Several teachers requested this list of Kristina Smekens’ top 10 favorite mentor texts and why she loves each one.
#1 The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle, Don Wullfson–(Technically, this isn’t a picture book. In fact there isn’t a single illustration in the book. But it’s small in size and inexpensive like many paperbacks.) This little nonfiction text is full of super short summaries of how everyday objects of today were invented (e.g., high heels, hula hoop, Scotch tape, etc.). It’s a fabulous resource for what well-written report or summary writing should sound like. It’s full of facts and specifics but also anecdotes and comparisons. It’s too good of a text for me to leave off my Top 10 List!
#2 Saturdays and Teacakes, Lester Laminack–A masterful combination of exact nouns and vivid verbs makes this a perfect mentor text for writing. The simple story of a single Saturday is told with such believability it’s as if you are really there. (This text could also serve as an introduction to memoir writing in the upper grades.)
#3 The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, Chris Van Allsburg–This book is a favorite for teaching reading and writing! It offers great creative writing prompts with illustrations. But it’s also a valuable resource for targeting the questioning strategy in reading comprehension. This is a terrific tool for getting kids to practice sincere reader questioning and curiosity about a text.
#4 Fireflies! Julie Brinckloe–A wonderful memoir that includes great examples of “show,don’t tell” writing. Not to mention it’s a fabulous example of writing about a narrow topic; the entire text spans an hour or so of time.
#5 Yo! Yes? Chris Raschka–I can’t think of a better book to aid children in reading punctuation and hearing punctuation marks. Love the way this works for reading and writing!
#6 Arnie the Doughnut, Laurie Keller–Looking for a book to demonstrate the three main elements of voice? This is the perfect book. It has a clear audience, tons of feelings and emotion, and a strong point of view. Love it! Love it! Love it!
#7 The Harmonica, Tony Johnston–Inspired by the true story of a Holocaust survivor, this book can act as a bridge, building background knowledge in social studies. But more important is the description and tone of this text told through the eyes of a young boy.
#8 How Are You Peeling? Saxton Freymann–A fun and uniqueley expressive way to introduce emotions and the trait of voice. Students can broaden their list of feeling words beyond happy, glad, sad, and mad by simply viewing the photographs in this simple text.
#9 Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss–What a great way to help kids enjoy proper punctuation. The author reveals the same sentence on the left and right pages. But depending on where the comma is placed within the sentence, it adjusts the meaning and consequently the corresponding illustration. This book makes you laugh out loud. Who knew a comma (or the lack therof) could be so funny?!
#10 One of Those Days, Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Rebecca Doughty–A collection of one liners that could act as a springboard for writing topics. Everyone can relate and will want to help list the events for each of “those days.” Not to mention, students could brainstorm additional “days” missing from the book.
To print off a copy of these recommended resources–including favorite mini-lesson books for teaching writing, click here.