Pam Munoz Ryan: Using an Author Study in the Classroom

Pam Munoz Ryan is an author to be trusted. If you have ever read one of her stories, you know you’re bound to have a captivating and emotional experience when you pick up one of her books. Pam Munoz Ryan is the perfect writer to begin an author study within the classroom. Her books contain profound life lessons and deep themes.

Pam Munoz Ryan:
Using an Author Study in the Classroom

Pam Munoz Ryan is a winner of multiple awards. Two such are the Newberry Honor Medal and a NAPPA Gold award, among countless others. She is a New York Times Bestseller author. Her novels are perfect for upper elementary to middle school readers. Ryan is known for her multi-cultural literature, strong protagonists, and deep themes written in an age-appropriate way. 

I first found Pam Munoz Ryan when teaching elementary grades. I taught her novel, Esperanza Rising. It is a wonderful historical-fictional book based on true events surrounding her own grandmother Esperanza Ortega’s life and immigration to the United States.

In Esperanza Rising, we are taken on a journey of loss. Quickly into the story, the reader learns Esperanza’s loving and wealthy rancher father is killed at the hands of bandits. Esperanza, her mother, and their servants who are like family must move. This is due their beautiful Mexican ranch is burned down by Esperanza’s uncle. They leave behind her abuelita, whom she was very close with, in a convent. The death of her father, separation from her beloved grandmother, and a series of events causes Esperanza to grieve and grow so much within a year.

Pam Munoz Ryan weaves real history in her novel as detailed through the Mexican Revolution, the Dust Bowl, discrimination, immigration, Repatriation, migrant farms, the Great Depression, and labor strikes. During these major events, Esperanza must contend with losing all her material possessions, living extremely poorly, losing her father and possibly her mother, and growing up very quickly through the process. This novel is recommended for grades 4 and up.

If you are interested in teaching this novel, hop on over to our other blog post: 5 Activities for Teaching Esperanza Rising.

Becoming Naomi Leon

Another treasure of Pam Munoz Ryan’s is Becoming Naomi Leon. When I read this novel, I immediately noticed similar details to Esperanza Rising, but Becoming Naomi Leon had more modern elements. Similarities include the Mexican landscape, heritage, and food, as well as a journey of the female protagonist finding herself while dealing with trauma. 

Publisher Synopsis:

Naomi Soledad León Outlaw has had a lot to contend with in her young life, her name for one. Then there are her clothes (sewn in polyester by Gram), her difficulty speaking up, and her status at school as “nobody special.” But according to Gram’s self-prophecies, most problems can be overcome with positive thinking. Luckily, Naomi also has her carving to strengthen her spirit. And life with Gram and her little brother, Owen, is happy and peaceful. That is, until their mother reappears for the first time in seven years, stirring up all sorts of questions and challenging Naomi to discover who she really is.

Naomi, her great-grandmother Gram, and her little brother Owen all live in a small trailer/RV. Naomi and Owen are happy and cared for, enjoying evenings with pork-chops and Wheel of Fortune. Their mother, an alcoholic who abandoned Naomi and Owen seven years prior, shows up suddenly wanting to be part of their lives. Naomi and Owen’s trauma resurfaces from the neglect they had faced under her care and with the threat of her mother, Skyla, taking only Naomi to go live with her and her new boyfriend in Las Vegas.

There are deep themes such as child neglect, abandonment, alcoholism, inter-generational living, and custody hearings, so please choose this book wisely for your students. Nevertheless, Ryan has a way of making these topics age-appropriate without too much detail and just the right amount of discretion and subtlety. The reader is taken on a journey of Gram fighting for her great-grandkids, Naomi finding her father and her voice to be used for justice and redemption. 

I was drawn into this book immediately. The quirky characters, the desert backdrop, the Mexican landscape and food, the Spanish language and the warmth of family and friends all draw the reader in. With Naomi’s soap carvings and the big woodcarving event in Mexico they attend in which Naomi finds her gifts, will excite younger readers. This book has heart and soul, uniqueness, and strong characters. 

