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Bookstorm™: Giant Pumpkin Suite

Giant Pumpkin SuiteCom­pe­ti­tion is a part of young people’s lives: art, sports, music, dance, sci­ence, cup-stack­ing … many chil­dren spend a good part of their day prac­tic­ing, learn­ing, and striv­ing to do their best. Giant Pump­kin Suite is about two types of com­pe­ti­tions, a Bach Cel­lo Suites Com­pe­ti­tion and a giant pump­kin grow­ing com­pe­ti­tion. Rose and Thomas Bruti­gan are twelve-year-old twins … but their per­son­al­i­ties and inter­ests are quite dif­fer­ent. It’s a book set with­in a neigh­bor­hood that pulls togeth­er when a seri­ous acci­dent changes the tra­jec­to­ry of their sum­mer. We meet so many inter­est­ing peo­ple, chil­dren and adults, in this book. It’s full of hold-your-breath plot turns. 

The book is writ­ten at a lev­el for 5th to 8th grade read­ers (and adults) and it has many ties to pop­u­lar cul­ture, math­e­mat­ics, gar­den­ing, and the nature of com­pe­ti­tion. It’s an excel­lent choice for a book club dis­cus­sion.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. You’ll find books, arti­cles, web­sites, and videos for a vari­ety of tastes and inter­ests.  

Downloadables

 

 

You’ll find more infor­ma­tion about Melanie Heuis­er Hill on her web­site.

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach. Rose Bruti­gan focus­es on an upcom­ing Bach Suites Com­pe­ti­tion by prac­tic­ing … a lot. Who was Bach and why is his music still with us 260 years after his death? Resources include books and videos of our best cel­lists play­ing the Bach Cel­lo Suites.

The Cel­lo. More about the instru­ment Rose plays, with a num­ber of videos you can share with your class or book club.

Charlotte’s Web. This book is a favorite of Rose and her neigh­bor Jane. Charlotte’s Web pro­vides a major turn­ing point in Giant Pump­kin Suite. Learn more about the book and its author, E.B. White.

Giant Pump­kins. Thomas and his neigh­bors work togeth­er to grow a giant pump­kin. Today, these pump­kins (not grown for eat­ing) can way over 2,000 pounds—more than one ton. Books, videos, and arti­cles share sto­ries and how-tos for grow­ing giant pump­kins com­pet­i­tive­ly.

Japan­ese Tea Cer­e­mo­ny. Mrs. Kiyo shares this beau­ti­ful cer­e­mo­ny with Rose. The Book­storm sug­gests a video for your stu­dents to watch.

Math­e­mat­ics and Bach. Are you aware that Bach used math and physics when cre­at­ing his com­po­si­tions? Your stu­dents can delve into this fas­ci­nat­ing aspect of the com­pos­er!

Movie Musi­cals. The music from musi­cals of the 1940s and 1950s is very impor­tant to Jane and Mrs. Lukashenko—they sing and tap dance at the least sug­ges­tion. We pro­vide three sug­ges­tions for watch­ing these movies.

Music Com­pe­ti­tion (Fic­tion). There are a num­ber of excel­lent books about young peo­ple prepar­ing for, and play­ing in, music com­pe­ti­tions! 

Music in Mid­dle Grade Books. And more nov­els in which music is an impor­tant part of the plot. 

Neigh­bor­hood Books. We sug­gest books in which the peo­ple and places of a neigh­bor­hood are inte­gral to the plot of a book. Per­haps you’ll find your favorites.

Tap Danc­ing. Who can resist a good tap dance? Anoth­er strong plot point, we sug­gest books and videos to share with your stu­dents.

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your ideas and any oth­er books you’d add to this Book­storm™.

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Third Grader Reading at a Sixth Grade Level

Respond­ing to a par­ent request for books that would inter­est her third-grad­er-read­ing-at-a-sixth-grade-lev­el, we crowd-sourced a list. Big thanks to Sara Alcott, Lin­da Baie, Les­ley Man­dros Bell, Karen Cramer, Caren Creech, Melin­da Fant, Ellen Klar­re­ich, Vick­ie LoP­ic­co­lo, Ellen McEvoy, Lau­ra Moe, Tunie Mun­son-Ben­son, Vic­ki Palmquist, Car­rie Shay, Faythe Dyrud Thureen, Cindy Walk­er, and Sharon J. Wil­son.

Unlike our usu­al anno­tat­ed book­lists, we are pre­sent­ing this one in alpha­bet­i­cal order by book title due to the length of the list. We hope you find books here that lead you to read more books by these authors. Of course, there are many more just-right books to sug­gest for this type of reader–we’ve includ­ed only books sug­gest­ed by our “crowd.”

bk_alcaponeshirtsAdam Can­field of the Slash, Michael Winer­ip

Adven­tures of Sir Lancelot the Great (Knights Tales series), Ger­ald Mor­ris

Al Capone Does My Shirts (series of 3 books), Gen­nifer Chold­enko

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Mont­gomery

Bet­sy-Tacy Trea­sury (series, Bet­sy and friends get old­er in the books), Maud Hart Lovelace

BFG, Roald Dahl

Birch­bark House, Louis Erdrich

Black Stal­lion (series), Wal­ter Far­ley

Bog­gart, Susan Coop­er

Catherine, Called BirdyBook of Three (Pry­dain series of 5 books), Lloyd Alexan­der

Bor­row­ers, Mary Nor­ton

Bud, Not Bud­dy, Christo­pher Paul Cur­tis

Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor, Avi

Cather­ine, Called Birdy, Karen Cush­man

Chas­ing Ver­meer, Blue Bal­li­et

Chil­dren of Green Knowe (series), Lucy M. Boston

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

Dark is Ris­ing (series of 5 books), Susan Coop­er

Drag­ons in the Waters, Madeleine L’Engle

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking RatEmmy and the Incred­i­ble Shrink­ing Rat, Lynne Jonell

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Chris Graben­stein

Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Ele­men­tary School, Can­dace Flem­ing

False Prince (series of 3 books), Jen­nifer A. Nielsen

Flo­ra & Ulysses, Kate DiCamil­lo

Frindle, Andrew Clements

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er, E.L. Konigs­berg

Girls Think of Every­thing, Cather­ine Thimmesh

Green­glass House, Kate Mil­ford

Half Mag­ic, Edward Eager

HatchetHar­ri­et the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh

Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (series of 7 books), J.K. Rowl­ing

Hatch­et, Gary Paulsen

Holes, Louis Sachar

Home of the Brave, Kather­ine Apple­gate

How to Steal a Dog, Bar­bara O’Connor

How to Train Your Drag­on (series), Cres­si­da Crow­ell, “It’s fun­ny, sophis­ti­cat­ed, appeal­ing, and has 12 vol­umes.”

Indi­an Shoes, Cyn­thia Leitich Smith

I Sur­vived the Sink­ing of the Titan­ic, 1912 (series), Lau­ren Tarshis

Invention of Hugo CabretInven­tion of Hugo Cabret, Bri­an Selznick

Jen­nifer, Hecate, Mac­beth, William McKin­ley and Me, Eliz­a­beth, E.L. Konigs­berg

Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craig­head George

King of the Wind, Mar­guerite Hen­ry

Light­ning Thief (many books in this series and oth­er series), Rick Rior­dan

Lin­coln and His Boys, Rose­mary Wells

Long Walk to Water, Lin­da Sue Park

Mak­ing Friends with Bil­ly Wong, Augus­ta Scat­ter­good

Mani­ac Magee, Jer­ry Spinel­li

Old WolfMoth­er-Daugh­ter Book Club (series of 7 books), Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick

Mozart Sea­son, Vir­ginia Euw­er Wolff

Mrs. Fris­by and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O’Brien

Nation, Ter­ry Pratch­ett. “A bit mature for the aver­age third grad­er, but this doesn’t sound like an aver­age kid. Make it a point of dis­cus­sion.”

