Teaching With Sahara Special

Of a few weeks ago I asked for recommendations on new books to consider for literature studies in my classroom. A number of people recommended Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell.  I immediately put it in my Amazon cart (Isn't that just so easy to do?) and last weekend I read it in one sitting.

I have to admit… I finished it and wasn't quite sure what to think. I loved the story and the concept, but I was very intrigued by the writing style.  The story unfolds rather gradually, and I felt myself wanting to go back and reread the first few chapters to make sure I really understood the subtle nuances of the language.

As the story unfolded, I couldn't help but fall in love with the main character, the teacher, and even Sahara's mom.  I thought about Mr. Falker as I read...I thought about my students as I read...and I thought about the parents of my students and how so many of them must be frustrated with the system.

I'm curious to know know what all of you think...who do you read this book with?  How do students react?  Do they "get it" and really start to understand Sahara more deeply?  Fill me in!  I am super curious to know your thoughts.

I am starting to get my collection of spring break reading ready...some children's book and some professional books and some "me" books.  I'm taking suggestions!

Here's the first one on the list...

Chime in with some great suggestions that we can all take advantage of--and I am REALLY looking forward to hearing from anyone who has read Sahara Special with a class or a small group.  Spill it!  Thanks for stopping by...



  1. Try Zora and me by Victoria bond Great book about Zora Neale Hurston. Also try Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan

  2. I'm on Spring Break this week, and so far have read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer and Ralph Fletcher's Boy Writers. Both have really challenged my thinking about how I teach reading and writing. I already try to give choice as much as possible, but now I'm convinced that I must give my students a lot of choice within their literacy classes. I have also read 4 chapter books for kids: I Survived the Japanese Tsunami 2011 & I survived the Nazi Invasion 1944, both by Lauren Tarshis; Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer; and Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai--all titles I picked up at our Scholastic Book Fair earlier this month. The first two are from a series that's very popular with my 3rd & 4th graders this year. I thought both of them were well written, and will provide great fodder for discussions on the genre of historical fiction. The author's note in each book really helps show students how an author puts together such a story. The last two books are written in free-style poetry form. At first, when I opened them, I was disappointed, as I was looking forward to a "regular" chapter book. However, each author has done an excellent job of telling a very compelling story in the chosen form. Inside Out & Back Again is historical fiction from the Vietnam War era and might be a bit challenging--maybe better for 5th grade. I do have a Vietnamese student who is a very good reader, and I'm considering recommending this book to her. She has recently been sharing tidbits about Vietnam that her mom has shared with her. Little Dog, Lost will be great for my animal-lover students (which is most of them!). It's realistic fiction, and has some really great points about feelings, neighbors, and civic responsibility.

    1. Thanks for the great suggestions! My students LOVE the "I Survived" series, and I agree about choice. If they aren't in an intervention groups, my kids get about 90% of their reading as personal choice...it's highly highly motivating.

  3. I don't know what you've already read to your kids this year, but The One and Only Ivan was awesome! This was a read aloud to my class, and I used it to introduce my kids to the different roles they would take on during book clubs. It has fabulous word choice, figurative language, imagery, developed characters, strong theme, and oh so much more! We've read The False Prince, too, and are currently reading Wonder. My kids have begged and begged for me to keep reading with each book. Our next read aloud is A Snicker of Magic. If I have time before the end of the year I'm also going to read True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Both are fantastic.

    Are We There Yet?