Additional January Book Suggestions - Grades 4-6
Adler, David. A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass.
Illustrated by Samuel Byrd. Holiday, 1993. (2-4)
Life story of one of the first African-American publishers and most important spokesmen for black Civil Rights.
Baldwin, James. The Brave Three Hundred in Book of Virtues.
See General Collections. (2, 5)
Story of Spartans heroically defending the pass at Thermopylae.
Bunting, Eve. How Many Days to America?
Illustrated by Beth Peck. Houghton Mifflin, 1990. (K-4)
Fleeing political repression, a Caribbean immigrant family braves danger and open sea to make their way to the United States. A moving, contemporary Pilgrim story. Good for 2nd grade unit on immigration.
Cech, John. My Grandmother’s Journey.
Illustrated by Sharon McGinley-Nally. Bradbury, Macmillan, 1991. (4-6)
Korie’s Russian Jewish grandmother tells of her arduous life in and flight from early 20th century Russia. Based on a true story of a woman who endured pogroms, starvation, and German imprisonment before arriving in the U.S. An amazing tale of perseverance as well as courage. Complexity of historical background suit It for older students.
Coles, Robert. The Story of Ruby Bridges.
Illustrated by George Ford. Scholastic, 1993. (2-4)
True story movingly retold of the young African-American girl who was the first to integrate one of New Orleans all white schools. She is heckled and booed, but goes about her school work with dignity and prays for her tormentors. Courage, justice, and forgiveness are all themes.
DePaola, Tomie. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland.
Holiday, 1994. (K-4)
The adventures of Patrick, who is abducted from his Breton home, sold into slavery in Ireland,
escapes, and returns to the Irish people to preach about God.
Goldin, Barbara Diamond. Fire! The Beginnings of the Labor Movement.
Illustrated by James Watling. Once Upon America Series. Puffin, 1997 (4-6)
Freyda works at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and attends meetings to help organize the union to improve working conditions. Through the eyes of a Jewish immigrant family, this slender chapter book tells the true story of the famous fire of the early 1900s that killed 146 women and led to the banning of sweatshop working conditions. A story of perseverance and courage.
Gross, Virginia. The Day it Rained Forever: A Story of the Johnstown Flood.
Illustrated by Ronald Himler. Once Upon America Series. Viking, 1991. (4-6)
In this slender chapter book the Berwind family in Johnstown, Pennsylvania prepares to wait out the big storm, but the rains are torrential and they will not have the luxury of watching from a secure home. When the dam breaks Christina, Teresa, Frederick and their father set out to help as many victims as they can. An exciting and moving story that shows the triumph of the human spirit in time of darkest adversity.
Heyer, Carol. Robin Hood.
Hambleton-Hill, 1993. (4-6)
Courage and compassion mingle in Heyer’s retelling of the deeds of Sherwood Forest’s most famous outlaw. A good springboard to discuss the meaning of justice—is it ever right to stand outside the law?
Kinsey-Warnock, Natalie. Wild Horses of Sweetbriar.
Dutton Child Books, 1990. (2-4)
Set in early 1900s, a lone family struggles through the winter on blustery New England island near Nantucket.
Kroll, Stephen. Lewis and Clark: Explorers of the AmericanWest.
Illustrated by Richard Williams. Holiday, 1994. (1, 4)
Beautiful picture book of the true exploits of Lewis and Clark. The explorers head out the Missouri River and confront blizzards, starvation, the Sioux, and many other hazards in the regions of the Louisiana Purchase and beyond.
Kudlinksi, Kathleen. Facing West: A Story of the Oregon Trail
Illustrated by James Watling. Once Upon America Series. Puffin, 1996. (3-5)
Heading out along the Oregon Trail in 1845 poses all the expected hazards for Ben and his family, but Ben has a special burden to bear. He is asthmatic and may not survive the trip. A slender chapter book treatment of a young boy who summons physical courage and overcomes great odds.
Lee, Jeanne. The Song of Mu Lan.
Front Street, 1995. (2 or 4)
Set in China during the early middle ages (Tang Dynasty), a courageous Chinese girl dresses like a soldier and goes to battle, taking her father’s place. A Chinese Deborah Sampson tale. Excellent for use with medieval China unit.
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Paul Revere’s Ride.
Illustrated by Ted Rand. Puffin, 1996. (1 or 4)
Beautiful and dramatic picture book retelling of Revere alerting village and farm to the threat of the marching British troops.
McGovern, Anne. The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson.
Illustrated by Harold Goodwin. Scholastic, 1990. (3-6)
This slender chapter book is the true story of a courageous young woman who wasn't willing to accept arbitrary barriers. A Deacon's daughter, she taught herself to read, and to write, and ultimately to serve in the Revolutionary army by disguising herself as a man.
McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack. Let My People Go.
Illustrated by James Ransome. Simon and Schuster, 1998. (4-6)
This is an unusual and powerful collection of Old Testament stories told by a black freedman to his child in the early 1800s. The child sees injustice and oppression for his people everywhere and asks his father to explain. Depending on the incident, the father recounts a story from the Old Testament. A runaway slave incident prompts the father to tell the story of David and Goliath, betrayal by a fellow slave prompts the story of Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers. From each the child draws courage and strength. A beautiful and compelling collection.
McSwigan, Marie. Snow Treasure. Scholastic Inc, 1986. (3-6)
Fast-paced slender chapter book of courage and adventure set in Norway during World War II. Norwegian children help smuggle gold bullion out of their country on sleds—right past Nazi guards.
Miller, Robert. Buffalo Soldiers. The Story of Emmanuel Stance.
Illustrated by Michael Bryant. Silver Burdett Press, 1992. (2-5)
Emmanuel Stance was the first African-American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor (1870). This picture book tells the story of the first all-black infantry regiments formed after the Civil War and Stance’s leadership and courage in confronting Kiowa and Comanche raiding parties.
Miller, William. Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery.
Illustrated by Cedric Lucas. Lee and Low, 1995. (2-4)
This powerful picture book is not about the last day Frederick Douglass lived as a slave; but the last day that he felt like a slave. When he is called to the whipping post, Douglass stands up to a slave-breaker, fights back and defeats him. In later years he would escape, but in the meantime he showed himself and others what it means to defend oneself against injustice. Good for use with 2nd grade ante-bellum unit.
Oldfield, Pamela. “Andromeda and Perseus” in Tales from Ancient Greece.
Illustrated by Nick Harris. Doubleday, 1988. (2, 6)
The beautiful Andromeda is rescued by Perseus after her boastful mother earns the wrath and curse of Poseidon. Highlights Perseus’s courage and the fatal flaw of hubris in the mother.
Osborne, Mary Pope. “Beowulf” in Favorite Medieval Tales.
Illustrated by Troy Howell. Scholastic, 2002. (4)
In this children’s adaptation of the classic, the hideous monster, Grendel, rises from the black waters of the swamp each night to slay the men in Herot, Denmark’s golden hall. The great warrior Beowulf knows that the Danish king is “cursed with a terrible monster who haunts the night.” Blood, guts, and gore blend with a great medieval tale of courage and triumph. Excellent tie-in with 4th grade medieval unit.
Osborne, Mary Pope. The One-Eyed Giant (Tales from the Odyssey, Book 1); The Land of the Dead (Tales from the Odyssey, Book 2); Sirens and Sea Monsters (Tales from the Odyssey, Book 3). Illustrated by Troy Howell. Hyperion, 2010. (4-6)
This exciting retelling of famous stories from Homer’s Odyssey carries students from Troy (at the end of the Trojan Wars) to Ithaca (as Odysseus finds his way home). Whether fighting the Cyclops, battling cannibal giants, or escaping a temptress, Odysseus’ courage and fidelity have the ability to inspire across the millennia. Osborne has successfully simplified and quickened the pace of the epic, making the classic accessible for younger readers, and whetting their appetite for the real thing.
Rappaport, Doreen. The Journey of Meng.
Illustrated by Yang Ming-Yi. Dial Books, 1991. (2-4)
Set in 3rd century BC China, a devoted wife sets out to find her husband who has been abducted to build the Great Wall. She sacrifices her life to redeem their honor. Do not use with children younger than 2nd grade, as the ending is too tragic. A very good support book to the ancient China unit in 2nd grade.
Reit, Seymour. Guns for General Washington.
Harcourt Brace, 2001. (4)
Slender chapter book that tells the exciting, true story of Henry Knox’s bold plan to move cannons in the dead of winter from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston to help Washington lift the British siege in 1775.
Rogasky, Barbara. The Water of Life.
Trina Schart Hyman. Holiday, 1991. (4-6)
Set in medieval times, a young man’s quest to save his father’s life and the people of his kingdom by seeking the Water of Life. A classic quest story in which the youngest son must overcome adversity and the deceit of his two older brothers to save his father’s life and eventually regain his reputation.
Sanderson, Ruth. The Enchanted Wood.
Crocodile Books, 2016. (4)
Set in medieval times and accompanied by Sanderson’s breathtaking illustrations, a young man must undertake a quest to reach the “heart of the universe.” His brothers have gone before him and failed, each being distracted from the path by the thing that most tempts him. Can he remain single-hearted and save his kingdom? Strong female role modeling in here as well when prince meets maiden and elderly woman who help him.
San Souci, Robert. Young Guinevere.
Illustrated by Jamichael Henterly. Doubleday, 1996. (4)
We have many books about Arthur, but not so many about Guenivere. This volume focuses on legendary activities of Guenivere before marrying Arthur. Bright and beautiful picture book featuring the bravery of the female heroine.
Schwartz, Howard and Barbara Rush. The Sabbath Lion.
Illustrated by Stephen Fieser. Harper Collins, 1992. (2-4)
A young Jewish boy is willing to risk traveling across the Sahara with a departing caravan in order to claim his mother’s inheritance in Egypt. Mother sells her most precious possession to pay caravan leader to stop on the Sabbath, so that her son can pray. He takes the money but then refuses to stop. The young boy refuses to travel on the Sabbath, the caravan moves on, and he is left alone in the desert, but is befriended by a Sabbath lion. A beautiful story of having the courage of one’s convictions.
Stanley, Diane. The True Adventure of Daniel Hall.
Puffin Books, 2000. (3-6)
A true story of astonishing physical courage and indomitable spirit. In 1856 young Daniel Hall sets off from New Bedford on a whaling ship and gets more than he bargained for—abuse from a violent sea captain, escape in Siberia, a stint in the Russian winter, and finally, owing to the devotion of his father, rescue and return home as a grown man.
Van Leeuwen, Jean. Going West.
Illustrated by Thomas B. Allen. Puffin Books, 1997. (2-4)
In the tradition of Little House books, this picture book is a powerful portrait of a frontier family who leaves all behind, braves difficult journey, storms, drought, and failed crops to settle west.
Waldman, Neil. Masada. Boyds Mills Press, 2003. (5-6)
A haunting and compelling volume (63 pages) for older students This work of non-fiction is a riveting retelling of Jewish courage in the face of Roman oppression in the mid-first century. Masada was a desert fortress and the last stronghold of Jewish resistance after Romans razed the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Holy Temple Jewish Zealots and refugees defended the fortress as long as they could, and ultimately denied Romans their victory (avoiding certain sale of the survivors into slavery) by taking their own lives the night before Romans stormed the fortress. When Masada is stormed the next morning, the Romans find families locked in each other’s arms in a final embrace. The book is powerful and raises the disturbing question of a sacrifice that many argue should never be made. But the focus is not so much on the final decision to take their lives, as on the courage and faithfulness of a people to their faith and their homeland. It should be read over a period of three or four days.
Wolkstein, Diane. Esther’s Story.
Illustrated by Juan Wijngaard. Mulberry Books, 1998. (4-6)
This is a retelling of the Old Testament story in which one woman’s courage and faithfulness save her people. When the king’s advisor, Haman, hatches a plot against the Jews, Esther intercedes for her people with the King and wins his support. Stunningly illustrated.
Wright, Courtni. Journey to Freedom: A Story of the Underground Railroad.
Illustrated by Gershom Griffith. Holiday, 1994. (2, 5)
Touching story of an African-American family traveling to freedom on the underground railroad. Not without its moments of humor when these Southern-born and bred children meet snow for the first time.
Yacowitz, Caryn. The Jade Stone.
Illustrated by Ju-Hong Chen. Pelican, 2005. (2-4)
Chinese tale of sculptor who is true to his vision and art despite fear of persecution. Artistic courage.
Yep, Laurence. The Khan’s Daughter: A Mongolian Folktale.
Illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng. Scholastic Press, 2002. (3-5)
Courage and pluck combine in this high-spirited tale of a lowly commoner who seeks the hand and wins the heart of a princess (the Khan’s daughter) and of a princess whose enterprise wins the respect of her intended. Fabulous illustrations. Excellent for the 4th grade unit on medieval China.