Historical Fiction Picture Books

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. A great historical fiction book invites the reader to learn about a time and place in history while experiencing it through the eyes of contemporaneous characters.

Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsay, transports the reader to the 1950s, a period of time when Jim Crow laws and racial segregation existed in the south. Ruth and her parents embark on a road trip from Chicago to Alabama to visit her grandma. Ruth’s excitement begins to dissipate as her family is denied access to restrooms, restaurants and hotels because of racial segregation and discrimination. On their journey, Ruth’s family is given a copy of ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book,’ which lists businesses that welcome African Americans. Ruth and the Green Book (Guided Reading Level: R) is a great book for students in grades 1-5

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Pictured above is the cover of an actual copy of The Green Book.

Another remarkable historical fiction picture book is Rose Blanche by Roberto Innocenti, which takes place during World War II in Germany. Though Rose sees the soldiers and swastikas all around her, she has little understanding of what is going on. One day, Rose witnesses a young boy escape from a truck. Though he is quickly captured and forced back into it. Rose follows the truck and discovers a nearby concentration camp. She begins sneaking food to the emaciated prisoners until the day the camp is liberated. Rose’s death on the last day she visits the camp is implied.

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Rose Blanche is a very moving story. It portrays a young girl’s effort to understand the inhumane treatment of human beings. Though it is a picture book, the content is heavy and the ending is tragic. I would recommend Rose Blanche for students in grades 5 and up.

A Very Special Relationship with a Grandparent

Grandparents can play an important role in a child’s life. My own grandmother was one of the strongest role models in my life. She taught me the importance of kindness and acting with integrity. She was an incredible, loving and independent woman. The grandmother in Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, by Sharon Creech, reminded me so much of my own grandmother. Creech brings to life the precious relationship between grandmother and granddaughter so beautifully. The time I spent reading Granny Torrelli allowed me to remember her and to smile. 

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Granny Torrelli Makes Soup (Guided Reading Level: S) is about the friendship between twelve-year-old Rosie and her best friend Bailey. Granny Torrelli serves as the voice of reason and experience throughout the story. Her actions and words are deliberate but subtle. She shares experiences from her own childhood with Rosie to guide her, rather than to tell her what to do. 

The role of food and cooking throughout the story, also reminded me of visits to my grandmother’s house. In Armenian households, much like Italian ones, food is essential to shared family experiences. Simply replace soup and pasta with dolma and bereg.

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup is going to be our first read aloud this year in my 4th grade class. I can’t wait to share this book with my students.

Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution in the Classroom

The last couple of months of the school year can be a tricky time in 5th grade. With state testing behind us and graduation looming, nerves about the transition to middle school sky rocket. This is the time of year when I find myself engaged in conversations with my colleagues about classroom community. There is such a strong emphasis on building community the first couple of months of the school year, but as the school year progresses this inevitably falls by the wayside. As the school year winds down, I realize that what my fifth graders really need to ensure the cohesiveness of our community is effective conflict resolution strategies.

A friend of mine recommended reading How to Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish, Lisa Nyberg, and Rosalyn Anstine Templeton. 

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This book is a great resource for student teachers or new teachers. It addresses the most common situations teachers encounter in their classrooms, including challenging behaviors, effective communication with students and their parents, and conflicts. 

The part of the text that I found the most interesting was the chapter about conflict resolution. It includes a series of simple steps to navigating conflict:

  1. Listen the the feelings and needs of the person/people
  2. Summarize their point(s) of view
  3. Express your own feelings and needs
  4. Brainstorm possible solutions (without evaluating)
  5. Make a plan, including a time to follow up

This process is so straightforward that in addition to utilizing it myself in the coming school year, I’m considering ways to adapt it for student use. 

In the coming weeks I am going to continue exploring conflict resolution and I will be sure to share what strategies I decide to implement this school year.