Historical Fiction, Here We Come! Sarah, Plain and Tall

Well, my fourth graders and I are NEARLY finished with our feature articles unit...and, boy, have we had a blast! They have learned so much about different text structures, how to take a topic and "spin" it to make it more appealing--not to mention all the new tech skills they learned like inserting photos with citations, and so on.
Getting ready to teach historical fiction using Sarah, Plain and Tall as a mentor text.  Sarah, Plain and Tall novel study, historical fiction book clubs
So...next on the list? Historical fiction! I LOVE historical fiction! I think it is a fantastic way to tie our content to our literature and to really help students see how history really IS a story! Every year I start my unit with a few of my favorite pictures books, but one of my mentor texts for the unit is always "Sarah, Plain and Tall". I don't know why--but I absolutely love this little novel. 

Getting ready to teach historical fiction using Sarah, Plain and Tall as a mentor text.  Sarah, Plain and Tall novel study, historical fiction book clubs
We study how Patricia MacLachlan uses language...how the characters change...how the setting is SO important...how the book is filled with similes and other little word gems. We read the book in literature circles/book clubs, and it is the only novel I read "whole class" all year. We then move into book clubs of historical fiction and independent book selections. Last year after finishing Sarah, half of my class begged to read "Skylark" and then several of those kiddos finished the entire series!

This whole week I have been working to realign my unit "stuff" with the Common Core, and it was a big relief to finish that tonight! Take a peek if you want--it was quite an undertaking for me! And this collage is touches the surface!  I love how I can practice so many different skills with this unit!  Just click any image on this page or RIGHT HERE to take a peek at it.

CLICK HERE to read how about how I got my students to prepare for their "Sarah, Plain and Tall" discussion groups.

Getting ready to teach historical fiction using Sarah, Plain and Tall as a mentor text.  Sarah, Plain and Tall novel study, historical fiction book clubs

Interested in some other posts about historical fiction?  Try these!

CLICK HERE to read about how I get my students engaged in some meaningful writing about historical fiction (although these lessons could be done with other fiction texts as well)

CLICK HERE to read about how I used a few different texts to work on summarizing and more!

CLICK HERE to read more about book clubs with historical fiction!


  1. We do Sarah, Plain and Tall in the third term as part of a genre study (we also do Clementine and The Green Book - realistic and science fiction - and compare the three genres)
    Some of my favourite historical fiction:
    The Lady Grace Mysteries
    Matilda Bone (Karen Cushman)
    When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Judith Kerr)
    Roman Invasion: My Story (Jim Eldridge) We read this one for our Roman unit last term - very exciting
    There are lots more but I can't think of them off the top of my head - will have to go look them up :)

  2. I love Historical Fiction also. It's my favorite genre to read aloud. Some of my favorites that go so well with our fifth grade American History curriculum are Sign of the Beaver, Chains, and Midnight Rider. But I also love Watson's Go to Birmingham and Glory B for Civil Rights history, Bud Not Buddy and The Mighty Miss Malone are awesome to discuss the Great Depression. Lastly, Number the Stars is perfect for World War II.


  3. My 4th graders always loved Number the Stars. It's not a book they would have picked up and read themselves, but when we read it as a class they got really into it! It made them very interested in WWII also.

    Ladybugs Lounge

  4. I love to read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. But the kids also really enjoy "The Watsons Go To Birmingham"

    Leading and Reading

  5. Dear Levi is a great book - the boys especially get into it.

    Krazy Town

  6. Adam of the Road was one of my son's favorite history books last year. He was 9 at the time and in 4th grade. I was going to suggest Sign of the Beaver as well, which he recently finished, but I see someone else suggested it already. My other son is now reading Sign of the Beaver. He is an ELL student, and he is really liking it. He does have to look up some words on his Ipod MW dictionary, but he loves the story. My 5th grader, who read Adam of the Road last year, is now reading Kidnapped. My 8th grader is reading it as well. We have a paper copy and I found it for free download to the kindle. It might be a bit advanced for 4th-6th so I would definitely exercise caution, but we are talking through it as we go. This is a fun giveaway! Thanks! Came over from TpT forums btw. :)

  7. GREAT suggestions everyone! I have not read Adam of the Road OR Dear Levi! I must buy them at once! :) Thanks to all of you for adding in your suggestions...I like this kind of giveaway--hopefully other people can benefit from your ideas even if you didn't win! Thanks for participating!

  8. Just got a suggestion from Donalyn Miller (YES! Author of The Book Whisperer!!!) about the book "Breaking Stalin's Nose"...now I must go order it!

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  10. Dear Levi by Elvira Woodruff AND the follow-up Dear Austin are both great books for historical fiction! Great to study the Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion