I’ve already said how important I think picturebooks are throughout out primary school (see the blog below) so i’m not going to be a stuck record. Instead I’m just going to share some more books that work phenomenally well in year 6. They are mature, thoughtful , complex and challenging as all the best books are. Hope the list is useful
I’ve included a link to my previous Year 6 list, many of these would work well alongside others in that list.
The Phonebooth in Mr Hirota’s Garden by Heather Smith and Rachel Wada
When the tsunami destroyed Makio’s village, Makio lost his father . . . and his voice. The entire village is silenced by grief, and the young child’s anger at the ocean grows. Then one day his neighbor, Mr. Hirota, begins a mysterious project–building a phone booth in his garden. At first Makio is puzzled; the phone isn’t connected to anything. It just sits there, unable to ring. But as more and more villagers are drawn to the phone booth, its purpose becomes clear to Makio: the disconnected phone is connecting people to their lost loved ones. Makio calls to the sea to return what it has taken from him and ultimately finds his voice and solace in a phone that carries words on the wind.
The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden is inspired by the true story of the wind phone in Otsuchi, Japan, which was created by artist Itaru Sasaki. He built the phone booth so he could speak to his cousin who had passed, saying, “My thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind.” The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the town of Otsuchi, claiming 10 percent of the population. Residents of Otsuchi and pilgrims from other affected communities have been traveling to the wind phone since the tsunami.
A beautiful tale of love, loss and grief. The book is both emotional and hopeful and made me think of all those thing I would loved to have say to someone I lost. A powerful book about family and moments that would work perfectly in a Year 6 class to help them think about the important moments and the things they value. It is both artistically magical and wonderfully poetic and thought-provoking.
The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby
A picture book biography of Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon, Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics.
What is important about Margaret Wise Brown?
In 42 inspiring pages, this biography by award-winning writer Mac Barnett vividly depicts one of the greatest children’s book creators who ever lived: Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and The Little Fur Family. Illustrated with sumptuous art by rising star Sarah Jacoby, this is essential reading for children’s book lovers of every age
“No good book is loved by everyone, and any good book is bound to bother somebody.”
It is a beautiful picturebook biography about a children’s author who has been a little lost. This book however is so much more than that. It is wise, philosophical and just plain wonderful. It is also about challenging orthodoxy, resilience. It’s about passion and beliefs, it ultimately a testament to a great children’s author. It’s marvellous
It’s just one of those books.
A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui
As a young boy, Bao Phi awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam.
A gentle yet powerful read that is about family, coming of age and about the lived experience of immigrants. It is beautifully illustrated book that gently handles the topic of struggling immigrant families. While fishing, a Vietnamese father connects the experience to his childhood. His young son recognizes that as an immigrant family there are challenges- his parents work at multiple jobs and their fishing trips are for food, not sport. I liked the feeling of a close family working together to make their way in another country. As the tale is semi-autobiographical this brings a welcome angle on immigration.
The Dam by David Almond and Levi Pinfold
A haunting, stunningly illustrated story of loss, hope, and the power of music from multi-award winners David Almond and Levi Pinfold.
Kielder Water is a wild and beautiful place, rich in folk music and legend. Years ago, before a great dam was built to fill the valley with water, there were farms and homesteads in that valley and musicians who livened their rooms with song. After the village was abandoned and before the waters rushed in, a father and daughter returned there. The girl began to play her fiddle, bringing her tune to one empty house after another — for this was the last time that music would be heard in that place. With exquisite artwork by Levi Pinfold, David Almond’s lyrical narrative — inspired by a true tale — pays homage to his friends Mike and Kathryn Tickell and all the musicians of Northumberland, to show that music is ancient and unstoppable, and that dams and lakes cannot overwhelm it.
The Dam is stunning. This is a last farewell to a drowning village but also a story of hope, renewal and rebirth as the lake becomes a place for families to visit and spend time together. Pinfold’s art is as vital to the story as Almond’s words and the create a magical ethereal book that. It’s perfect for Key Stage 2 and explores, progress, time, change and sustainability. Couple it with some traditional folk music and you have a thing of power, beauty, tradition and joy. Below is a link to the Radio 4 program.
BOX. Henry Brown Mails Himself To Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Michelle Wood
In a moving, lyrical tale about the cost and fragility of freedom, a New York Times best-selling author and an acclaimed artist follow the life of a man who courageously shipped himself out of slavery.
What have I to fear?
My master broke every promise to me.
I lost my beloved wife and our dear children.
All, sold South. Neither my time nor my body is mine.
The breath of life is all I have to lose.
And bondage is suffocating me.
Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known as Box, he “entered the world a slave.” He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next — as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope — and help — came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape!
In stanzas of six lines each, each line representing one side of a box, celebrated poet Carole Boston Weatherford powerfully narrates Henry Brown’s story of how he came to send himself in a box from slavery to freedom. Strikingly illustrated in rich hues and patterns by artist Michele Wood, Box is augmented with historical records and an introductory excerpt from Henry’s own writing as well as a time line, notes from the author and illustrator, and a bibliography.
I love Henry’s Freedom Box, its a powerful story well told for children. This takes that story and adds details. It’s both historically richer and in detail. That the story is told in six line poems to represent the sides of the box is both clever and powerful. Rich in language and art. This is perfect for Year 6 and a perfect book for now.
Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall by Derek Hughes and Nathan Christopher
“Wickedly, subversively brilliant.” – Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“This book cracked me up and left a smile on my face (spoiler alert)” – Adam Rubin, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Dragons Love Tacos
Looks like the wall has finally met its match. This classic tale gets a modern twist with a Humpty Dumpty for a new generation.
“Humpty Dumpty lived near a wall…” begins this well-known fable. But this time Humpty is ready for battle, with a secret mission and a touch of mischief. Can all the King’s horses and all the King’s men help put Humpty together again? Or maybe the mission, no matter how small, is simply to question the point of a wall.
Subversive, playful, completely not really for kids, artistically stunning. This is a book about rebellion, and hope. This is a Humpty Dumpty for now and does that wonderful thing of reflecting on the now. Perfect for inspiring twisted tales but even better for helping children see that there are other ways and that you can and should question.
The Wind In The Wall by Sally Gardner and Rovina Cai
‘I have no idea how long I have been incarcerated in these ancient walls . . . Let me explain how I find myself in this predicament . . .’Set in the hot houses of a stately home in eighteenth century England, a gardener falls from grace when the Duke sets him the impossible task of growing prize pineapples fit to show off in high society.The gardener’s star falls further when he is replaced by Mr Amicus, a pineapple ‘specialist’, whom he believes to be a charlatan and a trickster – but nevertheless miraculously produces fruit to delight the Duke. Determined to uncover Mr Amicus’s tricks, the gardener sneaks into the pineapple house to uncover the mysterious shrouded birdcage Mr Amicus carries with him. And what he finds changes his life for ever . . .A cautionary tale with echoes of myth and fairy tale, this bewitching fable will make you careful what you wish for.
Not so much a picturebook , more of a fantastically illustrated fable. (think the Highwayman). It brings all the ingredients together with lyrical, dense language, a compelling dark narrative and is topped off by Cai’s powerful sweeping art. It’s a beauty.
Silent Days, Silent Dreams By Allen Say
James Castle was born two months premature on September 25, 1899, on a farm in Garden Valley, Idaho. He was deaf, mute, autistic, and probably dyslexic. He didn’t walk until he was four; he would never learn to speak, write, read, or use sign language.
Yet, today Castle’s artwork hangs in major museums throughout the world. The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened “James Castle: A Retrospective” in 2008. The 2013 Venice Biennale included eleven works by Castle in the feature exhibition “The Encyclopedic Palace.” And his reputation continues to grow.
Caldecott Medal winner Allen Say, author of the acclaimed memoir Drawing from Memory, takes readers through an imagined look at Castle’s childhood, allows them to experience his emergence as an artist despite the overwhelming difficulties he faced, and ultimately reveals the triumphs that he would go on to achieve.
Strikingly illustrated this is a book about acceptance, prejudice, perseverance and ultimately recognition. This is a harrowing, heart-breaking true story that raises huge questions about how we value difference. It is also about the importance of art and the value it brings to our lives. Not bad for kids book.
Flight for Freedom By Kristen Fulton and Torben Kuhlmann
An Inspiring True Story about One Family’s Escape from Behind the Berlin Wall!
Peter was born on the east side of Germany, the side that wasn’t free. He watches news programs rather than cartoons, and wears scratchy uniforms instead of blue jeans. His family endures long lines and early curfews. But Peter knows it won’t always be this way. Peter and his family have a secret. Late at night in their attic, they are piecing together a hot air balloon—and a plan. Can Peter and his family fly their way to freedom? This is the true story of one child, Peter Wetzel, and his family, as they risk their lives for the hope of freedom in a daring escape from East Germany via a handmade hot air balloon in 1979.
• A perfect picture book for educators teaching about the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, and East Germany
• Flight for Freedom is a showcase for lessons of bravery, heroism, family, and perseverance, as well as stunning history.
• Includes detailed maps of the Wetzel family’s escape route and diagrams of their hot air balloon
Thanks to Paul Watson for the heads up on this. It’s a great story of hope and determination. I’d couple this with “The Wall” by Peter Sis ( I recommended it in my other Year 6 list) and you get a real feel for life on the otherside of the Wall. A great historical story, well told.
The Bird within Me by Sara Lundberg
What do you do when it feels impossible to live the life that is expected of you? What do you do when you long for something that you can hardly name?
Berta is a twelve-year-old girl growing up on a farm in a small village in northern Sweden in the early twentieth century. She loves drawing and painting more than anything else, and secretly dreams of being an artist. But her mother is sick and Berta is needed on the farm. She knows that she needs art, that she has to express herself. But how can she make her dreams a reality?
Based on the paintings, letters and diaries of the Swedish artist Berta Hansson (1910–1994), ‘The Bird Within Me’ is an exquisitely told story of family and obligation and following your dreams, which will appeal to all ages.
Another book about Hope, dreams and perserverance. This wonderful true story book is about longing and imagination. It’s also about dreams and being a rebel. It’s about saying that you define your futures. That a good message for year 6. Below is a link to Mr Galway’s (@GalwayMr) teacher notes. They are rather ace as is he.
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson
This poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.
An important book. Regardless of the make-up of the community in your school this book will start important conversations and add perspective and help develop understanding. It is in turns honest, heartbreaking, and hopeful, this unforgettable book will open up a ‘world of possible’ in your classroom.
Hope the list is useful… (New Year 5 list soon)
Below is the first list.