Old Wolf, Avi

On My Hon­or, Mar­i­on Dane Bauer

One and Only Ivan, Kather­ine Apple­gate

One Crazy Sum­mer, Rita Williams-Gar­cia

Owls in the Fam­i­ly, Far­ley Mowat

People Could FlyPeo­ple Could Fly, Vir­ginia Hamil­ton

Peter Nim­ble and the Fan­tas­tic Eyes, Jonathan Aux­i­er

Push­cart War, Jean Mer­rill

Ran­doms, David Liss

Savvy, Ingrid Law

Scary Sto­ries to Tell in the Dark (espe­cial­ly around Hal­loween), Alvin Schwartz (these are scary, so please know your child’s abil­i­ty to han­dle this book)

Scoot­er, Vera B. Williams’

Stella by StarlightSin­gle Shard, Lin­da Sue Park

Some Writer! The Sto­ry of E.B. White, Melis­sa Sweet

Stel­la by Starlight, Sharon M. Drap­er

Swal­lows and Ama­zons, Arthur Ran­some

Tales from the Odyssey, Mary Pope Osborne

Tales of a Fourth Grade Noth­ing (Fudge series), Judy Blume

Tom’s Mid­night Gar­den, Philip­pa Pearce

True Con­fes­sions of Char­lotte Doyle, Avi

Tuck Ever­last­ing, Natal­ie Bab­bitt

Uncer­tain Glo­ry, Lea Wait

Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane GoodallUntamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall, Ani­ta Sil­vey

Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech

West­ing Game, Ellen Raskin

Whales on Stilts! M.T. Ander­son

When You Reach Me, Rebec­ca Stead

Where the Moun­tain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin

Witch of Black­bird Pond, Eliz­a­beth Speare

Won­der, R.J. Pala­cio

Wrin­kle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle

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Candace Fleming Tames the Wild West

credit: Michael Lionstar

cred­it: Michael Lion­star

Our thanks to author Can­dace Flem­ing for sit­ting still long enough to answer in-depth ques­tions about her con­cep­tion for, research into, and writ­ing deci­sions for Pre­sent­ing Buf­fa­lo Bill: the Man Who Invent­ed the Wild West, our Book­storm™ this month. Fleming’s answers will inform edu­ca­tors, pro­vid­ing direct quotes from an oft-pub­lished biog­ra­ph­er of beloved books that will be use­ful for teach­ing writ­ing and research skills in the class­room. 

When did you first sus­pect that you’d like to write about William Cody?

Buffalo Bill Cody 1875

William “Buf­fa­lo Bill” Cody, ©1875

My first inkling occurred the morn­ing I opened my email to find a mes­sage from edi­tor Neal Porter. The sub­ject-head­ing read: “Yo, Can­dy, want to do a book?” Neal had just returned from a trip to Cody, Wyoming, where he’d bumped into Buf­fa­lo Bill. Neal was not only intrigued by Bill, but he also real­ized that it had been decades since an in-depth biog­ra­phy of the show­man had been writ­ten for young read­ers. But who should write it? He thought of me. Even though Neal and I had nev­er worked togeth­er before, we’d been mak­ing eyes at each oth­er for years. He hoped this project would final­ly bring us togeth­er. But I wasn’t so sure. Buf­fa­lo Bill Cody? In my mind, he was just anoth­er dusty fron­tiers­man. A myth. A trope. Still, I decid­ed to give him a shot (no pun intend­ed) and ordered up his auto­bi­og­ra­phy through inter-library loan. As I opened the book’s cov­er, I remem­ber giv­ing a lit­tle yawn. My expec­ta­tions were low. And then … I fell into his life sto­ry. What a self-aggran­diz­ing, exag­ger­at­ing, exas­per­at­ing, endear­ing, amus­ing, ques­tion-pro­vok­ing sto­ry­teller! The man who wrote that book mys­ti­fied me. Who was Buf­fa­lo Bill? Was he a hero or was he a char­la­tan? Was he an hon­est man or a liar? Was he a real fron­tiers­man or was he a show­man? I found myself sud­den­ly brim­ming with ques­tions. And I was eager to dis­cov­er the answers. ©

