10 Topic Choice Mentor Texts + 10 Book Giveaways

Please leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of one of these picture books.  (Be sure to read the giveaway information at the bottom of the post for instructions about how to enter.)

Please leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of one of these picture books. (Be sure to read the giveaway information at the bottom of the post for instructions about how to enter.)

Most likely you’ve spent the first six weeks of the school year showing your students how to live like a writer. You’ve read them books that will inspire them to write.  You’ve created heart maps, identity charts, visual writer introductions, and/or writing territories.  You’ve taught minilessons that have provided students with strategies for generating narrative writing.   You’ve called them writers.  You’ve done all this and probably more.  YET, you still have a few students who claim:

I don’t know what to write about.

or

I have nothing to write about.

Or a parent calls or e-mails you to tell you their child feels as though they’re being tortured by being asked to write every night since they have nothing to write about every single night.

You have two choices when you have students like this.

  • Option A: Throw up your hands and say, “I’ve done enough! There’s nothing else I can do. I have other kids to worry about.”
  • Option B:  You keep looking for ways to inspire the student to write in his/her writer’s notebook because you know s/he has something to say.

I’m assuming you’ve chosen the second option (since you’re still with me).

First, remind students “You don’t have to write, you get to write.”  Next, examine the students(s) heart map or writing territories to figure out what makes him/her tick.  Then, grab a picture book you think will be the spark to help the child want to write in his/her writer’s notebook.  It doesn’t have to be a touchstone text… it can be a special book you share with the reluctant writer in your midst.

I’ve been reading even more picture books than usual since I’m searching for texts to use in small group lessons for my forthcoming book from Stenhouse.  As I was reviewing books last month, I started a pile of topic mentors.  They were books that I thought might inspire kids to write about a particular experience, interest, or person.  Before I knew it, my stack of new picture books grew. Once I reached ten I realized it was time to share my list of titles with you.

[NOTE: Unlike most of my mentor text posts, this one does not provide you with specific ways to use each book.  Please know each can be used to teach young writers a variety of craft moves.]

9780763676216Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui

Publisher’s Summary: Everyone knows that a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. But in this clever, visually enchanting volume, it’s also true that a cow can result in both a bottle of milk and a painting of a cow, and an ape in a jungle may become an urban King Kong. Just as day turns into night and back again, a many-tiered cake is both created and eaten down to a single piece. With simple, graphic illustrations sure to appeal to even the youngest of children, this beautiful rumination on the passage of time will please the most discerning adult readers, too.

What’s next for writers:

  • Design a series of before and after illustrations in the writer’s notebook.
  • Do some before/after writing inspired by one of the before/after image sets in the book.
  • Craft topical writing based off of one of the pictures (e.g., the before/after image of the cocoa bean and the chocolate bar might lead to an entry about the time a child baked something from scratch).

HanaHashimotoSixthViolin_2276_HC.inddHana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki and Qin Leng 

Publisher’s Summary: In this beautifully written picture book, Hana Hashimoto has signed up to play her violin at her school’s talent show. The trouble is, she’s only a beginner, and she’s had only three lessons. Her brothers insist she isn’t good enough. “It’s a talentshow, Hana,” they tell her. “You’ll be a disaster!” Hana remembers how wonderfully her talented grandfather, or Ojiichan, played his violin when she was visiting him in Japan. So, just like Ojiichan, Hana practices every day. She is determined to play her best. When Hana’s confidence wavers on the night of the show, however, she begins to wonder if her brothers were right. But then Hana surprises everyone once it’s her turn to perform — even herself!

What’s next for writers:

  • Write about a time you surprised yourself and/or others with something you could do.
  • Compose an entry about a time all eyes were on you.
  • Craft some writing about something you’re passionate about (e.g., music!) and show why it matters to you.

