Fifth grade was a busy year for Grasshopper and Sensei and PickyPidPix. The year focused on getting them ready for Middle School both academically, socially and emotionally. Some of the highlights that my kids remembered included a Sharon Creech author study which they unfortunately don’t do anymore due to increased demands from Common Core, Holocaust, and a lot of science. I remember the science of weather being particularly in-depth.
There were books that they loved and discovered that year too! PickyKidPix’s studied SeedFolks and when the teacher omitted two of the stories due to mature content, she searched it out at the public library to read the censored content. We met Sharon Draper that year too who was here on behalf of Understanding Our Differences.
Puberty and anxiety around changing also marked 5th grade and there was no way to win; it was either too slow or too fast or too annoying. Coming of age for girls is a difficult time so we used books as a way to tiptoe and explore the drama that is a part of growing up.
This list is a walk down memory lane for me, as books often are. It includes books I read with my kids, books my kid were read to at school, books they loved and wanted me to read to blog on, and even a book I loved as a fifth grader.
What are your memories of 5th grade either for your kids or yourself? Are there any favorite books you recall as you go down memory lane too? Please share!
10. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
Here is what PickyKidPix had to say, “We read this book in school and had to do a project on it. There are individual little books inside it that make up one big story. It’s really good. We weren’t allowed to read two of the stories at school so I found it at the public library and checked it out to read them. One is about a pregnant teenager and the other is about a boy who wanted to plant something illegal but plants something else instead.”
It’s also the story about how a vacant, derelict lot changes after a young Asian girl clears a small spot to plant some beloved bean seeds. It’s the first step in a chain reaction that bring a community of diversity nationalities together. Each chapter is a story from one neighbor’s point of view and the whole of the book hangs together such that the whole is greater than a sum of the parts [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
9. Schooled by Gordon Korman
Middle school with the push and pull of conformity versus staying true to yourself hasn’t changed since I was a kid. Grasshopper and Sensei highly recommends this chapter book that shows the power of staying true to yourself in a feel great (not just good!) story where the underdog is actually the coolest kid at school. And it’s not fantasy either; the genre is Realistic Fiction! [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
8. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Holocaust is a heavy subject for fifth graders and my girls explored it in the most gentle of ways. I think the power of Holocaust in 5th grade is learning empathy. For a chapter book on the Holocaust that is uplifting, Number the Stars is your best bet and Denmark during WWII is a great example of how one person can change the course of history. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
For a picture book on this topic, the fifth graders also read The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
- Among the Nazi occupied countries, only Denmark rescued the overwhelming majority of Jews.
- Over 7,000 Danish Jews were smuggled to Sweden in fishing boats, 12 to 14 at a time, by a group of Danes called the “Helsingor Sewing Club.”
- Of the almost 500 Jews deported to Theresienstadt, all but 51 survived due in large part to the Danish government’s intercession on their behalf.
And some think … “The Danish people and their elected officials showed that with a minimal amount of resistance to Nazi programs and deportations, their plans for genocide could have been thwarted.”
7. Where The Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
There are so many wonderful Grace Lin chapter books for this age, but if you only read one, this is my pick. It’s the first of a four book series with sequel Starry River of the Sky. (I took PickyPidPix’s book club to meet Grace Lin.) Her Pacy series is also excellent and appeals to girls.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon blends Chinese folk tales and mythology into a story of friendship, adventure and hope when a young girl, MinLi, must leave her poor and desolate rural village to improve her family’s fortune. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
6. Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes
Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes is a perfect middle grade novel. It is well-constructed, has all the required pieces, and that little extra something that keeps you thinking about the story long after you’ve read it. From Latin@s in KidLit [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
5. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Both my girls said that this was the only read aloud they can recall and it is also one of my favorite books as kid though I only had fuzzy pleasant memory of the book and couldn’t recall the exact plot. I just remembered that it had an Alice in Wonderland fantasy feel to it but was much more entertaining.
This ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. Joining forces with a watchdog named Tock, Milo drives through the tollbooth’s gates and begins a memorable journey. He meets such characters as the foolish, yet lovable Humbug, the Mathemagician, and the not-so-wicked “Which,” Faintly Macabre, who gives Milo the “impossible” mission of returning two princesses to the Kingdom of Wisdom. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
4. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
5th grade is a great time to be introduced to author Christopher Paul Curtis. My girls read The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 for their 4th Grade Civil Rights Movement unit, and transitioned to Bud, Not Buddy in 5th grade for independent reading. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
3. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
My kids have a lot of special needs classmates and PickyKidPix in particular was drawn to stories about walking in those shoes. She particularly identified with Draper’s Out of My Mind about a girl with Cerebral Palsy who can’t really communicate easily but has an astonishing unknown gift of a photographic memory. When she joins an academic competition school team, she’s the ringer that can help bring her team victory, but can they get past her special need and see her for who is really is? The realistic ending makes the reader a champion for special needs kids and that is what makes this book so powerful. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
2. A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
Richard Peck is one of my favorite authors and I chose this one because it really stuck with me. This is the sequel to A Long Way from Chicago which also shows up on many 5th grade reading lists, but Grandma Dowdel is the star of this chapter book and someone you’d want as your own, indomitable grandmother. Mary Alice spends the year with her in this sleepy little town but there is a lot going on. The backdrop is the Great Depression but the adventures that seem to find Grandma Dowdel and Mary Alice are laugh-out-loud funny. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
1. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Even if you don’t have the luxury of time to explore Sharon Creech in an author study, she is an author to introduce to all 5th graders, if they haven’t read her already. The hard part is to decide which one to start with! Walk Two Moons weaves two stories of friends, each going through a family crisis though it’s not exactly evident as Creech reveals each story obliquely, bit by bit. It’s a perfect story to read aloud, taking the entire class on a journey along with thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle that is both a geographic and an emotional one. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
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