All posts in Reading Lists: Grades 3-5

Homelessness in Children's Books

Homelessness in Children’s Books

In creating this list, I noticed that most of these homelessness stories have parents who work part-time jobs, often more than one. Despite shelter uncertainty, they are going about their lives, sending their children to school, and even going to college themselves. It’s usually a series of setbacks or a tragedy like the death of a breadwinner than sends them spiraling downward. This is not surprising given that most Americans are one paycheck away from the streets.

On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. National Alliance to End Homelessness

Part of this 564,708 homeless number includes women and children. It’s a heart breaking statistic. Imagine families with children trying to go about their everyday life without a place to sleep. It’s becoming a more common sight in cities like Boston where I live.

With the spike in homelessness, has come the homeless spikes. Yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds. MacDonald‘s is one such company that puts anti-homeless spikes designed to keep the homeless away.

Some artists decided to fight back against the anti-homeless spikes, starting a movement they call “Space, Not Spikes.”

not spikes

“Space, Not Spikes” reclaimed the spiked area by covering it with bedding, pillows, and a bookshelf stocked with reading material. Upworthy

Hostile design doesn’t solve the issue of homelessness. It just tries to remove the homeless from the line of sight of those who have a place to live. And yet, there are humane solutions to homelessness like these tiny homes the size of garden sheds.

tiny homes for the homeless

My oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, is headed for art college. She thinks about social issues from a design perspective. I hope that one day she will work on the issue of homelessness.

Maybe this book list will inspire kids to tackle this problem with solutions that start and end with compassion, not spikes? Here’s hoping!

How about you? What books would you add to this list? Thanks for your help!

 

Homelessness in Children’s Books

Homelessness in Picture Books

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

Nationally, about one out of every eight people is poor. Many of them are children. The patrons of the soup kitchen include the unemployed, the needy, and the homeless. No one is excluded.

A young boy is nervous to see the Can Man in his neighborhood, but his Uncle Willie who works at the soup kitchen knows him well. The boy notices a woman sleeping on a park bench and decides he wants to learn more about his uncle’s soup kitchen. On his day off from school, he accompanies his uncle to work. It’s little things that he learns: children who sit in high chairs eat here; not everyone is homeless; somehow there is always enough food for everyone. [picture book, ages 6 and up]

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Poets and Their Poetry Books for Kids

Poets and Their Poetry Books for Kids

Are You An Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi who wrote the narrative and did the translation, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri

All Japanese children read her deeply compassionate poems about creatures in the natural world. Think of her as a Japanese Pablo Neruda and/or Emily Dickerson. Her sad, short life is depicted in this biography/poetry hybrid picture book. This combo really works for me since she is unfamiliar to most of us. Her poems are deceptively simple and kids can really relate to them. I hope this wins a Caldecott but I hesitate to add it to my watch list because the rendering of the faces in the illustrations were too cartoon-y and didn’t go with the rest of the illustration style. [biography and poetry picture book hybrid, ages 4 and up]

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

This is Kwame’s personal favorite collection of poets with original poems created by himself, Chris, and Marjory in the style of each poet. “Poems come out of wonder, not by knowing.” Lucille Clifton. Kwame invites you and your kids to discover the joy of poetry, and to perhaps come up with a poem of your own. [picture book, ages 8 and up]

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Dave belongs to Mr Miles /
wher the oven bakes & the pot biles ///

—July 31, 1840

Dave the Potter is a puzzle to unwind. A slave living in South Caroline during the 1800s, he wrote enigmatic poems into the pottery that he crafted. Born into slavery, Dave worked as a potter in a factory while he was still in his teens making stoneware vessels. It is on these vessels that Dave would inscribe short rhyming poems. This is remarkable given that slaves were forced into illiteracy and South Carolina passed a harsh anti-literacy law shortly after Dave’s first poem was published on a pot in 1834. Poetry thrives even in inhospitable climates, and because his artistry with clay, Dave the Potter’s life story and creative talents endure for posterity. [picture book, ages 5 and up]

p.s. Learn more about Dave the Potter from Leonard Todd, whose family owned Dave.

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Sci-Fi Junior High Chapter Book GIVEAWAY

Did you know that author James Patterson of Maximum Ride series now has a publishing imprint through Little, Brown called Jimmy Patterson Books. The books that he’s putting out have his name on the cover: James Patterson Presents. This is an interesting concept of brand extension for authors.

I’m giving away a James Patterson Presents book, Sci-Fi Junior High by John Martin and Scott Seegert that is a notebook novel like Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. This book is actually a hybrid — part doodles, part graphic novel pages, and part chapter book. This is a book to draw in reluctant boy readers with both humor and illustrations on every single page.

I’m giving away a prize package for Sci-Fi Junior High!

One winner receives:
Copy of Sci-Fi Junior High
Branded iron-on patch and pencil case
Plus rocket ship pens! Read more…

My 2017 Newbery Predictions

My 2017 Newbery Predictions

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

This is the true story of how children’s books came to be, the brainchild of John Newbery, considered the father of children’s literature. In 1726, there were no children’s books at all. His first book, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, was marketed as a book and a toy! It was a hit! For kids who appreciate Newbery books, have them read this engaging picture book biography, about the man whose name is a book award, but his own story largely unknown. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

I’ve been trying to pick Newbery winners for some time now, analyzing what pundits have picked and noting what books seem to be getting buzz all year. Sometimes this is a good predictor; sometimes not.

