Tag Archives: 4-5


Title: Stitches


Author(s): David Small


Illustrator/Photographer: David Small


Publisher and Year: W. W. Norton & Company 2009


Number of pages: 329

Tags: Graphic novel, Emotion, Family, Memoir, 4-5, 6-8, Joe Marras


Genre: Graphic novel, Memoir


Descriptive Annotation: This graphic novel starts with David as a child and he explains the forms of expression for his mother, father, brother, and himself.  David’s forms of expression is drawing, which is obviously very fitting, and getting sick. David gets sick at a young age, which he later finds out was cancer and resulted in one of his vocal chords being taken out.  Sharing this story in a graphic novel seems like the perfect way to do so because of how David likes to express himself and then not being able to talk very much because of the cancer. It is obvious that his family has communication issues, and they aren’t a close family.  David has to face a lot of harsh realities all by himself because there is no love and support from his family, but he doesn’t let that stop him from finding eventual freedom.


Classroom Application: This story is very well expressed through illustrations.  I think a story like this can show that graphic novels are a valuable way to express a story and learn.  This story also shows the negatives of non-communication. David’s family does not communicate or express themselves to each other and that grew to resentment.  It shows that communication is vital, which is a valuable lesson for young readers.


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: I think that this story can open up a valuable discussion about how important communication is.  David wasn’t able to express himself to anyone because they were not there for him to do so. They did not open that line of communication which can lead to resentment like it did for David to his mother whom showed him no love or affection.  “Mama had her little cough… once or twice, some quiet sobbing, out of sight… or the slamming of kitchen cupboard doors.” (page 15) This set the tone of his mother being quiet and keeping to herself for the entire story. That was her sound, her expression, and she never strayed off of that too much.  Another quote that really keeps the tone of non-affection and that shows the relationship that he and his mother had is on page 255, “I’m sorry, David it’s true. She doesn’t love you.” This comes from David’s therapist that he drew as the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. It is just the brutal reality that David had to face that his mother does not genuinely love him and the only time she showed anything for him was when she found out he had cancer and she thought that he wasn’t going to make it.  It’s terrible that he has to hear this, but this is really when it really gets brought home for David that it really is true.

Image result for stitches book

One Dead Spy

Title: One Dead Spy

Author: Nathan Hale

Illustrator: Nathan Hale

Publisher/ Year: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012

Number of Pages: 128

Tags/Themes:  Adventure, Chapter Book, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, 4-5, 6-8, Rebecca Cauthorn

Genre: Historical Fiction (Almost non-fiction, but not quite)

Descriptive Annotation: This book begins at the execution of the historical figure Nathan Hale (ironically, also the author’s name). However, before he is hung he gets swallowed by a gigantic history book and suddenly he knows everything that happens in the future of America. Intrigued, the executioner and the guard ask him to tell his story. Both the language used and the illustrations are hilarious, helping the reader stay engaged during the discussion of the revolutionary war. Nathan Hale (the primary narrator) begins telling the story of the war, jumping back and forth between his story and his current conversation with the guard and the executioner.  This book walks through all of the beginning major battles of the war (including Bunker Hill, Winter’s Hill, the siege of Boston, and more) and the recalling of these events are extremely accurate, including exact quotes from some of the major figures involved. The book ends with Hale going to get hung, but he says he knows how the war ends, so they decide not to hang him yet and allow him to continue telling the story (setting it up for a sequel). Before reading this book students would need to know what the Revolutionary War was.

Classroom Application: This would be an excellent text to accompany a history lesson on the Revolutionary War!! It would be a very fun and engaging way to get the kids excited to learn about the battles while also increasing their desire to read and enjoyment of reading. Also, if students had not yet been familiar with graphic novels, this would be a good way to show them that graphic novels are awesome! And a super legit way to read and can be very informative and fun. Another benefit of this book is that because it is so fun while also being very instructional, it could spark curiosity in students and a desire to continue learning more.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents both the opinions of the Americans and the British during the Revolutionary war, which I think is important. It is common that people teach the Revolutionary War as being just one-sided, when in fact many of the British soldiers were just fighting for what they thought was right! By including the dialogue between Nathan Hale and the British soldier guard, it allows the reader to understand both sides of the story, which both raises the stakes and provides interesting insights to why the war happened.


