3: Benchmark 4, Standard 5: Benchmark 3, and Standard 9 Benchmark 1:Mina and her classmates are given the assignment of tracking the different phases of the moon in a journal. Keeps your own journal regarding something in nature for several weeks and then creatively share your observation with classmates.


Standard 9: Benchmark 1Mina and her mother share their custom of celebrating the Chinese Moon Festival with her classmates. Share with your classmates a special holiday tradition your family celebrates.

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The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy


The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. Jeanne Birdsall; Knopf, 2005

Grade Level: 3-5

ISBN & Cost: 0-375-83143-6 (trade) 0-375-93143-0 (lib. Bdg.) $15.95


Synopsis: Four sisters who are very close but yet very different and their father head off on their annual summer holiday trip. The family is in for a surprise this particular summer. The girls discover Jeffrey, the gardens, some tame rabbits, and other hired-help around The Arundel; their vacation spot. Through the ups and downs of this story you will become closer to the girls and understand their lives.


General Review: 

Jeanne Birdsall has done a wonderful job creating a story for children of the primary to upper-school age. With this being her very first novel I personally hope to see more stories published in the future. The beginning of the book was a little slow for me but I truly could not put it down once it hooked me.

Themes: friends, single-parent family, vacations, sisters,


Author information:


Discussion Questions: 

  1. Batty is very shy and often hides. What do you think this says about her? (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)
  2. What makes a friend? Would you have been Jeffrey’s friend? (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)
  3. Why did Batty give her wings to Jeffrey? What do you think this says about her maturity over the summer? (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)



  1. Draw a picture of your favorite scene from the novel. (Standard 1; Benchmark 4)
  2. Using a Venn diagram, compare and contrast the lives of the Penderwick sisters and Jeffrey. What similarities and differences stand out while reading the story. (Standard 1; Benchmark 4)
  3. Interview a character from the book. Write at least ten questions that will give the character the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings about their role in the story. (Standard 2; Benchmark 1)


Similar Books for Further Reading

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Gone Away Lake and Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

Magic of the Glits by C.S. Adler

Happy Hollister series by Jerry West

The Five Little Peppers series by Margaret Sidney

The Bobbsey Twins series by Laura Lee Hope

The All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

Betsy's Play School by Carolyn Haywood

Faraway Summer by Johanna Hurwitz

The Good Master by Kate Seredy

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The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs


The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs . Betty G. Birney; Atheneum Books for Young Readers, (2005)

Grade Level: 3 - 5

ISBN 0-689-87136-8

Cost $16.95


SYNOPSIS: Twelve year-old Eben McAllister dreams of far away places after he reads a book about the seven wonders of the world. He feels doomed to stay on the farm and in his small community of Sassafras Springs until he grows up. His father challenges him to find seven wonders among his friends and neighbors in order to win a train ticket to visit a cousin in Colorado.


GENERAL REVIEW : Eben’s search for wonders in his small farming town gives a delightful view of his family and friends. He discovers not only surprising objects but more importantly amazing stories from the people he has known in Sassafras Springs all his life. He also discovers aspects of his father and aunt he had never imagined. This book captures the feeling of living in a rural 1923 Missouri community in both words and illustrations. It adds a touch of magic to fun story of discovery and growth.


THEMES: Wonder, Country life, Family life, Neighbors


AUTHOR INFORMATION: Betty Birney grew up listening to her grandmothers stories of growing up in the small town of Lonedell, Missouri. From these stories grew the town of Sassafras Springs and the wonderful characters that lived there. She lives in Studio City, California with her family and is a screen writer for both live-action and animated television programs for children. For more information and some wonderful photos check out her website


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS : Standard 3 Benchmark 3

What do you know about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? Which ones would you like to be able to see?


What wonders exist in your community? How could you go about uncovering them?


Do you think you would like living in Sassafras Springs? Why or why not? If you could accompany Eben on his search for wonders which person would you spend the most time talking to? Why?



Research the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and make a diorama to show them. Standard 5, Benchmark 3


Explore your community and compile a list of the seven most interesting ones you find. Make a display with photos, stories or models for each wonder. Standard 1, Benchmark 3


Eben was rewarded for his success by being able to go to St. Louis on the train. Imagine you earned a weeks vacation anywhere in the world. Plan an itinerary and research travel arrangements, housing options, and sight seeing opportunities for this trip. Make a scrapbook of this imaginary trip complete with photos, schedules and expenses. Standard 1, Benchmark 3; Standard 5, Benchmark 3

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Shanghai Messenger


Shanghai Messenger, Andrea Cheng; Lee & Low Books, Inc. 2005

Grade Level: 3-5

ISBN-13: 978-1-58430-238-4

ISBN-10: 1-58430-238-0



Eleven year old Xiao Mei enjoys the trip of a lifetime to China and discovers the value of her heritage and the importance of family ties.


General Review: 

Andrea Cheng takes us on a journey through the eyes of an eleven year old girl using concise, well chosen words. Illustrations by Caldecott Winner Ed Young enhance the text with beautiful and sparing art. This is a poignant short story in verse with depth, precise word choices and good character development. A pre-glossary helps the reader with the pronunciation of the characters names and basic Chinese phrases and words.


Themes: Family, bi-racial, China, Grandmother, travel, overcoming fear, responsibility, heritage


Author Information: Author’s own site has biography, books and teacher resources on some of her books.




Discussion Questions: 

  1. Why do you think Xiao Mei changed her mind about wanting to visit China?


  1. What are some of the things that are different between Shanghai, China and your city in America?


  1. Being bi-racial, did Xiao Mei experience any of the problems that she feared she would in China? What might be a reason that she was worried about this?


