Select Page
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.

A Teachable Moment with Little House in the Big Woods

A Teachable Moment with Little House in the Big Woods

If you are a child of the 1970s and ’80s like I am, then you grew up with the revered Little House books (and TV series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As times have progressed and changed we’ve looked back at these stories with a new perspective in regards to racial issues. In 2018, the American Library Association changed the name of their top award from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award in response to the change in perspective and inclusiveness in today’s society.

Many people believe that there is no place for the work of Laura Ingalls Wilder in our society. While many other people believe the whole thing is overblown and nothing is wrong with the books. I don’t really fall into either of the categories. I absolutely see the points being made that Wilder’s depictions of African Americans, and especially Native Americans, are derogatory through our 21st-century eyes. I feel though, that there is merit in her work and this topic gives a teacher a vital opportunity to use as a teachable moment. We can’t ignore history and pretend it never happened. We need to shed the light on the mistreatments and inaccuracies for what they are and learn from those mistakes so as not to repeat them.

One of the best blog posts I have read on this subject is by Laura McLemore in her post found here. It puts into historical perspective the times that Wilder was living in during the story and keeping in mind these books were authored in the 1930s written through the eyes of an impressionable child who didn’t really have all the knowledge to address the fears she had. A very different time for our country and culture. We know many of the views and actions perpetrated during this time were outright wrong and based on false knowledge. If you look through Wilder’s eyes with these points in mind you can gain a perspective of WHY she may have written and believed the things she did without having to agree with it. You can identify the wrong points in her writing and actions and use the hurtful content to help students understand why this is wrong and how these beliefs continued to hurt as time passed. Kids need to learn these things and they need to know why it was wrong in order for the future to be a better place.

Because of these beliefs that the Laura Ingalls Wilder books can be used as a tool for greater understanding, a teachable moment, I still feel they have a valuable place in the classroom. Her descriptions of pioneer living are invaluable for children to gain an insight into what it was like living during the late 1800s and what hardships the pioneers faced as they moved west. However, if you do choose to use these books I really do feel strongly that it is imperative that you give kids the proper historical perspectives and facts. Help them understand the true, and sometimes very awful, part of the history of the western expansion of the United States.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder series begins with Little House in the Big Woods. It is the story of a young Laura and her family living in Wisconsin before heading farther West into the prairies of the Midwest.

From the Book Jacket:

Based on the real-life adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods is the first book in the award-winning Little House series, which has captivated generations of readers. This edition features the classic black-and-white artwork from Garth Williams.

Little House in the Big Woods takes place in 1871 and introduces us to four-year-old Laura, who lives in a log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. She shares the cabin with her Pa, her Ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their lovable dog, Jack.

Pioneer life isn’t easy for the Ingalls family since they must grow or catch all their own food as they get ready for the cold winter. But they make the best of every tough situation. They celebrate Christmas with homemade toys and treats, do their spring planting, bring in the harvest in the fall, and make their first trip into town. And every night, safe and warm in their little house, the sound of Pa’s fiddle lulls Laura and her sisters into sleep.

The nine books in the timeless Little House series tell the story of Laura’s real childhood as an American pioneer and are cherished by readers of all generations. They offer a unique glimpse into life on the American frontier and tell the heartwarming, unforgettable story of a loving family.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Little House in the Big Woods 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.

log cabin in the woods

Your students can continue on with Wilder’s Little House series that goes through her life from Wisconsin to the prairies of the Midwest to growing up and marrying. They really do give students an insight into what life during the Homestead times was like. Just make sure you do the work of giving your students all the facts and information so that they can view this series in the proper perspective with the proper knowledge of our inclusive times.



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.

Exploring Intersectionality with the Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Exploring Intersectionality with the Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

This past summer I attended a seminar presented by Sherri from Literary Sherri, about Intersectionality. This is a newer term that may be unfamiliar to many, but it is meaningful and impactful and is worthy of everyone, especially teachers, educating themselves about. From Merriam-Webster, “Intersectionality refers to the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and yes, intersect—especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups.” You can read in more detail about how it is all intertwined at the Merriam-Webster website.

I am happy to say I already had several novel studies to support intersectionality in the classroom such as Out of My Mind, El Deafo, Fish in a Tree, Freak the Mighty, and Wonder to name a few. These modern novels help students understand the differences and challenges that others face and help build empathy and awareness that lead to a better educated and caring community.

I had heard a lot of chatter in teacher circles about the 2017 novel, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, as a good one to use to help build a stronger, more caring and kind classroom community. The chatter was right! This book is wonderful to help others really see through the eyes of another the challenges that can be faced by differences and disabilities. In addition to the empathy it sparks, it is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud many times at the humor of Aven, the main character. Students will relate to her snarky and modern take on living the life of a thirteen-year-old. I dare say, I may have even liked this book more than Wonder!

