I just finished reading five books that are awesome for the girls in your class! Each book’s main character is a young girl between 10-13 years old who shows incredible determination in accomplishing an important goal. These girls all overcome incredible challenges and don’t allow setbacks to keep them from accomplishing something they’ve set their mind to. Even though they are hurt when people say rude things to them, they don’t respond with anger. They are a great example of how to persevere when life gets difficult. This drawing (not my original idea!) summarizes what each girl faces:
Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (AR level 3.7)
Main character: Ally, who is dyslexic and a brilliant artist.
Problem: Ally gets teased often at school because she has problems reading. She does not like herself and gets in trouble often.
Ally’s class gets a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, in the middle of her sixth-grade year. This teacher helps Ally realize that even though she has trouble reading, she is talented at many other things. Ally starts to believe in herself a little more each day. She starts working harder in school. Mr. Daniels tutors Ally after school and uses many different techniques to help her learn to read.
Ally always assumed that her classmates hated her. But by the end of the book, it is clear her classmates have noticed how hard Ally has been working. They respect her artistic talents. They appreciate the way that she treats people kindly. By the end of the book, it’s clear that Ally is one of the most respected students in the class. She still struggles with reading, but she is getting better. Her determination has helped her gain new friends and a newfound respect for herself. She realizes she is a person who has many talents. She stops defining herself as someone who can’t read.
Serafina’s Promise, by Ann E. Burg (AR level 3.6)
Main character: Serafina, a girl who lives in Haiti.
Problem: Serafina desperately wants to attend school so she can become a doctor when she grows up. But her family needs her at home to help with the daily chores.
Problem #2: Once Serafina starts school, she starts to dislike it because they are required to learn French, a subject that Serafina feels is pointless.
Hopefully, your students will gain an appreciation for their ability to attend school every day after reading Serafina’s Promise! Serafina wants to attend school more than anything in the world. Serafina has to persuade her parents, but she also has to help her family rebuild after a life-threatening flood and earthquake. After she helps her family build a new home after the flood, Serafina learns how to plant an herb garden. Instead of complaining that her mother won’t let her attend school, Serafina becomes determined to use this herb garden as a way to earn more money for her family. Her parents eventually allow Serafina to attend school. Her mother says how impressed she has been that Serafina has earned extra money while keeping up with all of her other daily chores.
But once Serafina attends school, she gets discouraged because they have to learn French. I won’t ruin the story for you, but by the end, Serafina becomes determined to do her best during these French lessons because that will allow her to accomplish her bigger goal of becoming a doctor.
All Four Stars, by Tara Dairman (AR level 6.0)
Main character: Gladys, who is an incredible chef and a talented writer.
Problem: Gladys has parents who don’t want her to cook because they feel like that’s not something kids should do. Gladys also feels like her interest in food makes her an outcast at school.
Gladys is determined to write a restaurant review for a major New York City newspaper! She mistakenly receives an assignment from an editor. Even though she’s in sixth grade, Gladys feels like she’s talented enough to write this review. But Gladys feels like if her parents find out about this, they won’t let her write it. Gladys goes to great lengths to secretly get to this restaurant, but her plan hits lots of road bumps. Ultimately, her kindness toward a mean girl enables Gladys to get to the restaurant and write this review. By the end of the story, Gladys’s parents respect her culinary and writing talents and encourage her to cook more. There were several times during the story when Gladys could have given up her desire to cook and write, but her determination helped her achieve her goal.
Gabby Duran and the Unsittables, by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners (AR level 5.4)
Main character: Gabby, who is incredible with children and a talented musician.
Problem: Gabby must take care of a child whose life is in danger. Additionally, if Gabby can keep this job a secret, she will earn a lot of money that she can save to help her attend her dream college in London.
Gabby is a famous babysitter. Celebrities around the world send limos and private jets so Gabby can babysit their kids. But Gabby gets a unique job offer to take care of alien children. Gabby is excited because this job pays extremely well. She is being raised by her mother and knows the extra money would really help her family. It will also allow her to save some money so she can attend an awesome music college in London. But there’s one big catch — Gabby can’t tell anyone about this top-secret job of watching aliens.
This becomes even more challenging when Gabby is told to babysit an alien child during school. Thankfully, the child can change forms. But as the school day progresses, an evil person finds out and tries to hurt the kid. Gabby’s love for this child puts herself in several dangerous and embarrassing situations. But her determination to protect this child ends up saving the child’s life and helping Gabby accomplish her musical goals as well.
Half a Chance, by Cynthia Lord (AR level 4.5)
Main character: Lucy, who is an amazing photographer.
Problem: Lucy wants to use her photography skills to make a friend’s grandmother have a memorable final summer at their lakeside cottage.
Lucy’s family has just moved to a small cottage near a lake in New Hampshire. Lucy becomes friends with her neighbor, Nate, whose grandmother suffers from a mental disability. Lucy decides to enter a photo contest and donate the money to Nate’s grandma if she wins. But there are many challenges for Lucy to even enter this contest, much less win it. Lucy experiences many setbacks in her plan. But through it all, she remains determined to help Nate’s grandmother have happy memories during her final summer at the lake.
Florida teachers — These books are on the 2016-17 grade 3-5 SSYRA list! I taught in Florida for five years and always loved reading the SSYRA books. I hope your kids will be able to read these.
My goal is to help teachers read quality literature with their students. I have created writing prompts and quizzes for all of these books. Click the image below to check them out! Note: When you click the link, the product in my TpT store will say “SSYRA Novel Studies” but it is still the novel studies for these five books.