Real Friends

Title: Real Friends

Author: Shannon Hale

Illustrator: LeUyen Pham artwork by Jane Poole

Publisher and Year: First Second 2017

Number of Pages: 213

Tags/Themes: Chapter book, family, emotion, historical fiction, friendship, graphic novel, 4-5, 6-8, Rebecca Cauthorn

Genre: historical fiction

Descriptive Annotation: This graphic novel tells the very relatable and common story of a girl trying to fit in to a group of friends. She gets bullied at school, and at home by her older sister, who (as it turns out), has had her own trouble finding friends her whole life, too. At the end of this novel is an author’s note which helps to understand the message she is trying to send as well as revealing that the girl the book is about, Shannon, is none other than the author herself. While there are pictures on every page, students need to have a strong vocabulary knowledge and this book would not be appropriate until around the fourth grade.

Classroom Application: This book would be brilliant to share with the class if there was any bullying going on. Even if there was no obvious bullying, it would be good to share if you could clearly see different groups within the classroom. This book helps teach a valuable lesson of kindness and being accepting to everyone. This book would fit in less with the actual curriculum of the class and more into Social and Emotional Learning Standards for the students.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The girl in this book, Shannon, struggles with anxiety and perhaps depression, and talks about wanting to just disappear. This is a feeling that students may be having in the class and so it would be good to show this book to demonstrate that they are not alone. It also could open the eyes to some students who perhaps didn’t realize they were bullying another student or being mean, but this could shed light on it. This book is also good for students who are struggling with issues with their siblings, because it shows that family tension during these ripe years are normal.


The Dreamer

Title:  The Dreamer

Author: Pam Munoz Ryan

Illustrator: Peter Sis

Publisher/Year: Scholastic Press, 2010

Number of Pages: 355

Tags/Themes:  Adventure, Award Book, Chapter Book, Emotion, Culture, Diversity, Family, Poetry, Historical Fiction, 4-5, Rebecca Cauthorn

 Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  This book was based on the famous poet Pablo Neruda’s life, except we don’t know this until the end. This emotional story is for anyone who is an outcast, who feels different than other people, or feels like they are letting their family down. We meet a young boy, Neftali, who is a dreamer. He loves to write, daydream, and imagine. His father thinks he is an absent-minded fanatic, who will amount to nothing. The story begins when Neftali is eight, and ends when he goes off to college. We watch him struggling to find a balance between being himself while pleasing his father, and root for him as he discovers his passion and gift for writing. Illustrations are included at the beginning of the chapter and sporadically throughout the book, accompanied with poetry that Pablo Neruda wrote later in his life (of course, we do not know yet that it is our beloved Neftali’s poetry we are reading). This book also comments on the issues of displacing native peoples for development, and uses little Spanish phrases throughout. This book would be excellent for someone who had a Chilean background, or anyone who felt like their differences were a bad thing. It is easy reading, but very long, so would be most appropriate for a 4th or 5th grade classroom.

Classroom Application: This book would be a great asset to help students recognize that we are all important and smart even if we are good at different things. Neftali wasn’t very good at math, but a very creative writer and thinker. It would also be good to assist a lesson on Native Americans to demonstrate that this displacement is still going on and to raise the question of right versus wrong. Another way to incorporate this book into the curriculum would be to have an entire mini unit devoted to it—for math, we could use leaves and twigs to illustrate multiplication by grouping, for social studies, we could investigate the displacement of Native Americans and native people all over, and for reading/writing we could write poetry that Neftali would have written, and then teach a lesson on Pablo Neruda and his poetry. We could also include art into this lesson by cutting out construction paper into a leaf or a beetle or a swan and write a poem on it and hang them in the classroom.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book does an exceptional job of raising awareness of and cultivating discussions about cultural diversity. Within the book, many different viewpoints are discussed about the diversity in the town Neftali is from, and this could raise a very stimulating discussion which could expand the minds of students. The depiction of Neftali as a dreamer who is on the outside is also very beneficial to the classroom to recognize that everyone is unique and awesome in their own way. Overall, this book contains a wide cultural vocabulary, from the Spanish words and the Chilean setting, to the discussion of native people, to the differences of Neftali from other boys and girls.

A Kids’ Guide to the American Revolution

Author(s), Illustrator/Photographer: Kathleen Krull; illustrated by Anna Divito.

Publisher and Year/Number of pages: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2018, 207 Pages.

Tags/Themes: Graham, New Nation, Declaration of Independence, Thirteen Colonies, Revolutionary War, Boston Tea Party, Washington, George, and Dano.

Genre: Nonfiction, Chapter Book.

Descriptive Annotation: The cover features a watercolor drawing of George Washington, kitted out in a traditional tricorn and blue frock coat, cradling a US flag (of the Thirteen Colonies) and superimposed over the Declaration of Independence. Also included is a red, white and blue color scheme in the title and author’s name as well, emphasizing the colors that the new nation of America rallied to in the heady days of 1776. This is a combination of both standard unifying American imagery used by our country since its independence, and the founding document of our initial independence being put in a position of prominence, which can be seen for the entirety of the novel.

A Kids’ Guide to the American Revolution is the beginning story of our country, which was a group of men who decided that enough British domination was enough, and despite their many differences, it made sense for them to band together and declare to the world the birth of a new nation, and, in doing so, made a document that changed the world: “It spelled out the reasons why the colonists had to rebel against the mother country and begin to govern themselves. It’s not exaggerating things to say that the Declaration launched America” (Krull, p. 7). As the book continues, it is evident that this American story as portrayed in this novel is the complex, conflicted one as it was in real life, mostly due to its older targeted audience. Also important is that this version of the American tale does have plenty of heart as well, and indeed makes the boosting of morale that George Washington did throughout the war for his troops in the face of difficult odds a key point of focus for the reader: “With these victories he wasn’t just scoring points. He was boosting troop morale and attracting much-needed recruits. Washington was doing more than any other single person to keep the flame of the American Revolution alive” (Krull, p. 139).  The whole of the story is about the acceptance of revolutionary and Enlightenment ideals that posed a serious threat to the British governing order in the Declaration of Independence, and how the war was won based on those ideals even if they weren’t always practiced by all of the Founding Fathers at all times. All Americans of every age group, not just students, should read this book as well, because the author does an evenhanded job of assessing the reality of the Revolution for a book that was designed for children, and the lessons within would certainly be useful for students reading this novel in the primary school classroom.