From the book jacket:

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is just so wonderful to use in the classroom to incorporate intersectionality. You have Aven who lives with a congenital disability, Connor who lives with Tourette Syndrome, Zion who deals with bullying over his weight, add in adoption, divorce, and money struggles told from both a male and female perspective and there’s a lot of areas that intertwine in the intersectionality of life to help build the bridges of understanding and empathy.

I offer a full novel study for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus that you can use with a whole class, small book groups, or individual students. It is easily adaptable and contains both a printable option and a Google Drive™ option.

Desert landscape with the title Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I really, really loved it and I know you and your students will too. Aven’s voice is so funny and she really challenges the readers to open their hearts and minds to the differences of others.


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.

Meet the World’s Greatest Underachiever, Hank Zipzer!

Meet the World’s Greatest Underachiever, Hank Zipzer!

Niagara Falls or Does It? is the first book in Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver’s Hank Zipzer series. is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies that present the learning challenges that Hank Zipzer experiences due to his undiagnosed Dyslexia.

Hank Zipzer is inspired by the challenges that Henry Winkler (best known as the Fonz!) faced as a boy. Henry’s undiagnosed Dyslexia made him a classic underachiever and gave him great anxiety about all aspects of going to school. The Hank Zipzer series is about Hank’s funny adventures while highlighting the inner thoughts, doubts, and fears that living with learning differences poses.  Henry himself along with his co-author, Lin Oliver, explain their inspiration for the series here:

I loved the quote from Lin Oliver, ” The most important part for us in creating the series is to speak to kids and let them know that inside each one of them they have a unique and special contribution that they can make to the world.” Kids that face learning challenges, among them Dyslexia, often face depression and low-self esteem thinking they are dumb, or less than their peers. The series gives kids the voice to know that they aren’t “stupid” that they are just wired in a different way and in many ways, this makes them even more talented in certain things.

From the Book Jacket of Niagara Falls, or Does it?:

It’s science project time in Ms. Adolf’s class. This is good news and bad news for Hank-he loves science, but he hates the report part. So Hank turns to TV to take his mind off things. But when the program directory scrolls by too quickly for Hank to know what’s on, he decides to take apart the cable box to try to slow down the crawl. Great! Now Hank has found the perfect science project! But what he wasn’t counting on was his sister’s pet iguana laying eighteen eggs in the disassembled cable box. How is Hank going to get out of this one? 

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Niagara Falls, or Does it? 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.

niagara falls with a rainbow

As a parent who has a child that deals with similar learning challenges, I find Henry Winkler and his Hank Zipzer so inspiring. I was so happy to be able to give this book to my son in third grade so that he could read a book that had a character that he could relate to and give him inspiration that he is smarter than he may feel. Add the humor and this kid was hooked. It’s great that there are sixteen more books in the series to keep kids reading.

I’d like to share another video from Henry Winkler where he discusses Dyslexia and shares his experiences. He is an inspiring role model for kids with learning challenges and if you have someone in your life struggling, may it be a student or your own child, please share this with them as well.

Once you’ve moved through the Hank Zipzer series another great book I highly recommend for kids, in grades 4-6, that comes from the voice of a character with Dyslexia is Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mulally Hunt.


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.

Underdogs use the Power of Friendship to Become Freak the Mighty

Underdogs use the Power of Friendship to Become Freak the Mighty

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick is a must-read. Philbrick combines heart, adventure, suspense, drama, and heartbreak to make this an instant classic that all your students will love. This is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies.

Freak the Mighty was first published in 1993. The tale is timeless. Max is an outcast. He feels stupid, too large, hated for the crimes of his father, basically unloved and all alone in the world. Kevin is smart and adventurous but has a disease that prevents him from doing all he wants to do. When Max and Kevin form an unlikely friendship they fill each other’s weaknesses with their own strengths to create Freak the Mighty. Together there’s no stopping them!

From the Book Jacket:

Max. Freak. Best Friends. Forever.

“I never had a brain until Freak came along…”

That’s what Max thought. All his life he’d been called stupid. Dumb. Slow. It didn’t help that his body seemed to be growing faster than his mind. It didn’t help that people were afraid of him. So Max learned how to be alone. At least until Freak came along.

Freak was weird, too. He had a little body-and a really big brain. Together Max and Freak were unstoppable.

Together, they were Freak the Mighty.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Freak the Mighty 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.

Large boy holding smaller boy on his shoulders watching the sun set.

Freak the Mighty touches on so many topics: learning disabilities, family issues, low self-esteem, physical disabilities, adventure, heroics, and loss. It is a tale that just about every upper elementary to middle school student can relate to or empathize with. It will help them look differently at those that have been deemed the outcasts to help them unleash the gems that are hiding in plain sight.

Until 9/30/19, you can find Freak the Mighty in the Scholastic TAB Book Order for only $1. It’s a great time to stock up on this novel for 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.