Informational Reading- Lincoln: A Photobiography


Freedman, R. (1987). Lincoln: A Photobiography. New York, NY: Clarion Books.

Informational Text

Grades 6-8

When I was younger my mother took my brother and I on a road trip across the country and when we were in Illinois, we stopped at Lincoln’s log cabin. Reading this book brought me back to that trip because it talked about his early life and where his life started in a small rural setting. I liked how there were lots of different images throughout the book and each section talked about something different. It was lengthy but it was an interesting biography to read about and I especially enjoyed learning about the emancipation proclamation.


The thing that I liked most about this book was how it introduced Lincoln as someone who chopped wood for a living and grew up in a small cabin but then soon evolved into this passionate politician who truly cared about everyone. The story of how he first witnessed acts of oppression on slaves was very amazing to read about because that is what prompted him to take action and to think up the emancipation proclamation. I think young readers can learn a lot from Lincoln, like his drive for success and spreading fairness to everyone and making sure there is an equal quality of life for all people. This would be a great book to use in a history unit, and maybe supplement it with a historical fiction text. The photos were also really engaging and I think a middle school aged student would enjoy this book more than others because of the diverse content and wide variety of images.

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After reading, Lincoln: A Photobiography, list the things that you found surprising, shocking, or inspirational.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did the photobiography style of text help to paint a picture of what kind of man Lincoln was?
  2. Have you ever felt so passionate about something that you stood up for it? What was it? How does that relate to Lincoln and his life?
  3. What is one life lesson that you learned from this book or specifically from Lincoln’s life?


Choose one of your favorite images from the book and write an informational but creative text that helps to describe the image. Use the facts and notes that you’ve taken from the book to help with this. Once you have completed that activity, create a small photobiography of your life. You can use all pictures or just one picture with text.


Graphic Novel: A Game For Swallows


Abirached, Zeina. (2012). A Game for Swallows: To die, to leave, to return. Minnesota: Graphic Universe.

Graphic Novel, YA/ Teen, Nonfiction

Grades 6-8

I have never really gotten into graphic novels before and didn’t know what to expect from them. I also didn’t know what the title entailed before I started reading it but I was pleasantly surprised by the illustrations and story. This text explains a family living through a war and being unsure of what will happen next. The fact that it was from a child’s perspective was something that also grabbed my attention and made me feel more attached to the characters. The anticipation throughout the story was translated well through the images. This would be a good text to teach kids about the middle east as an eye opener that everyone lives life differently. It would also be good to use as an integrated history lesson.

I thought the story was very heartfelt and left me on the edge of my seat but was also hard to understand at times. When the bombings started to get closer to the home and the parents weren’t returning, I was really nervous for what was going to happen. Even though the story was on the more serious side, I valued how a YA graphic novel can bring that to the light in a more insightful way than in a way that just makes the reader feel sad. This book also reminded me to always value the people in your community because they will support you in your times of need if you are a kind person to them. I also really enjoyed it because some of my favorite books are about history or have some type of element of something from the past or a certain memory. The black and white shapely images also fit the more serious tone of the story. I thought the graphic novel was well balanced with all of the components.



After reading A Game for Swallows, reflect on how the story made you feel. How would you have handled the situation if you were in Zeina’s position?  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is happening in Beirut?
  2. How do Zeina’s neighbors help her and her brother to feel more comfortable with the bombings going on outside?
  3. How do the illustrations help portray the mood of the story?


Create a short graphic book influenced by A Game for Swallows. Think of a layout and color scheme that fits the mood of your (short) graphic. You can be as creative as you want and can even create a continuation of the story or come up with your own characters and plot.


Pre-1990 YA: A Summer To Die


Lowry, Lois. (1977). A Summer to Die. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Touchstone Book, YA Literature, Contemporary Realistic Fiction

Grades 6-8

I had never heard of this book before but the title immediately drew me in and made me excited to read it. My first thought was that it was going to be a love story where someone passes away. It reminded me a little bit of one of my favorite books, A Walk to Remember. I liked that the idea of death was introduced in this YA book because it teaches you to be appreciative of others’ differences, especially when there is some jealousy involved. Sometimes jealousy can prevent us from experiencing things and this book brings that to the light. It made me appreciate my family more because you never know what could happen. I think this is a great book for middle school students because it may allow them to be more in touch with their emotions. It’s also an eye opener to respect and enjoy every moment that you have with family and friends. This book also reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars which is another one of my favorite books. Both books include how families are affected by loss of a loved one.

I enjoyed how the characters were described in detail by appearance and likes and interests. The introduction with Meg being jealous of Molly grabbed my attention right away and the big change of them moving somewhere else was also really interesting. I thought the way Meg and Molly changed throughout the story was very realistic and I could envision it like it was a movie. Although it ended up being a sad ending I thought that the lessons that Meg learned in the story are very valuable to readers and reading about a family coping with loss and change is good for younger students. I can see this book being read in a classroom and have the potential to bond the students together because of the lessons and deeper feelings that the book involves.