Classroom Application: In the book A Kids’ Guide to the American Revolution, the characters are all real-life figures from the Revolution, from the top (George Washington, King George III) to the lesser-known heroes of the war, such as a man named Swamp Fox (who was in real life called Francis Marion), who had fought in the French and Indian War: “While battling-and almost losing to the Cherokee Indians, he admired how the Cherokee turned the swampy backwoods to their advantage, hiding until just the right moment for an ambush” (Krull, p. 157).  This demonstrates how people take some of the best ideas from those with whom they may have clashed with before, and that competition can later turn into cooperation, as it did when “Marion’s Men” joined forces with their erstwhile indigenous foes to take down British forces in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War, using those same tactics. This is a teachable moment, since it’s Krull’s way of saying that America was built not on lasting enmity towards one’s foes, but treating them as friends once the current issue at hand has been resolved-just as Britain became a great ally in World Wars I and II, and how Germany and Japan are close allies with us to this day as well after we defeated them in the Second World War as well. In short, we need to embrace the lessons learned of the Revolution and strive towards a world with less enmity and lingering resentment in any way possible. This book is an excellent primer on how to do just that by looking at examples from our primary history way back in the 1770s.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Krull covers the interactions between American and Brits, colonizers and the colonized, slave and freedman, and does so in a way that doesn’t gloss over the real pain that has occurred in our past through many faults of our own. The end of the war didn’t solve the issue of slavery in the slightest-it exacerbated the problem in many ways, as Krull acknowledges: “The institution of slavery continued to be practiced in the original thirteen colonies. Within days of the war’s end, plantation owners were paying soldiers to locate runaway slaves living in the surrounding woods” (Krull, p. 189). This is necessary to do, as many past versions of our founding have glossed over the often-sad realities that plagued our nation for generations and are still not truly solved. The author’s motivation was to do right by the lives of those who were historically ignored in our textbooks, and to do so in an engaging way that is not misguided or skewered to any certain degree: “Treaties  made with the British prior to the war were ignored by the Americans, and years of bloody conflict and expansion destroyed some tribes” (Krull, p. 193). On those pages which cover the aftermath of the war, a nation was born divided between those who had and who had not, and recognizing that not all was peaches and cream is an important step in the telling of American historiography to young readers. In the context of the age group that is reading this book, it is understandable that it is included to help eliminate false truths. 

Wagon Train: A Family Goes West in 1865

Title: Wagon Train: A Family Goes West in 1865

Author(s): Courtni C. Wrights

Illustrator/Photographer: Gershom Griffith

Publisher and Year: Holiday House; 1995

Number of Pages: 30

Tags: Adventure, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, Picture Book, 2-3, 4-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

Wagon Train is about an African American family that travels west in a wagon train after being freed from slavery. Along the way, they encounter dangerous animals, brutal weather, and Native Americans. The story ends with the hope that the family will safely make it to California. There is an Author’s Note on the first page talking about the treatment of African Americans and how they too travelled west, despite the lack of records of their experiences. Students would find it helpful to know about the Oregon Trail and the Westward Expansion.

Classroom Application:

This text would be perfect for reinforcing material taught about the Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion. It could be used in the middle of a unit to give students a window into the hardships and experiences these settlers faced. It is also a good text to use to reinforce that not just White people went west, but so did many African Americans after the Civil War.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

Wagon Train not only represents the culture of westward settlers and those living in covered wagons as they travelled, but also the culture of African Americans who set out on the same journey. These people had an even worse expedition, because they could not “join one of the big trains leaving Independence, Missouri” (page 8). Being in a smaller train meant less support from others and more danger. Because “few could write diaries to record their experiences,” this book is important in showing students what the journey west was potentially like for African Americans (page 1). If I used this story in the middle of an Oregon Trail unit, I would introduce it as a story about a group of people who were not well documented, but were an important part of the movement nonetheless.


A Storm Called Katrina

Title: A Storm Called Katrina

Author(s): Myron Uhlberg

Illustrator/Photographer: Colin Bootman

Publisher and Year: Peachtree Publishers; 2011

Number of Pages: 37

Tags: Animals, Culture, Diversity, Emotion, Family, Fiction, Picture Book, 2-3, 4-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

In A Storm Called Katrina, a young boy and his family try to survive Hurricane Katrina when it hits their home. They travel through the rising waters to get to the Superdome. When they get there, conditions worsen and Daddy can’t find Louis Daniel and Mama. Daddy eventually finds his family when Louis Daniel plays his cornet in the middle of the Superdome. Special features include information about Hurricane Katrina in the back of the book. Students might need background information about the hurricane to fully understand the story.

Classroom Application:

This story could be used to teach students about the detrimental effects of hurricanes in a science lesson. The story shows the effects the hurricane has on the main character’s home and town, and the statistics in the back of the book give students information about hurricane destruction as well. It could also be used to teach perseverance and bravery in the face of crisis. The family braves a massive, historical storm and still decides to return to their home to face the aftermath of the storm. 

