Thursday, December 6, 2018

Recommended Reads by Virginia Librarians for Middle Grade Social Studies

Happy Poetry Friday in December,

Holidays bring such magic. I hope you're feeling it. Congratulations to Elizabeth Steinglass on the upcoming publication of her new book, Soccerverse (Wordsong 2019). She is graciously hosting our round-up this week at her blog. Thank you, Liz!

Last week, I spent several amazing days with the Virginia Association of School Librarians to celebrate, talk shop and trade ideas about librarianship. I so enjoy the battery charge I get from VAASL 

My presentation partner, author and librarian Nancy Silcox, and I presented Recommended Reading by Virginia Librarians for Middle Grade Social Studies 1865-present.

Nancy and I talked dozens of books that Teacher Librarians and Social Studies teachers can collaborate on...with. The following books in verse are included.

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
Three Rivers Rising: a novel of the Johnstown Flood by Jame Richards
Carver: a life in poems by Marilyn Nelson
Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Silver People by Margarita Engle
The Watch That Ends the Night by Alan Wolf
Talkin' Bout Bessie by Nikki Grimes
Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell
Schomburg: the man who built a library by Carole Boston Weatherford
One Last Word by Nikki Grimes
Roots & Blues by Arnold Adoff
The Trial by Jen Bryant
Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse
You Can Fly: the Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford
Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai
Jazz Owls by Magarita Engle
Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe*
All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Loving vs. Virginia: a documentary novel of the landmark civil rights case by Patricia Hruby Powell
Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Enchanted air: two cultures, two wings: a memoir by Margarita Engle

*This book has content more mature than most for middle grade. It was presented as a book for teachers to read.

It was a joy sharing the power of poetry to provide paint history in a way that students can understand. Poetry seems to be enjoying a moment in today's kidlit world--including education. Verse can absolutely do the heavy lifting of history learning. Spread the word!

If there are titles you would like added to this bibliography for books in verse related to US History 1865-present click here.


  1. Thank you for including my verse novel THE TRIAL in this great list. I'm a huge fan of Marilyn Nelson (even took a workshop from her once here in PA) and I also love anything by Karen Hesse. Many other terrific authors and titles here, too. If you are adding to this list, my Knopf title RINGSIDE 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial would fall in this time frame and is also a novel in verse. As is KALEIDOSCOPE EYES (summer 1968, Vietnam, the Beatles, Janice Joplin, etc.) I'm going to add a few of these I haven't read to my holiday list!

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! It's super hard to be comprehensive. I knew I'd get more good ideas from the poets!

  2. I've read many and will continue to, Linda. Sounds like a wonderful time there. I always feel so FULL of inspiration after a conference. I'm reading Suzanne Slade's Countdown now, a look back in time for me & love it! And, it's old,but I would add Karen Hesse's Newbery winner, Out of The Dust. Thanks!

  3. This is such a great list! So helpful. I'm going to share.

  4. Great list, Linda! Thanks again for recommending COUNTDOWN to me. I loved it. A Wreath for Emmett Till is one of my all-time favorite. Marilyn Nelson is brilliant.

  5. I so appreciate your kind comments about COUNTDOWN! The research for the book was quite intense (it was incredible interviewing astronaut Alan Bean!) So it means a lot to hear of readers enjoying it. If you or your students are interested in the "story behind the story" with links to sources, here's a behind-the-scenes post about creating the book -
    Thanks! Suzanne

    1. Suzanne, if you haven't been invited to join in Poetry Friday yet, I invite you! It's a great weekly blog hop of poets that share all kinds of things from reviews to original poems, tries at a new form. For more info. on what Poetry Friday is go to this link.

      But, honestly, after reading that, I didn't fully "get it". So, all you need to do is post to your blog and find out who is hosting from the kidlitosphere website. Add your link to the weekly round-up

    2. Hi Linda! Thank for your kind invitation. I'm part of the Picture Book Builders blog with 7 other authors and illustrators. So I can join in for one of my posts if it's about children's poetry, correct? I appreciate your warm welcome!

  6. Thanks for this chock full of books post Linda! I've read many here and will look into more. "Enchanted Air" is wonderful as is "Brown Girl Dreaming, One Last Word, Josephine," and I really enjoyed Marilyn Nelson's "Carver: a life in poems," I felt like I was right there living his life with him via his plants and drawings.

  7. Great presentation, and so full of enticing options. I read KALEIDOSCOPE EYES by Jen Bryant--a great book with a powerful sense of setting, and I realize that your list is heavy on biography but it's not *uite clear which are the historical novels and which are the more nonfiction titles. What about BURN, BABY, BURN by Meg Medina?

    1. The bibliography has a narrow focus of 7th grade VA Soc. St. Standards 1865-present. The presentation for Teachers and Librarians included only books WWII - present as there were just so, so, so many books. If the list was for common core or other states the focus would be a bit wider. It was tough. We were swimming in titles. We tried to take only starred review books and books that we just loved (even if it didn't have a star review)

  8. What a fabulous resource! I'm glad you advocated for historical fiction in the verse novel format!

  9. I am bookmarking this page, Linda, and thank you for it. I am working with a school district's humanities department so this will become an asset. Can you please send me the link to your presentation on WW11? I can't seem to find the link. Thanks.


Friendly, positive comments and feedback are always welcome here. Please let me know I'm not just whistling in the dark!