#druffelites Top Ten Books

Our Top Ten Most Loved Book List

1. THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielsen

The False Prince was our last read aloud for the school year. Students were invested in this book. They hated if we only had ten minutes to read on a tight-scheduled day. Many class discussion arose without probing or prodding. If you want a class at the edge of their seats, or a child who cannot put the book down, this one is for you.

From Amazon.com: In this first book in a remarkable trilogy, an orphan is forced into a twisted game with deadly stakes.

Choose to lie…or choose to die.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

2. AMULET Series by Kazu Kibuishi

Talk about well-loved. I have to buy a whole new set of this series for fall. Girls and boys devoured this series and could not wait for book 7 when it came out this spring. We had wait-list after wait-list of readers read for the next book in the series.

From Amazon.com: After tragedy strikes their family, Emily and Navin move with their mother into the old home of their great-grandfather. On their very first night in the strange house, Emily and Navin’s mom is kidnapped by a tentacled creature. Determined to rescue her, Emily and Navin are led into a world of robots, talking animals, flying ships, new allies . . . and enemies. There, Emily learns that she is a Stonekeeper and essential to the survival of this world, and that her incredible story is only just beginning.

3. THE HONEST TRUTH by Dan Gemeinhart

This is the second year I have include this book as a read aloud. We were even lucky enough to have Dan Gemeinhart visit our school this spring. Students fell in love with the main character Mark and his Dog Beau as they traveled to Mt. Rainier. Taking place in Washington State was the perfect setting since our social studies unit for the year was Washington State History and Government. Students made storyboards of their favorite scene and presented them to author Dan Gemeinhart during his visit. This heart-wrenching tale of perseverance and love engage readers from cover to cover.

From Amazon.com: It’s never too late for the adventure of a lifetime.

In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He’s got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day.

But in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from.

So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan. A plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier. Even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

THE HONEST TRUTH is a rare and extraordinary novel about big questions, small moments, and one incredible journey.

4. SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Our first read aloud of the year drew in the new fourth graders. Students quickly discovered how invested a reader can get into a book. They cared about Shiloh and despised Judd. This is a wonderful read aloud.

From Amazon.com: Marty will do anything to save his new friend Shiloh in this Newbery Medal–winning novel from Phillis Reynolds Naylor.

When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it’s love at first sight—and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun—and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty’s secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd’s anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his?

5. THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

My words will never do this book justice. This is the most powerful book I have read. The main character, Ada, endures more than most of us could imagine. My students fell in love with Ada and HATED Mam, Ada’s mom.We were ecstatic to hear this well-deserved book won a Newbery Honor. After we completed this class read aloud, we had the pleasure to Skype with the author, Kimberly Brubaker Bradely. We found out the sequel will leave off right where this story ended. We cannot wait!

From Amazon.com: An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.
 
Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
 
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
 
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

6. RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE by Kate DiCamillo

We pre-ordered this book for our Fourth Grade Book Club. Students had three weeks to read the book, then we met after school to discuss. Many finished the book within one week because they could not put it down. Out of the three rancheros (best friends), Beverly was the most favorite. We were not disappointed with Kate DiCamillo’s newest book!

From Amazon.com: Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

7. SOME KIND OF COURAGE by Dan Gemeinhart

The first student to read this book in my class followed along with the award-winning audio book. He would shout, tear-up, and whisper to himself throughout the book. This is a kid who finally fell in love with a book thanks to Dan Gemeinhart. This was also our first Fourth Grade Book Club book and the group loved it. It is action-packed and full of love. It takes place in the 1800s in Washington State. Another must read!

From Amazon.com: Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he’s ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he’s lost his pony-fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her.

Joseph can sure enough get her back, though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn’t about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men, and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left.

Because Joseph Johnson may have lost just about everything. But he hasn’t lost hope. And he hasn’t lost the fire in his belly that says he’s getting his Sarah back-no matter what.

The critically acclaimed author of The Honest Truth returns with a poignant, hopeful, and action-packed story about hearts that won’t be tamed… and spirits that refuse to be broken.

8. WONDER by R.J. Palacio

This was another Fourth Grade Book Club book the students loved. It made them think about what it would like to be Auggie and how they treat people who may look different.

From Amazon.com: The book that inspired the Choose Kind movement.

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” 

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author ofSticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

9. DEEP, DARK, AND DANGEROUS by Mary Downing Hahn

The craze with this book started when a student read this book along with the audio book on our class iPad. He could not stop talking about how creepy this book was and how much he loved it. Students waited for their turn with the book. A great ghost story for any classroom library.