At what point did you know that you’d present his life in terms of truth and maybe-not-so-true?

Buffalo Bill Cody by José Maria Mora

Buf­fa­lo Bill Cody by José Maria Mora

I knew right away that I would have to address the ambi­gu­i­ties in Will’s sto­ry. In fact, it was one of the rea­sons I was drawn to the project. I love the gray areas in his­to­ry. I’m not just talk­ing about gaps in the his­tor­i­cal records. You know, those places where we don’t know for sure what hap­pened. I’m talk­ing about those places where we don’t know what to make of the his­tor­i­cal truth. For exam­ple, Ben­jamin Franklin owned slaves. How do we fit that with with our image of the jovial, wit­ty inven­tor and states­man? What are we to make of that? Or, take Amelia Earhart. Many of the most often-repeat­ed sto­ries about her aren’t true. Amelia made them up out of whole cloth. She lied. How does that jibe with our image of the dar­ing, but doomed avi­a­tor? What are we to make of that?

Too often, espe­cial­ly in non­fic­tion for young read­ers, we avoid the gray areas. We don’t include these truths because we’re wor­ried what kids will make of them. But I believe these areas are espe­cial­ly impor­tant for young read­ers … and most espe­cial­ly for mid­dle school and teen read­ers. These are read­ers who are strug­gling to dis­cov­er who they are and what they can be; they’re strug­gling to fig­ure out their place in the world.

What’s right?

What’s fair?

What’s moral?

The last thing they need is anoth­er san­i­tized, pedestal-inhab­it­ing, nev­er-do-wrong per­son from his­to­ry.

Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West ShowAnd so I decid­ed to include both Will’s ver­sions of events, as well as accounts that con­flict with his. I inten­tion­al­ly incor­po­rat­ed oppos­ing view­points from both his­tor­i­cal fig­ures and mod­ern-day his­to­ri­ans. And I pur­pose­ly refrained from draw­ing any con­clu­sions from the his­tor­i­cal evi­dence. Instead, I chose to just lay it before my read­ers. Why? Because I want them to wres­tle with the ambi­gu­i­ties. I want them to come to their own con­clu­sions. I want them to see that stories—especially true sto­ries from history—are not black and white. They’re gray.

Who was right?

Who was wrong?

I don’t think it’s my job to tell them. I’m not sure I could tell them.

Rather, I choose to tell all sides of the Wild West story—Will’s side, the Native per­form­ers’ side—with what I hope was equal clar­i­ty and com­pas­sion. What choic­es do each make under pres­sure? Why? No one is all good. No one is all bad.

You see, it’s in the gray area between those oppos­ing val­ues that I hope read­ers will ask them­selves: What would I do in this sit­u­a­tion?

By includ­ing history’s ambi­gu­i­ties, I am “kick­ing it to the read­er,” as my friend Tonya Bold­en likes to say.

And this, I believe, is the pur­pose of non­fic­tion in the 21st century—to encour­age thought, not sim­ply to pro­vide facts for reports.

When you begin your research, how do you lay out a strat­e­gy for that research?

