Not so long ago, I got into a conversation with my son’s teacher about boys and books and how often our culture sends them the message that it’s not OK for them to read books about girls. She was definitely on board with the idea, but realized that she’d decided that her favorite fifth grade readaloud book with a girl lead, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, was too intense for the mixed 4/5 class she now teaches. Here are some books that I came up with – a mix of fantasy and historical fiction. While I’m not a classroom teacher, I have tested all but three of these on my own son. Links to my full reviews.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – This Newbery-honor-winning memoir mixes poignancy and humor in poetry that begs to be read aloud and that captured both of my children.
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede – Princess Cimorene runs away from the handsome prince and frilly dresses, preferring to deal with dragons and witches, as well as battling wizards.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. Book 1: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood. – A shy young governess must teach three children raised with wolves how to fit into proper British society. Mysterious secrets and hilarious scenarios abound.
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke – Igraine’s parents have accidentally transformed themselves into pigs, just when a wicked knight is trying to take over their castle and their famous magic books. It’s up to Igraine and her knightly training to save the day.
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis – This one might be tough for sensitive classes – there is some disturbing violence off-scene, and lots of injustice. But my son and I loved Deza, her love of words, and her struggle to keep her family together in the face of the Great Depression so much that I couldn’t leave it off.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. – Three sisters fly alone from New York to California one summer in the 1960s, experiencing the Civil Rights movement first-hand at the same time as trying to get along with each other and with their free-spirited poet mother.
Rose by Holly Webb – All orphaned Rose wants is a chance to earn a respectful living as a house maid. But when children start to go missing and she learns that the magical powers she’s never really believed in can help, she must learn how to use them.
Savvy by Ingrid Law – All the Beaumonts develop a special power, or “savvy” on their thirteenth birthdays. But on Mibs Beaumont’s birthday, things go so very wrong that she’s not sure she’ll be able to help her family or figure out what her savvy is. This is a warm and folksy contemporary fantasy.
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex – I know, I mention this book a lot. When Gratuity “Tip” Tucci’s mother is kidnapped by the alien Boov, she sets out to rescue her. Except that she ends up needing help from a Boov along the way. Silliness and adventure side-by-side with more serious topics like racism and imperialism.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones – An inner city girl recently moved to the country finds herself faced with – magical chickens? And a chicken thief? A delightful blend of humor and warmth.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin – an epic journey through folk tales, with a dragon.
What are your favorite read-alouds for fourth- and fifth-graders?