Where the River Begins

thomas locker

Bibliographical Information: Locker, T. (1984). Where the River Begins. New York: Dial Books.

Brief Annotation: In this book, a grandfather and his grandsons travel in search of the beginning of a river (as the title states).  The illustrations provide great detail into this simplistic story.

Genre: Questioning

Grade Level: Pre-K-K

Readers who will like this: This book is a book I would read to children in the kindergarten age level because it leaves them wondering where this river leads.  I found myself thoroughly enjoying the paintings in this book and would also recommend this book to older people as well.

Rating/Response: 4.5 I wish this book had a little more text with it but I really enjoyed the artwork in this book.  I also enjoyed the concept of the grandfather going on this journey with his grandsons because it was very heartfelt.

One question you would ask before a read aloud: Can you think of a time where you wondered where something began and ended?  Something like a rainbow or a river?  Who were you with and what did you do?

Reading Strategy: Questioning

Rationale for Strategy: This book prompts young children into questioning where the river begins.  This book also provides teachers and students for a great discussion into why they think their ideas are correct about the beginning of the river.

Posted by: Brittany Billiet


The Jolly Mon

Bibliographic Information: Buffett, Jimmy, and Savannah Jane. Buffett. The Jolly Mon. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988

Brief Annotation: The Jolly Mon has the most beautiful voice of anyone in Bananaland.  One day he finds a magic guitar and sails to the other islands to sing for them and make them happy, his ship is attacked by pirates and a mysterious creature comes to his rescue.

Genre: Fiction

Grade Level: 2-5

Readers who will like this: Students who enjoy stories about animals, tropical islands, pirates, and fantasy.

Rating/Response: 4 – This book is beautifully written by songwriter Jimmy Buffet, who collaborated with his daughter to write this book based on his song by the same name.

One question you would ask before a read aloud:  Have you ever owned something that seemed almost magical?

Reading Strategy: Questioning

Rationale for Strategy:  This book gives students the opportunity to ask questions about the events in the book, some are more realistic than others so it will give students an opportunity to distinguish between things that are realistic and fantasy.

Posted by: Olivia Cyr

January’s Sparrow

Bibliographic Information: Polacco, Patricia. January’s Sparrow. New York: Philomel Books, 2009. Print.

Brief Annotation: This book tells the true story of a family of slaves – the Crosswhites – who run away to Canada in search of freedom, and stop to stay in Marshall, Michigan on the way. It’s told in the third person, but follows specifically the young daughter of the family, Sadie.

Genre: Historical Fiction (fictionalized accounts of true events)

Grade Level: 5-6

Readers who will like this: Students who like suspense; students who like history, especially those interested in slavery.

Rating/Response: 5 – This is a beautiful, detailed book that makes a real-life story truly come alive. It leaves nothing out, but is still accessible to non-adult readers. I always enjoy Patricia Polacco’s attention to storytelling and illustration, and this book is no exception to that.

One question you would ask before a read aloud: What do you know about the Underground Railroad?

Reading Strategy: Questioning, Social Studies

Rationale for Strategy: This book is an excellent source for students who have had some years of experience learning about slavery in the US. It specifically talks about runaway slaves, the Underground Railroad, and the help along the way. It’s great for asking questions about content and about the elements of the story as well. The lesson can begin with students asking questions about the Underground Railroad experience and keeping track as to whether they’re answered in the story. While reading, students can ask questions specific to the text. After reading, students can ask questions they still have about the Crosswhite family, and about slavery and the Underground Railroad as a whole, which can launch into a unit on slavery, using the Crosswhites as a focus. The book can be graphic at some points (a slave is beaten in the beginning), so I’d use it with older readers. It’s also quite long for a picture book, so I would be sure to set aside a lot of time in one lesson to read it, or read it over two days.

Posted by: Caitlin Miller



Bibliographical Information: Nivola, C. A. (1997). Elisabeth. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.

Brief Annotation: Set in the time of World War II and the rise of the Nazi’s, Ruth has to escape Germany and leave behind her favorite doll.  She is devastated but is able to find the doll years later in a shop in the United States.

Genre: Questioning

Grade Level: 1-8

Readers who will like this: I think this book would be geared more towards girls but I believe it would be a great story for all readers because we have all had to leave something behind at some point in our lives.

