Thank You, Mr. Falker is the very first book we read together in my sixth grade class, because it says so much about the learning community I want us to create in the year together. This is an autobiographical account of Patricia, who has a love of story and of wisdom, and whose longing to read is impeded by dyslexia. A move across the country, a bully who discovers her secret, the torment she endures until Mr. Falker enters the picture, and the way in which he helps her discover her gifts and overcome her challenges is all together makes for an uplifting story. We spend time just gazing at paintings such as this, reflecting upon themes of bullying, compassion, and suffering:
about two friends, Dog and Magpie, whose bond of love and trust is cruelly tested by Fox. But, of course, there is much more to the story than that, and it is one of the highlights of our year to read and discuss this book – so many rich and layered discussions. Ron Brooks’ stunning paintings add the the moving experience that is reading Fox.
When I was Young in the Mountains, is an early read aloud in our class, when we are working to get our writer’s notebooks going:
Rylant’s lyrical remembrance of her childhood growing up in the Appalachian mountains with her grandparents is so evocative.
Barbara Cooney’s Eleanor begins our exploration of biography as a genre:
This re-telling of Eleanor’s early years allows us to experience the events that shaped the Eleanor we remember: champion of civil rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, and world peace. And, paintings such us this are meant to be lingered over – so much to glean from this:
My kids love learning about the woman behind the quirky poems, and the atmosphere she cultivated around her art and her life.
This is a story of kindness, self realization, and compassion. Wanda may be poor, and her school mates may ridicule her, but it is they who are found wanting – they who have a lot to learn. We love this picture book. No wonder it has never been out of print since it won the Newbery Honor in 1945!
Kadir Nelson. What can one say about this prolific and astonishing writer/illustrator? Heart and Soul is the story of America, and African Americans in America. Each story builds on the one that follows, and we read them in the sequence Nelson presents them, drawing out themes and discussing the journey.
We also read Moses. And this version of Tubman’s story sits on the chalkboard for weeks, as kids borrow it to take over to the reading rug and lose themselves in the paintings and the story. Amazing.