Little Elliot Big City coverLittle Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato

Publisher’s Summary: Amid the hustle and bustle of the big city, the big crowds and bigger buildings, Little Elliot leads a quiet life. In spite of the challenges he faces, Elliot finds many wonderful things to enjoy—like cupcakes! And when his problems seem insurmountable, Elliot discovers something even sweeter—a friend.

What’s next for writers:

  • Write about a problem or a challenge you faced and how you overcame it.
  • Describe something small that brings you joy.
  • Compose some writing about a time you helped a friend or vice versa.

LouiseArt_cvrLouise Loves Art by Kelly Light

Publisher’s Summary: Meet Louise. Louise loves art more than anything. It’s her imagination on the outside. She is determined to create a masterpiece—her pièce de résistance! Louise also loves Art, her little brother. This is their story. Louise Loves Art is a celebration of the brilliant artist who resides in all of us.

What’s next for writers:

  • Describe your hobby or passion and why it matters to you.
  • Tell about a time you thought a younger sibling or cousin ruined something.
  • Write about your sibling and why s/he matters to you.

978-0-385-37908-3Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean by Jane Lynch, Lara Embry, Ph.D., A.E. Mikesell, and Tricia Tusa

Publisher’s Summary: Marlene is the self-appointed queen of the playground, the sidewalk, and the school. She is small but mighty . . . intimidating! Known for her cruel ways, the little Queen of Mean has kids cowering in fear—until big Freddy stands up to her and says what everyone has been too fearful to say. In Seussian rhyme, actress Jane Lynch, clinical psychologist Lara Embry, and former children’s book editor A. E. Mikesell gently and comically depict the undoing of a bully and her efforts to reform. Tricia Tusa’s charming illustrations make the story an even more accessible conversation starter for all ages.

What’s next for writers:

  • Write about a time you were bullied and how it made you feel.
  • Describe a time you were unkind to someone.  Consider rewriting that scene and changing your actions in your writing.
  • Formulate some ideas for how you and your peers can stop bullying so all kids feel safe.

Miles BOB cover-pageMiles is the Boss of His Body by Abby Schiller and Samantha Kurtzman-Counter

Publisher’s Summary: Miles Is The Boss Of His Body is a fun, engaging way to explore the potentially difficult topic of kids’ personal safety.  On his 6th birthday, Miles’ excitement is dimmed when he finds himself being pinched, noogied, hugged too tight, picked up and tickled by his well-intentioned family and decides he’s had enough!  When Miles decrees that he is the “Boss of his body,” his whole family expresses support and respect for his personal boundaries.  In a colorful, comic-book style, young kids will laugh while learning this potentially life-saving concept that can benefit them for years to come.

What’s next for writers:

  • Describe a family gathering (or other event) where you were hugged or had your cheeks pinched one too many times.
  • Write about the way you say hello and good-bye at family gatherings.  How does it make you feel?
  • Create an entry about how you handle awkward situations.

Note: You can enter to win a copy of this book by leaving a comment below.  (Please see the “giveaway information” section of this post for details.) Also, all ‘Two Writing Writing’ friends receive a 10% discount off the book.  Buy the book on themotherco.com and enter ‘TwoWritingTeachers’ as the discount code.

MixItUp_FC_3D_HiResMix It Up! by Hervé Tullet

Publisher’s Summary: Accept Hervé Tullet’s irresistible invitation to mix it up in a dazzling adventure of whimsy and wonder. Follow the artist’s simple instructions, and suddenly colors appear, mix, splatter, and vanish in a world powered only by the reader’s imagination. Tullet—who joins such greats as Eric Carle and Leo Lionni as a master of his craft—sets readers on an extraordinary interactive journey all within the printed page. Tullet prompts plenty of giggles in addition to a profound understanding of colors, and once again displays his unique genius and vision in a work that is a glorious and richly satisfying companion to Press Here.Accept Hervé Tullet’s irresistible invitation to mix it up in a dazzling adventure of whimsy and wonder. Follow the artist’s simple instructions, and suddenly colors appear, mix, splatter, and vanish in a world powered only by the reader’s imagination. Tullet—who joins such greats as Eric Carle and Leo Lionni as a master of his craft—sets readers on an extraordinary interactive journey all within the printed page. Tullet prompts plenty of giggles in addition to a profound understanding of colors, and once again displays his unique genius and vision in a work that is a glorious and richly satisfying companion to Press Here.

