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Recommended School Stories: Easy Readers and Chapter Books


Cheng, Andrea The Year of the Book 148 pp. Houghton 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-68463-5 Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. Nine-year-old Anna, who always has her head stuck in a book, sometimes uses reading as a shield against social exclusion (of the specialized fourth-grade-girl kind) and her own lack of confidence. Cheng’s telling is as straightforward yet sympathetic […]

Recommended School Stories: Picture Books


Bean, Jonathan This Is My Home, This Is My School 48 pp. Farrar 2015. ISBN 978-0-374-38020-5 The boy from Building Our House welcomes readers back into his home — and school. Our narrator — the author/illustrator’s stand-in — gives a whirlwind tour of homeschooling life, and the warmhearted, cheerfully cluttered illustrations show how home and […]

Hester and relevance

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Recently, I co-taught a course with a colleague from the BU English department (I’m in English education) about teaching American literature. A great deal of time is spent in the course considering what ‘counts’ as American literature, and my colleague convinced me we should read The Scarlet Letter. We chose this novel as a highly […]

Death to the biography book report


We all remember doing book reports in elementary school. It was fairly standard. You read a book and you write a summary on it or do some type of creative project. This past spring, I assigned a biography book report. I followed the normal prescription: choose a book about someone you’re interested in, and write […]

Historical crossroads


Scratch the surface of history and you’ll sometimes find the stories behind the stories of accepted record. The following works of nonfiction encourage teens to critically examine the narrative that is history. In Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West, Candace Fleming sets her sights on two connected myths of American history: […]

Plots with pluck

spalding_look out for the fitzgerald trouts

Challenges from finding a new home to finding your (singing) voice to finding your “thing” are no match for the spirited main characters of these four middle-grade and middle-school novels. Eleven-year-old Kim, three siblings, and a goldfish live in a small green car in Esta Spalding’s Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts. Orphans? No, they actually […]

Welcome, new readers!


Four welcome books — two easy readers and two beginning chapter books — invite new readers in using humor and tried-and-true formats and structures. The Thank You Book is (sob!) the final entry in Mo Willems’s hugely popular series of easy readers featuring the free-spirited Piggie and her best friend, the reliable if sometimes officious […]

In the doghouse

mcanulty_excellent ed

Barking. Digging. Breaking things. True, the pooch protagonists of these recent picture books may have some bad habits. But as it turns out, even not-so-great qualities can have upsides, and the pups are excellent at what really matters: being a kid’s best friend. (And cleaning the floor, of course.) In Excellent Ed, each of the […]

Women can be president, too!


With the 2016 presidential election just a few months away, news from the campaign trail continues to dominate the headlines. Our students are thus very likely hearing names of candidates and snippets of information about politics and elections. While discussing politics in school is often viewed as taboo, the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Carly […]

Scientists as dreamers

Earmuffs for Everyone!

Can scientists be dreamers? They not only can, but should! The imagination pushes the boundaries of what can be discovered or created. The picture book biographies of the three subjects below — well-known Carl Sagan, and lesser-known Chester Greenwood and Jean-Henri Fabre — are intriguing examples of scientists who let their imaginations run away with […]