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Take a Journey to Self-acceptance and Growth in The Summer of the Swans

Take a Journey to Self-acceptance and Growth in The Summer of the Swans

The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars is a great coming of age novel to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, in small book groups, or with individual book studies to explore the character’s path to self-acceptance and the growth to understand what is really important in her heart.

The Summer of the Swans was published in 1970 and went on to be awarded the Newbery Medal in 1971. Betsy Byars is well-versed in tapping into the mind of a young teen while giving empathy to characters who face adversity in a relatable way. Protagonist, Sara is going through all the normal doubts and fears of all 14-year-old girls while also dealing with feelings of grief over her mother’s death, abandonment by her father, and the hardships of having a brother who is disabled.

From the Book Jacket:

Sara’s fourteenth summer was turning out to be the most confusing time of her life. Up until then, things had flowed smoothly, like the gliding swans on the lake. Now she wanted to fly away from everything—her beautiful older sister, her bossy Aunty Willie, her remote father, and, most of all, from herself.

But could she fly away from Charlie? She loved her younger brother in a way she couldn’t understand, though sometimes she grew tired of his neediness. But when Charlie himself took flight, Sara suddenly knew what she had to do….

I offer a complete novel study to accompany The Summer of the Swans 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.

Swans gliding over water

This book shows the reader how our perspective can change in an instant when the things we truly care about are threatened. Byars’ incorporation of the beauty and fascination with swans is symbolic of the loyal nature of a swan. It helps to show Sara where the true loyalty of her heart lies.



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.

Filling in the Holes with Small Steps

Filling in the Holes with Small Steps

Louis Sachar has a special way of using wit and compassion to help his readers really get into the heads of his characters to understand their hearts. He does it again in Small Steps, the sequel to his wildly popular novel, Holes. 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.

The main character, Stanley Yelnats’ story was wrapped up in the book Holes. In Holes, we were introduced to several other boys who had been sentenced to Camp Green Lake but the book didn’t go too much into their backstories, nor do we know what happened to them moving forward. Small Steps fills this hole for the readers regarding the characters, Armpit and X-Ray.

From the Book Jacket:

Two years after being released from Camp Green Lake, Armpit is home in Austin, Texas, trying to turn his life around. But it’s hard when you have a record and everyone expects the worst from you. The only person who believes in Armpit is Ginny, his ten-year-old disabled neighbor. Together, they are learning to take small steps.

 Armpit seems to be on the right path until X-Ray, a buddy from Camp Green Lake, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme. X-Ray’s plan leads to a chance encounter with teen pop sensation Kaira DeLeon, the Beyoncé of her time, and suddenly Armpit’s life spins out of control. Only one thing is certain: he’ll never be the same again.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Small Steps 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 subject matter of Small Steps is a little more mature than Holes. I have my Holes novel study marked for 4-6th grades, whereas Small Steps is marked for 5-8th grade due to the more mature nature of the plotline.

The issues of race, the nature of celebrity, how things happen out of our control that shape our lives, and the hard road of choosing to do the right thing vs. the easy, are all addressed by Sachar in this novel. Readers will learn to understand a little better the hard road people face once they are released from prison and how it is always shadowing them ready to ruin the good things that they’ve worked hard for. Readers will empathize with Armpit as he tries to do the right thing, one small step at a time.

I do offer my Holes Novel Study and Small Steps Novel Study bundled together at a 20% savings if you are interested in having your student read both.



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.

Take an Adventure From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Take an Adventure From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is a classic story of adventure that kids for generations have loved. 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 1967 and awarded with the Newbery Medal in 1968, this novel has intrigued students for over 50 years. Many still cite this book as one that stands out as favorite from their childhood.

From the Book Jacket:

When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere she wants to run to somewhere—to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and preferably elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother, Jamie, has money and thus can help her with the serious cash flow problem she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie, find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $250. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it? Claudia is determined to find out. This quest leads Claudia to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 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.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler gives students a taste of the bustle of New York City, a taste of the art world, and a unique look inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For many, this opens a world to one they never have experienced before and leads to a hunger for more as their imagination flows.



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.