  1. Grandma Nei Nei only read a little of what Uncle wrote on the fan. What else do you think he might have written?


  1. In China it is tradition to give a gift to help that person remember you when leaving. What kind of a gift would you give? Why?



Activity Suggestions: 

Standard 9 Benchmark 1


  1. Students working in groups compare and contrast the writing style and or content of this story with other stories. Similar writing style stories (Lyrical/pros) : Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, What is Goodbye by Nikki Grimes. Basic story with Asian theme: Half and Half by Lensey Namioka , Chang and the Bamboo Flute by Elizabeth Starr Hill.


Standard 3 Benchmark 4


  1. Explore Chinese art, food and culture through the paintings and Chinese calligraphy found in the book. Study Caldecott illustrator Ed Young’s winning book Lon Po Po and look for any similarities in the art styles. Students may create a restaurant menu or other type of visual media demonstrating Chinese art, writing and culture. Play the Chinese word game on web:

Standard 1 Benchmark 5


  1. Chinese names are very similar to American Indian names. Names might be a description of something from nature or a descriptive name based on a physical or personality characteristic. Examples from the book are Wang Wei - Great King and Xiao Mei - Little Flower. Using the Handy 5 or Big6 problem solving strategy to facilitate research, locate other names from each culture and look for similarities. Culminate the activity with a “naming” ceremony and have students select their own name based on personal characteristics or possible goals in life.


Websites of interest: Find information and links about China including Chinese names, Chinese alphabet.


Similar Books for Further Reading: 

Chang and the Bamboo Flute by Elizabeth Starr Hill

Brothers by Yin

China by Julie McCulloch

Chinese Americans by Bryan Nichol

Cockroach Cooties by Lawrence Yep

Dragonsong by Russell Young

Exploring Chinatown by Carol Stepanchuk

Half and Half by Lensey Namioka

The History of the Written Word by Kevin Cunningham

Ho Lee Chow! Chinese For Kids by Carole Marsh

Honeysuckle House by Andrea Cheng

The Key Collection by Andrea Cheng

Tai Chi Morning by Nikki Grimes

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GRADES 6 - 8

Adam Canfield of the Slash


Adam Canfield of the Slash. Winerip, Michael; Candlewick Press, 2005

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN & Cost: 0-7636-2340-7, $15.99


Synopsis: Adam Canfield, co-editor of the middle-school newspaper The Slash, works with the other Slash reporters to unearth a major story about corruption, fraud, and politics which leads straight to school administration, city government and the local news.


General Review: 

Adam Canfield and his news-hound friends at Harris Middle School find a news scoop with shocking implications. These daring reporters use research and evaluation skills to uncover a high-action plot involving insidious underground connections of fraud, corruption, cronyism, dirty politics, abuse of power and scandal. Readers begin to understand the importance of freedom of speech and open access to policy and government records as they watch a conspiracy unfold. Winerip passes along his experience as a Pulitzer Prize-winning Education columnist for the New York Times to aspiring journalists. The book mirrors common scandals found in today's headlines. This is a powerful and realistic introduction to a more complex world. Readers will learn of the power of information and the need for activism in advocating for integrity in government, school and the media.


Themes: Newspapers; Journalists; Fraud; Schools


Author information:


Discussion Questions: (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)

  1. If Jennifer had not pressured Adam to work with Phoebe on her ‘Eddie the Janitor’ story, do you think that the fraud Mrs. Marris was involved in would have been uncovered? Why is it important to work together when finding information? Make a list of the people who were essential in helping uncover the scandal.


  1. After attention had been drawn to the Herbs’ tagging of illegal basketball hoops and complaints started coming in from the public, the Herbs suggested that they should “pull back and wait for this to die down” (p.205). They hoped that people would forget about it and they would be able to slip the ordinance by at a later time. Do you think they are right? Why is it important to constantly watch important issues? If so, who is responsible?



  1. A person who uncovers fraud, crime or problems is called a whistleblower. Make a chart comparing the potential whistleblowers in the book, Adam, Eddie the Janitor, Miss Esther, and Mr. Brooks. List the negative and positive consequences each might face if they came forward. If you were in their shoes, would you come forward?



1. Use a library database, the internet, or a newspaper index and find a recent news story about fraud. Report to the class whether an effort was made to hide facts or lie about them. Also describe who discovered the truth and what they did to find the truth. (Standard 1; Benchmarks1 and 2)


2. Think about the times when Mrs. Marris censored The Slash. Write down whether you think this happens sometimes in today’s newspapers. Write down what freedom of speech means to you and examples of freedom of speech in the United States. (Standard 3; Benchmark 3 and Standard 8; Benchmark 1)


3. Use your library to find books, articles or the internet to research about today’s media (newspapers, magazines, t.v. media, etc.). List any biases, organizations or people who might be effecting or controlling what is being reported. Based on your research, do you think Winerip’s book is realistic? Why and/or why not? (Standard 2; Benchmarks 1-4)


4. Find and share a dubious article from a tabloid. Use encyclopedias, dictionaries, library books, library databases or the internet to fact-check the claims made in the article. Make a comparison chart detailing how many of the facts were true, how many were false, and how many were incomplete and might lead to a false conclusion. (Standard 2; Benchmarks 1-3)


Similar Books for Further Reading

Balliett, Blue. CHASING VERMEER: Scholastic Press
Clements, Andrew. THE LANDRY NEWS: Simon & Schuster
Hiaasen, Carl. HOOT: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Haddix, Margaret P. RUNNING OUT OF TIME: Aladdin

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Airball: My Life in Briefs


Airball: My Life in Briefs. L. D. Harkrader; Roaring Brook Press, 2005.

