My favorite fourth grade reading class began a study of historical fiction last week, and today I had the responsibility of introducing them to novels of that genre.
But before I talked about their choices, I reminded them of the extensive research authors undertake in preparation for a book. Thanks to a dear friend, I have the best resource for teaching students about that: a copy of OUT OF THE DUST Karen Hesse used when she spoke to students about her work. The book is stuffed with copies of the Boise City News of Cimarron County Oklahoma from 1934. Highlighted passages directly relate to pieces in the book. I read to the children from the September 27th issue about the "rare cereus plant" that bloomed at the home of Mrs. J.H. Cook. Then I read "Night Bloomer" on pages 81-82 to show how it sounded in Billie Jo's voice. They were silent. After several other examples, I shared how important it is for authors and readers to understand the social and historical context and events of the stories they write and read. Having this particular book at my fingertips is such a gift!
The selections were
BAT 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff
BEHIND THE BEDROOM WALL by Laura Williams
BLACK RADISHES by Susan Lynn Meyer
BLACKWATER BEN by Bill Durbin
THE KLIPFISH CODE by Mary Casanova
MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpol
OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA by Jennifer Holm
THE SECRET SCHOOL by Avi
A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park