Native American Books

birchbark house

Summer is here and that means I can catch up with my kid lit book pile. To start this summer, I picked up a few books that were rereads for me. Rereading is a great activity for readers because it builds fluency and gives the reader a chance to glean more (and different ideas) from a story, and it builds stronger connections. It also has the benefit of helping you get through any book mourning you may experience when you don’t want a special book to end.

Two books that started my summer reading binge are books that have Native American settings, The Birchbark House and Morning Girl. I had not read either book in several years, but one of the reasons I wanted to reread them is because they have characters who make everything they need to live from scratch. I love the scenes in the story where the author describes the procedures for building a house or hunting for food or making clothing. If you like Little House on the Prairie because of the parts where Laura and her family build a cabin or gather maple syrup, you will enjoy these stories too. I should probably focus more on the results of white settlers claiming American Indian land and the destructive impact it had on these groups. The books include recognition of that topic too. I happen to like the parts that show self-reliance the best since the other parts are so sad.

morning girl

Chapter Books

  • The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  • Morning Girl by Michael Dorris
  • Guests by Michael Dorris
  • The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George
  • Far North by Will Hobbs
  • Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears by Cornelia Cornelissen
  • When the Legend Dies by Hal Borland (7th grade+)
  • Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (7th grade+)

Short Story

  • A Man Called Horse by Dorothy M. Johnson (7th grade+)

rough face girl

Picture Books

  • The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin
  • The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble
  • Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble
  • The Desert is Theirs by Byrd Baylor

girl who loved wild horses

There were many more recommendations on THIS AICL WEBSITE dedicated to American Indians in children’s literature.

For more summer reading ideas, my teacher blogger friend, Amy, has posted a new Hidden Gem book that you might not find on your own. CLICK HERE to read her latest recommendation.

Books with a Summer Setting

justin case shells smells

I keep seeing articles about how to encourage children to read throughout the summer. All of the articles make the same basic suggestions. Set a daily reading time. Establish a specific amount of time to read each day. Get involved in a reading incentive program at a local library or bookstore, and provide good book choices.

Ultimately, if your child/student likes to read, he or she will continue to read in the summer as long as there are books available. If you do not have a child who is an avid reader then you (or another adult) have to support the reading habits if you want any reading to happen. You will need to provide reading material or opportunities to choose reading material; model reading (that means read yourself); read together, and have book discussions. Even though we often think of reading as an independent activity for older kids, a child will develop better reading habits if reading is treated like a group activity, and all participate.

I wish there was a pill to magically make a child a reader but there is not. If you need a little kick-start finding a book to help your child get over the reading-when-not-at-school hump, try a book that takes place during the summer when the characters in the story are also not attending school.

summer setting pin

Upper Elementary (~3rd grade to 6th grade)

  • The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
  • Under the Egg by Laura Max Fitzgerald
  • My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian
  • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  • Summer Pony by Jean Slaughter Doty
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders
  • Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
  • Justin Case: Shells, Smells, and Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom by Rachel Vail
  • The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
  • Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far) by Ann M. Martin
  • The Bread Winner by Arvella Whitmore
  • The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey

Middle School (7th grade+)

  • Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
  • The Summer of the Swans Betsy Byars

For younger readers, try The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner specifically #2 in the series. I could not remember for sure, but I think some of the Ivy and Bean books by Barrow take place during the summer as well as some of the Judy Moody by McDonald. Now that Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss are beyond the early chapter books (sniff), my radar is not as good for these younger titles.

summer of my german soldier

Mystery, History, and Art

under the egg

I have been reading at a pretty good clip since school ended. I just finished a book called Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. At first, I thought it was going to be another book with Quirky Sidekicks that seems to be the current trend in juvenile literature. While there are definitely oddball characters, the book is more of an art mystery. It is a combination of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The DaVinci Code. Some of the solutions in the story are a little too convenient, but overall, I loved the information about the Renaissance painter, Raphael, World War II, and the Monuments Men. There are a handful of other books that center around family heirloom secrets in order to reach the resolution. I love the scavenger hunt aspect to these books and recommend them for students because they require a ton of critical reading skills to follow the plot.

mystery, history, and art book list pin

  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan ( and The 39 Clues series)
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
  • Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
  • The Shadows by Jacqueline West (The Books of Elsewhere series)
  • We the Children by Andrew Clements (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series)
  • The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil (The Red Blazer Girls series)
  • Masterpiece by Elise Broach
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • The Second Mrs. Giacondo by E.L. Konigsburg
  • Leonardo’s Shadow by Christopher Grey
  • The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
  • Cecily’s Portrait by Adele Geras (Historical House series)
  • The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin
  • The Theft & the Miracle by Rebecca Wade

Many of these books are cross listed on my Scavenger Hunt Book List as well as my Fate and Destiny Book List. Obviously, I am drawn to this style of book. What is on your summer stack?

sixty eight rooms

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

Author! Author!

selznick and klise letters

TheRoomMom blog is part parenting tips and part teacher tips (with some snacky food and book ideas thrown in). Today, the teacher part of my blog is featured on the Teaching Blog Addict.

“Contacting Book Authors” is the featured activity in their weekly teacher freebie list. The best part is, I did not even know I had been selected!

If you need an activity to build a little excitement for any summer reading assignments you may have, try contacting the book author. We had great success last year. Here are a few of the authors who replied:

  • Brian Selznick (Wonderstruck and Invention of Hugo Cabret)
  • Tom Angleberger (Origami Yoda series)
  • Leslie Connor (Crunch)
  • Julie Edwards (Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles— letter was from her “fan mail coordinator”)
  • J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter— form letter)
  • Cressida Cowell (How to Train Your Dragon series)
  • Annie Barrows (The Magic Half)
  • Sheila Turnage (Three Times Lucky)
  • Kate Klise (Dying to Meet You series)
  • Patrick Carmen (Floors— took 9 months to receive a reply!)
  • Erica Orloff (Magickeepers series)
  • Obert Skye (Wonkenstein and Potterwookie)
  • Lisa Schroeder (It’s Raining Cupcakes)
  • Jacqueline Kelly (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate)

Picture of Free Teacher Downloads at Teaching Blog Addict