Author Archive for Kristin

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Pink and Say


Patricia Polacco’s Pink and Say is the beautifully written story of two soldiers, Pinkus Aylee and Sheldon Russell Curtis, who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War.  The boys met when Pinkus (Pink) encountered Sheldon (Say), who was injured, and brought him home with him to recover.  Polacco dedicated the book “To the memory of Pinkus Aylee” and explains at the end that her great-great-grandfather was Sheldon Russell Curtis himself.  This information adds a nice personal touch to an already-phenomenal book.

The book begins with Say lying injured in a field.  Pink finds him, and insists upon bringing him home so he might recover.  The next time Say wakes up, he meets Pink’s mother, who feeds him oat porridge and asks, “Do your momma know what a beautiful baby boy she has?”  Say stays with the family for several weeks while he recovers, and Pink and Say become fast friends.  The morning the boys plan to leave to return to their regiments, Pink’s house is attacked by thieves and Pink’s mother, who he calls Moe Moe Bay, is killed.  Pink is insistent upon returning to fight, however, and as the boys are returning to the war, they are captured by Confederate Troops.  Pink, who is African American, is separated from Say, who survives the experience.  The book ends by showing Say as a grandfather who tells his grandchildren the story of his childhood friend.

Curriculum Connections

Pink and Say could be used to compliment any history SOL focused on the Civil War.  It’s a longer picture book with ample text, but the illustrations are also beautiful and appropriate for all ages.  The story might have more meaning to an upper elementary or middle schooler and could prompt conversation about civics or slavery, but could also be enjoyed by a younger student on a less intense level.  The book is very much about the story itself, and while it provides some background information about the war, it would probably be better suited as a lesson introduction or as a springboard for some sort of Civil War writing assignment.

Additional Resources

  • This site, put together by the National Park Service, provides lots of basic information about the Civil War and includes a 20-question challenge quiz, as well.  The wealth of information it provides makes this site a good choice for an Internet scavenger hunt about the Civil War.
  • This Webquest allows students to research the Underground Railroad and has them create a Powerpoint presentation based on their findings.   A Civil War Webquest like this one would be a great way  to delve deeper into the history of the War and incorporate technology into the classroom, as well.
  • When Pink and Say are captured, they are taken to Andersonville.  Today, Andersonville is a National Historic Site and its website provides students with information about its location and long history. There are sections of the site for both teachers and students, and pictures are also provided, so readers can imagine what Pink and Say went through after they were captured.

General Information

Book: Pink and Say
Author: Patricia Polacco
Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: 1994
Pages: 48
Grade Range: 2-6
: 0399226710

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Phillis Wheatley


The Let Freedom Ring book series is published by Capstone Press and includes 46 kid-friendly biographies of important Americans.  The Phillis Wheatley biography is written by Susan R. Gregson and includes a glossary of important words, poems written by Phillis, maps of the slave trade, and diagrams of slade ships, among other things.  Surprisingly, the book is only 40ish pages long, but really contains an impressive amount of information, much of which is perfect for use in the classroom.

The book begins with background information about Phillis Wheatley’s capture from Africa, journey to the United States, and purchase by John and Susannah Wheatley.  It details her early years living with the Wheatley family (John and Susannah named her Phillis) and explains how her talent as a writer was evident from an early age:

“The Wheatleys started by teaching Phillis to read, write, and speak English.  After she had mastered these skills, the Wheatleys taught her subjects such as Latin, philosophy, and mathematics.  Phillis loved to read and memorize poems.  She also read the Bible and was interested in religion.”

Facts are presented in a straightforward, easy to understand format that makes this book easy to read aloud to younger students, as well as conducive to silent reading or research for upper-elementary schoolers.

Curriculum Connections

Because Phillis Wheatley isn’t covered by a specific VA SOL, the book could be adapted for use with related topics like History 1.1 (distinguishing the present from the past because of the timeline incorporated) and Civics 1.10, 2.10, and 2.12 (traits of good citizenship and diversity in America).  It could also be used during a lesson on the Revolutionary War because some of those battles are touched on in the text, as well, or in lots of US History SOLs (for example, US1.5, 1.6, 1.7).  It could even be used in an English lesson about poetry.

Additional Resources

  • This Thinkquest website, entitled Voices of the American Revolution, is a neat way to show students the everyday lives of some lesser-known people who contributed to the war.  It has lots of information and a resource page for even further reading.

  • This website, focused on another book series, provides lesson plans and a webquest focused on poetry to teach about Phillis Wheatley.