Grade Level: 6-8

Hardcover ISBN: 1596430605 $16.95

Paperback ISBN: no date set at this time



Kirby Nickel, an uncoordinated seventh-grader from Kansas, joins the school’s basketball team in hopes of meeting NBA star Brett McGrew, whom he thinks is his father he has never known.


General Review: 

An untalented group of seventh-grade boys get a chance to meet its small Kansas town’s basketball hero when his jersey is retired at a University of Kansas game. The school board refuses to let the team go unless the win games. Next comes the coach’s unique way of motivating the players (hint: The Emperor’s New Clothes). Told from a first-person narrative, the reader will laugh at times but also feel the Kirby’s pain while trying to figure out if the home town basketball hero is the father he has never known. Experience life in a small town that revolves around youth or college sports. Fun book that would make a good read aloud during the middle school basketball season.


Awards: Junior Library Guild Selection; Kansas Notable Books; Thorp Menn Award Finalist; Friends of American Writers Juvenile Literary Award


Themes: Basketball – Fiction; Fathers – Fiction; Coaches (Athletics) – Fiction; Kansas – Fiction.


Author Information:


Discussion Questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3

  • In the book, Kirby assume that Brett McGrew was his father because of circumstantial evidence. Have you ever assume something was true because of something you have heard or seen?
  • In the book, the coach had a unique way of motivating his players. What are some ways in which your parents, teachers and coaches motivate you?
  • Are there any connections between this book and your own life?
  • Out of the twelve players on the team which player would you like to have your family meet? Why?
  • What are your favorite lines or quotes? Why?



  • Write a team song for Kirby’s team. Pick a tune that is familiar then write the lyrics that include details that would encourage the team. Perform the song for class. (Standard 3, Benchmark 4)
  • Compare Airball to one of the following movies: Like Mike,Angel in the Outfield or Mighty Ducks. After watching the movie, make a Venn diagram showing similarities and differences. (Standard 2, Benchmark 2; Standard 3, Benchmark 1)
  • Research Kansas University Basketball. Find out if there were any players that played for Kansas University born in Kansas that made it to the NBA. A site you might use is: (Standard 1, Benchmark 5)

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Black Storm Comin’ 


Black Storm Comin’.Wilson, Diane Lee;Margaret K. McElderry books, 2005

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN & Cost: 0-689-87137-6; $16.95


Synopsis: Colton Wescott, a 12 year old boy with a white father and black mother and two younger sisters, has his inner strength put to the extreme test, when, while traveling West with a wagon train, the family is separated from his father, and his mother becomes very ill after the birth and death of a new baby. Colton feels a need to figure out a way to ensure the survival of his family, and begins a treacherous job as a Pony Express rider traveling through the mountains to California.


General Review: Readers who like action-packed adventure stories will be fascinated with this tale of a boy following a rugged trail leading toward becoming a young man. He and his younger sister have to help actually pull the wagon after two of their oxen disappear while the family is traveling as a part of a wagon train, but this isn’t as much of a struggle for him to accept as are the attitudes of others toward his black mother, and his attempts to understand his father’s desertion of the family.


Themes: Family life, Growing up, Multiculturalism, Pony Express; Slavery; Identity; Racially mixed people; Self-acceptance; Frontier and frontier life; West ( U. S.) – History – 19th Century; United States – History – 1815-1861; Pre-Civil War


Author information: Diane Lee Wilson has always ridden horses and has an extensive collection of horse books in her home in Escondido, California (Simon & Schuster website .


Discussion Questions: (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)

  1. How does Colton’s experience as a member of family made up mixed races affect his life? How does his repeated use of his ability to “pass” for white affect his self-image?
  2. While the Pony Express isn’t in operation today, there are many other challenges we face while growing up. What do you see as parallels to the challenges Colton faced that you confront in today’s world?
  3. Colton was not the only character in the story to face hardships. How did other family members (Dad, Ma, Althea, Jewel) react to pressures of the outside world? Standard 3, Benchmark 1


Activities: (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)

  1. Working in groups of two or three, look up Pony Express trails in books or on websites. Have each group work on drawing a map of the route the Pony Express followed.
  2. Make a “Pony Express” board game with Pony Express riders as the game pieces, including various hazards encountered on the ride. Be creative, and use other board games as models and for ideas for your game Standard 3, Benchmark 3

Similar Books for Further Reading: They’re Off , by Harness, Cheryl; Life on the Pony Express, by Yancey, Diane; Clem's chances by Levitin, Sonia

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Defiance. Hobbs, Valerie, Frances Foster Books, 2005

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN & Cost: 0-374-30847-0 $16.00


Synopsis: Toby’s mother is driving him crazy with her over-protectiveness because he has been very ill Even their summer “vacation” isn’t really relaxing—he has to try to get her off his trail so he can even ride the bike he found, or visit his friend Pearl and her tranquil cow, Blossom. The experiences Toby and Pearl share with Blossom help them discover new paths leading toward their own freedom, regardless of circumstances they are trying to overcome.


General Review: Anyone who has ever faced challenges in dealing with illness or other difficulties will be able to relate to Toby and Pearl, who, although quite different in many ways including age, still connect. Toby has cancer and Pearl is losing her sight, but both have many talents and much to teach each other about life. It is apparent from this book that learning can continues at all ages, and somehow even difficulties can provide some positive insight when you are open to bonding with others.


Themes: Death; Hope; Cancer; Poets; Cows; Country life

Author information: Valerie Hobbs is the recipient of the 1999 PEN/Norma Klein Award, a biennial prize that recognizes "an emerging voice of literary merit among American writers of children's fiction." She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she now teaches academic writing. Valerie lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her husband. (Publisher’s website)

Defiance has been awarded: ASPCA Henry Bergh Award, Kirkus Best Books of 2005, Children's Literature Council of Southern California "distinguished book of the year" 

Author’s Website:


Discussion Questions: Standard 3; Benchmark

1. Do you think Toby’s mom was right in attempting to protect him from things she thought were dangerous?

2. How did Toby respond, and why?

3. Why did Toby seek friendship from Pearl and Blossom?

4. Why did both Toby and Pearl identify with the sign “Whoever steals my freedom takes my life?” Do you?

5. What did Toby and Pearl learn from each other, and from Blossom?



  • Toby and Pearl read poetry together. Discuss with students some of the poets mentioned in the book. Research information about: Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Thomas Hardy. Standard 1 Benchmark 5 .
  1. Look up poetry written by students in your age group. Ask students to find a poem they think Toby would like to show Pearl, and read it to the class. Standard 3. Benchmark 2.
  2. Ask students to write their own poems about “freedom” from their own points of view. Use some of the poems you have found for ideas, etc. about writing your own poem .These don’t necessarily have to “rhyme,” and don’t be afraid to express yourself in poetry in your own way! Standard 4, Benchmark 2


Similar Books for Further Reading: 

Rue, Nancy N., Sophie's stormy summer,

Kuns, Judith Irvin, While you were out,

Carrick, Carol, Upside-down cake,

Napoli , Donna Jo, The bravest thing, 

Cohen, Barbara , The long way home

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The Misadventures of Maude March


The Misadventures of Maude March . Audrey Couloumbis; Random House Books, 2005

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN & Cost: 037583245-9 Random House Books, $15.95


SYNOPSIS: The setting is Iowa and Missouri during 1869. Sallie March, 12, and her older sister Maude, 15, find themselves orphaned a second time when their Aunt Ruthie is killed in a shooting accident. They end up being on the run from the law for horse thievery and for bank robbery as they travel from Cedar Rapids, IA to Independence, MO to find their Uncle Arlan.


GENERAL REVIE W: Couloumbis writes this children’s western story in a backwoodsy tone. The two protagonists, Sallie and Maude, are innocent and trusting of others in many ways. Yet their determination to find a new home with Uncle Arlan and their patience and love for one another is inspiring to the reader. Sallie compares each predicament of hers to a scene she knows from the dime western novels that she so loves to read.


The syntax is unique and delightful.


THEMES: Determination, survival, orphans, humor during adversity


AUTHOR(S) INFORMATION: Audrey is a Newbery Honor winner for her book Getting Near to Baby. Before becoming a full-time writer she worked as a housekeeper, a sweater designer, and a school custodian. Her web site is


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Standard 3, Benchmark 3

What were some chores/responsibilities that the girls had when living with Aunt Ruthie? When living with the Peasleys? At which home would you have preferred and why?

Maude and Sallie learn many survival skills from Marion. Write down at least 6 things that they learned from him. Note the ones that he admitted learning from the Indians.

Do the good qualities of Marion outweigh the not-so-good qualities, in your opinion? Explain.



Look at a present day map of the Midwest. Make sure that the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas are visible to you. Trace with your finger the route that Maude and Sallie took from Cedar Rapids to Independence. Now, open your book and look at the trail drawn on the two pages right before Chapter one. Does this “map” help you picture the girls’ route? Standard 1, Benchmark 5

Research the size and shape of different animal tracks. Draw and label: horse tracks, mule tracks, bobcat tracks, and deer tracks. Add other animals, if you’d like. Cover up the labels and trade drawings with a classmate. Consider yourself a “Wild Woolie” or a “Joe Harden” if you get all of the tracks labeled correctly.Standard 3, Benchmark 1

Sallie March’s favorite reading material is the dimer. Dimers were softcover chapter books that were sold in stores for ten cents; therefore the name. The stories portrayed the lives of those people who moved west in an exciting way that made the readers of the time want to be a part of it. Stories were given titles that started with the words “the true adventures of” or “ a true account of,” and readers oftentimes believed the tales to be true. Make up two or three original titles for a western “dimer” novel. Then draw the book cover for each title. Standard 5, Benchmark 3



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The Naked Mole Rat Letters


The Naked Mole-Rat Letters . Mary Amato; Holiday House, Inc. New York, New York, 2005

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN & Cost: 0-8234-1927-4 $16.95



SYNOPSIS: When Frankie finds that her father is e-mailing with a woman from the National Zoo that he met during a conference she tries to stop the romance from developing. In the process Frankie gets into a lot of trouble at school, alienates her friends, gets to know the zookeeper and learns a lot about a rare animal.


GENERAL REVIEW: The combination of diary entries and e-mail messages gives a very contemporary feel to this story of a 12-year old girl trying to protect her widowed father from a strange woman. In the midst of Frankie’s correspondence the reader is introduced to information about the habits and lives of the naked mole-rats that live in the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Frankie and her father both learn much about trust and being honest with each other. It is a very innovative way to tell a story and an interesting format for presenting facts about these little known animals. I thoroughly enjoyed this story.


