Characters with Differences

counting by 7s

I joined a group of educators to create a collaborative blog with teaching resources for upper elementary and middle school grades. My first contribution to The Lesson Deli is a list of books with characters who have a physical disability or a learning difference.

Lesson Deli-button

It was harder than I thought to create the list. There just aren’t that many books with characters who fall out of the “normal” range of abilities, although, the majority of the books on the list were published in recent years, so characters with a mental or physical disabilities in literature is becoming more common.

To see the complete list, CLICK HERE.

million dollar putt cover

I highly recommend Counting by 7s by Sloan, Wonder by Polacio, and The Million Dollar Putt by Gutman. I heard through the grapevine that there is a companion for Wonder called The Julian Chapter available on Kindle. Be on the lookout!

Do you like to read books that have characters with some kind of challenge? These books usually carry over to the sad but good list too, which can be a turn off for some readers who don’t want to cry while reading. Will you read a book that might make you cry?

Selecting Summer Reading

I received an e-mail last week from a student I taught this past year. She needed help selecting summer reading books from the required summer reading list. The students at my school receive really good summer reading lists, but the lists are big. It can be difficult to select a book when a child has too many choices. How do you narrow down and make good selections when you have many titles from which to choose?

  1. Look for authors on the list that you recognize and see if there are new or different book titles by that same author.
  2. Locate a title on the list that you have already read and really liked. Search that book title on a website like Amazon or Goodreads. These sites offer suggestions or “read-alike” book titles. Check the suggestions against your required list to see if there are any matches.
  3. Often the lists are organized by style or genre. Look for books within the same genre. If your child loves survival books or mysteries or humorous realistic fiction select other books in that same category from the summer reading list.
  4. Bring the reading list to your library or bookstore and ask people there for ideas. E-mail the teacher like my student did and ask if he/she has favorite book recommendations. Ask classmates what they are reading from the list.
  5. Look up titles and check the page count. Start with a shorter book that can be completed quickly. I don’t recommend choosing a book simply because it is the shortest, but if the summer reading list is a little daunting, start with a quick read to get in the groove.
  6. Look at the reading range of the book. Narrow down choices by choosing books at the lower end of a child’s reading range. If you are unsure of your child’s reading range, make a guess based on his or her upcoming grade level. If your child is about to be a 4th grader and was an average reader the previous year, look for books that are intended for 3rd graders or roughly 8 to 10 years old. There are websites that help with book reading ranges if it is not listed on the back cover of the book. Scholastic Book Wizard is easy to use.

Once your child has selected a book, stay involved. Read the first few chapters together. Ask questions about what is happening in the story. Many kids need some monitoring when reading independently to make sure they are grasping key events in the story.

Don’t have a list from your school? You can use some suggestions from the books TheRoomMom’s family is reading this summer.

Mr Star Wars’ Summer Reading Choices (age 12/13)

  • Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
  • Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • The Bad Books by Pseudonymous Bosch
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
  • Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Miss Priss’ Summer Reading Choices (age 9/10)

  • The Lemonade War series by Davies
  • Kavik The Wolf Dog by Morey
  • Beetles, Lightly Toasted by Naylor
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Stewart
  • Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist by LaFevers
  • The Wizard of Oz by Baum
  • The Magic Keepers series by Kirov
  • The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin

counting by 7s

TheRoomMom’s Summer Reading Choices (age unavailable)

  • Navigating Early by Vanderpool
  • Counting by 7s by Sloan
  • Into the Wild by Durst
  • The Key and the Flame by Caterer
  • Out of My Mind by Draper
  • 11 Birthdays by Mass
  • Esperanza Rising by Ryan
  • Mayday by Karen Harrington
  • The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

What is on your summer reading list?

For even more book ideas, visit my TeachersPayTeachers Store to see my upper elementary summer reading product.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Living off the Land

calpurnia tate

I attempted to join a virtual book club for upper elementary grades with other teacher bloggers, and we were supposed to read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by the beginning of May. I got distracted by other projects and did not read it until this weekend. I think the book would frustrate many readers today because it is a slower pace with more difficult vocabulary, but I liked it. The language and sentence structure is more sophisticated than books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and it has more substance.