  • The American Revolution for Kids is a website put together by a class of students with lots of information about all parts of the war.  Phillis Wheatley has a page, but the website is very comprehensive and would be good to have students use for some type of websearch assignment.

 General Information

Book: Phillis Wheatley (Let Freedom Ring series)
Author: Susan R. Gregson
Publisher: Bridgestone Books (Capstone Press)
Pages: 48
Grade range: 2-5
ISBN: 0736844988

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure


Have you ever heard of Alice Ramsey?  I hadn’t, until I read the book Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure, written and illustrated by Don Brown.  This book tells the story of the first woman to drive across the United States!  With its simple text and great illustrations, the book might be used in a geography lesson to teach about different areas of the country, or could also be used as an introduction to a history or biography lesson on Alice Ramsey herself.

The straightforward, informative way this book is written makes it perfect to be read aloud.  The book begins, “On June 9, 1909, Alice Ramsey drove out of New York City and into a grand adventure.  Alice Ramsey wanted to be the first woman to drive across America.”  From there, it goes on to tell, step-by-step, each location Ramsey visited.  The descriptions of each place highlight important things, as well.  For example, Brown describes Chicago’s railway system: “Chicago, Illinois was a railroad center.  The car bounced over mile after mile of rail until the women were dizzy.”   The book ends when the women (Ramsey traveled with her two sisters-in-law and a close friend) reach San Francisco, and goes on to explain that after her first trip, Alice drove across the country more than 30 times by the time she was seventy.  The text provides a lot of information, but presents it in an easy to understand format — this is what makes it great for use in the classroom.

Curriculum Connections

Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure could be used to teach a geography lesson about the United States while students also learn about who Alice Ramsey was and what she accomplished.  The states mentioned in the book include New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and California.  Since Ramsey made her journey in 1909, students could research what the United States was like then and imagine what it might have been like for Ramsey to travel through all of those states.  SOLs USII.1 and USII.2 focus on Social Studies skills and Geograph, and the book could be used to focus on the geography of the states mentioned and to get students thinking about life in the early twentieth century.

Additional Resources

  • is a great resource for more information about our book’s heroine and includes a section just for educators.  The website also contains information about a movie made focusing on Ramsey, as well as more pictures and materials to help students delve deeper into the story.
  • This Digital History website has information about everyday life in the 1900s.  Students can learn how their families and lives today are different from everyday life in the beginning of the 20th century.  Although the information provided is basic, it could serve as a jump-start to a lesson on Geography.
  • contains a huge amount of information about the 50 states in a kid-friendly format.  Each state is featured on his interactive maps, and there are also links to find out more info about the history and traditions of the states.  This site could be useful to collect background information for geography or history lessons, but could also be used by students for individual research!

General Information

Book: Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure
Author: Don Brown
Illustrator: Don Brown
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 3-6
ISBN-13: 978-0618073160

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Big Buck Adventure


If you’re in search of a book to teach economics in your classroom, look no further than The Big Buck Adventure written by Shelley Gill and Deborah Tobola and illustrated by Grace Lin.  This colorful, rhyming picture book tells the story of a young girl who receives one dollar from her dad to spend any way she likes.  But as she searches for exactly the right thing(s) to buy, she finds that the decision is harder than she thought it would be.

The book begins when the narrator and her dad are driving into town.  She says, “Saturday morning, I sure am in luck!  A raise in allowance–I get a buck!” As she begins to shop, however, she realizes there are many things she could buy with her dollar, and quickly becomes overwhelmed with the choices.  By the end of the story, she thinks: “Now I wish I didn’t have so much money.  At first this was fun, now it’s not even funny!”  Ultimately, the narrator decides to save the dollar and is quite happy with her choice: “My father walks in.  ‘Hi, honey!  Any luck?’  I just have to laugh as I pocket my buck.”

Curriculum Connections

The Big Buck Adventure could be used in many different ways in the classroom.  Because of the choices the narrator must make, the text is applicable to SOLs focusing on opportunity cost (History/Social Studies 1.8, 1.9, 2.9, 3.9).  Math lessons might also be structured around this book, because the narrator must calculate exactly how many things she can buy with her money.  Reading the book aloud would be a great way to introduce either of these types of lessons; and because the text is very conducive to class discussion, using The Big Buck Adventure would be a fantastic way to get students thinking about real-world connections to what they are learning.