From Amazon.com: Just before summer begins, 13-year-old Ali finds an odd photograph in the attic. She knows the two children in it are her mother, Claire, and her aunt Dulcie. But who’s the third person, the one who’s been torn out of the picture?

Ali figures she’ll find out while she’s vacationing in Maine with Dulcie and her four-year-old daughter, Emma, in the house where Ali’s mother’s family used to spend summers. All hopes for relaxation are quashed shortly after their arrival, though, when the girls meet Sissy, a kid who’s mean and spiteful and a bad influence on Emma.

Strangest of all, Sissy keeps talking about a girl named Teresa who drowned under mysterious circumstances back when Claire and Dulcie were kids, and whose body was never found. At first Ali thinks Sissy’s just trying to scare her with a ghost story, but soon she discovers the real reason why Sissy is so angry. . . . Mary Downing Hahn is at her chilling best in this new supernatural tale that’s certain to send shivers down her readers’ spines.

10. THE BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Boy did my students fall in love with this book and ciphers. It was a great book to read aloud this year. It kept the students guessing right up until the end. What a fun book!

From Amazon.com: For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it’s the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game.

Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold’s new game―before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.

A MUST READ FOR ALL AGES

amazon.com

I have been away from blogging for quite awhile. Many other things in my life have needed my attention. That being said, I MUST blog about The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It has been tugging at me ever since I read it, this summer, for the first time.

Ada, the main character, is a girl that will forever live in my heart. World War II saved her life. But really, Ada’s strength is what saved her, and the love of Miss Smith.

You see, Ada was born with a clubfoot. Her mother, Mam, confined Ada to their third-floor flat in London, England. She never learned how to walk. Ada’s only view of the world was from her window. Mam mistreated Ada in various, horrific, ways. Yet Ada found strength. 

After reading this book aloud to my fourth grade class, I asked my students what they thought the author’s message was. One response was all it took to verify my decision to read this book aloud. “If Ada can make it through all her tough times, then I can.” 

Many of my students do not come from ideal home situations. I’m happy to know that Ada’s strength will stay with them. Hopefully Ada will help them through their tough times. 

Here is a synopsis of the book from School Library Journal

Gr 4–6—Bradley turns her keen historical eye from Monticello (Jefferson’s Sons, Penguin, 2011) to the British home front during World War II. Ada isn’t exactly sure how old she is; for as long as she can remember, she’s been a virtual prisoner in her mother’s third floor one-room apartment. She was born with a clubfoot and her mother uses her disability as an excuse to abuse her both emotionally and physically. Ada watches the world through the narrow confines of the apartment window, waves to neighbors in the street, and carefully gauges the danger of being beaten during each encounter with her hateful mother. She envies the freedom of her little brother, Jamie, who goes to school and generally roves the neighborhood at will. When her mother prepares to ship Jamie out to the countryside with other children being evacuated from London, Ada sneaks out with him. When the two fail to be chosen by any villagers, the woman in charge forces Susan Smith, a recluse, to take them in. Though Susan is reluctant and insists that she knows nothing about caring for children, she does so diligently and is baffled by the girl’s fearful flinching anytime Ada makes a mistake. Though uneducated, Ada is intensely observant and quick to learn. Readers will ache for her as she misreads cues and pushes Susan away even though she yearns to be enfolded in a hug. There is much to like here-Ada’s engaging voice, the vivid setting, the humor, the heartbreak, but most of all the tenacious will to survive exhibited by Ada and the villagers who grow to love and accept her.—Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ

Three More Must-Reads!

  
Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin

What a beautifully told story about a boy and his family who are struggling with the loss of his younger sister. Little did they know a foster girl, who loves trees, would help heal them in more ways than one. A perfect addition to any classroom grades 4 and up.


Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Who knew a magical story about chickens could be so entertaining yet so touching at the same time? Told through letters written by Sofie, a girl who’s family moved from LA to her late great-uncle’s run-down farm. Learning to raise unusual chickens is more difficult than it seems! A great addition to any classroom.


a handful of stars by Cynthia Lord

One of the best books I’ve read this summer dealing with loss, hope, change, and moving on. A touching story of growing up and friendship. I could not put this book down. A must read and must add to your classroom!

Summer Reading: Four Highly Recommended Books

In two days I completed four books. I would not have accomplished such a feat if it was not for the genius writing of these four authors. Thank you for sharing these stories with the world!

1. Fish, by L.S. Matthews

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A family must face a difficult journey escaping the war-ridden country. If only they will make it over the mountain and cross the boarder. I could not put this book down.  Matthews draws you in until the amazing journey of a boy, his family, a guide, and a fish is over.