I have a few theories about what I think makes a good Newbery pick, but, of course, the actual Newbery committee pays no mind to what I think and has their own criteria which may or may not change slightly from year to year. Who knows?

A Newbery Book Should Have Broad Age Appeal

There’s nothing worse, in my mind, with a Newbery winner that is too high such that only the most advanced elementary school readers can attempt it. The Westing Game is a good example of that for me. It won in 1978.

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Top 10 Fantasy Adventures for Kids & 3 Signed Book GIVEAWAY

Top 10 Fantasy Adventures for Kids & 3 Signed Book GIVEAWAY

Please welcome author G. A. Morgan with her list of Top 10 Favorite Fantasy Adventures. The final book of her own fantasy adventure series, The Five Stones Trilogy, releases today called The Kinfolk!

I’m thrilled to be giving away 3 SIGNED copies of The Kinfolk to 3 winners. Please see Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter. If you follow me on Instagram, I’m doing more book giveaways there as well.——————

Greetings readers of Pragmatic Mom! Thank you for encouraging your kids to read fantasy. The great news about fantasy-adventure books is that kids tend to devour them. The best ones, in my opinion, tell a riveting story with relatable characters, but offer—at the core—some irrevocable, universal truths.

With technology ever-present and Hollywood bringing to screen many of our favorite stories, it’s more important then ever to have reading choices that are broad and deep; that offer exciting narratives but are also thought-provoking and linger in the imagination long after childhood is over. They also should appeal to both girls and boys.

That’s what I tried to accomplish in The Five Stones Trilogy, and these are the qualities I looked for when creating this list. By and large, the books in this list are appropriate for ages 8-14 (and beyond!), depending on reading ability, and my list gets “older” as we move down it. Read more…

164 Chapter Books for Difficult Situations: #MGGetsReal

166 Chapter Books for Difficult Situations: #MGGetsReal

Please welcome my guest blogger today, Kerry Cerra. She’s the author of Just a Drop of Water (9/11 and Religious Intolerance), but she’s here today with author friends –Shannon Wiersbitzky of What Flowers Remember (Alzheimer’s),Kathleen Burkinshaw of The Last Cherry Blossom (Hiroshima), Joyce Moyer Hostetter of Comfort (War Trauma), and Shannon Hitchcock of Ruby Lee & Me (School Integration) — to create a comprehensive list of realistic fiction for middle grade (ages 9 and up).

This list of 165 chapter books covers a plethora of topics. Let me know if you need a category that isn’t listed. I hope you find this list as useful and I do!

  • Chapter Books with Abandonment
  • Chapter Books with Verbal or Physical Abuse
  • Chapter Books with ADD/ADHD
  • Chapter Books with Adoption/Foster Care
  • Chapter Books with Substance Abuse
  • Chapter Books with Alzheimer’s/Dementia
  • Chapter Books Covering Anxiety
  • Chapter Books with Autism/Asperger’s
  • Chapter Books with Blended Families
  • Chapter Books with Body Image Issues
  • Chapter Books with Bullying
  • Chapter Books with Civil Rights/Integration
  • Books for Tweens with Deaf/Hearing Loss
  • Chapter Books with Death of a Parent/Grandparent
  • Chapter Books with Death of a Sibling
  • Chapter Books with Depression and Mental Illness
  • Chapter Books with Discrimination & Prejudices (religious, ethnic, etc.)
  • Chapter Books with Divorce
  • Chapter Books with Dyslexia
  • Diverse Chapter Books
  • Chapter Books with Eyesight/Blindness
  • Feeling like You’re a Bad Friend Chapter Books
  • Chapter Books About Following Your Dreams Despite Odds
  • Chapter Books with Gifted Characters
  • Chapter Books on Homelessness
  • Chapter Books Dealing with Illness
  • Chapter Books on Immigration
  • Books with LGBTQ
  • Chapter Books with Physical Disability/Disfiguration
  • Chapter Books with Self-Doubt
  • Chapter Books with Stepfamilies
  • Chapter Books with Suicide
  • Chapter Books with Survivor’s Guilt
  • Chapter Books About Wanting to Fit In
  • Chapter Books with War Trauma

——————–

Hands down my favorite thing about visiting schools as an author is the ability to recommend books to readers. Of course I speak about my own novel, but I always bring others with me. Lots of them. Why? Because I wholeheartedly believe it’s important for kids to be able see themselves in a story, and I know my book may not be that book for everyone. So I’m thrilled to be part of an exciting campaign, #MGGetsReal, with four other awesome authors. Our goal is simple: to highlight books which kids can relate to on a personal level—so they don’t feel so alone, afraid, or different.