Paint the Wind

Ryan’s novel Paint the Wind has similarities to Esperanza Rising and Becoming Naomi Leon as well. The female protagonist, Maya, lives with her grandmother, but it is not a great situation. Her grandmother is an avid liar and has woven lies about Maya’s dead mother and her whole personal history. Maya, herself, tells lies in order to save face and impress. Through a series of events, Maya must move from California to Wyoming to live with her mother’s family, who are adamant against lying. They push her to find out the truth about who she really is and her mother’s horse helps her do this. Ryan has a knack for describing settings in her novels and the Wyoming wilderness is described beautifully, coupled with her description of the wild horse, Paint. 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

This epic horse story, in the tradition of BLACK STALLION, marks exciting new territory for one of our most treasured and celebrated novelists.

A puzzling photograph, a box filled with faded toy horses, and a single fractured memory are all that Maya has left of her mother. In her grandmother’s house, she lives like a captive, tethered by rules… until a shocking event changes everything. A world away, in the rugged Wyoming wilderness, a wild mustang called Artemisia runs free, belonging only to the stars. In a land where mountain lions pose an ever-present threat, she must vigilantly defend her foal… until a devastating act separates them from their band. Like a braided rein, Maya’s and Artemisia’s lives will ultimately intertwine. 

Paint the Wind left me gripping with emotion. As an adult, the story carried me through a roller coaster of sadness, grief, fear, and shock. You don’t have to be a horse person to enjoy this book. The book, Paint the Wind, has extensive vocabulary, exciting plot twists, so much heart, and the ever-present strong female lead that Ryan is known for.  

Author Study

Exposing students to a variety of authors is crucial for them to became diversified readers and writers, learning from many different writing styles and enjoying many genres of books; however, completely focusing on one writer and investigating author studies in the classroom has added benefits as well. Here are three ways to complete author studies in your classroom. 

Author Study

1. Read-Alouds

Completing a series of read-alouds from the same author opens the class up to great discussion on writing styles. They discuss comparing and contrasting, author’s craft, and so much more. Even by using book series as read-alouds, students can see similarities of how a particular author creates a story arc. The students can also see if it is similar or different from book to book within a series. Students will connect each novel naturally. They will make inferences about the author, and find consistency among different novels. 

For reasons to utilize a read-aloud in the Middle School Classroom, read our blog about it here!

2. Pair a Read-Aloud with a Novel Unit

As you teach a novel unit, simultaneously choose a read-aloud by the same author. I did this when we studied Mighty Miss Malone. I used Christopher Paul Curtis’s novel Bud, Not Buddy as our read-aloud at the same time. In fact, in Bud, Not Buddy, worlds collide when Deza from Mighty Miss Malone is featured. It was an awesome moment when students realized this. (I got bonus points for not revealing this meet-up until we came across it.) 

My students were able to compare and contrast Curtis’ books. They realized that Curtis loved to write about similar themes of poverty and real life history of the Great Depression. He also loved including riding the rails. Furthermore, he included many mentions of Michigan and similar places between both novels, and even humor. Curtis has a way of executing humor beautifully in normally sad topics. My students made so many connections as we studied both of his books. 

Students will be able to learn so much as they study two novels by the same author simultaneously. 

3. Independent Reading Projects

As a middle school English teacher, I assigned one independent reading project per quarter. One particular student had a penchant for reading Gary Paulsen books. So for each independent reading project he completed, he read a different Gary Paulsen book. For the last independent reading project, he compared and contrasted all four books he had read by him that year. He made deep connections throughout the novels, inferences about Paulsen’s personality, and formed a deep attachment to this author’s books.

By forming a deep bond with an author, this student developed a love of reading. He also could easily recognize the specific author’s craft. By reading an author’s work in a variety of books, students are able to learn and recognize different writing styles. Thus, in turn, become amazing writers too.  

As a teacher, you can assign an Independent Reading Project. Students will read two books by the same author, any writer of their choosing, and form connections between the two.

Here is a FREE project that does just that:  Author Study Independent Reading Project. 

If you’re interested in exploring Gary Paulsen projects for the classroom, take a look at our resource here.


Pam Munoz Ryan is an author you must add to your bookshelves if you have not done so. Her books are enthralling, contain profound life lessons and deep themes, and are always hopeful. By completing an author study in the classroom, students gain the benefit of learning a particular author’s writing style. They also form deep connections between books and attachments to an author. Consider using Pam Munoz Ryan as an author study in your classroom to begin!

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Perfect Picture Book for Middle School

One of the perks of being a librarian is to attend events in which the newest picture books are introduced to the world. I recently spent a day attending the SLJ Picture Book Palooza event of the year. This is an online event in which librarians and teachers are acquainted with the authors and illustrators of these lovely gems entering the world for the first time.  One gem that I did find and want to share is The Station Cat, a perfect picture book for middle school.

