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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Eleven Recent Books (and Graphic Novels) for Fourth and Fifth graders

One of my former students, who has just taken a new teaching position, sent me this question:
I need to beef up my book collection for 4th/5th readers.  I have a small assortment of middle school appropriate books, but realized I should at least start thinking of book suggestions for kids, if not buy a few for my own collection.  I keep thinking of the books I read in those grades, but have grown to realize many of them have some veiled racism that I'm not okay with.  Got any good suggestions?

I'll list some of my favorites below (with links to reviews).  If anyone reading this blog would like to add a few feel free to comment below.

1,  George O'Connor's Pantheon series of graphic novels (published by First Second) includes books about Zues, Hera, Athena, Hades, Hades, Poseidon, Aphrodite, and more on the way.  They are well researched, sneak in a fair amount of history and literature, (along with some humor) and are a blast to read. 
2.  Taylor, Sarah Stewart; Towle, Ben (2010)  Amelia Earhart:  This Broad Ocean  New York:  Hyperion
This graphic novel is kind of half non-fiction, half fiction.  It is about a girl reporter who lives on an island in Newfoundland which is the starting point for Earhart's attempt to fly across the Atlantic  A lot of biographical data hers, and extensive end notes provide some sourcing.  Good for fourth and fifth grade girls who maybe are still coming into their own as readers.
3.  Telgemeier, Raina (2010) Smile  New York:  Scholastic.
Raina is about to get braces when she falls and knocks out her teeth.  This graphic novel, though, is less about her orthodontic adventures and more about how she ditches her middle school friends (who ridicule her a lot) and finds new friends in high school that she can feel comfortable around.  This sounds like a middle school book, but my daughter (who is going into fifth grade) absolutely loves this book.
4.  Selznick, Brian (2011) Wonderstruck  New York:  Scholastic.
This book is partly told through pictures and partly through regular text.  This makes it ideal for struggling readers who have never had the experience of making it through a big book.  The story involves two deaf children who are separated by decades, missing parents, Minnesota, New York, family, community, and other stuff -- but you really ought to just get hold of it and read it.  (Selznick is the same guy who wrote the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.)
5.  Holm, Jennnifer L.  (20ll)  Our Only May Amelia;  The Trouble with May Amelia.  New York:  Athenaeum. 
May Amelia and her five brothers and gruff father and kind mother try to start a farm in the northwest where no one speaks their language and everything seems to be going against them.  Girls who like the Laura Ingalls Wilder Books will like this series. (I think there is maybe a third book out but I haven't read it yet).
6.  Patterson, Katherine (1977) Bridge to Terbithia.  New York:  Scholastic.
Okay, I know, this one really isn't recent.  But it is a great story and perfect for fourth and fifth graders.  You probably remember the story.  A boy and a girl forge a friendship, invent an imaginary kingdom, and then tragedy strikes.  There is a death here, but it is a death that means something in that it changes the community.  I may have gotten a bit sniffley toward the end.  This book rocked.

While I am on the topic of classics, Christopher Paul Curtis's Bud, Not Buddy is perfect for fourth and fifth grade and is a good way to broach the topic of race.
7.  Palacio, R.J. (2012) Wonder.  New York:  Knopf
8.  Springer, Nancy (2001)  Rowan Hood:  Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest.  New York:  Penguin.
9.  Larsen, Hope (ill.)  (2012) Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time:  The Graphic Novel.  New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
10.  Funke, Cornelia (2007) Igraine the Brave New York:  Chicken House.
11.  DiCamillo, Kate (2013) Flora and Ulysses  Somerville, MA:  Candlewick.
I hope that is a good start! 

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