THEMES: Honesty, fathers and daughters, email, diaries


AUTHOR INFORMATION: Mary Amato is married and lives with her husband and two sons in Maryland. She is also the author of The Word Eater and Snarf Attack, Underfoodle, and the Secret of Life: The Riot Brothers Tell All. When Mary was 10 years old her mother died and a few years later her father started corresponding with a woman he had met at a conference. Mary would have liked to end the romance but she didn’t and later became good friends with her stepmother. This book explores the what-if factor: what if she had had the nerve to interfere. For more information about the author check out


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Standard 3 Benchmark 3

How private should letters and e-mails be? Is there ever an excuse for spying on someone in your family? Do you think you could be tempted to listen in on a conversation or read someone else’s mail?


Why was Frankie trying to break up this relationship? Why was this so important to her? Who was she trying to protect?


How could her father have handled the situation differently? Do you agree with Ayanna’s decision to keep her correspondence with Frankie private? Why or why not?


Frankie and her brothers all go by nicknames. Are you or have you ever been called by a nickname? What was it and did you like it?



Research the naked mole-rats and write a report similar to the one Frankie had to write at the end of the story. Standard 3, Benchmark 2


Frankie’s father builds musical instruments. Make an instrument yourself and demonstrate how to play it.

Standard 5, Benchmark 3


Frankie keeps a diary. Make a journal or diary for yourself and keep it for the next month. Report to the class some of your experiences with journaling. Standard 4, Benchmark 2

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On Etruscan Time


On Etruscan Time. Tracy Barrett; Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2005

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN & Cost: 0-8050-7569-0 $16.95




Eleven-year-old Hector is forced to go to Italy for the summer with his mother on an archaeological dig. He is less than excited; he’d much rather spend the summer in Tennessee with his friends. But no one listened to him. However, as he begins to become involved in the Etruscan dig, he discovers an artifact that connects him through what he thinks are dreams to an ancient Etruscan boy, Arath. Hector cannot decide if these are dreams or real experiences.


General Review: 

This book will appeal to history and archeology buffs, fantasy buffs, time travel buffs, and those who just plain love a good story. During his time travel, Hector is involved in a frantic search to try to save his ancient Etruscan friend, Erath, from a plot to kill him. This is a wonderful story with lots of excitement and tension. Girls and especially boys will really enjoy this story. The author includes an author’s note about Etruscan life at the end of the book as well as an Etruscan-English Glossary. Students should be encouraged to glance through these before they read so that they have a grasp on the historical background and language of this novel.


Themes: archaeology, Etruscans, time travel, mothers/son relationships, human sacrifice, Italy.


Author Information: Tracy Barrett is an Italian language and civilization teacher at Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee. These interests seem to have found a new life in her book On Etruscan Time. She has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books and periodical articles for young readers. For her efforts, she has won two awards for Cold in Summer: New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age and a VOYA Best Fantasy Book. On Etruscan Time is a sequel to this book.


Tracy Barrett’s website is a good source for author and book information. Last updated 11/28/06.


Discussion Questions: 

1. In the beginning Hector is sure he will hate his summer in Italy and wants to go home. How do his feelings change and why?

2. Is Hector dreaming or does he actually travel in time? Use your own ideas as well as excerpts from the book to back up your answer. Is time travel real?

3. It is obvious that Hector’s world is very different from Arath’s, but how are their worlds alike?

4. Explain how Hector’s Etruscan experiences affect his relationship with his mother.

5. Sometimes adults overlook the ideas and findings of young people. Explain the irony of this attitude toward Hector considering what he learns about Etruscans.

6. Often our lives can change drastically depending on which “road” we take in life. List some things that might happen to Hector because he has gone to Italy with his mother.



1. Find out what the process is in an archaeological dig. How is it decided where to dig, what is done next, etc? Is the information similar to what you found in On Etruscan Time? Make a list of what you knew about archaeological digs and what you learned in research. Display this information creatively on a poster board OR in a written research report. (Standard 3 Benchmark 4)

2. Find pictures of five famous fresco (affresco) paintings from any era or place and write a brief description of each. Try to include at least on Italian one. Present this to your art class. (Standard 3 Benchmark 4 and Standard 9 Benchmark 1)

3. Make a drawing of the dig site, and then using the drawing, build a 3-dimentional scene of the archaeological dig area in the book. Create the scene so that main areas of action in the book may be picked out (for example, the olive tree that Hector found the eye stone under etc.) (Standard 5 Benchmark 3)

4. Research human sacrifice. Create a poster board of information on human sacrifice and the places where you discovered it occurred and when. Include brief information and pictures. Share this information in front of the class. (Standard 3 Benchmark 2 and Standard 3 Benchmark 4)

5. Pick a scene from the story, and work together with a group of friends to write a brief play about the scene. The time travel scenes make excellent choices. For an audience, act out the scene with your group using costumes and props. Be sure the scene is accurate from the book and has a clear beginning, middle, and end. (Standard 5 Benchmark 3 and Standard 9 Benchmark 1)

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Out of Order


Out of order. Hicks, Betty; Roaring Book Press, 2005

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN: 1-59643-061-3

Price: $15.95


Synopsis: Is this blended family dysfunctional? These four kids are thrown together because their parents got married, but they have their own ideas how a REAL family is supposed to work, and this isn’t it. It should be obvious that the new stepbrothers and stepsisters don’t understand the previous status each had in the family, and as well as their relationships to their own parents. Now they have to get used to sharing their parents with new kids, while attempting to live alongside these strange new siblings.