SLJ Picture Book Palooza

After attending each year, I chuckle when I hear someone say picture books are only for very young children. To me, it’s like someone strolling past a bookstore saying there’s nothing in there but a bunch of old books. Ahh. If they could only perceive the magical worlds they just paced past that both young and old would enjoy. 

The Creation of a Perfect Picture Book

Attendees are able to listen to how books are created through the minds of the authors. I loved each moment. One particular moment was when a distinguished author said while she was writing a biography, she kept hearing a voice. She said the voice said many times, “I didn’t talk that way.” As the voice got louder and louder in her mind, she did more research. It was then she realized that the person’s “at home” voice was very different than the one the public knew. To me, this was incredible. It was also a good lesson on how important “voice” is in our writing. 

The Perfect Picture Book Must Include Illustrations

Another aspect of the event that I loved was listening to and watching the illustrators. I perceive illustrators as just as important as authors. Many times, the illustrator seems to take a back seat to the writing of a book. 

However, I feel if we could place more emphasis on the illustrations, it would pull in the reluctant readers that we seem to lose. This is especially true when we introduce chapter books and novels to our students. 

Visual-Spatial Learners

In addition, illustrations draw in the interest of the artistic students. In the publishing world, there is a little secret. Did you know that 60% of the story is only told through words, and that the other 40% is told through the illustrations? For example, the author shouldn’t write “The sky was gloomy when the child entered the beautiful garden.” The job of expressing the gloomy sky and the beauty of the garden is placed on the illustrator, not the author. 

Magical Creation of Flowing Words

I will always say over and over again, picture books, or storybooks as I call them, are not only for the ones who are just beginning to read, but for all who love a good story, no matter the age. It’s for all who want to fall into another world and stop time until the magical creation of flowing words slowly comes to an end.

Storybooks to me are like short movies. They gently pull you in at the beginning, holding your emotions as they rise and fall, all the while carrying you tenderly to the end. It’s at this point in which you feel like you will never be the same person you were before you opened those well-written illustrated pages. 

For more information, click here…

The Station Cat, by Stephen Hogtun

The Station Cat, by Stephen Hogtun, does just this. I was introduced to this and many other picture books this year. 

The Station Cat is a story that begins its journey in a world full of grayness, void of any colors or joy at a busy, lonely train station. As the story progresses, we are introduced to a colorful kitten, a lonely, starving, little lady that no one pays any mind to. However, as time drifts past, one by one, slowly, ever so slowly, the sad passengers begin to notice her. As they do and begin to show her empathy, they realize how much this one little kitten changes them and opens their life up to a more colorful world.

Publisher’s Synopsis of The Station Cat:

A stunning picture book about the power of hope.

A lonely little kitten wanders into a dull, gray station, full of dull, gray people. Her colorful fur and bright green eyes bring warmth and life to this weary place, and soon people begin to notice the kitten. As she learns about the different travelers and their struggles from loss and loneliness, the little kitten wants to help fill their world with hope and color, too. 

In this timely and important book, author and illustrator Stephen Hogtun shows young readers the pride and sense of purpose that can come from helping others.

The Station Cat, by Stephen Hogtun, is the perfect book to bring the beauty and hope of a well-written story into your classroom. Full of beautifully written similes and metaphors, Hogtun’s writing takes the reader through a delightful journey. Warning: have your tissues nearby for the ending. Better yet, watch the faces of your students when they reach that final destination. Believe me, they will be given the priceless gift of empathy for others and how this empathy can truly make the world around them a more colorful place. 

Please enjoy the reading of this wonderful book by the author himself. A true gift.

The Art of Illustrating a Picture Book

One thing my daughter, who is a teacher as well, emphasizes is that not all children have the same interest. This is so true. For this reason, I pay just as much attention to the beautifully crafted illustrations for the budding artist in the class. Most of the time, if I have a reluctant reader, I go the other direction, and introduce them to the beauty of the paintings, the use of color, the light strokes, the heavy emphasis of the paint brush here and there. This opens up worlds of art for them, thus bringing them into the world of books too.

Colors Are Extremely Important

In the story, The Station Cat, perfect picture book for middle school, not only does Hogtun write the words, he brings those words to life through his beautiful illustrations. This is particularly true in the area of color. In the beginning, the young kitten is the only one full of color, or as we may imagine, full of hopes and dreams. Everyone else is dull, void of color, and life. As the story progresses, things begin to change. Color begins to flow through to the lonely passengers drifting by. 