Additional Resources

  • The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has provided a great collection of information about dollar bills, how they are made, and what the symbols on the bills actually mean.  The information could easily be adapted into an interesting lesson about money!

  • Where’s George? is a really interesting and fun way to show students how far their money can travel.  By entering the serial number on any dollar bill, students can track where their money has been–all across the country! 

  • If you’re looking for ways to extend the concept of what students can purchase for one dollar, the World Resources Institute provides a list of how far a dollar can stretch in different countries.  Students can learn how the value of their money matches up to purchases in Africa, India, and South America.

General Information

Book: The Big Buck Adventure
Author: Shelley Gill and Deborah Tobola
Illustrator: Grace Lin
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 1-4
ISBN-13: 978-0881062953


Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: On the Same Day in March


On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World’s Weather, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Frane Lessac is a colorful and interesting way to introduce an earth science lesson about weather.  The book moves from city to city and country to country as it talks about what the climate in each place is like in the middle of the month of March; and although the text is simple, its applications are nearly endless.

The book begins in the Arctic, where “Polar bears ride on floes of ice, stalking seals, wishing fish, as the six-month sun begins to rise slowly in the Arctic skies.”  From there, readers travel to Canada, where the March sunlight is quickly melting the snow, and then to Paris, New York City, Texas, Egypt, Louisiana, China (where “In the park the old men and small children guess: What will the wind carry today?  Clouds of blue-winged swallows, dust that hurts their eyes, rain from up the mountain, kites shaped like butterflies?”), India, Thailand, Senegal, Barbados, Kenya, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, and Antarctica!  The text is beautiful and very descriptive, which make this book great for a read-aloud, but the illustrations are also very detailed, and might inspire in-class dialogue or individual exploration of the pictures by students during silent reading.  On the Same Day in March is also chock full of cultural references and even interesting slang from the countries featured, which gives it plenty of applications across the curriculum…

Curriculum Connections

On the Same Day in March can be used for Earth Science SOLs K.8a, 1.7c, and 3.8a, but is also applicable to History and Social Studies SOLs K.4 and 1.6.  Both the text and pictures allow the book to be used in a wide variety of lessons, and encourage global awareness by pointing out how everyone around the world has different experiences on the same day.   The book is dense because it does have so many applications, but is presented in an easy-to-understand format that will work in most elementary grades.  In addition, the illustrations might be a great way to inspire art projects relating to the weather in different parts of the world; and if the pictures were enlarged, a lesson could even be based around the details on each of the pages.

Additional Resources

  • presents a very complete, six-part lesson plan using this text, among many others, that can be used to cover topics relating to the weather across the world.
  • If you’re looking for a great interactive and kid-friendly in-class resource to examine the weather patterns across the world, check out Weather Watch: An Interactive Weather Project.  By registering your school, you are immediately connected to a network of schools across the world and can monitor their weather patterns, as well as your own!
  • Illustrator Frane Lessac’s webpage is a great resource for teachers to find out more info about this very talented  artist, as well as illustrations to print out for the classroom and lesson plans to accompany each of Lessac’s books.

General Information

Book: On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World’s Weather
Author: Marilyn Singer
Illustrator: Frane Lessac
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 40
Grade Range: K-4
ISBN: 0064435288

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: The Very Hungry Caterpillar


The Very Hungry Caterpillar, written and illustrated by Eric Carle, is easily one of the most beloved children’s books of all time.  Its story is well-known by adults and kids alike, but the great thing about the text is that it can easily be incorporated into the classroom.  The unique and beautiful illustrations, coupled with the simple phrasing make this book a classic choice for a life science lesson about metamorphosis.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar begins with—–what else?—–a newly-hatched caterpillar who is in search of something to eat.  As he munches his way through the week, consuming fruit, as well as a smorgasbord of other treats, he grows bigger and bigger.  The book ends when the caterpillar builds “a small house, called a cocoon, around himself.  He stayed inside for more than two weeks.  Then, he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and… he was a beautiful butterfly!”  It is the perfect way to introduce a lesson on metamorphosis, or even a simple art project to help students learn about the life cycle of a butterfly.  Its layout is also conducive to emergent readers exploring the book on their own, since the text is large and easy to read, and the pages are different sizes with holes in the middle to show students just what the very hungry caterpillar consumed!