General Review: Have you ever felt like the world was against you? If so, maybe you can relate to Eric, V, Lily, and Parker as they face attempts to fit the pieces together in a family that is new to them. The format of this book allows each kid in the family a chance to tell the story from his or her own point of view. The joint project that they undertake, a plan to hold a rock-paper-scissors tournament to raise money to send to kids in Iraq, may force them to work together instead of against each other.


Themes: Stepfamilies; Remarriage; Brothers and sisters; Grief; Loss

Author information: Betty has a BA in English and an MFA in the Study and Writing of Childrens Literature from Hollins College. She has published stories in Highlights and Pockets magazines, is a member of SCBWI, and has worked as a book reviewer for Childrens Literature.

Discussion Questions: Standard 3; Benchmark 3

  • Why was Mud Boy so proud of his new name? Who gave it to him, and what kind of a relationship did those two have?
  • Why were both Lily and V grounded? Why was everyone so quick to assume that V had probably killed Lily’s plant? Why does she feel that Marybeth is against her?
  • Lilly’s science project was about how birth order affects personality. How do you think the kids’ family status changed when they became a blended family?
  • How do Mom and Frank fit into this family? What would they each have to say about this family if asked to speak for themselves, as the kids have in this book?
  • How did the family atmosphere change when the decision was made to have the rock-paper-scissors tournament? How can you tell? Can you think of other joint projects that you have been involved with that changed your view of someone else?



1) Eric keeps a journal so that he can express his own ideas even if no one else is listening. Start your own daily journal and make entries for two weeks about how you are getting along with other family members. Standard 3, Benchmark 2

2) Research “Rock-Paper-Scissors” on the Internet like Eric did. Create your own rock-paper-scissors tournament for your class. Standard 5, Benchmark 3

3) Pick a section of the book, and organize a short “Reader’s Theater” production with four different people playing the four parts in the book. Be sure your readers prepare carefully by considering how each person would feel when saying those words.

Standard 5, Benchmark 3


Similar Books for Further Reading: 

Cruise, Robin. The top-secret journal of Fiona Claire Jardin

Hest, Amy, Where in the world is the perfect family?

Greene, Stephanie, Falling into place

Levinson, Marilyn, No boys allowed
Warner, Sally, Sister split
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Princess Academy


Princess Academy . Shannon Hale; Scholastic, Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books, 2005

Grade level: 6-8

ISBN& Cost: 1582349932, Scholastic, $16.95


SYNOPSIS: Miri and her father and older sister live on Mount Eskel. Fourteen-year-old Miri is kept from working in the quarry because she is so small. She is jealous of her sister who does get to work there. She wants to be a miner and get to participate in the songs and communication that the miners sing to each other. Then the village finds out that the prince from the lowland is going to choose a princess. All eligible females are sent off to attend a special academy. Miri, not her older sister, attends along with other village girls. Miri discovers much about herself. She also leads her classmates in an important fight. Her courage surprises herself and others.


GENERAL REVIEW: The title of the book may hint of “chick lit,” but this is not a book with a shallow, lightweight theme. Both boys and girls will love the story. Hale writes in a beautiful way, filled with imagery and powerful metaphors. It is understandable why this coming-of-age book won the Newbery Honor Award.


THEMES: Power of education, female independence, community pride, survival


AUTHOR INFORMATION: Hale is the author of Goose Girl, Enna Burning, and the recently-published (Fall 2006) River Secrets. She lives with her family in Salt Lake City. She and her husband are working together on a graphic novel. Her official website is . It is filled with interesting personal information and some writing tips for the reader. She posted in her blog that infant Maggie, born December 30, 2006, and Maggie’s older brother, Max, are keeping Ms. Hale extremely busy lately.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Standard 3, Benchmark 2

Name some situations in which Miri experiences the feeling of jealousy?

What is Miri’s overall emotion when she meets Prince Steffan for the first time?

After reading the poem on p. 231, make a prediction. What do you think will happen?

What are some of the ways Olana uses to punish the girls when they do something wrong? Do you feel that she is fair?



Confer with your group of friends and create your own version of quarry-speak. Standard 9, Benchmark 3

Miri, Katar, and Britta are very different girls. Make a chart listing the similarities and differences. Standard 3, Benchmark 2

Find three similies. Find three metaphors. Reword each of these phrases in another way. Standard 5, Benchmark 2

Draw a picture of a scene from the book. Use details from the book to enhance your picture. Standard 5, Benchmark 3

OTHER BOOKS: Number the Stars, A Girl Named Disaster, Indian Captive, and Ella Enchanted

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Project Mulberry

Project Mulberry. Park, Linda Sue; Clarion Books, 2005.

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN 0618477861 $16.00 hardback


Winner of the 2005 Chicago Tribune Young Adult Fiction Prize

Reading Level: 4.3

Interest Level: 4-7

Lexile: 690


Synopsis: Through a Wiggles, an after-school club, project, Julia, a Korean-American girl, and her friend Patrick learn how to grow silkworms and make silk. Julia learns to appreciate he heritage and about how prejudice can affect relationships. In between chapters are conversations between the author and the main character.


General Review: Park’s story draws the reader in with believable characters and events. Each chapter leaves the reader wanting to find out what happens next and looking forward to the delightful banter between the author and Julia, the main character. The dialogue between Julia and the author add insight into the story and how to write a book.


Themes: Friendship, Family life, Authorship, Prejudices, Korean Americans, Silkworms, Farming.


Author Info

Author’s Website:


Article on SIRS Discoverer:

Collison, Cathy. Meet Linda Sue Park: Her Library Card is Her Passport. YAK'S CORNER. Sept. 12, 2002


Discussion Questions

  1. What happens to make Julia wish that she isn’t Korean?
  2. Why does Julia not want to do the silkworm project?
  3. If Linda Sue Park had written a conversation between chapters 15 and 16 what do you think they would have said?
  4. Why didn’t Julia tell Patrick sooner that she didn’t want to do the silkworm project? How would the story have been different if she had?
  5. Look up the words prejudice and racism. What are the differences between those two words? Were there any examples of either in the story? What would be some real life examples from history?



  1. Design your own Wiggles project. (Standard 3, Benchmark 4; Standard 7, Benchmark 1)
  2. Bring in a visitor that does embroidery to give a demonstration. Buy small embroidery kits and let students try. (Standard 7, Benchmark 1)
  3. Make your own Kimchee so students can taste it for themselves. Do a class graph to show how many do and do not like Kimchee. (Standard 7, Benchmark 1; Standard 9, Benchmark 1)


Here is a recipe:,,FOOD_9936_27620,00.html?rsrc=search


Quick Spicy Kimchee courtesy of Tyler Florence, Food 911

1 head Napa cabbage, about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
1 /4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons hot chili paste (recommended: Srirachi Hot Chili Paste) 
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 scallions, finely sliced

Remove outer leaves from cabbage. Cut cabbage in quarters and remove the tough inner core. Slice across sections into 1/2-inch slices. Put into a colander, add salt, and mix well. Place over a bowl and let drain, covered, until wilted, about 2 hours.

In a large bowl combine the vinegar and sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the chili paste, ginger, garlic, and scallions and stir. Rinse the salt off the cabbage with a couple of changes of water. Dry well and add to the vinegar mixture; stir well to combine. Put into a sterilized glass jar and pack the cabbage down; add enough water to cover. Close the jar and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. This is spicy and gets spicier the longer it sits - add or subtract chili paste to your taste.


  1. Grow your own silkworms (or something else such as chicken eggs or butterflies) and keep a diary like Linda’s father. (Standard 3, Benchmark 1)
  2. Write a conversation between the chapters for the author and a main character for another favorite book. (Standard 3, Benchmark 3)


Similar Books for further reading:

Park, Linda Sue. A Single Shard

Park, Linda Sue. When My Name was Keoko

Peck, Richard. A Year Down Yonder

Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy

DiCamillo, Kate. Tale of Despereaux

Avi. Crispin: Cross of the Lead


Books for further reading on Korean culture: 

Choi, Sook Nyul. Year of the Impossible Goodbyes (and sequels)

Wong, Janet. Suitcase Full of Seaweed and Other Poems

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Sacrifice . Kathleen Benner Duble; McElderry Books (S & S), 2005.

Grade Level: 6-8

Hardcover ISBN: 0689876505 $15.95

Paperback ISBN: 0689876513 $5.99 (release date – 8/28/07)


Synopsis: In 1692, life changes forever for ten-year-old Abigail and her family. Abigail and her sister are accused of being witches when fear and panic spread from Salem to their hometown of Andover, Massachusetts. They await trial in a prison while their mother desperately searches for some way to obtain their freedom.


General Review: It is the year 1692 and widespread fear and panic is sweeping Massachusetts. A family finds themselves in the center of it when the two daughters are accused of being witches. Based on the author’s own ancestors, the story introduces a unique look at the effects the trail had throughout Massachusetts not just in Salem. This well-written novel will have wide appeal. It captures the effects of community fear and the evil of false accusations.


Awards: Starred review in Booklist, 2007 Nominee ALA Best Book for Young Readers, School Library Guild Selection


Themes: Mothers & Daughters, Sisters, Witchcraft, Puritans, Family life


Author Information: 


Discussion Questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3

What beliefs of Puritan life in 1692 do you believe we still hold on to today?

Can you think of another situation either now or in the past, where fear has overcome reason? (e.g. the McCarthy era) What were the consequences of this?

If you had lived during that time, what entertainment might you have substituted or how might you have expressed yourself artistically to make up for the lack of theater, museums, TV, computer, movies etc.?

Abigail’s world was one where conformity to the group was important – and yet she wanted to be an individual. Do you think this is still true today? Why or why not?

What situations in today’s world reflect a lack of reason and a “mob mentality”? (e.g. riots after a sporting event) What would you do if faced with this situation?



Create a dramatic reenactment of the Salem Witch Trials. Standard 3, Benchmark 4.

Design and create a memorial for the victims of the Salem Witch Trials. Use the information @ to find actual names of people involved in the trials. Standard 3, Benchmark 4.

Write a feature article (with a headline) that tells the story of the book as it might be found on the front page of a newspaper in the town where the story takes place. Make sure it is time period appropriate. Standard 5, Benchmark 3.


Follow-up Reading: 

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Witch by Celia Rees

Catch a Tiger by the Toe by Ellen Levine

A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials by Ann Rinaldi

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Shakespeare’s Secret


Shakespeare’s Secret. Broach, Elise; Henry Holt & Company, 2005


Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN-10 & Cost: 0-805-07387-6 (hardback) $16.95

ISBN-10 & Cost: 1-844-28207-4 (paperback) $ 5.99

ISBN-10 & Cost: 0-786-28735-7 (large print) $22.95

ISBN-13: 978-0-786-28735-2 (audio download Recorded Books)


Synopsis: Have you ever been the “new kid” at school? Hero Netherfield is and she a rather unfortunate first day at school. After school she stops by at her neighbor’s house and learns some interesting things about the house into which her family has moved. It has to do with a very valuable diamond, thought by some to still be in the house. Her desire to solve the mystery takes many twists and turns as she makes friend in her new setting.


