Toy Trailblazers: Innovators Biographies

April 28, 2016

This is an exciting new biography series for kids interested in Crayola crayons, Barbies, LEGO, and Play-Doh!


The four books from the series that we purchased for the library are:

  • Play-Doh Pioneer: Joseph McVicker
  • LEGO Manufacturers: The Kristiansen Family
  • Barbie Developer: Ruth Handler
  • Crayola Creators: Edward Binney and C. Harrold Smith

These books are not only high interest reads, but can also fit into lessons about:

  • Biographies
  • Timelines
  • Innovators and Inventions
  • Nonfiction Text Features
  • Main Idea
  • Determining Importance



Capstone Press: A Primary Source History Series

February 23, 2016

Primary Source History

Capstone Publishing has an excellent new nonfiction series showing how researchers incorporate primary sources into their writing.

Quoted on the Table of Contents of each book: “Primary sources are newspaper articles, photographs, speeches, or other documents that were created during an event.  They are great ways to see how people spoke and felt during that time.  You’ll find primary sources…throughout this book.  Within the text [of the book], primary source quotations are colored red and set in italic type.”

With instruction, students begin to see how nonfiction authors incorporate primary sources into their writing.  Lessons can surround how the primary sources add to the understanding of new information and feel of nonfiction writing.

Primary Source History books in the Lowell library:

  • Slavery in the United States
  • Dust Bowl
  • Westward Expansion
  • U.S. Independence
  • Gold Rush
  • American Revolution
  • War of 1812
  • U.S.  Civil War

These topics touch fourth and fifth grade social studies standards.
Meets the Common Core State Standards for analyzing multiple accounts of an event.

Ellis Island: An Interactive History Adventure

January 6, 2016

Ellis Island: An Interactive History Adventure

by Michael Burgan

Book blurb from the catalog: Presents an interactive history adventure in which the reader can learn about life for an immigrant arriving at Ellis Island in the 1900s. Offers three story paths, thirty-two choices, and nineteen endings. Also includes a timeline, a glossary, and further resources.

After reading the introduction that gives background information on Ellis Island and immigration, readers use the information that they have learned to try and survive being an immigrant going through Ellis Island.

It is a GREAT read aloud for 3rd grade during the immigration social studies unit.

Nonfiction Choose Your Own Adventure books are great books to use for mentor texts when teaching the reading strategies of

  • compare/contrast (there are always multiple paths students can take within one scenario) and
  • determining importance (using the information that was in the introduction chapter to help them survive the different scenarios).


Separate is Never Equal

January 5, 2016

Separate is Never Equal

Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

by Duncan Tonatiuh

Book Blurb: Describes how the Hispanic American Mendez family challenged the segregated California school system in 1947 after their daughter Sylvia was denied entry to Westminster School due to her ethnicity. Includes an author’s note, photographs, and a glossary.

Robert F Sibert Honor Medal for outstanding nonfiction
Pura Belpre Honor Medal for an outstanding Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth

This book is a great supplement to units on:

  • Civil Rights
  • Martin Luther King Jr. study
  • Discrimination
  • Brown vs. Board of Education
  • Latino Americans
  • Acceptance

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming soon, consider this book for a read aloud experience in 3rd – 5th grade!

US Immigration in the 1900s — a Text Set

December 9, 2015
3rd Grade: Social Studies: Quarter 2: Immigration
We just got a new set of books that deals with immigration.  Three of them are nonfiction books:
Journey to America; A Chronology of Immigration in the 1900s
Life in America: Comparing Immigrant Experiences
The Shadow of Lady Liberty: Immigrant Stories from Ellis Island
U.S. Immigration in the 1900s
Capstone Publishing also paired these three nonfiction books with an excellent read aloud fiction book called Emma’s New Beginning.
Here’s the book blurb: Emma’s family is immigrating to America from Russia in hopes of finding a better life.  But their life is not easy.  The ship is overcrowded, health inspectors can deny them entry, and swindlers are eager to prey on new immigrants.  Can Emma be strong enough to succeed in a place where she can’t even understand the language.  Inspired by a true story, this gripping historical novel captures the hardships immigrants faced in pursuit of the American dream.
These nonfiction books (that I listed above) would make great nonfiction read alouds for shared reading as well.  It would be an easy way to incorporate Social Studies into your balanced literacy approach!


May 23, 2013


by Henry Cole

This wordless picture book depicts the story of a young girl living on a farm in Virginia with her grandparents during the Civil War.  The pictures begin by showing Confederate soldiers at the farm either looking for escaped slaves or looking for food to eat.  Later on we see the young girl getting potatoes from the barn cellar for dinner that evening when she hears rustling in the cellar.  It turns out there is an escaped slave (presumably a girl) hiding in their cellar.  It is illegal to house escaped slaves, and the soldiers return offering a reward looking for ths particular slave.  Will the young girl disclose the escapee’s hiding place, or will she allow the escapee to continue her path north towards freedom?

It would be a great upper elementary read-aloud, think-aloud book when discussing how illustrations connect to the text, or how one can infer much just by examining the illustrations.  It would also be a great addition to a Civil War unit after students have built some schema on the Civil War and slavery.  They could write the words to this book as a class activity!

Comprehension Strategies: Determining Importance, Inferring, Synthesizing (as there are no words, my thoughts were constantly changing trying to make a cohesive story)

Topics: Civil War, Slavery, Escaped Slaves, Doing What’s Right vs. Doing What’s Lawful

Tea Cakes for Tosh

May 23, 2013


by Kelly Starling Lyons

Great book for visualization!  The smell of the tea cakes and Grandma Honey’s descriptive words take Tosh way-back-when when their people were enslaved.  Grandma Honey describes how she makes the tea cakes throughhout the beginning of the story.  Then Grandma Honey begins to be forgetful.  First its finding the car in the parking lot, then it’s her sister’s phone number, but finally it’s the recipe for tea cakes.  Tosh learns to make Tea Cakes from his mom and the next day Tosh visits Grandma Honey, the roles are reversed, and HE is the one who tells the story of their enslaved people and of the great-great-great-great-grandma making tea cakes.

Comprehension Strategies: Visualization, Inferring, Determining Importance, Schema

Topics: Grandparents, Getting Old, Slavery, Baking

Recipe for Grandma Honey’s Tea Cakes included in the end of the book!

Book Trailer