My story starts the day that my parents told me we must leave our adopted home forever. Because of the soldiers and the drought we barely had enough to eat and we could no longer stay to help the people in our village.


Right before we were leaving I saw a fish in a small brown puddle and I knew I had to take it with me. The journey would be hard to get across the mountains—to the safety of the border and the people there who could help us. Yet when I put the fish in the pot I never realized what we would have to face. It never occurred to me to leave Fish behind.  Synopsis and photo from Amazon.com

2. Lost in the Sun, by Lisa Graff

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Powerful story about a boy who cannot forgive himself and in the process deals with outbursts of anger. His life is falling apart and only a girl, who has a mysterious scar, can save him. I was totally sucked in. A MUST read!

Everyone says that middle school is awful, but Trent knows nothing could be worse than the year he had in fifth grade, when a freak accident on Cedar Lake left one kid dead, and Trent with a brain full of terrible thoughts he can’t get rid of. Trent’s pretty positive the entire disaster was his fault, so for him middle school feels like a fresh start, a chance to prove to everyone that he’s not the horrible screw-up they seem to think he is. 
If only Trent could make that fresh start happen.
It isn’t until Trent gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Fallon Little—the girl with the mysterious scar across her face—that things begin to change. Because fresh starts aren’t always easy. Even in baseball, when a fly ball gets lost in the sun, you have to remember to shift your position to find it. Synopsis and photo from Amazon.com

3. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina

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It is amazing how one person can cause such havoc in another’s life. A moving story about a girl who is the target of extreme bullying. You will fall in love with the characters in this book.

One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is. Synopsis and photo from Amazon.com

4. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green

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Wow, the way Green intertwines a prodigy’s mind, mathematics, and love all into one story is genius. The characters are easy to like and find who they really are through an amazing, fun journey. (Recommend for high school and up due to mature content.)

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy–loving best friend riding shotgun—but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself. Synopsis and photo from Amazon.com

Stay tuned for more summer reading recommendations. Please leave your recommendations as well!

Students’ Top 10 Books for Fifth Grade

I am excited to share our class’s top ten list of MUST HAVE books for a fifth grade classroom library. All of our read alouds made this list. Here are the most loved books in our classroom in order of popularity!

  1. The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart 
  2. The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth  
  3. because of mr. terupt by Bob Buyea    
  4. Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
  5. The I Survived Series by Lauren Tarahis
  6. Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
  7. Smile, Sisters, and Drama by Raina  Telgemeier
  8. The Bone Series by Jeff Smith
  9. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm  
  10. City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Planning for Next School Year


This is the time of year I reflect on what went well, what I want to improve, and set goals for the next school year.

What Went Well

  • Independent Reading Time: I made the commitment after reading The Book Whisperer and The Reading Zone to set aside 30 minutes of choice reading time for students. The results were amazing. Students became readers and learned what kind of books they enjoyed, how to pick out books, and how to get lost in a book. I wrote more about this change in a previous post, Devouring Books.
  • Genius Hour: I learned more about my students’ strengths and talents through this hour a week commitment. I was really scared to try this out, worried the freedom would be too much for some students. Instead, students learned how to self-manage time, self-manage research, plan presentations, and learned from each other. Did we have some struggles, yes. But students learned more about themselves as a learner through these struggles.
  • Blogging: This is the second year I have used Kidblog with my class. Students now know how to write for an audience instead of just for the teacher. When they write, they sound like they are actually talking to someone. The authentic audience blogging provides cannot be replaced. My students are better writers because of it and it has transferred to their writing in other areas.

Areas to Improve/Goals

  • Growth Mindset: I had many students this year, especially in math, get discouraged and down on themselves. They thought it is all about having the right answer, or not being good at math. Some gave up during math time. I did not do enough to address this. I plan on using Making Number Talks Matter next year to address the sense-making some students lack in math. If anyone has an awesome resource for helping  students establish a growth-mindset, please recommend in the comment section below!
  • Kindness/Repect: Many students had a lot of baggage they brought to school with them. Because of this, some would lash out at others. You know how we tend to take it out in the ones we love the most? Yep, that is our classroom this year. We are a small school and most students have been together since kindergarten. How do you establish, despite the fact you might be boiling inside, to still treat others around you with the kindness and respect they deserve. Please advise in the comments below!

There are many things I hope to keep doing well and many things I want to do better next year. Blogging about these issues helps me digest and reflect. It also allows me to document my thinking to refer back to as I plan for next year. I would love to here from you. How do you plan for the next year? What process works for you?