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Six New Narrative Picture Books for Your Mentor Text Basket

I’ve been thinking a lot about the mentor texts we share with students at the beginning of the school year. In most classrooms, the school year begins with narrative writing. As I mentioned in my April 2019 post, “Curating an Array of Mentor Texts,” I think it’s important to use a variety of mentor texts that will match both the reading and writing abilities of students. It is critical to providing a variety of texts to meet students’ needs if we are committed to differentiating instruction.

Summer is nearly upon us. While we spend time relaxing and renewing ourselves during summer vacation, many of us reflect on the school year that has passed and think about ways to freshen up our practice for the following school year. Just as we revisit our teaching practices, we can reflect and refine the mentor texts we share with students in minilessons, writing conferences, and strategy lessons.

In “Inclusive Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing with a Social Justice Lens,” I shared some questions to consider when selecting books to share for writing workshop. While I hope you’ll read the whole post, here are some of the questions, which Melanie Meehan adapted from Social Justice Books, to help teachers think about cultural awareness when selecting picture books to share with kids in writing workshop.

Click on the image to enlarge.

I want to help you get started on your quest by sharing some newer picture books (most of which create cultural awareness)  that can serve as exemplary mentor texts to lift the level of students’ narrative writing.

Because by Mo Willems and Amber Ren

Publisher’s Summary: Mo Willems, a number one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, composes a powerful symphony of chance, discovery, persistence, and magic in this moving tale of a young girl’s journey to center stage. Illustrator Amber Ren brings Willems’ music to life, conducting a stunning picture-book debut.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: The Way We Are Known Ending; Developing Setting/Creating a Sense of Era Lead; Movement of Time and Place; Pacing; Precise Nouns; Punctuation to Create Voice (e.g., commas, dashes); Repetition; Vivid Verbs;

Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons and Daniel Minter

Publisher’s Summary: “On reunion morning, we rise before the sun. Daddy hums as he packs our car with suitcases and a cooler full of snacks. He says there’s nothing like going down home.”
Down home is Granny’s house. Down home is where Lil’ Alan and his parents and sister will join great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Down home is where Lil’ Alan will hear stories of the ancestors and visit the land that has meant so much to all of them. And down home is where all of the children will find their special way to pay tribute to family history. All the kids have to decide on what tribute to share, but what will Lil’ Alan do? 

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: Character Details; Dialogue Advances the Story; Circular Ending; Hyphenated Words; Internal Thinking; Combination Lead (i.e., developing setting/meeting the characters); Power of Three; Setting Details; Show, Not Tell; Varied Sentence Lengths.

Ojichan’s Gift by Chieri Uegaki and Genevieve Simms

Publisher’s Summary: When Mayumi was born, her grandfather created a garden for her. It was unlike any other garden she knew. It had no flowers or vegetables. Instead, Ojiichan made it out of stones: big ones, little ones and ones in-between. Every summer, Mayumi visits her grandfather in Japan, and they tend the garden together. Raking the gravel is her favorite part. Afterward, the two of them sit on a bench and enjoy the results of their efforts in happy silence. But then one summer, everything changes. Ojiichan has grown too old to care for his home and the garden. He has to move. Will Mayumi find a way to keep the memory of the garden alive for both of them? 

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: Back Matter (i.e., translations and pronunciations of Japanese words); Strong Character Development; Code Switching; Dialogue That Advances the Story; Combination Ending (i.e., final action/wraparound) Developing Setting Lead; Movement of Time and Place; Precise Words; Show, Not Tell; Varied Sentence Lengths;

Pup 681: A Sea Otter Rescue Story by Jean Reidy and Ashley Crowley

Publisher’s Summary: Washed ashore alone, a tiny sea otter pup needs help! Soon, a rescuer is there, to take her in and keep her warm and fed. The pup faces challenges in her new life without her sea otter family. But with the love and care of her rescuer, she flourishes in her new home. Inspired by a true story, Pup 681 is a heartwarming and hopeful tale about family and love.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: Author’s Note; Back Matter (i.e., fact sheet); Combination Ending (i.e., accomplishments/advice to the reader); Heart of the Story Unfolds Bit-by-Bit; Setting Details Lead; Interesting Print Layout; Punctuation to Create Voice (e.g., dashes, ellipses points, varied end punctuation); Speech Bubbles; Varied Sentence Lengths.

The Snow Lion by Jim Helmore and Richard Jones

Publisher’s Summary: After moving to a new home, Caro wishes she had a friend, but she’s too shy to meet the neighborhood kids. With a little imagination, however, Caro finds the Snow Lion. Together, they have all kinds of fun racing, climbing, and playing hide-and-seek. But when the boy next door asks Caro to come play, Caro isn’t so sure. Then, the Snow Lion has an idea! Making new friends isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it in the end.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: Dialogue to Advance the Story, Wraparound Ending; Setting Details Lead; Interesting Print Layout; Punctuation to Create Voice (e.g., ellipses points); Varied Sentence Lengths; Vivid Verbs.

What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison

Publisher’s Summary: “Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

A Few Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: Dialogue That Advances the Story; Connecting with the Reader/Discovery Ending; Internal Thinking; Taking Readers Into the Past Lead; Movement of Time and Place; Precise Words; Punctuation to Create Voice (e.g., commas in lists, dashes); Strong Character Details.

All of the craft moves listed above are explained in the glossary of Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts.

Once you get these books – and others – in your hands, check out Melanie Meehan’s posts about pathways for narrative writing! Click here to read part one and click here to read part two.

Giveaway Information:

This giveaway is for a copy of each of the following books: Because, Going Down Home with Daddy, Ojichan’s Gift, Pup 681: A Sea Otter Story, The Snow Lion, What Is Given from the Heart. Many thanks to Henry Holt, Hyperion, Kids Can Press, Peachtree Publishing Company, and Schwartz & Wade for donating a copy of each of these books for one lucky reader.

For a chance to win these six books, please leave a comment about this post by Friday, June 7th at 11:59 a.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 Sunday, June 9th.

NOTE: You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter this giveaway.

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 of the above-mentioned publishers will ship your books out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)

If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – NEW NARRATIVE PICTURE BOOKS. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Comments are now closed. Thank you to everyone who left a comment. Mrs. Abbey’s Class‘s commenter number came up when I did the drawing so she’ll win the books contained in this post.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

186 thoughts on “Six New Narrative Picture Books for Your Mentor Text Basket Leave a comment

  1. Because is an amazing book, and will be a first-rate mentor text for recognizing cause and effect, and for understanding what sparks you to do something. Love the Patricia McKissack book – what a beautiful story to empower young writers. I look forward to reading and using ALL the titles!

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  2. Goes right along with the Writing Strategies book I am currently working through. Mentor texts are an incredibly helpful teaching tool when teaching writing to young children.

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  3. I am currently compiling a list of books for a new reading buddies program with 4K students across town. These books would make geat additions to that list as well as serve as mentor texts for the older students!

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  4. I love these books, what is even better is the writer’s craft ideas you have included. Sometimes, it’s hard to find a specific book to match the writing craft you are teaching. Thank you for putting it all together for us! I can’t wait to get started in the fall!

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  5. Thank you for sharing these titles as well as ideas for using them. It is so important that students have examples, good examples to see. I am unfamiliar with these titles so I am very excited to check them out.

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  6. Looks like a great selection of mentor texts! So excited to hear the buzz again about using the mentor texts in writing too. So powerful.

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  7. What an amazing array of multicultural text that provide positive lens for students to view themselves from. The craft moves included are awesome! The text also lend themselves to showing that students are more alike than different which sparks meaningful conversation and authentic writing.

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  8. This is a great list and great point- mentor texts are a perfect way to engage our students in texts that expose them to new ideas, cultures, and respect for differences!

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  9. I just finished my very first year teaching kindergarten!!! I would love to add these to my library! I really appreciate all your posts!

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  10. Always on the lookout for new narrative picture book titles, and thanks for including the list of possible craft moves!

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    • As a director of early literacy, I am always looking for books to share with my teachers that reflect the many different children that we teach everyday.

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  11. I am new to teaching literacy and these serve as great tools to help assist me in not only my shared reading time but also for my classroom library.

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  12. Looking forward to reading these books at my local bookstore, Book People this afternoon! Thank you for the recommendations & specific craft moves to be on the lookout for.

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  13. These would be amazing for our teachers and school counselor because next year social justice and equity are going to be part of our focus. As a high poverty school many of our students have never gone beyond their home and school. Plus, I would especially love having Ojiichan’s Gift because I am Japanese American, my two daughters call my father Ojiisan and when we visit they get to see the garden that he has had my whole life. It would be nice to share that with my students!