All most of us have to do is remember back to our pre-teen years to know that kids long to feel one with the masses. To be accepted. To fit in. The recent video of a young girl, Emma, from Texas who wears a prosthetic leg is proof of this. With videotape rolling, Emma’s excitement is palpable as she realizes she’s getting an amazing gift, an American Girl doll. And lucky for myself and the millions (yes, millions) of viewers who have now seen the footage, we witness Emma’s genuine happy-shock reaction when she opens the box to discover that the doll is actually sporting a prosthetic leg just like her own. Seriously? Can you imagine anything better for this girl? Go ahead and view it here, but be careful, for Emma’s tears are infectious!

My own middle-grade novel, Just a Drop of Water, is the story of two thirteen-year-old boys—one Christian, one Muslim—and how their friendship is tested in the wake of September 11, 2001. It has strong themes of friendship, loyalty, bullying, and peace. Every so often at a school visit, I’ll encounter a Muslim student who pulls me aside to say how much the book, particularly the character of Sam, resonates with them and to thank me for writing it.

A handful of times, I’ve had kids tell me they are like the main character Jake. They too only see the world in black and white. With no gray. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. They are Jake! And like Jake, they sometimes get in trouble for it. I feel like the luckiest author in the world when I get to have these important discussions with them about how it’s okay to stand up for what you believe in, but to do so peacefully. And to know that sometimes my book is one that a kid connects to in such a personal way, well, it’s singlehandedly the reason why I write!

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5th Grade Book Recommendations from My 5th Grader

5th Grade Book Recommendations from My 5th Grader

My son has picked up the pace reading books this year in 5th grade. His book lists are now in three parts.

5th Grade Books from a 5th Grade Boy has books that he read as a rising 5th grader as well as book he read in the early part of the school year. You’ll notice his reluctance to read by all the graphic novels he read. This was also the turning point for novels in verse for him when he discovered The Crossover which lead to more novels in verse.

Best 5th Grade Books from My 5th Grade Son is part 2 of 3. You’ll notice that he likes FUNNY and ACTION ADVENTURE, preferably combined á la Rick Riordan. His 5th grade teacher has him reading historical fiction for the first time which he’s really enjoying. This set us up for more historical fiction and even historical fiction as a novel in verse!

How about you? What do you think he should add to his reading list? I am planning on having him read at least five books this summer.

5th Grade Chapter Books from a 5th Grade Boy

Brooklyn Bat Boy: the Story of the 1947 Season That Changed Baseball Forever by Geoff Griffin

I really liked learning about Jackie Robinson through the perspective of a Irish American bat boy.

Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers told from the point of view of the new batboy. My son and I loved this historical fiction early chapter book, complete with authentic slang. Pair it with a biography on Jackie Robinson if you  want to learn about this extraordinary man. [early chapter book, ages 8 and up]

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The Inside Scoop on Jackie Robinson and His Teammates

The Inside Scoop on Jackie Robinson and His Teammates

Please welcome my guest author today, Geoff Griffin, who wrote a Jackie Robinson story that my son and I really connected to, Brooklyn Bat Boy. Told from the point of view of a fictional bat boy, it’s the story of Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Brooklyn Bat Boy

What struck me was the reaction of his teammates reflected the world around him during this time of segregation and Jim Crow laws. Eddie Stansky did not being on an integrated team, but when a rival team harassed Jackie, he was the first to stick up for him. Pee Wee Reese, on the other hand, harbored no such racism. His support may have been the difference between success and failure of this social experiment? Who knows?  Please read on for Geoff’s post …

Jackie Robinson

The Inside Scoop on Jackie Robinson and His Teammates

While doing research for my book Brooklyn Bat Boy, the fictional story of the bat boy for the Dodgers during Jackie Robinson’s 1947 rookie season, one thing that struck me was how much the attitudes of Robinson’s teammates changed as spring turned to fall that season.
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Science Fiction for Ages 8 and Up

Riveting Science Fiction for 3rd-7th Grade Boys AND Girls

Science fiction: fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.

A reader asked me for Science Fiction books for 5th grade. I have a 5th grade son which gives me pause to give him Sci Fi that is too scary or too high for him. But there is also some confusion as to what is included in Sci Fi in my head. How does Dystopian fit in? Is it a sub-genre of Sci Fi or a different genre? Is there overlap?

The best answer I found says:

Dystopian novels are those set in a world that’s basically the opposite of a utopia. A world that’s bad, often with a tyrannical or otherwise oppressive government.

Works of science fiction involve scientific technology that’s most often invented for the work or imagined to have evolved from existing stuff, but based on real principles. They’re usually futuristic and often involve space – travel, other planets, etc.

What about time travel? Is time travel science fiction? What if it’s set in our current realistic world?

Simply, Time Travel Science Fiction are stories in which traveling to the past or future is possible. Time travel is a natural complement to space travel and so it is a frequent occurrence in Sci Fi stories. from Best Science Fiction Books

In sorting out lists that I researched, I tried to focus on books that I would hand my 5th grader that fall firmly in Science Fiction territory. The book most likely to win him over to Sci Fi? The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. This is a hilarious and wildly creative take on alien abduction and invasion as told by our heroine, 11-year-old Tip.

What other great Sci Fi books for kids am I missing? Thanks for your suggestions!

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