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Working through grief and loss: A Taste of Blackberries

Working through grief and loss: A Taste of Blackberries

A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith is a poignant tale of friendship and loss. It is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies.

A Taste of Blackberries was published in 1973 and won multiple awards. It was a struggle for Ms. Smith to get her novel published as many felt the subject matter was too advanced for young readers. Topics such as death had been taboo unless the characters were animals, such as 1952’s, Charlotte’s Web. Smith’s story fits well into the literary realism of that era and after being rejected by three publishers she finally found a home in Harper Collins.

From the Book Jacket:

Jamie isn’t afraid of anything. Always ready to get into trouble, then right back out of it, he’s a fun and exasperating best friend.

But when something terrible happens to Jamie, his best friend has to face the tragedy alone. Without Jamie, there are so many impossible questions to answer — how can your best friend be gone forever? How can some things, like playing games in the sun or the taste of the blackberries that Jamie loved, go on without him?

I offer a complete novel study to accompany A Taste of Blackberries for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

The story is a somber one but it isn’t one that students should shy away from. Many of us have a friend like Jamie, with a carefree and often reckless manner. It also is a subject matter that helps students understand grief and guilt and how a person moves through that after a loss. It can be a helpful read for a child going through a grieving period to help them feel less alone. It is also good for those that want to help someone move through a loss and empathize.



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

Historical Fiction with a Twist: Al Capone Does My Shirts

Historical Fiction with a Twist: Al Capone Does My Shirts

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko, is historical fiction told in a quirky and interesting way. It is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies.

Published in 2006, and named as a Newbery Honor selection, this novel introduces readers to Al Capone, Alcatraz (when it was a working prison), and the challenges of living with a sister who has a disability, in a funny and modern way. Students will instantly relate to the protagonist, Moose, even though he is living on Alcatraz Island with prisoners, in 1935.

From the Book Jacket:

Today I moved to Alcatraz, a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I’m not the only kid who lives here. There are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cooks or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. And then there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don’t want. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can. You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you’re me. I came here because my mother said I had to.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Al Capone Does My Shirts for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

In 1935, Autism was not understood and treated as it is today. At the heart of Moose’s story is his sister Natalie who is autistic. The family desperately wants to get Natalie the treatment and education that she needs to flourish, which is what brings them to Alcatraz of all places. The story set on Alcatraz Island with the infamous Al Capone, as a resident during the Great Depression, sets an interesting and unique backdrop for a story about coming of age that kids today can still understand and relate to.



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

Dedication and Endurance with Sounder

Dedication and Endurance with Sounder

Sounder by William H. Armstrong is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies to explore the deep south and the life of a sharecropper family.

Sounder was published in 1969 and went on to be awarded the Newbery Medal in 1970. It has also been made into a feature film that earned several Academy Award nominations in 1972.

From the Book Jacket:

The boy knows that times are tough for his family. Every night, his father goes out hunting with their great coon dog, Sounder, to try to put food on the table. But even with the little they bring back, there is still never enough for the family to eat.

When the boy awakens one morning to a sweet-smelling ham on the table, it seems like a blessing. But soon, the sheriff and his deputies come to the house and take the boy’s father away in handcuffs. Suddenly the boy must grow up fast in a world that isn’t fair, keeping hope alive through the love he has for his father’s faithful dog, Sounder. 

Readers who enjoy timeless dog stories such as Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows will find much to love in Sounder, even as they read through tears at times.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Sounder for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

This book takes a quiet look at the life of a poor, black sharecropping family in the south. it gives students an eye into the turmoil and adversity many families such as this faced at that time. Using literature in this way can help students really empathize with the issues and gain an understanding of the history of those that came before us here in America. It is a tale worth using in your classroom.



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.