I con­fess I nev­er have much of a strat­e­gy plan when I begin research­ing. Instead, the process is pret­ty organ­ic. I start with archival sources. What’s already been writ­ten and col­lect­ed? I focus on pri­ma­ry sources: let­ters, diaries, mem­oirs, inter­views. This is where defin­ing, inti­mate details are found. As I read, I keep an open mind. I’m curi­ous and nosy and I ask lots of ques­tions. I actu­al­ly write those ques­tions down on yel­low ledger pads. And let me tell you, I end up with lots of ques­tions. I won’t find the answers to all of them. I may not even try to find the answers to all of them. But in this way, I remind myself that I’m explor­ing, mak­ing dis­cov­er­ies. In truth, I have no spe­cif­ic idea of what I’m look­ing for or what I’ll find. I let the research lead me. And, slow­ly, I begin to under­stand what it is I want to say with this par­tic­u­lar piece of his­to­ry.

In those ini­tial stages, do you use the library? The inter­net? Oth­er sources?

In the first throes of research, I’ll use the Inter­net to dis­cov­er the col­lec­tions and archives that hold my subject’s papers. I’ll search for auto­bi­ogra­phies and oth­er first­hand accounts of the person’s life. I’ll note the names of schol­ars or his­to­ri­ans whose names pop up in asso­ci­a­tion with my sub­ject. That’s the very first step.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Did you vis­it the McCrack­en Research Library or the Buf­fa­lo Bill Cen­ter of the West?

The McCrack­en Research Library is part of the Buf­fa­lo Bill Cen­ter of the West. In fact, the library is just down the stairs from their muse­um. Yes, I vis­it­ed both. And I spent a week in the library, culling through years of scrap­books kept by Will, and Annie Oak­ley and oth­ers, read­ing mem­oirs and let­ters and diaries.

Would you rec­om­mend that your read­ers vis­it those loca­tions?

I would def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend the muse­um to my read­ers. So much of the detri­tus of Will’s life is on dis­play: his buf­fa­lo skin coat, his favorite rifle that he named Lucre­tia Bor­gia, the famous stage­coach from the Wild West. They even have his child­hood home moved in its entire­ty from Iowa to Cody! The place real­ly brings Will and his times alive.

Buffalo Bill's personal saddle

Buf­fa­lo Bill’s per­son­al sad­dle

What do you find to be most help­ful about vis­it­ing a muse­um where arti­facts are on dis­play?

Those artifacts—leftovers of a person’s life, if you will—are so human. Some­times we for­get that a per­son from his­to­ry was real flesh and blood. But then we’ll see that person’s well-worn car­pet slip­pers, or read a love let­ter he wrote to his wife, and we’re remind­ed of that person’s human­i­ty. Despite his place in his­to­ry, he still suf­fered from both love and sore feet, just like all of us do.

How do you go about find­ing an expert to con­sult with about your book?

 Dur­ing research, cer­tain names start­ing appear­ing again and again. I will not only note these names, I’ll do a quick Google to check on qual­i­fi­ca­tions, as well as how up-to-date their schol­ar­ship is. For exam­ple, a name that’s cit­ed again and again in Cody research is Don Rus­sell. But Rus­sell wrote his sem­i­nal work almost forty years ago. Cer­tain­ly, his work is valu­able, but it’s no longer the most recent schol­ar­ship. Young read­ers deserve the lat­est dis­cov­er­ies and newest inter­pre­ta­tions. His­to­ry is, after all, an ongo­ing process, one in which new facts are dis­cov­ered, and old facts are recon­sid­ered. So I turned to Dr. Louis S. War­ren, a high­ly respect­ed schol­ar of the West­ern US his­to­ry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis, as well as author of the crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed Buf­fa­lo Bill’s Amer­i­ca. He very gen­er­ous­ly offered to read the man­u­script, mak­ing sev­er­al sug­ges­tions for changes, as well as point­ing me in the direc­tion of the lat­est Cody schol­ar­ship. He also sug­gest­ed I con­tact Dr. Jef­fery Means, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of Native Amer­i­can His­to­ry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wyoming and an enrolled Mem­ber of the Oglala Sioux Tribe for his unique per­spec­tive on my book, par­tic­u­lar­ly in regards to Great Plains Indi­an cul­ture.

Do you research the pho­tos you’ll include in the book at the same time as you research the his­tor­i­cal and bio­graph­i­cal ele­ments? Or is that a sep­a­rate process at a sep­a­rate time?

I do my own pho­to research. While research­ing, I keep an eye open for things that might make for inter­est­ing visu­als. I keep a list, and in most cas­es, a copy of those images. But I nev­er know what I’m going to use until I start writ­ing. The text real­ly does deter­mine what pho­tographs end up in the book. Because of this, I always end up search­ing for pho­tos late in the project.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West show poster

How did you write the dra­mat­ic scenes from the Wild West Show? They’re filled with ten­sion, vivid descrip­tions, and a movie-like qual­i­ty. Were these actu­al scenes in the Show? And were you present to see them per­formed? It sure seems like it.

Presenting Buffalo BillIt was impor­tant to open each chap­ter of the book with a scene from the Wild West. Not only was I try­ing to show the par­al­lels between Will’s per­son­al expe­ri­ences and the acts that even­tu­al­ly sprang from them, but also I want­ed read­ers to have a clear under­stand­ing of what the show entailed. The best way to do this, I decid­ed, was to write those scenes in a way that would make read­ers feel as if they were actu­al­ly sit­ting in the stands. I want­ed them to feel the ten­sion, the excite­ment, the dra­ma of the per­for­mance. I want­ed them to expe­ri­ence (at least in a small way) the awe that show goers felt when they watched those re-enact­ments of buf­fa­lo hunts and Pony Express rid­ers. After all, this is vital to the book’s theme—that the Wild West cre­at­ed our col­lec­tive mem­o­ry of the Amer­i­can West; that we still tend to think in tropes, and those tropes come direct­ly from Buf­fa­lo Bill Cody. So, I wrote those scenes in great detail, almost in slow motion. Not a sin­gle descrip­tion is made up. Every­thing comes from the his­tor­i­cal record, includ­ing thoughts and com­ments from the peo­ple in the bleach­ers. I mere­ly used present tense to make the action feel more imme­di­ate. But the action real­ly and tru­ly hap­pened just as I’ve pre­sent­ed it.

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Bookstorm: Catherine, Called Birdy

Catherine Called Birdy Bookstorm

In this Bookstorm™:

Catherine, Called BirdyCatherine, Called Birdy

writ­ten by Karen Cush­man
pub­lished by Clar­i­on Books, 1994
New­bery Hon­or book

Cor­pus Bones! I utter­ly loathe my life.”

Cather­ine feels trapped. Her father is deter­mined to mar­ry her off to a rich man–any rich man, no mat­ter how awful. But by wit, trick­ery, and luck, Cather­ine man­ages to send sev­er­al would-be hus­bands pack­ing. Then a shag­gy-beard­ed suit­or from the north comes to call–by far the old­est, ugli­est, most revolt­ing suit­or of them all. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, he is also the rich­est. Can a sharp-tongued, high-spir­it­ed, clever young maid­en with a mind of her own actu­al­ly lose the bat­tle against an ill-man­nered, pig-like lord and an unimag­i­na­tive, greedy toad of a father? Deus! Not if Cather­ine has any­thing to say about it!” 

Arranged Mar­riages. From the begin­ning of Cather­ine, Called Birdy, our hero­ine is aware that she will be mar­ried off to a man who can bring her father more land and more world­ly goods, an alliance, some­thing of mon­e­tary val­ue. She is par­tic­u­lar­ly deter­mined not to let this hap­pen. We rec­om­mend oth­er books writ­ten for teens about arranged mar­riages. 

Birds. Cather­ine has many bird­cages filled with winged friends in her bed­room. They bring her peace of mind and she trea­sures them. From true sto­ries about birds, field guides, to alarm over the dis­ap­pear­ance of song­birds, there are bird books to intro­duce to your read­ers. 

Cru­sades. With many eyes focused on the Mid­dle East, it is like­ly that you’re find­ing inter­est in the his­to­ry of the con­flicts there. Cather­ine, Called Birdy is set at a time when reli­gious and mil­i­tary war­riors are return­ing to Eng­land from the Cru­sades. We rec­om­mend sev­er­al excel­lent nobels and biogra­phies set dur­ing this time. 

Embroi­dery. The women in Birdy’s home embroi­der. They couldn’t go out and buy ready-made clothes so the only way to make clothes pret­ti­er was to dec­o­rate them with pat­terns of thread. Does some­one in your class already embroi­der? Will you sched­ule an embroi­dery demon­stra­tion for your class­room? You’ll find some books with pat­terns that will appeal to the crafters among your stu­dents. 

Fleas. Hygiene wasn’t as well-known in Birdy’s day. House were not as pro­tect­ed from the ele­ments. Fleas were a fact of life. They caused per­son­al dis­com­fort but they also caused plagues and changed pol­i­tics. Cer­tain­ly there will be those stu­dents in your class­room who will be intrigued. 

Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­scripts. Birdy’s broth­er works at a monastery where they are illu­mi­nat­ing man­u­scripts. We rec­om­mend sev­er­al web­sites that will help you demon­strate this fore­run­ner of the print­ing press. 

Journals/Diaries. Catherine’s sto­ry is told in first per­son in the form of a diary she’s keep­ing. Many stu­dents are asked to keep jour­nals. Here are sev­er­al favorite books told in this for­mat. 

Judaism: the Edict of Expul­sion. Few peo­ple real­ize that Edward I ordered all Jews to leave Eng­land for­ev­er on July 18, 1290. Birdy meets a group of Jews who are depart­ing and finds it hard to under­stand how they are any dif­fer­ent than she and her fam­i­ly. We ref­er­ence arti­cles that will give more back­ground on this top­ic. 

Medieval Life. Nov­els, pic­ture books, and true sto­ries for young read­ers have often been set in the medieval world. We offer sug­ges­tions for a num­ber of them, rang­ing from Adam of the Road, pub­lished in 1943, to Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sec­tions Cas­tle from 2013. 

Peer­age and Nobil­i­ty. Whether you’re fas­ci­nat­ed by the titles used in Eng­land or you find them con­fus­ing, here are a few guides to enhance your stu­dents’ under­stand­ing. 

Saints Days. Birdy pref­aces each of her jour­nal entries with the reflec­tion of a saint whose day was cel­e­brat­ed on that day. We’ve found a few ref­er­ences that will explain who these peo­ple were and why they became saints from an his­tor­i­cal view­point. 

Women’s History/Coming of Age. At the heart of Birdy’s sto­ry is the fact that she is leav­ing child­hood behind and becom­ing a young woman. We’ve includ­ed rec­om­men­da­tions for books on this theme that include fic­tion­al and true sto­ries over a wide span of years..

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The Fourteenth Goldfish

The ver­sa­tile Jen­nifer L. Holm pens a fan­ta­sy this time around, but it’s a sto­ry suf­fused with humor and sci­ence, deft­ly ask­ing a mind-blow­ing ques­tion: is it a good thing to grow old? So what hap­pens when a 13-year-old boy shows up on your doorstep, argu­ing with your mom, who invites him in, and it […]

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Behind the Books We’ve Loved: A Wilder Rose

Grow­ing up, I loved to read mys­ter­ies, biogra­phies, but espe­cial­ly series books. I didn’t read Nan­cy Drew or Anne of Green Gables (not until I was an adult), but I fol­lowed most every oth­er series char­ac­ter. I read Cher­ry Ames, Sue Bar­ton, Trix­ie Belden, Beany Mal­one, Janet Lennon, but espe­cial­ly Louisa May Alcott’s books, the […]

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