What’s next for writers:

  • Make colors come alive by create a series of illustrations that tell a story.
  • Write an entry that engages your audience, speaking directly to them, like Tullet did in Mix It Up!
  • Craft some writing about creating with your hands. Talk about why being an artist matters to you.

9780399160950_Mr._Wayne's_MasterpieceMr. Wayne’s Masterpiece by Patricia Polacco

Publisher’s Summary: Speaking in front of an audience terrifies Trisha. Ending up in Mr. Wayne’s drama class is the last thing she wants! But Mr. Wayne gives her a backstage role painting scenery for the winter play. As she paints, she listens to the cast rehearse, memorizing their lines without even realizing it. Then, days before opening night, the lead actress suddenly moves away, and Trisha is the only other person who knows her part. Will the play have to be canceled? It won’t be an easy road—when Trisha tries to recite the lines in front of the cast, nothing comes out! But Mr. Wayne won’t let her give up, and with his coaching, Trisha is able to become one of his true masterpieces.

What’s next for writers:

  • Write about trying something new for the first time.
  • Craft an entry about a special person who inspired you to be a better version of yourself.
  • Compose some writing about a fear and how you might overcome it.

9780544104433_hresNana in the City by Lauren Castillo

Publisher’s Summary: In this magical picture book, a young boy spends an overnight visit with his nana and is frightened to find that the city where she lives is filled with noise and crowds and scary things. But then Nana makes him a special cape to help him be brave, and soon the everyday sights, sounds, and smells of the city are not scary—but wonderful. The succinct text is paired with watercolor illustrations that capture all the vitality, energy, and beauty of the city.

What’s next for writers:

  • Tell about a special time with a loved one away from home.
  • Explain how you overcame a fear.
  • Write about a place that feels like anything but home.

image001You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant

Publisher’s Summary: Two fuzzy creatures can’t agree on who is small and who is big, until a couple of surprise guests show up, settling it once and for all! The simple text of Anna Kang and bold illustrations of New Yorker cartoonist Christopher Weyant tell an original and very funny story about size—it all depends on who’s standing next to you.

What’s next for writers:

  • Record a back and forth conversation or argument with a friend that holds meaning or value.
  • Describe the way labels can hurt feelings.
  • Write about a disagreement with a friend/family member and how it worked out.

May I suggest reading one or more of these books on your own and allowing them to inspire your own writing?  If you do this, then you can show your students how you allowed your reading to inspire your writing, which may, in turn, inspire them to write off of one of these books too.

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • Ten publishing houses are giving away one copy of each book listed above.  Many thanks to Candlewick Press, Chronicle Books, Clarion Books, Harper, Henry Holt and Co., Kids Can Press, Penguin, Random House, The Mother Company, and Two Lions for donating a copy for TWT readers.
  • For a chance to win this copy of one of the titles above, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, October 21st at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Wednesday, October 23rd.
    • NOTES:
      • I will draw the winners’ names and assign the books at random unless you state, in your comment, which books you’re most interested in using in your classroom and why.  Preference will be given to those (whose names are chosen) who mention specific titles in their comments.
      • Listing the name of the book doesn’t guarantee you’ll win a copy of it if your name is one of the ten chosen since multiple people might request the same book(s).
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contacts at each publishing house will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)

Comments are now closed.

What a tremendous response to this post!  Wow!  I’m delighted so many people were enthusiastic about these titles.

I used a random number generator to select the ten winners, then I did my best to match people up to the books they mentioned in their comments.  If you didn’t win one of the books, then I hope you’ll support these authors and your local bookstore by purchasing one or more of them.

Here’s who’ll be getting the books: