My family belongs to a homeschool coop that meets once a week, and I am so happy to be the book club teacher for our 4th/5th graders and our middle schoolers. We read poetry, do writing prompts, learn about literary devices, and have amazing discussions of books. I just finished reading the first books for each class and I’m so excited to start talking about them with the kids.
The 4th/5th graders are reading a book that’s new to me called Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb. I knew I wanted to start the year with something light and fun and contemporary, and while browsing at Astoria Bookshop and just loved the idea of a King Arthur-style tale set among anthropomorphized rats. The book was hilarious and heroic and I think we will have so much fun.
Here’s my list of poems to go with the book:
“Mannahatta” by Walt Whitman
“Skyscraper” by Carl Sandburg
“The Sun Has Long Been Set” by William Wordsworth
“Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold
“The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
For the middle schoolers I chose Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. I fell in love with Hollis when I first read the book about a decade ago, and tried really hard to option the movie rights. This time around, I listened to the audiobook (beautifully narrated by Hope Davis) and found myself sobbing in the darkness while putting my younger daughter to bed. While the narrative trajectory doesn’t have any real twists or shocks, Giff puts you in Hollis’s head so completely that you don’t know what’s going to happen because foster child Hollis is a loose cannon. You know what the grownups will do but you don’t know what Hollis will do. I chose this book because it’s a sweet story that celebrates goodness and sacrifice and family, and because one of the girls in my class is an artist and I hope she’s inspired by the way Hollis lets her art come from her life. Though I hope she isn’t inspired by Hollis’s decision to run off into the woods in the middle of winter with only a dementia-stricken old woman as a companion.
Here’s my list of poems to go with this book:
“This Is My Letter To The World” by Emily Dickinson
“He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven” by WB Yeats
“The Emperor of Ice Cream” by Wallace Stevens
“Sonnet” by Christina Rossetti
“anyone lived in a pretty how town” by ee cummings