Calpurnia lives in a rural area in Texas and spends much of the book with her grandfather pursuing her interest in nature and Darwin’s theory of evolution. I would classify the book as historical fiction and group it with other books about life on the prairie or frontier. Some of these titles are my favorites from when I was growing up. I read the Little House books repeatedly. I always loved stories where the characters had to grow their own food, build their own homes, and live off the land. When I started building a list of other books that fall in this genre, I realized that the majority have girl main characters– hmmm.

cabin faced west

1700s (Settlers and The American Revolution)

  • The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
  • Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

caddie woodlawn

1800s (Westward Expansion)

  • Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Little House on the Prairie series Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather (middle and high school readers)
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall series by Patricia MacLachlan

thimble summer

1900s (Mostly Around The Great Depression)

  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  • Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
  • Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
  • Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rowlings

Do you have a favorite read that is this style of book? It is a type of survival book, but the characters usually have resources and family or friends, and they work together to succeed.

For some more book recommendations, visit the Let’s Talk About Books link up.

Follow the Clues

mr lemoncellos library cover

A former student recommended I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein because there is a character in the story who has the same last name I do. It took me a few months to get to it, but I finally read it during my spring break.

This book follows a group of characters who are trapped in a library through a scavenger hunt of library knowledge in order to escape. The book becomes a puzzle for the reader too. It taps into your library skills and background knowledge of classic books. The riddles inserted into the story reminded me of a few other books I read and really liked. I had a starter list of this style of books in my Style-Alike book post, but I thought it was time for a dedicated scavenger-hunt-wrapped-in-a-mystery list.

Most titles on the list have the “riddle” element to them, but I also included classic mystery books like Nancy Drew where characters uncover clues to solve the crime without having to decode a puzzle first to reveal the clue.

red blazer girls cover

  • The 7th Level by Jody Feldman
  • Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
  • Benjamin Pratt & Keepers of the School series by Andrew Clements
  • Chasing Vermeer (and others) by Blue Balliett
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord (must be read in order)
  • Floors series by Patrick Carman
  • Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
  • Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
  • The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (and The 39 Clues series)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
  • Red Blazer Girls series by Michael D. Beil
  • The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch
  • The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett
  • The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
  • The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier (older publication)
  • Theodore Boone Detective series by John Grisham
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

floors cover

Mysteries are actually a great book style for younger readers (1st through 3rd grade) because students have to maintain plot details from earlier in the book to understand any resolutions that happen later in the book. There are many series for this lower reading level that are popular. Reading multiple books from a series strengthens reading because they typically follow the same plot pattern in each book. This gets repetitive for an adult but actually helps improve reading skills in kids because they can begin to more accurately anticipate what will happen next, which makes the story easier to follow and remember.

  • The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones
  • A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I like the ones by the original author the best, 1-19)
  • Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
  • Hank the Cowdog by John R. Erickson
  • Jigsaw Jones by James Preller
  • The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne

jigsaw jones book cover

 

Have you read any good mysteries lately?

 

Miniature Worlds

the doll people

Mr. Star Wars’ teacher just finished reading The Doll People as a read aloud to his class. Mr. Star Wars promptly checked out the sequel, The Meanest Doll in the World, and read it in one sitting. It reminded me of other miniature world stories that I loved when I was his age. The Borrowers and The Indian in the Cupboard were my favorites. In these books, there are mini characters living in a regular-sized world. I think the technical name for this genre is “enchanted reality” but I might be making that up. I wanted to create a book list of all of the great miniature world books, but it turns out there really are not that many that I have read– or could find. So, I guess it is fitting that I have a miniature list of books.

indian in the cupboard

  • Awfully Short for the Fourth Grade by Elvira Woodruff
  • The Borrowers (and sequels) by Mary Norton
  • Castle in the Attic (and sequels) by Elizabeth Winthrop
  • The Doll People (and sequels) by Martin and Godwin
  • The Indian in the Cupboard (and sequels) by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager
  • The Littles (and sequels) by John Peterson
  • The Minpins by Roald Dahl
  • The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew (out of print– locate a used copy through Amazon or search your local library)

I considered adding books like The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary and The Rescuers by Margery Sharp because they have small animals doing human things in a regular sized world. I feel that a book like that fits into animal fantasy better. What do you think? What great books would you add to the miniature world list?

the mouse and the motorcycle