Curriculum Connections

This book is perfect for launching a unit on life science, and even expanding upon the story with a caterpillar/butterfly project in your classroom!  It’s appropriate for many different SOLs in kindergarten, first, and second grade (K.6, K.8, K.9, 1.4, 1.5, 1.7, 2.4, just to name a few!) but also makes for a great read-aloud book because the illustrations are so colorful and exciting to see.  Because the pages are different sizes and have holes to show where the caterpillar crawled, younger readers will love to simply turn the pages and follow along, even without reading the text.  You can’t go wrong with this classic text—–students will love it no matter how it is presented.

Additional Resources

  • This fantastic website has tons of ideas for cross-curriculum activities using The Very Hungry Caterpillar and also includes coloring pages and craft projects relating to the text!
  • These free printable templates would be a great addition to any bulletin board, and could also be used to introduce a metamorphosis lesson, or to encourage students to illustrate their own caterpillar tale.
  • Going Buggy on has a great selection of poems about bugs and butterflies, as well as links to other websites and book suggestions to use when teaching about the monarch life cycle!
  • Eric Carle’s website is another fantastic resource for activities and lesson plans that relate to all of his books!  It also includes an author biography, as well as a photos and video section worth checking out.

General Information

Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Author: Eric Carle
Illustrator: Eric Carle
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Date: October 1981
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN-13: 9780399208539

Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean


If you’re searching for a traditional picture book (not too technical or difficult to read aloud) to incorporate into a science lesson, Arthur Dorros’s Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean is worth looking into.  This “Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out” book uses simple language and adorable illustrations to discuss how water makes its way to the ocean, and includes other science concepts along the way.

The book begins in a rainstorm and from there launches into an explanation of how and why water droplets form puddles, and eventually brooks, which flow into streams, which flow into rivers, and into the ocean.   Dorros does a wonderful job of making connections between the science concepts presented and everyday life.  For example, he writes, “Water always flows downhill.  It flows from high places to low places, just the way you and your skateboard move down a hill.”  The main idea behind the book is how (and where) water flows, but other concepts are included, as well, which gives teachers flexibility regarding how they incorporate it into their lessons. Plant and animal life, conservation and pollution issues, and even the Grand Canyon are mentioned, making this book a great choice for a variety of lesson topics.

Curriculum Connections
Follow the River from Brook to Ocean is appropriate for children in the primary grades, and might be expanded upon with additional discussion for older children.  It’s great for SOL K.5, which focuses on water flow and the properties of water, and could also be used with K.10, which addresses water conservation.  Because it does mention lots of different water-related concepts, the text is conducive to class discussion and might be a great way to introduce a variety of science lessons.

Additional Resources

  • Arthur Dorros’s website is a handy resource to find more information about his book series, video interviews, as well as fun activities to try in the classroom.
  •, used by homeschooling parents, offers a variety of hands-on activities involving water that would be easy to duplicate in a classroom.
  • This in-class activity combines lots of different science concepts involving H2O including water flow, pollution, color mixing, and the effects of salt on ice.

Book: Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean
Author/Illustrator: Arthur Dorros
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: May 1993
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN: 0064451151

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Seven Blind Mice


Students learning about their five senses for the first time will love Seven Blind Mice, written and illustrated by Ed Young.  This colorful picture book employs a simple storyline to show readers how important our senses are to our everyday lives.

The story begins when seven blind mice are surprised to find a new object by their home.  One by one, the mice use their other senses in an attempt to identify this new object, and each mouse becomes convinced that he has solved the mystery correctly.  “One day,” Young writes, “seven blind mice were surprised to find a strange Something by their pond.  ‘What is it?’ they cried, and they all ran home.  On Monday, Red Mouse went first to find out.  ‘It’s a pillar,’ he said.  No one believed him.”  The text continues in a similar fashion until each mouse has guessed what this new Something is.  Only readers are able to tell why the mice have different opinions, but the wonderful illustrations do a great job of camoflauging the actual object (an elephant!) until the end of the story.

Curriculum Connections
Seven Blind Mice is a great book for initiating discussion about the five senses in a kindergarten classroom.    Children must stop and think about how being blind would affect their perception and must also consider the lesson on the last page of the book: “Knowing in part may make a fine tale, but wisdom comes from seeing the whole.”  The mice learn that perception is dependent on many things, and students should think about how each of their senses allows them to learn different things about the world around them.  The book might be used to satisfy SOL K.2 by encouraging students to think about how using their senses can help them to identify objects in their environment.

Additional Resources

Book: Seven Blind Mice
Author: Ed Young
Illustrator: Ed Young
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: June 2002
Pages:  40
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN: 0698118952