After reading A Summer to Die, reflect on how Meg and Molly’s relationship changed throughout the story. Why is it important to be understanding and overlook jealousy?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think the author chose to write about this topic for younger readers?
  2. How did this book make you feel?
  3. What did you learn from Meg and Molly’s relationship by the end of the book?



When you have finished reading the book, think about the people in your life who mean the most to you. Write a letter to a family member or friend that you care about and express your feelings similar to those from the book.

Banned Book: Junie B Jones


Park, Barbara. (2009). Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School. New York: Random House Children’s Books.

Banned/Censored Book, Children’s Literature, Fiction

Grades 1-3

I remember reading Junie B. Jones books as a child and loving them because of her sassy attitude and hilarious situations that she would always get herself into. I was really surprised to learn that they have been banned. After looking it up it seemed like they were banned because of some language and misuse of grammar. Another suggestion said it might be because women or girls are very rarely depicted as independent and sassy without stirring up some kind of controversy. I loved this book because it was like one of those magazine articles that gave you life advice but it was for children. Junie B’s sense of humor is easily translated through her daily school routines and helpful information and facts. I thought it was really cute how she described how a bad grade made your backpack heavy while a good grade made your backpack light. I feel like that would stick in children’s mind and be a great incentive for them to do their best with every assignment.

I thought the book was laid out in a really cute way like a journal that Junie was writing in. The advice she gives in each chapter are also surprisingly helpful and still funny, especially for younger kids. My favorite word of advice was to wear clothes that matches what you’re eating so no one will ever know that you spilled on yourself. There’s something very special about Junie B. Jones books because they are extremely relatable to children as well as adults. It would be really fun for students to create their own guides or diaries like Junie B. It would be a good way to encourage creative writing in the classroom which is often looked over.


After reading Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School, think about the best advice that you received from reading it. Is there anything you would add to her essential survival guide?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is Junie B’s personality like?
  2. Do you think her personality reflects the type of advice she gives?
  3. What is her best piece of advice that she gives in her book?



Create an essential guide of your own. It can be on any topic, including school. Be creative and make sure your personality is shown through your writing.

Batchelder Book: Soldier Bear


Dumon Tak, Bibi. (2008). Soldier Bear. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Batchelder Book, Children’s Literature, Historical Fiction

Grades 9-12

Soldier Bear brings light to a heavy subject of war. Throughout the book there is lots of humor between Voytek and the other characters and the irony of a bear carrying out human tasks was really entertaining and cute. I enjoyed the historical background that the book also shared about WWII at the time. This would be a great book to integrate into a history lesson. The story of Voytek being taken in by the soldiers also reminded me of the story of the story of Winnie. Scholastic says that the age range is Grades 9-12 and it could be because of some of the images of alcohol or smoking. Older ages would definitely still enjoy this book and I think under the right circumstances it could be read to a younger class as also.

I liked the story and illustrations. It reminded me of a shortened version of a visual historical fiction book that I read as a younger child. The plot was engaging and the humor was definitely my favorite part of the story. I think older students could also appreciate the humor of a bear participating in war activities although the war isn’t a laughing matter. On the softer side, it shows that the soldiers cared enough about him to take him in. I really liked that because as a younger child I always thought soldiers were scary and mean. I think this book shares a lot of valuable lessons with a bit of historical insight. If it were to be paired with excerpts from a text- book on WWII it would be fun to make connections between the two texts.


After reading Soldier Bear, discuss with your table how Voytek served as an important member in the story.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Voytek prove himself to be a valuable team member to the other soldiers?
  2. Why are the soldiers unable to return to Poland when the war ends?
  3. Do you think the ending is happy or sad? Why?


After reading Soldier Bear, research WWII to make connections through both texts.You can use books, magazines or an Ipad or computer. Find similarities and differences between the two sources and share them with the class.

Multicultural/Global Literature: Wonder


Palacio, R. J. (2012). Wonder. New York: Penguin Random House Company.

Children’s Literature, Fiction (Contemporary Realistic)

Grades 5-8


Before reading this book I never made the connection of what the book actually was. I had seen the cover in bookstores, libraries and have witnessed others reading it because of the very distinct cover art and title. This book really hit close to home with me because I was bullied from elementary school to high school for health related things. I really appreciated the author bringing this topic to light without sugarcoating anything for the readers. One of the parts that stood out to me was when he overheard Jack talking about his appearance. This book was a very emotional one for me but I would love to use this in my future classroom. This would be a great lesson in bringing bullying to light and spreading empathy and trust among the class. I wasn’t sure how the book was going to end but I really liked how the school came together and the ending was worth all of the hardships that Auggie had to go through within the story.


I really enjoyed reading this book. It was refreshing to read something that was full of challenges for the main character but was resolved by the end of the story. I have always found that my favorite books are ones in which I connect with the main characters.  I think friendship and self assurance is a big topic to bring up at this age and this book does a great job of that. Auggie’s supportive family also makes you think about what it’s like for a family to deal with those things too. The friendships he made throughout the book also teach kindness to readers and can make lasting impressions on the readers as well.