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

A Storm Called Katrina represents the culture of the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. There were a lot of emotions surrounding this time and region and so it follows that there were many responses to the event. Some people were angry and worried about taking care of themselves, like the “men that started fighting over a water bottle” (page 23). There were also people who were helping as many as they could.  There were people who evacuated, but also people who never expected the storm to get so bad. One woman said, “I’ve lived around these parts for fifty years…and I ain’t ever seen nothin’ like this” (page18). I would introduce this book to students, asking who has ever heard of Hurricane Katrina or knows anyone who was affected by it.


Waiting for Normal

Title:  Waiting for Normal

Author(s): Leslie Connor

Illustrator/Photographer: N/A

Publisher and Year: Harper Collins, 2008

Number of Pages: 290

Tags: Award Book, Chapter Book, Emotion, Family, Fiction, 2-3, 4-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

A young teenage girl, Addison, and her mother move into a trailer in a rundown area outside of the city after Mommers, Addison’s mother, divorces Addison’s stepfather. The story follows Addison for about a year as she navigates a new place, new school, and changes in her family dynamic. The story touches on things such as perceived mental illnesses, physical illness like cancer, and learning disabilities, giving students a glimpse into what life is like for people who deal with those things. It also has characters that are deep and are not featured much in literature, like families dealing with divorce and separation, as well as characters that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Students reading this book may encounter bigger words they do not know (as the main character keeps a vocab notebook) but the words are often defined and explained as a part of the plot.

Classroom Application:

This book would be more useful in teaching life lessons to students, rather than academic lessons. It could teach inclusion of others, through looking at the inclusion of a character that is gay or the way Addison is accommodated and included in her Stage Orchestra class, given her dyslexia. It could also be used to discuss more deep things, such as the affect of cancer on a person, the pain of grief, or the impact of a family being split apart.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

This story represents the culture of being poor in a rundown town in America. It gives the reader a look at what it is like to live check to check from Addison’s perspective, like when she says to her hamster, “‘Well, Pic, given the size of me and the size of you, if food is wealth, you’re the queen today’” (page 238). It also shows one perspective of what it is like to live with a person who potentially has a mental illness. I would have this as a book in my classroom library and explain it to students as a book that talks about real-world experiences that many people face in their lives, like cancer. Soula, one of Addison’s friends from the corner minimarket, tells her, “‘You’re seeing the worst of it, Cookie…This is cancer. And it stinks’” (page 65). This book was written relatively recently (2008) so it is more intentional about discussing big topics in today’s society, such as mental illness and inclusion.


Emmanuel’s Dream

Title: Emmanuel’s Dream

Author: Laurie Ann Thompson

Illustrator: Sean Qualls

Publisher and Year: 2015 Schwartz & Wade

Number of pages: 40

Tags/Themes: Award Book, Culture, Diversity, Non-fiction, 2-3, 4-5, Evan White

Genre: Africa, Biography, Non-Fiction, Children’s, Cultural, Picture

Descriptive Annotation: Emmanuel’s Dream is about a young boy, Emmanuel, who was born with one good leg in Ghana, West Africa.  His father left the family, but his mother supported him.  Emmanuel would shine shoes for money and bought a soccer ball to play with the school children.  Through this, the school kids respected Emmanuel playing soccer with one leg.  When he became older, Emmanuel went to the city of Accra to work for money.  In the city, he would get discriminated against for having a disability.  He decided he would buy a bike, ride it across and share a message of how people with disabilities can achieve great things.  He rode his bike over 400 miles and became a national image.  Film crews followed him to share his message.