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  14. One of the most powerful teaching moves I’ve made in recent years is to include a “classroom book a day” (i.e. picture book a day) in my fourth grade classroom. Endless possibilities for teaching AND the kids love it. Would love to add these to my collection.

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  15. These look amazing and diverse. I know my second graders love experiencing, connecting to, and learning about different cultures through impactful literature. I’m definitely adding some to my teacher favorites bin (aka mentor text)Thank you for sharing.

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  16. While I read tons over the summer, you reminded me of the importance of reflecting on the mentor texts I use throughout the year. I definitely need to do this. I enjoyed reading the list of craft moves you gave for each book. What great suggestions.Thank you.

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  17. This is a timely topic for me as i just read an Edutopia article on reading aloud to middle schoolers. I teach at-promise eighth and ninth grade students at a Title One middle school where our reading zones literally begin range between below reading all the way up to my honors English I ninth grade class. To say that my precious students have limited reading success and are seemingly reluctant and disengaged learners is as accurate as it is woefully sad. At any rate, I truly believe that this series of books–specifically as mentor texts, can serve only to enrich the learners–students and educators alike–winning notwithstanding.

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  18. I love using “kid books” as read-aloud mentor texts for my 6th graders. They act like they are too grown up for carpet time and a story, but at the end of the year so many of them mention “story time” in their reflections.

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  19. What a beautiful article. I love the premise for book selections, and also all the craft moves we could teach children from these mentor texts. I look forward to reading & purchasing many of these texts this summer. Thank you!

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  20. Thank you for sharing these mentor texts. I nearly bought Because at our school book fair. It’s a beautiful book. I would love to win the set and share them with my staff.

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  21. This is an amazing selection of books! Yes, please enter me in the drawing. These are the kind of books that open doorways for grand conversations with kids.

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  22. Love this selection! I’m so appreciative of recommendations as I learn more about the importance of social justice. What a powerful, beautiful way to begin the year!

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  23. Always exciting to hear about new picture books! I’ve been working with my MS and HS teachers on incorporating them into their ELA lessons.

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  24. Thanks, Stacey! Perfect time to be looking at new books!

    Can’t wait to to share all of your links! I so appreciate that TWT is always a rich source for writing teachers, workshop teachers and writing workshop teachers! ❤

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  25. I’m always looking for mentor texts that students can relate to. I would love to have these titles for my writer to learn some crafts.

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  26. I wish there was a job for curating mentor texts as that’s where most of my paycheck already goes! I’m always on the look out for books that speak first to the minds and hearts of teachers, students, family, and community. We are so lucky picture books and their authors have become more and more diverse around various cultures and experiences so that as bishop so brilliantly says so books become mirrors, windows, and doors. The collection you shared would do just that! I would love to add these to my collection and share with both teachers and students. Icing on the cake is the multiple and various applications they can have to highlight the skills noted. It’s so important that we choose Texts wisely with intention so they transfer long lasting meaning reaching heart, mind, and soul.

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  27. This looks like an amazing list – and it reminds me so much of the one that Claire Landrigan shared earlier this week on the Book Love Elementary Summer Book Club Facebook Live post. Thanks for gathering a treasure trove of texts for us!

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    • Such a great collection of books to inspire. I can’t wait to check them out. Thanks for sharing these titles as well as craft lesson ideas!!

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  28. Thank you so much for including the craft moves I can demonstrate with these new titles. That’s where I always need guidance. I love the books but have trouble noticing all the ways I can utilize them when teaching my students. Hope I get a chance to try them out next year.

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  29. Thank you, Stacey, for once again giving us ample ideas for teaching craft moves. These look like wonderful books to enrich the diversity of a classroom collection. Happy summer!

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  30. My teammates and I have been building a new middle school unit using realistic fiction to examine identity and perspective– I would LOVE to add in some new picture books to complement their study!

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  31. I believe in the importance of mentor texts, but I have so few. It is so difficult to find culturally diverse books that are appealing to the needs of today’s children. I would love to include these texts in my collection.

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  32. Thanks for sharing the craft moves you will specifically find in each of these mentor texts. Beautiful stories with so much to offer.

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  33. Such a wonderful collection of mentor texts. These would be great to share with our young writers. Thanks for keeping us current with valuable resources.

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  34. WOW!! I’m always on the lookout for new book titles for narrative writing. I have a few favorites, yet love/need something new and refreshing to lift my “game!” Thanks for sharing Stacey!