Rating/Response: 5  I am a great fan of learning about World War II and knowing this book had a little history behind it was intriguing to me.  I love being able to bring forth history in the classroom in any way I can and I feel that this story is something children can relate to.

One question you would ask before a read aloud: Have you ever had to leave something behind? How did it make you feel?

Reading Strategy: Questioning

Rationale for Strategy: This book is great for questioning because many think-marks can be placed in this book for great discussion with the class.  Many things can be asked such as where do they think the doll is going, how is she feeling, how do you know she feels this way, etc.

Posted by: Brittany Billiet

The Wall

Bibliographic Information: Bunting, Eve, and Ronald Himler. The Wall. New York: Clarion, 1990.

Brief Annotation: A son and his father spend the day at Vietnam Memorial searching for his grandfather’s name. While the boy’s father is searching he observes a solider and schoolgirls leave mementos in front of the wall. When the father finds his father’s name on the wall he traces it using a piece of paper. The father then takes a picture of his son out from his pocket. He has the boy lay the picture in front of the wall. The son and father honor his grandfather for what he did for their country.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grade Level: 1-3

Readers who will like this: Students who are interested in history or have an understanding of the Vietnam War and Memorial will have special interest in The Wall.

Rating/Response: 3. I found The Wall to be a touching story about a son and father who spend the day honoring his grandfather. I have visited the Vietnam Memorial and was able to make a connection while I read the story.

One question you would ask before a read aloud: What is a memorial? What are memorials meant to do?

Reading Strategy: Asking Questions

Rationale for Strategy: I think The Wall is good choice to use when teaching students about honoring the people that serve our country. Many students may not understand what a memorial is or the purpose of a memorial. Through reading The Wall students will relate with the boy as he questions the Vietnam Memorial and it’s significance.

Posted by: Kelsey Peterson

The Wednesday Surprise

Bibliographic Information: Bunting, Eve, and Donald Carrick. The Wednesday Surprise. New York: Clarion, 1989.

Brief Annotation: Anna’s grandma visits every Wednesday while Anna’s mom is working and her brother is practicing basketball. Her grandma brings a large bag filled with books, a secret only known by Anna and her grandma. They practice reading every Wednesday and hope to surprise Anna’s dad for his birthday. When the dad arrives Saturday, Anna drags the large bag of books into the living room. The grandma pulls and reads a book from the bag. The dad is amazed with his mother’s reading ability. The grandma explained Anna taught her how to read!

Genre: Fiction

Grade Level: 1-3

Readers who will like this: Students who have ever helped someone will enjoy reading The Wednesday Surprise. They will be to relate to Anna when she teaches her grandma learn how to read.

Rating/Response: 3. I enjoyed the twist when reading The Wednesday Surprise. I expected Anna’s grandma to be helping Anna read, but Anna was actually teaching her grandma how to read.

One question you would ask before a read aloud: What have you done to help someone?

Reading Strategy: Asking Questions

Rationale for Strategy: The Wednesday Surprise could be used as a read aloud to model questioning while reading. Students will wonder what surprise Anna and her grandma are planning for her father. They will be able to explore their questions and find answers while reading.

Posted by: Kelsey Peterson

The Whispering Cloth

Bibliographic Information: Shea, Pegi Deitz., and Anita Riggio. The Whispering Cloth: A Refugee’s Story. Honesdale, PA: Caroline House, Boyds Mills, 1995. Print.
Brief Annotation: This is a beautiful story about a young Hmong girl, Mai, who enjoys listening to and watching the women who make Hmong story cloths. Hmong story cloths serve as historical representations of the Hmong experience, both in Asia and as they embarked to safer territories in the west. Mai ends up creating her own story cloth depicting her life’s experiences thus far. 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Grade Level: 2-6
Reader who will like this: Readers who identify as Hmong would surely enjoy this story. Any refugee student would find this story appealing.
Rating/Response: 5 – This story is historically accurate and has a main character that is easy to identify with. The accompaniment of the actual photographs of Hmong story cloths adds a genuine and unique element to this story.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: What background knowledge do we have in terms of the Hmong people and their experience in coming to America?