This is one of those beautifully constructed books in which we could easily take away the words to only imagine the story through its illustrations. For the reluctant readers, placing emphasis on the illustrations will open up worlds for them as well. 

As a librarian, there are many joys with my job. I love being the first to view new books as they begin their journey. For I know the next ones to view them will be through the hands of my students. I love the classics. However, I put just as much, if not more emphasis on the newer books emerging from the presses. I know The Station Cat will be much loved along its journey. 


If you ever get a chance to virtually attend next year’s SLJ Palooza of Picture Books, please do. It will open your heart to the world of picture books. Furthermore, t will also open up the possibilities of what you can do with them in middle school. Please do not let the age limits on these books stop you. I did check the age limit for The Station Cat. They recommended eight for the oldest reader. I dare to disagree. In my tender older age, I enjoyed every moment. I can only imagine the lessons I can create from its pages. Please consider attending next year’s event and let this wonderful world of perfect picture books open up for you as well. 

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If you would like to learn more about reading picture books in middle school, please visit our other blog post…

5 Picture Books to Read and Use in the Middle School Classroom

February Book List and Virtual Library

February is one of our favorite months to teach! Between Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, Black History Month, and President’s Day, there is a plethora of information to teach and activities for your students to complete. Not to mention, we love all the pink, red, and purple vibes!

We have put together a February Book List and Virtual Library highlighting some of our favorite books to teach in the month of February. As always, we put much emphasis on using these books in upper elementary and middle school classroom, as well.

Virtual Library:

Grab your FREE February Book List and Virtual Library Google Slides today. All of the books mentioned below are included, with YouTube links, to easily share with your students. Please enjoy.

February Virtual Library Google Slides

Valentine’s Day:

What is Given From the Heart by Patricia McKissack

Of all of McKissack’s books, this one has to be my favorite. After it arrived in the library and I joyfully read it to myself, I didn’t realize exactly how special it was. Later that day, as I was designing a lesson to go along with its reading, I realized that McKissack had passed, making this her final story, a book to truly touch all of our hearts one final time. 

When we are at our lowest in life, that is the perfect time to help someone who is worse off than ourselves. Thus, what is given from the heart reaches the heart. 

James Otis and his mother have lost everything: his father, her husband, the farm, and when life can’t seem to get any worse, they hear of a family in which everything was taken from them in a fire. James Otis is told in church one Sunday to give to this needy family from his heart, and this is exactly what he does after a lot of thought. 

Don’t miss this beautiful and endearing story. It is a perfect book to share the week of Valentine’s Day to genuinely teach what true love is.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving. A love-filled story that is perfect for Valentine’s Day.

“Misery loves company,”” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “”love box,”” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli 

In a day and age when lots of students do not like the mushiness of reading another love-struck Valentine’s book, I always try to find just the right book, a story that ALL of my students will enjoy and understand that the power of love is not just a hug and kiss, but something deeper for all to enjoy. One of the perfect books to show this love is Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch.

Mr. Hatch lives a lonely day-to-day existence, repeating the same boring schedule day after day until a mysterious package arrives, letting him know somebody loves him which changes his entire life in the process. 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

One wintry day, a postman delivers a mysterious package with a big pink bow to a lonely man named Mr. Hatch.

“Somebody loves you,” the note says.
“Somebody loves me!” Mr. Hatch sings as he dusts his living room.
“Somebody loves me!” Mr. Hatch whistles as he does his errands in town.
“But who,” Mr. Hatch wonders, “could that somebody be?”

After some time, Mr. Hatch discovers just who his secret admirer is and, in doing so, enjoys the biggest surprise of his life!


Ten Ways To Hear Snow by Cathy Camper

Lina’s grandmother cannot see well. However, one day, Lina, a young girl, leaves the comfort of her warm home to visit her grandmother while the snow is gently falling. During her journey, she enjoys and comes to a wonderful understanding of the way her grandmother experiences the world: through sounds, not sight. 

This is the perfect book to read to your students to help them experience the power of sound. It is also beautifully written to include the strength of onomatopoeia in a storybook.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A snowy day, a trip to Grandma’s, time spent cooking with one another, and space to pause and discover the world around you come together in this perfect book for reading and sharing on a cozy winter day.

One winter morning, Lina wakes up to silence. It’s the sound of snow — the kind that looks soft and glows bright in the winter sun. But as she walks to her grandmother’s house to help make the family recipe for warak enab, she continues to listen.

As Lina walks past snowmen and across icy sidewalks, she discovers ten ways to pay attention to what might have otherwise gone unnoticed. With stunning illustrations by Kenard Pak and thoughtful representation of a modern Arab American family from Cathy Camper, Ten Ways to Hear Snow is a layered exploration of mindfulness, empathy, and what we realize when the world gets quiet.

Chinese New Year:

The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine

The Chinese New Year is celebrated on February 1st this year. What better way to celebrate than to explore a fractured fairy tale written with the traditions, customs, and stunning setting of China woven throughout. 

After the reading, ask your students how many different fairy tales or stories they recognized throughout. In addition, this would be a great time to compare and contrast the stories they already knew with The Runaway Wok

Publisher’s Synopsis:

When a boy goes to the market to buy food and comes home with an old wok instead, his parents wonder what they’ll eat for dinner. But then the wok rolls out of the poor family’s house with a skippity-hoppity-ho! and returns from the rich man’s home with a feast in tow!

With spirited text and lively illustrations, this story reminds readers about the importance of generosity.

Groundhog Day:

Groundhog Weather School: Fun Facts About Weather and Groundhogs, by Joan Holub 

Welcome to Groundhog Weather School! is written and illustrated in a graphic novel style that your students will surely love. Not only does it teach all about Groundhog Day in an entertaining way, but they will also learn much about winter weather as well. 

Check out our virtual library give-away to have this book truly come to life in a most fun way. Just a warning though, if your students listen to it on their own computers with headphones, you may hear a lot of chuckles and wonder what all the excitement is about.

Additionally, a great way to use this book is for the students to pick out unusual facts about groundhogs and winter weather. Then, they can do some research to see if the facts are all true.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Welcome to Groundhog Weather School!

Ever wonder where Groundhog Day first began? Want to know the reason why we have different weather seasons? Curious about how some plants and animals can help predict the weather? Learn the answers to these questions and many more at Groundhog Weather School!

This clever story—starring a cast of lovable groundhog characters—is a fresh, informative, and fun look at Groundhog Day through the eyes of the animals who are the stars of it each year.

Black History Month:

In the Garden of Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby

This beautifully written story is a historical fictional account of Dr. George Washington Carver visiting a school in rural Alabama to bring some knowledge and ideas to a land stripped of its nutrients due to years of growing cotton. Sally, the young girl in the story, quickly learns why some plants do not grow well and why others do. Dr. Carver brings the beauty of nature to the school and helps Sally learn to appreciate everything green. 

This is a beautiful book to begin the study of Dr. Carver. Even though it is a fictional account, it does give light to his passion and respect for nature, as well as his desire to teach this to others. In the Garden of Dr. Carver is a wonderful book to share with your students. 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Sally is a young girl living in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, a time when people were struggling to grow food in soil that had been depleted by years of cotton production. One day, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grown-ups with their farms and the children with their school garden. He teaches them how to restore the soil and respect the balance of nature. He even prepares a delicious lunch made of plants, including “chicken” made from peanuts. And Sally never forgets the lessons this wise man leaves in her heart and mind. Susan Grigsby’s warm story shines new light on a Black scientist who was ahead of his time.

President’s Day:

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

Grace for President is the absolute best book to read this year for President’s Day. This is especially true since our vice president is a “girl vice-president” as Grace, the star of this fun and engaging story, would say. 

Not having a “girl president” in all of the history of our country is what jump starts this story as Grace realizes there are no “girl” presidents. Immediately she sets out to change this situation by running for class president. We all have to start somewhere and this is just Grace’s beginning. 

In addition to this fun story of courage and change, this is definitely one of those books that will totally entertain your students, but at the same time teach them about the complicated Electoral Process better than any history book ever read. 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A fresh, fun, and “thought-provoking” New York Times bestseller about the American electoral college and why every vote counts from bestselling and award-winning duo Kelly DiPucchio and LeUyen Pham.

“Where are the girls?”

When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides she wants to be the nation’s first and immediately jumpstarts her political career by running in her school’s mock election! The race is tougher than she expected: her popular opponent declares that he’s the “best man for the job” and seems to have captured the votes of all of the class’s boys. But Grace is more determined than ever. Even if she can’t be the best man for the job, she can certainly try to be the best person!

