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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.

The School Story through the Eyes of a Tween

The School Story through the Eyes of a Tween

Andrew Clements followed up the wildly successful novel, Frindle, with a series of school stories with main characters working to push through an adversity of sorts. The School Story is about two middle school girls who are determined to show that they have what it takes to publish a novel of their own by whatever means necessary. 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.

Andrew Clements has a special knack for treating his readers with respect by writing tween characters as intelligent, witty, and clever. This technique has worked well and has made him one of the most popular tween authors of our time. In The School Story, he used this talent well in writing about two smart and determined female protagonists.

From the Book Jacket:

Natalie’s best friend, Zoe, is sure that the novel Natalie’s written is good enough to be published. But how can a twelve-year-old girl publish a book? Natalie’s mother is an editor for a big children’s publisher, but Natalie doesn’t want to ask for any favors.

Then Zoe has a brilliant idea: Natalie can submit her manuscript under a pen name, with Zoe acting as her literary agent. But it’s not easy for two sixth graders to put themselves over as grown-ups, even with some help from a couple of real grown-ups who are supportive but skeptical. The next bestselling school story may be in their hands—but can Natalie and Zoe pull off their masquerade?

I offer a complete novel study to accompany The School Story 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.

girl at desck writing

Students will quickly empathize with and relate to the main character, Natalie, who works through the grief of losing her father in a car accident by writing. Students will also admire Natalie for wanting to succeed on her own merits and not by favors through connections with her Mom’s employer. With the help of a good friend and a trusted teacher, Natalie is able to persevere and is a great role model for tween students to emulate.



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.

Brave Hearts Come in Small Packages: The One and Only Bob

Brave Hearts Come in Small Packages: The One and Only Bob

The One and Only Ivan is a favorite book of mine. I was so excited to learn that Katherine Applegate wrote a sequel, this time showcasing Bob, Ivan’s loyal stray dog companion. Applegate takes the heartwarming, humorous, and thought-provoking recipe of her creation of Ivan and brings it again to The One and Only Bob. It is a new favorite for teachers and students alike!

Take a look at this book trailer from Katherine Applegate’s YouTube Channel:

From the book jacket:

Return to the unforgettable world of the Newbery Medal-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling novel The One and Only Ivan (soon to be a major motion picture!) in this incredible sequel, starring Ivan’s friend Bob!

Bob sets out on a dangerous journey in search of his long-lost sister with the help of his two best friends, Ivan and Ruby. As a hurricane approaches and time is running out, Bob finds courage he never knew he had and learns the true meaning of friendship and family.

Bob, Ivan, and Ruby have touched the hearts of millions of readers, and their story isn’t over yet. Catch up with these beloved friends before the star-studded film adaptation of The One and Only Ivan hits theaters in August 2020!  **NOTE: The One and Only Ivan movie is currently available to stream via Disney+.

Just as The One and Only Ivan is a favorite book to use in the classroom, The One and Only Bob is ripe for you to use as a novel study as well.

Please check out the completed The One and Only Bob Novel Study that contains both a printable and Google Drive™ compatible format available in my store.

You will love The One and Only Bob just as you did The One and Only Ivan, but maybe in a little bit different way. Bob brings the humor. He was the comedy of The One and Only Ivan after all! You still have the heartwarming journey of the character who is seeking acceptance of themselves, who is trying to find out where they belong in the world and who they can depend on. This journey will resonate with children who are on that same path in life, many adults as well! Should Bob go it alone, or is it okay to rely on others, and at the core, is it okay/safe to trust? Take your students on this journey with Bob. You won’t be sorry!



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.

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.