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Author: John Cech, Illustrator: Sharon McGinley-Nally

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Grade level: 3-5

SOL: Civics

3.12 The student will recognize that Americans are a people of diverse ethnic origins, customs, and
traditions, who are united by the basic principles of a republican form of government and
respect for individual rights and freedoms.

Summary: Based on a true story, in this book, a grandmother tells her granddaughter a bedtime story about her journey from Russia to America during the revolution.  To the girl, the story seems magical, including gypsies and fields of butterflies, and a brave hero who journeys across the world.  In the end, the reader discovers it is the grandmother’s own story.

Why I chose it: The story is beautifully written and illustrated.  The illustrations have a russian style with bold colors, and I think it would be a good story to start a discussion on diversity and how families come from different places.



Author: Loreen Leedy

Publisher: Square Fish

Grade Level: K-3

SOL: Geography

2.6 The student will demonstrate map skills by constructing simple maps, using title, map legend, and compass rose.

Summary: Lisa makes a map of her bedroom, with the help of her dog Penny.  While doing this, she decides that she will map Penny’s world, and create maps of the exotic places they will go.

Why I chose it: This book clearly points out important aspects of maps including scale, key, and compass rose, which connects directly to the SOLs.


Author: Yukio Tsuchiya, Illustrator: Ted Lewin

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers


USII.7 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the major causes and effects of American involvement in World War II by 
a) identifying the causes and events that led to American involvement in the war, including the attack on Pearl Harbor; 
b) locating and describing the major events and turning points of the war in Europe and the Pacific; 
USII.8 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the economic, social, and political transformation 
of the United States and the world between the end of World War II and the present by 
a) describing the rebuilding of Europe and Japan after World War II

Grade Level: 4-6

Summary: This is a true story about three elephants and their keepers in the Tokyo zoo during WWII.  During the war, Tokyo was being bombed, so the zoo keepers chose to put all the animals down out of fear that if the zoo was hit by a bomb, the animals would run wild through the streets.

Why I chose it: This story is heartbreaking.  However, because of its focus on animals (instead of people), is a good way to introduce older elementary children to the severity and tragedy of WWII, without being graphic or disturbing.  It would also enable students to examine multiple sides of the war, and events such as Pearl Harbor, as it is told from a Japanese perspective.


Author: Paul Fleischman, Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes 

Publisher: Candlewick

SOL: WHI.3 The student will demonstrate knowledge of ancient river valley civilizations, including those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus River Valley, and China and the civilizations of the Hebrews, Phoenicians, and Nubians, by 


d) describing the origins, beliefs, traditions, customs, and spread of Judaism;
e) explaining the development of language and writing.

Grade Level: 3

Summary: Wesley is not very popular at school.  One summer, he discovers that by growing a certain kind of plant, he can create his own food, clothing, and shelter.  Using these plants, Wesley invents an entire world, including his own sports, musical instruments, and creating his own language and alphabet.  When the summer ends and he returns to school, he has many friends.

Why I chose this:  The illustrations are amazing, and it’s never clear in the book whether things are actually happening or Wesley is using his imagination.  It could be used to discuss basic needs, various aspects of culture, and how civilizations began.

Author: Sally Pomme ClaytonImage


WHI.5 The student will demonstrate knowledge of ancient Greece in terms of its impact on Western civilization by

a) assessing the influence of geography on Greek economic, social, and political development, including the impact of Greek commerce and colonies;

b) describing Greek mythology and religion;

Summary: Poetic retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone.  Persephone is kidnapped by Hades, and eats pomegranate seeds during her time in the underworld.  Because she ate the food, Hades keeps her for half the year.  Her mother, Demeter, the earth goddess is so sad that during this half of the year, nothing will grow (winter).

Why I chose it: This would be a great story to do a compare/ contrast activity with The Sun’s Daughter (book I posted last week), which is a very similar tale from a different culture.

Grade Level: 1-2


Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids

Author: Carol McCloud, Illustrator: David Messing

Summary: This book presents the metaphor of “filling a bucket” for positive pro-social behaviors, and “dipping into a bucket” for negative behaviors.  It focuses on specific actions that make children good friends, with an emphasis on being kind to others.

Why I chose it: My practicum teacher (3rd grade) uses this book in her classroom at the beginning of the year to create a classroom community.  To go along with it, she keeps a “compliments bucket,” where you can “fill someone’s bucket” (going along with the language in the story) if you have seen them do something good.  It seems to be very effective.


1.10 The student will apply the traits of a good citizen by

a) focusing on fair play, exhibiting good sportsmanship, helping others, and treating others with respect;

e) valuing honesty and truthfulness in oneself and others;

Grade Level: Pre-K


Author: Jane Yolen, Illustrator: David Shannon


3.3 The student will study the exploration of the Americas by

a) describing the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus, Juan Ponce de León, Jacques Cartier, and Christopher Newport;

b) identifying the reasons for exploring, the information gained, the results of the travels, and the impact of the travels on American Indians.

Summary: This book is a retelling of Columbus’ arrival in San Salvador.  However, it is unique because it is told from the perspective of a young Native American boy.  The boy remembers being confused by the “clouds” on the horizon, which were actually sails.  This book depicts a perspective of the explorers that is not very positive as the boy recalls their greed and the destruction they caused.

Why I picked it: This book has unlimited potential to help students explore multiple perspectives, especially if paired with another more traditional story about Columbus “discovering” America.  Some questions that would help students empathize with characters in the book might include…

Imagine you are a young Native American when Columbus arrived.  How do you feel about the new comers?  What don’t you understand about them?  What questions do you have for them?

Grade Level: 5