Where I'm From

Book Reviews - Books for Building Your Library

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This week enjoy ten titles that explore the idea of belonging somewhere. Help children think about where they are from and their memories of family and home. Reading about how others write about what they "know first" is sure to inspire students to write about the people and places close to them.

What You Know First

Patricia MacLachlan said that this is her favorite of the picture books she has written. For voice and heart and authenticity, What You Know Firstshould be a mentor text in every classroom, as it is sure to speak to student writers. Barry Moser's equally powerful images will also move you.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

"I Have a Little Problem," Said the Bear

Next week's feature book is perfect for supporting readers and writers as they learn to listen to each other. Heinz Janisch and Silke Leffler have created an endearing character in Bear, who tries to tell his problem to a series of "listeners," but they only hear what they want to hear. Use this book to talk with students about what it means to really listen to a friend.

When I Was Young in the Mountains

This dear story captures the universal emotion of loving a place and a time. Even if you or your students have never been young in the mountains, this classic narrative written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Diane Goode will give you pause to remember when and where you were young. This bookdeserves an honored place on your classroom library shelf.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

The House I Live In

Written and illustrated by Isadore Seltzer, The House I Live In: At Home in Americadescribes the ways people construct their homes to suit various climates and landscapes. Each page presents a new style of home, from adobe houses to houseboats. The illustrations of the homes are acrylic with collage, hand-tinted photographs of children bringing each home to life. Although this book is out of print, you can still find it through Amazon's used book sellers.

I Know Here

I Know Here by Laurel Croza and Matt James tells the author's story of her childhood experience moving from northeastern Saskatchewan to Toronto. Croza communicates the love she felt for the place she knew and the anxiety she felt about the unknown. Children will relate to the author's goodbye pain as she expresses her angst in saying goodbye to the wolves and the woods, the "here" she knows, and saying hello to the city, the "there" which is foreign.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Big Mama's

Sometimes the places we know first are those which we anticipate in cars and trains, as we make annual journeys to the people who love us. In Big Mama's DonaldCrews takes us home where there is food, fellowship, and fishing, and where things are just as you left them last year. Share Big Mama's with students and you may find you arouse a bit of your own nostalgia for traveling to see the places and people you knew first.

Tar Beach

Travel with Cassie onto the roof of her New York apartment as she enjoys her family and considers the city that surrounds them. By combining realism and fantasy, Faith Ringgold deftly and delicately contrasts the joy of family intimacy with the injustices many of us knew first. The glorious quilt illustrations tell Cassie's stories, exploring both love and justice.

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Click here to view this book in Amazon +

Writing Toward Home

Whether you consider yourself a poet or you feel you have no poetry in you at all, your writing self will grow with Georgia Heard's nurturing. In Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way, Heard suggests that the restlessness you have been feeling is because you need to write. She offers vignettes and writing prompts to help you run or meander home.

Poetry of Place

For practical ideas for helping children explore through poetry the people and places they call home, Poetry of Place: Helping Students Write Their Worlds by Terry Hermsen is generous with suggestions. Regardless of your confidence with poetry, this book offers substantial support for poetry teachers.

Click here to view this book in Amazon +
Click here to view this book in Amazon +

History Comes Home

From interviews to family profiles and graphs to formal timelines, History Comes Homegives you a wealth of ideas for moving beyond the traditional explorations of family trees. Help your students dig into their personal stories to read, write, research, and think more. With this text from Steven Zemelman, Patricia Bearden, Yolanda Simmons, and Pete Leki, you have a powerful tool for engaging students in relevant literacy work.