Classroom Application: This text reinforces geography and culture.  The book shows how the boy lives in West Africa, an area the students probably won’t know much about. The story demonstrates Social and Emotional Learning Standards by demonstrating skills related to achieving personal and academic goals.  Emmanuel didn’t let society tell him what he could and couldn’t do.  He created a personal goal of showing his country people with disabilities are strong, and he accomplished it using his skills and using external resources, like getting a film crew and a bike.  This stretches the students mind by showing them they can be strong by destroying harmful norms in their society in ways that are small and unique to the individual student.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book shows the society of Ghana.  It can foster inquiry of how students from across the globe have strong goals and can achieve them, even when their society is trying to dictate how they should act. “Shopkeepers and restaurant owners told him to go out and beg like other disabled people did.  Emanuel refused. Finally, a food stand owner offered him a job and a place to live” (17).  With a little support, he was able to achieve his goal. “The farther Emmanuel rode, the more attention he got. Children cheered.  Able-bodied adults ran or rode along with him.  People with disabilities left their homes and came outside, some for the very first time.  The young man once thought of as a cursed was becoming a national hero” (30).  Emmanuel was changing the norms and culture in Ghana for how to view people with disabilities, and was met with enthusiasm for his actions.  In Ghana, the book shows the citizens view people with disabilities harshly, telling them to beg, or even abandoning them.  Emmanuel was changing that culture climate.  I might introduce this book by showing the students what Ghana is like, showing the students the landscape, grasslands, narrow highways, and the rain forest.  I think seeing the landscape will have the students think the bike riding is more impressive than the book depicts .  The book mostly shows Emmanuel talking to people, but I also want to the students to see how tough riding a bike would be to appreciate the work while reading or listening.

Desmond and the Very Mean Word

Title: Desmond and the Very Mean Word

Author: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams

Illustrator: A.G. Ford

Publisher and Year: Candlewick Press, 2012

Number of pages: 32

Tags/Themes: Culture, Diversity, Emotion, Fiction Picture Book, 4-5, Evan White

Genre: Africa; Children’s; Cultural; Picture Books

Descriptive Annotation: Desmond is a young boy in a village in Africa who received a new bike.  He was very proud and wanted to show it to Father Trevor at his church.  While riding his bike he came across a few boys who called him “a very mean word.”  The mean word bothered Desmond and he couldn’t get it off his mind.  Father Trevor taught Desmond how one way to help heal the pain is to forgive the one who caused the pain.  One day Desmond finds the boy in a shop and says he forgives him.  Desmond felt relieved and stronger afterwards.  Later the boy gave him a piece of candy and Desmond thought how people can change if you forgive them. The author’s note explains how the story has some truth to it and explains who Father Trevor was.  Although the mean word is never said it can be implied to be a racial slur.  The students may need some inferring skills or be used to practice inferring before reading this book to fully understand why Desmond is upset and the history of why racial slurs are as damaging as they are .

Classroom Application: This text meets Social and Emotional Learning Standards for using resources for emotional help and establishing positive relationships.  Desmond identified and used external resources for his emotional stress.  Father Trevor was able to guide Desmond on how to cope with his emotions, like how students need practice asking for help when in emotional strife.  Desmond was also able to identify his emotions and used a coping mechanism, that of forgiving others.  This teaches the students not to hold onto anger or grudges and moving on can be part of the healing process for emotional anger. This book can be used to teach students forgiveness is a key to the healing process.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents how black people persevere from racial slurs from a young age.  Desmond lives in Southern Africa where lighter skinned people have social privilege.  Kids grow up hearing racial slurs. “The boys scattered out of the way, but the tallest, a red-haired boy, spat out a very mean word.  The other boys laughed and shouted the mean word again and again.  Desmond pedaled away as fast as he could.  His heart pounded, and his chest ached” (7).  From this ache, Desmond went to Father Trevor.  The church is very prevalent in the African/black culture, since that is an institution they can let their culture shine without other intuitions breaching in.   The church is sanctuary and a place of leadership.  “Father Trevor said very softly, “Let me tell you a secret, Desmond.  When you forgive someone, you free yourself from what they have said or done.  Its like magic”” (22).  Father Trevor is the strong leader that his Desmond and his community relies on.  I might introduce this book by discussing who the students could go to for emotional help, creating a list on the board for everyone to see.  After the book, the students can update their list, to see of the story sparked other people they may not have thought about.