General Review: School Library Journal

Grade 4-7–Hero has always hated her Shakespearean-based name, for, as her new sixth-grade classmates are quick to tell her, it's better suited to a dog than to a girl. Resigned to their constant teasing, she concentrates instead on her newfound friendship with her kindly, if somewhat eccentric, elderly next-door neighbor. Mrs. Roth tells Hero about the missing "Murphy Diamond," a precious jewel that supposedly disappeared from the house where Hero now lives. Mrs. Roth has the necklace that once held the diamond, an heirloom that possibly once belonged to Anne Boleyn, and she is convinced that it is still hidden in the vicinity. She and Hero set out to find what the police could not, and, with help from Danny, a popular yet self-assured eighth grader who befriends them both, they succeed. Only then do the real connections among the three of them come to the surface and change their lives forever. The mystery alone will engage readers, but Broach adds a number of other interesting details to entice her audience. Readers will also find numerous facts about Elizabethan history, theories about Shakespeare's writings, and, perhaps most importantly, a moral but not preachy tale. The main characters are all well developed, and the dialogue is both realistic and well planned. Girls will relate to Hero and the defenses that she uses to protect herself from being hurt by the cruel comments and behaviors of difficult classmates. This is a good choice for recreational reading but also useful as an intro to either the complexities of Shakespeare or the tenets of good mystery writing.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan,


General Themes: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 – authorship, Henry VIIII, 1509-1547, Elizabeth, 1558- 1547, Edward de Vere, Mystery and detective stories.


Author Information:


Discussion Questions : Standard 3 Benchmark 3

1. Have you ever been the “new kid”? What happens to Hero on her first day at a new school? Talk about ways to include rather than exclude people who are new a school, a club, a neighborhood, a country.

2. How does one solve a mystery? What steps did Hero and Danny take? Were they thorough?

3. Why do you think Danny decided to help Hero find out more and look for the diamond?

4. Are the Netherfield’s a believable family? Why or why not?

5. Is picking on a younger sibling by an older sibling bullying? Why or why not?


Activities :

1. List the qualities of the main characters in this story. Choose 2 or 3 and write/tell why these are important qualities to have. Standard 2 Benchmark 2

2. Hero’s father is a Shakespearean scholar and named both of his children for characters in Shakespeare’s plays. Find out how you were named. What does your name mean? Standard 5 Benchmark 3

3. The story mentions the possibility that Shakespeare may not have authored the many works attributed to him. Do some research on him, Edward de Vere, Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth I. Write a persuasive essay defending who you think is the true author. Standard 5 Benchmark 3

4. Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast Hero and her sister Beatrice. Standard 3 Benchmark 1

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Wing Nut

Wing Nut . Auch, MJ; Henry Holt and Company, 2005
Grade Level:  6-8
ISBN & Cost:  0-8050-7531-3, $16.95

Synopsis:  Grady, twelve years old and fatherless, has never had a real home that he can remember.  He and his mother Lila, who puts on an appearance of eternal optimism, have traveled from place to place, without staying long enough anywhere for either to feel a true sense of belonging.  Now their car has broken down after they have left their latest home in a commune, forcing a stop at the residence of an older gentleman named Charlie, a man who prefers to hang out with bird friends, who are purple martins, rather than people.  Grady and Charlie, who is also without a family close by , begin an unlikely friendship, eventually realizing that they have much to learn from each other. 

General Review:  Anyone who has ever been the “new kid” in any group will be able to identify with Grady as he faces the difficulties of attempting to fit in to new surroundings as he and his mother constantly move.  This book tells this story through Grady’s eyes, but also makes the reader aware that there are others facing difficulties from different points of view as well, including adults such as Grady’s mother and Charlie. 

Themes: Moving, Household; Mothers and sons; Home; Old age; Family relationships; Transients

Author information: “MJ Auch lives in upstate New York, where she is trying to start her own purple martin colony,” Henry Holt and Company, LLC. See these websites for more information:  

Discussion Questions:  (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)

1) P.87 relates the story of how some older boys tricked Grady and laughed at him.

How did that make Grady feel?

Have you ever been the “new kid” in class or some other group?

Have you experienced this situation from the other point of view, and made fun of the “new kid?”

2) What are some ways that Grady, his mom, and Charlie, can relate to the need of the purple martins to return to their homes year after year?

3) Why does Charlie name one favorite purple martin “Marie?”

4) Grady and his mom both get angry with Charlie for harming the house sparrows, but Charlie has a different point of view. How might they have resolved these differences of opinion rather than the way they did in the book? 


1) Grady and his mom live in a “commune” as the book opens. What is a commune, and why do Grady and his mother live there, and then decide to leave? Look up information about communes in an encyclopedia, or other reference source, and find examples of other types of communes.

Standard 1, Benchmark 5

2)Do some research on purple martins, by finding several books, and/or going to these websites.

(discussed in the book)

Standard 1, Benchmark 5

3)Make a map of the route followed by purple martins on their trips to and from Brazil.

Standard 7, Benchmark 1

Similar Books for Further Reading:  

Paterson, Katherine, The Great Gilly Hopkins

Wersba, Barbara, The Wings of Courage

Adler, C. S, Fly Free

George, Jean Craighead. Charlie’s Raven

Loizeaux, William. Wings