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  35. As an administrator of a workshop school, I’m always looking for resources to support my teachers with Interactive Read Aloud and mentor texts. This post is so helpful!

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  36. Thanks, Stacy,

    After the past years professionally in the intermediate to MS world my head has been more in YA, and intermediate titles. With my return back to primary, I am looking for some strong new PBs. This is an outstanding list. I will begin looking for these.

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  37. I love these ideas. I am moving from 4th grade to second grade in a community where students have many challenges on a daily basis that keep them from being ready to learn. These books appear to reflect many of the issues they face. I would live to add them to my library.

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  38. I always look forward to these posts – the craft moves mentioned are both familiar and new and I find myself retagging some of my mentor texts with new ideas. Oh, and these posts also prompt a brief spending spree – So many good titles!

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  39. While integrating stories of creativity, joy, celebration, and resistance of people of color, teachers are raising the voice of ALL their students. This is what education looks like in a democracy. Thank you.

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  40. With more and more teachers being pushed to “teach The Box with fidelity”, it is critically important that we continue to advocate for best practices. Thank you for providing a collection of thoughtful works that diverse students can see themselves in. It is important that we also share the purpose of these stories with the adults who are clueless about the missed opportunities of not having them embedded in our lessons.

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  41. Thanks for the ideas! Also for another reminder of the questions to ask myself as I reflect on the stories I read to and with my students.

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  42. I love that you listed the possible craft moves. So helpful! I am excited to have this post as a resource to share with teachers when they are looking for mentor texts!

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  43. Wow! What a great collection of fresh mentor texts! I’m so thankful for this list. I’m adding each book to my Amazon cart right now!

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  44. Beautiful choices! I teach high school but love using my collection of picture books to teach craft moves. Love incorporating social justice teachings, too.

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  45. Oh my goodness!! Thank you for not only sharing new mentor text book titles, but also possible craft moves with each one!! AND on top of that, giving the books away! Thank you!!

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  46. Thank you for the chance to win such wonderful books. I only heard about one of the books you listed. Great information. Thanks for sharing.

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  47. I truly need new mentor texts to go Ali g with my first grade writing. Our writing curriculum in our district is poor and our students writing has gone way downhill since we switched curriculums. I need to raise my expectations for this next school year.

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  48. Thank you for this list. I always use mentor text to teach writing craft and I especially am thrilled to use texts with a sharp cultural or social justice lens.

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  49. These look like wonderful mentor texts! I am always trying to find new literature to share with my students. These would be perfect for our small moments unit. How exciting!

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  50. I love your short little book talk summary and then the suggestions for teaching craft. So much more powerful to actually see it in text before fore attempting to write.

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  51. What powerful new mentor text selections. Thanks you for sharing these titles with us and for this giveaway. Your recommendations and teaching points are helpful and much appreciated. These books are going on my list for next year’s kiddos!!

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  52. I absolutely love Writers Workshop and use mentor texts every step of the way with my K students! These books would be a wonderful addition to my “basket”. I love the way the article shared ways to use these texts with our Ss. Mentor texts and noticing a are such powerful motivation to help our students see themselves as authors and to grow their thinking as writers! I’m excited to be a new follower!

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  53. I love the variety of books you shared along with the summary and the precise way each book might be used with the students! This is extremely valuable. I also think I have my book for my first read aloud to build community—-The Snow Lion!!! Thank you!!

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  54. Two Writing Teachers,
    Thank you so much for all of your insight! I especially love when you share new mentor texts! Each of these sound wonderful and would be a great addition to my library!

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  55. It’s great to see such diversity in topics and authors chosen as mentor text examples – thank you! It would be wonderful to share these books with teachers in my Summer Writing Institute.

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  56. This reminds me of Peggy McIntosh’s article, “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” We all need mirrors and books are such a powerful way to help us all feel seen, valued, and represented!

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  57. I have been making a real conscious effort to make sure I am choosing books that reflect my students and readers in them. Mentor texts are always cherished and provide a gateway into the further learning and reading we do together.

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  58. Bringing diverse mentor texts into the classroom was something I focused on this year. During literary essay writing, I watched students select a book to analyze that they connected with. Making books available that students could see themselves in allowed this to happen in a meaningful way, which resulted in stronger writing. I would love to add these titles to my mentor text basket. Thank you for sharing this post.

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  59. Thank you for the opportunity! These books all look fabulous, and they’re making me excited and recharged for next year’s narrative launch! Diversifying the literature we share with students is SO important!

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