Great Books for the First Few Weeks - a Summer Blog Party Linky

Happy summer days everyone! Fourth of July is right around the corner and I'm teaming up with the lovely ladies over at The Reading Crew for week 2 of their Summer Blog Party!  This week's topic is all about great books to fire up your readers!

All good readers have favorite books, ones that they go back to time and time again.  The same is true for teachers - we all have our "go to" books for certain topics, skills and reading strategies.  Even though we're always on the look out for new books to add to our collections, we still love those old favorites.

This week I'm going to share two books that are perfect for the first few weeks of school. Both work beautifully to show the theme of "be yourself," and both are perfect for developing characters.  Each book works great on its own, but when paired with the other, you've got a great way to boost critical thinking by doing some analyzing and comparing. (You can click on all the book images to go to Amazon to find out more about these books.)

Let's start with my very favorite beginning of the year book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, by Patty Lovell.

Molly is a very little girl with BIG ideas about how to be yourself.  Her confidence comes from her grandmother, who always gives her advice on how to make what you have work for you.

Molly Lou goes to school, and suddenly no one is as accepting of her differences.  Not one to sit back and let the world pass by, Molly Lou uses her uniqueness to show that being different is ok.

This book is the perfect way to introduce character traits and character response to challenges. Molly Lou shows that she is bold, confident and determined in what she says and does throughout the story. We analyze WHY we think Molly reacted the way she did.  We talk about what her grandmother' words really mean and how we can apply them to our lives.  We study the illustrations to find examples of how they support the text.  We compare Molly Lou to another character in the story, Ronald Durkin. (What a great name!) How is Ronald different from Molly Lou? What do his actions tell us about what he's like?

Once we've finished Molly Lou, we start a second book I love to use, Big Al, by Andrew Clements.

Unlike Molly Lou Melon, Big Al is not happy with himself from the very start. His giant size and scary features make the little fish run and hide.

In the end, however, Big Al discovers that we all have something to offer, as he figures out a way to use his uniqueness to save the little fish and make friends.

Again, character traits and response to challenges are big here.  How did Big Al respond to his challenge? How did he feel throughout the story?  How do the illustration support the text?

Then, we look at both books together. How are the characters the same and different? While Molly Lou Melon liked herself from the very beginning of the story, Big Al had to learn to like himself. What were the challenges each character faced - and how do those compare to each other?  Both Big Al and Molly Lou overcome their challenges in similar ways.  

I put together a collection of a few graphic organizers to use with these two books. (You can see the full "Book Buddies" unit on both of these books by clicking {HERE} and my full Character Traits resource {HERE}) Click on the images to download the response sheets for Big Al and Molly Lou Melon as a freebie.

I always tell my students, "Good books are meant to be read more than once."  Each time you read a book, look for something more you can talk about.  Connect it to something else you have read, or to something in real life.  The more we can make the words on the page meaningful for our students, the more we can get them fired up about reading!

Be sure to go back up and click the linky graphic at the top of the page to read about more ways to fire up your readers!

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  1. Lisa-what a great post! I love Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon. I was so lucky and found it in Ollie's one day for $3.00 in hardback, and I'm glad to learn about Big Al. Thanks for linking up this week, and I hope you'll put us on your list in the coming weeks too. Heading to Vegas?? If so, it'd be neat to meet up!

  2. Great post! I love Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon and I read it at the beginning of every year. I also revisit it when we discuss character traits in depth. I don't have Big Al and I am adding it to my "want list." Thanks for sharing!

  3. Lisa ~ Thank-you for introducing me to these wonderful stories! I will have to check them out this summer!


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