After reading Wonder, think about what it would be like to live Auggie’s life. How would you have handled the situations he was faced with? What would you have done if you saw him being bullied? Now think about how you can face these challenges in real life. How can you help to spread positivity throughout your class and school?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the quote, “don’t judge a boy by his face mean?”
  2. How does Auggie’s personality change throughout the book?
  3. How does Auggie’s family help him cope with everything he deals with?
  4. Create your own precepts inspired by the story.
  5. What did you learn the most from the book?


Create your own precept. If you could give someone one piece of advice about the world what would it be? Think about the lessons from Wonder about friendship, kindness, and acceptance. Write your precept on a piece of construction paper and decorate it however you like. All of the papers will be strung together to create a mobile for the classroom.





Caldecott Book: Smoky Night

Book Information


Bunting, Eve. (1994). Smoky Night. Florida: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Caldecott Medal, Children’s Literature, Picture Book, General Fiction

Grades K-3

I enjoyed this book a lot because of the parallels between the interactions of the people and the interactions among the cats in the story. The book had a strong story with an even better message. I think Bunting does a great job explaining the heavy subject of racism and discrimination to younger students. The idea of the different colored cats finally getting along also opens up the idea of acceptance. The relationship between Ms.Kim and the Mom also progressed throughout the book. I thought the time period and historical context made the story more interesting and it would be a great book to read as an integrated history lesson about civil rights. The illustrations were also very vivid and drew me into the story even more.

I thought the plot was intriguing and the illustrations worked right along with keeping the reader interested in the story. The book had a really good insight to Daniel’s feelings and I felt that that makes the story more relatable to children. After doing further research on the book I learned that it was based on the LA Riots. I think this book would be good to introduce younger children to harder topics and would also teach them about empathy and acceptance.


After reading Smoky Night, think about a time when you accepted someone for who they were and practiced kindness even though they may have been different from you. Why is being kind important in a community? Why is being different than others important?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is happening outside of Daniel’s Window?
  2. Why doesn’t Mama think she should buy anything from Ms.Kim’s store?
  3. What did the people learn from the cats? Why is it important to get along with others?


Write a letter to a classmate, family member or friend that you care about or think about a time where you practiced a random act of kindness to someone who you didn’t know and write a reflection of how it made you feel.



Touchstone: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Book Information

Carroll, L., & Tenniel J. (1863). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Macmillan.

Genre: Fantasy and Fiction

Suggested Age: Grades 3 and up. For younger children I would use pieces of the book to analyze and read, but not the whole thing because it can be challenging for younger ages to understand.


Alice In Wonderland was my favorite Disney movie as a child and I was excited to read it and see how different the two were. I wasn’t expecting a huge difference but was shocked when I learned that there are so many things in the book that make the story line even stranger. I noticed a lot of reoccurring words that Carroll used, such as “queer”. I also found it hard to follow because everything happening in the book was usually complete nonsense. As much as nothing made sense, that is what I loved about it. I also loved how morals and lessons are thrown in almost every chapter. Even something that doesn’t make sense on the surface holds a deeper meaning, it’s just uncovering the deeper meaning that’s hard. Lewis Carroll does a good job explaining this as the book goes on, but not blatantly. I was very fond of the sudden epiphanies and lessons hidden throughout the book that I believe would be a great concepts for children to grasp.

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a story that doesn’t necessarily have a defined plot. There are so many small stories within the book that the plot is composed of many lessons and themes that make up the story line. Each chapter is devoted to a part of Alice’s journey of finding the garden and white rabbit that she catches a glimpse of as she first enters wonderland. The book has a victorian style of language and customs with simple grammar that is full of hidden lessons, riddles, and poems. The narrator tells the story and also includes some input but also lets us inside Alice’s thoughts. It was very interesting to see how Lewis Carroll incorporated little lessons throughout the book that taught Alice about how to handle situations in life. Although it is hard to uncover the meaning up front, there are hidden lessons throughout the book that make lessons in the classroom easier to plan. It may be a fantasy and fiction book, but the morals taught within it are very important and influential to children.


Discussion Questions

1. Explain how Alice’s way of looking at the world changes throughout the book.
2. How does Alice handle being continuously challenged by ideas throughout the story? Ex:
The Caterpillar questioning her recitation.
3. Is there a balance between fantasy and realism in the book, or do you believe it falls under another genre? Explain using details and quotes from the text.
4. Is there a reoccurring message or theme throughout the book?


Lewis Carroll includes lots of dialogue in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Choose one quote that stands out to you and reflect on the importance of it and the meaning or lesson it conveys. Include a summary of the chapter that your chosen quote is in and an illustration of what you believe the quote or chapter displays. Be creative, reflective, and insightful


Unit Study

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Lesson Plans

Lessons Learned from Lewis Carroll