This timely story not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system but also teaches the value of hard work, courage, independent thought — and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.

Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President, by Ann Malaspina

This is another perfect book to read this February in honor of President’s Day.  Susan B. Anthony is definitely one of our greatest history changers in America. 

I love when history comes to life in storybooks. This cleverly written book brings you right into the moments of what Susan B. Anthony experienced trying to achieve the right for all women to vote. 

If you are looking for a lengthy, put you to sleep biography to do another boring report, this isn’t it. However, if you are looking for what made her unforgettable, keep your students highly engaged during the reading, and show the courage and bravery it took for her to stand up for her rights, this is the one. 

The story is told in a fun and enjoyable way that keeps the interest of all.  Your students will be cheering her on throughout the reading as they live each moment of Anthony’s feistiness, bravery, perseverance, and courage as she stood up for her right to vote. A definite must-read for all students. 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

On November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony made history–and broke the law–when she voted in the US presidential election, a privilege that had been reserved for men. She was arrested, tried, and found guilty: “The greatest outrage History every witnessed,” she wrote in her journal. It wasn’t until 1920 that women were granted the right to vote, but the civil rights victory would not have been possible without Susan B. Anthony’s leadership and passion to stand up for what was right.

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale by Deborah Hopkinson

I truly love the newer style of nonfiction books publishers are now printing and sharing with the world. No more stuffy historical fact filled story books that start off by stating the date of birth, etc. Nope, the newer nonfiction biographies jump right into where the action begins, grabbing the reader’s attention from the very start. This is certainly what this book does.

Told from an old narrator’s perspective of someone telling a fun tale, we are soon weaved into the fun and adventurous life of a seven-year-old boy and his older, wiser friend crossing a river even though they both know the dangers. 

This story quickly demonstrates to students that all kids are just that: kids, no matter how famous or in Austin’s case, Abe’s best friend, not so famous that they grow up to be. Your students will love every moment of this fun and endearing story of our 16th president when he was just a kid, a kid like any other kid.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Now, I’m sure you know lots about Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States. But what you might not know is that Abe would never have become president if it hadn’t been for Austin Gollaher.

Learn the story of what really happened to Honest Abe when he was just a kid in this nonfiction picture book that’s perfect for President’s Day and every day!

The year is 1816. Abe is only seven years old, and his pal, Austin Gollaher, is ten. Abe and Austin decide to journey down to Knob Creek. The water looks scary and deep, and Austin points out that they don’t know how to swim. Nevertheless, they decide to traverse it. I won’t tell you what happens, but let’s just say that our country wouldn’t be the same if Austin hadn’t been there to help his friend.

I Am George Washington: Ordinary People Change the World by Brad Meltzer

Brad Meltzer brings a new style of writing and storytelling to his Ordinary People Change the World Series. Meltzer brings American heroes to life in such a way that we can quickly understand how our American heroes felt and why they chose to do the heroic feats that they did. Most of our heroes didn’t even realize they were making history at the time; but only doing what they felt they should do for others in their lives. 

I am George Washington gives the account of our first president’s life and the decisions he made as if he were talking to our students directly, as a friend. Meltzer also takes advantage of the super-popular graphic novel style of books to bring historical facts to life for our students. Be sure to share this book and many of his others with your students.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

We can all be heroes. That’s the inspiring message of this New York Times best-selling biography series from historian and author Brad Meltzer. Learn all about George Washington, America’s first president.

George Washington was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. He was never afraid to be the first to try something, from exploring the woods around his childhood home to founding a brand new nation, the United States of America. With his faith in the American people and tremendous bravery, he helped win the Revolutionary War and became the country’s first president.

Each entry in this series is a biography of a significant historical figure, told in a simple, conversational, vivacious way, and always focusing on a character trait that makes the person a role model for kids. The heroes tell their life stories in first-person present tense, which keeps the books playful and accessible to young children. And each book ends with a line of encouragement and a direct quote.


February is definitely a month filled with lots of activities and many books to share with your students. This month is full of Valentine’s love, Black History, Chinese New Year, Groundhog Day with its chance to explain winter weather and all its myths, and President’s Day packed full of historical fun. With this, it is a perfect time to read and enjoy as many books as possible with your students. Besides, what better time to really enjoy reading than in one of the coldest months of winter. This is unless you live in Hawaii. If you do, please enjoy our February Book List too.

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