Tag Archives: US History

Wagons West! by Roy Gerrard

Bibliographic Information:

Gerrard, Roy (1996). Wagons west! New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Plot Description: This story of a journey on the Oregon Trail is told through verse and rhyme. After meeting a visitor with amazing stories of life 2,000 miles away out west, a young girl and her family set off with a wagon train to see the great West for themselves. Along the way they meet a number of hardships, such as inclement weather, difficult terrain, rivers to cross, food and water shortages, disease and bandits. They also befriend a tribe of Indians, whose help will be desperately needed along the way. It is all worthwhile, when they look upon the lush Willamette Valley of Oregon and make it their home. The narrator is still in Oregon 20 years later as she recounts the journey.

Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: N/A, ATOS Book Level: 5.6, Interest Level: Lower Grades (K-3)

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The story is told in a rhyme and rhythm, but the words used to make the necessary rhymes are at times odd and uncommon to everyday modern speech. The story is in prose containing complex sentence structure with several subordinate clauses and transition words. There is only one level of meaning and the themes are obvious. Organization is clear and is told in retrospect, but the story being told unfolds chronologically. Illustrations are a bit peculiar. The scenes are realistic, but the people are odd looking; very stout and wide as if they had been stretched horizontally. The illustrated scenes support and assist in understanding the time period, but the characters are not realistically rendered. Cultural knowledge of Westward migration in the 1800’s is helpful, but not necessary to understand the story. Readers will be unfamiliar with the experience of traveling via wagon train, but may have experience moving to an unknown place and some may even be familiar with making a dangerous journey to get to a new home.

Content Area: Reading, History (US History)

Content Area Standard: Reading Language Arts Standard Reading: Foundational Skills

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.4.4.b Read grade-level prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression on successive readings.

English Language Arts Standards: Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

History-Social Science Standards for CA: Grades K-5

Historical Interpretation

  1. Students summarize the key events of the era they are studying and explain the historical contexts of those events.
  2. Students identify the human and physical characteristics of the places they are studying and explain how those features form the unique character of those places.
  3. Students identify and interpret the multiple causes and effects of historical events.
  4. Students conduct cost-benefit analyses of historical and current events

Curriculum Suggestions: Social Studies-This book would be a great piece in a unit on Westward Expansion and the journey west. Have students compare this and other accounts of life on the Oregon Trail. Students analyze why settlers began moving west. Language Arts-Analyze rhyme scheme in the story and have students write rhymes of their own. Students could also write fictional journal entries about how they imagine life on the Oregon Trail.

Supporting Digital Content: 


Personal Thoughts: I was not overly impressed with this book. It is a fine introduction text to the Oregon Trail, but the strange pictures and at times odd wording necessary for rhyme and rhythm threw me off. As a former Oregonian who grew up with yearly units on the Oregon Trail, I found the account of the wagon train journey less insightful than I hoped it would be.

High interest annotation: Come along on this perilous and exciting Oregon trail journey through rhyme.

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Filed under Historical Topic Picture Book

Amelia lost: The life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming

Bibliographic Information:
Fleming, Candace (2011). Amelia lost: The life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books.

Plot Description: This book is a biography of Amelia Earhart, from her birth, childhood, family life, education, work, first interest in flying , pilot lessons, rise to fame, carefully cultivated public persona, record breaking flights, marriage and final journey. Interspersed throughout her life story are accounts from the search for her missing plane. The story of Amelia’s life is broken up by accounts from those who heard her last messages. It begins with the ship docked near her intended landing spot to help her find the tiny island, which would became part of the search party, as well as others involved in the search, both on land, in the air and at sea. There are also accounts from average people who claim to have heard her distress signals on their home shortwave radios.

Quantitative Reading Level :  Lexile Measure: 930L, ATOS Book Level: 6.6, Interest Level: Middle Grades 4-8, Ages 8-12 is printed on the inside of the jacket

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The text structure features two different story lines (Amelia’s life story and the search for her missing plane) that are both chronological, but alternates between the two. Interspersed throughout her life story are accounts of the search. This juxtaposition between her life and the mystery that surrounds her disappearance, heighten the readers interest and are done in a way that it is very obvious when there is a switch, so there is not confusion for the reader. Photographs, maps and charts give supplemental information throughout the text to enrich understanding of the time period, aviation and important events, but are usually not necessary for understanding. Vocabulary is familiar and relies on common knowledge, with some discipline specific aviation terms, which are explained. The sentences are mostly complex in structure. Whenever there are references to outside ideas or events they are explained for the reader.

Content Area: Reading, History (US History)

Content Area Standard: English Language Arts Standards for College and Career Readiness: Anchor Standard for Reading

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1

English Language Arts Standards for Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

English Language Arts: History/Social Studies

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.5 Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

History-Social Science Standards for CA: Grades 6-8

Historical Interpretation

  1. Students explain the central issues and problems from the past, placing people and events in a matrix of time and place.
  2. Students understand and distinguish cause, effect, sequence, and correlation in historical events, including the long- and short-term causal relations.
  3. Students recognize the role of chance, oversight, and error in history.
  4. Students recognize that interpretations of history are subject to change as new informa­tion is uncovered.

Curriculum Suggestions: Social Studies-Have students look for primary sources on the internet, such as photographs, news stories, news reels, audio recordings, etc that feature Amelia Earhart or her disappearance. Have students do an investigation on women in flight since Earhart. Use Google Earth to map Earhart’s flight. Language Arts-Have students write the end to Amelia’s story from her point of view. Analyze the authors structural choices in breaking up Amelia’s life story with accounts of the search for her missing plane.

Supporting Digital Content:




Awards: Orbis Pictus Honor, Kirkus Editors Choice/Best Book, School Library Journal Best Book, Golden Kite Award/Honor Book

Character names/descriptions: Amelia Earhart, a pioneer in aviation and women’s independence.

High interest annotation: The life of one of the most well known aviation pioneers in history intermingled with the mysterious disappearance of her plane and firsthand accounts of the subsequent search efforts.

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Filed under Non-fiction Historical Work