Reading Strategy: Questioning

Rationale for Strategy: This story provides for lots of think mark opportunities, as the reader can question the story in terms of the history of the Hmong people as well as the characters’ actions and feelings.

Posted by: Emma Henke

The Lotus Seed

The Lotus Seed
Bibliographic Information: Garland, Sherry, and Tatsuro Kiuchi. The Lotus Seed. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993. Print.

Brief Annotation: This is a beautiful and emotional story about a Vietnamese family that was forced to flee from their homeland to escape the devastating civil war. This story portrays the struggle that the Vietnamese refugees faced and how they had to adapt to life in a new country while holding onto their cultural heritage. In the story, the grandma’s prized possession, her lotus seed, becomes a family heirloom that is passed down from one generation to the next.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grade Level: 3-6

Reader who will like this: This story may be difficult for students in the younger grades to fully understand. Students in the upper elementary grades would definitely be able to grasp the context and main ideas within this emotional tale. Students who are refugees or have refugee parents/relatives would surely enjoy this story. It is not a story however that many students would pick up off of the shelf and find highly interesting, but would be better suited as a read aloud.

Rating/Response: 5 – This story is historically accurate and beautifully written. The illustrations that accompany the text are fitting and add to the deeper meaning of the story. Furthermore, the book includes historical information in regards to the history of the Vietnamese civil war, creating background knowledge for students.

One question you would ask before a read aloud: We know that this story has something to do with Vietnamese refugees coming to America. What can we infer the story is about? What are your predictions and why?

Reading Strategy: Questioning

Rationale for Strategy: There are numerous opportunities for think marks and questions during a read aloud with this book. Not only can students be questioned in terms of the situation in Vietnam and the experience of adapting to western culture, but students can also be emotionally questioned in terms of the characters’ feelings.

Posted by: Emma Henke

If the Dinosaurs Came Back

Bibliographic Information: Most, Bernard. If the Dinosaurs Came Back. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978. Print.

Brief Annotation: This book is about a child loving dinosaurs and wishing they would come back.  The child thinks about everything that would make life easier if the dinosaurs did exist again.  At the end of the book, there is a page dedicated to all of the names that we would call the dinosaurs.

Genre: Fiction

Grade Level: Kindergarten-3

Reader who will like this: Students who are really interested in dinosaurs will love this book.  Children who also have a great imagination and love to wonder about everything, will find this book to be incredibly interesting.

Rating/Response: 4, this book is a bit old and the picture are outdated.  But I love the questions and other things that this book gets everyone thinking about.  Sometimes the oldest books are the best books!

One question you would ask before a read aloud: Can you imagine what it would be like if dinosaurs came back?

Reading Strategy: Questioning

Rationale for Strategy: This book has many ideas that get students wondering about all sorts of different things.  After reading this book, I had at least one question for every page I read and I can’t even imagine how many questions students could come up with.

Posted by: Breanna Richey

Green Eggs and Ham

Bibliographic Information: Seuss, Dr. Green Eggs and Ham. New York: Beginner, 1960. Print.

Brief Annotation: Green Eggs and Ham is the story about a thing named Sam who is trying to get something else to try green eggs and ham.  The moral of the story is that you will never know if you like something or not, until you try it.

Genre: Fiction

Grade Level: Kindergarten-2

Reader who will like this: Students who enjoy books written by Dr. Seuss will love this book!  Especially if those students love rhyming words and stories that have great morals but do not necessarily hold any realistic qualities.

Rating/Response: 5, this book is a wonderful book and it is one that is very common everywhere.  It is a complicated read for beginner readers because of all of the rhyming words.  But if a student wants a challenge, it is a great book to have them try to read.  All Dr. Seuss books help to open up a readers mind and get the creativity flowing in those readers.

One question you would ask before a read aloud: Why are Dr. Seuss books considered to be funny?

Reading Strategy: Questioning

Rationale for Strategy: This book has so many unique and wonderful qualities about it that get the mind flowing and asking questions.  For example, when I read this book, I always wonder about how a car can drive on a tree and how the green eggs and ham stay on the plate under water.  There are so many interesting aspects to this book that will get students thinking and asking questions.

Posted by: Breanna Richey