Choosing High Quality Children's Literature/Children's Book Authors/Grades 4-5 Authors

Katherine PatersonEdit

by Stephanie Palm

About the Author

Katherine Paterson is a world renown author of more that 30 children's books in over 25 languages. She was born in China in 1932, where her parents were missionaries. At age 8, Katherine's family was forced to leave China, because of World War II, and return to the United States where they eventually settled in Winchester, Virginia. Before she turned 18, Katherine's family had moved over 18 times.

Katherine's childhood dream was to become either a movie star or a missionary. While attending school she did a lot of acting in the hopes of attaining this dream. Her first writings were plays that her friends in sixth grade would act out. Chinese was her first language so reading and writing in English was difficult for Katherine. This did not stop her and she later attended King College in Bristol, Tennessee, where she studied English and American Literature.

After college, Katherine taught for a year in a rural Virginia school before she went on to graduate school where she studied Bibile and Christian Education. In 1957 she moved to Japan for 4 years before returning to the United States where she met and married her husband, a Presbyterian pastor in 1962.

Katherine did not really begin writing until 1964 when she was asked to put together some materials for fifth-and sixth-graders at church. She decided however, that she preferred fiction to nonfiction and thus began her love for writing.





Katherine Paterson is known mostly for her fictional novels which tend to fall into either historical or realistic fiction. Bridge to Terabithia, Flip-Flop Girl, and The Great Gilly Hopkins are examples of realistic fiction. Jip, His Story and Lyddie fall in the historical fiction genre. Katherine works also include short stories and picture books such as Angel & the Donkey, The King's Equal, and The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks.

Characters and Themes

The characters Katherine chooses to write about are strong and usually considered outcasts. In many cases they are female and have gained their strength because of what they have had to persevere as outcasts. The themes typically center around self-discovery and the realization that their expectations of themselves or others are unrealistic. Many times we find them setting new goals and beginning new adventures as the books come to a close.

Bridge to Terabithia

It is the summer before fifth-grade and Jess Aarons is bound and determined to be the fastest runner. However his plan is foiled when a quirky and creative girl shows up and wins the race. Jess a quiet and thoughtful boy who loves to draw eventually becomes friends with his running rival, Leslie Burke.

At first look, it seems like an unlikely friendship. A wealthy educated girl whose parents encourage self-discovery and a poor boy who has to suppress his love of drawing because his parents do not approve. But we come to realize they may have more commonalities than differences. Both come from overbearing families, both are outcasts in their own way, both are creative and both are looking for friendship.

Using their imaginations they create their own perfect world and they call it Terabithia. Terabithia becomes a place where they can be their true selves and where their friendship truly blossoms. However, Terabithia also becomes the place of a tragic event that will change the lives of Jess and Leslie forever.

Bridge to Terabithia is a moving story about friendship, self-discovery, imagination, and loss.

[3] Review

Classroom Activity

Grade Level: 4

Objective: Students will be able to differentiate between implied or stated themes.

Standard: Determine the theme and whether it is implied or stated directly.


1. After completeing Bridge to Terabithia, every student will be asked to write what they believe to be the theme of the book on a post-it.
2. Have a brief whole-class discussion about the characteristics of implied themes and stated themes. Draw a Venn Diagram on the board and place the characteristics appropriately.
3. Next, have students write "I" for implied or "S" for stated on their post-it.
4. Then, students discuss their theme and if it is implied or stated with a partner.
5. Have 2 large pieces of chart paper with implied themes and stated themes written on them. Students will place their post-it on the appropriate chart paper.
6. Share themes and discuss if any need to be moved or if their are any themes to be added.


Students will be asked to pick a project from one of the following:

1. Create a Video:
Option I: The video must have five scenes from the book that supports their theme.
Option II: The video can be an advertisement or message that shows five scenarios that represent the theme of the book.
2. Paper: The paper must include five supporting paragraphs. Each paragraph must describe one example from the book that supports your theme.
3. Reader's Theater:
Option I: Write a Reader's Theater for Bridge to Terabithia.
Option II: Write a Reader's Theater that portrays the same them as Bridge to Terabithia.
4. Develop your own idea: You must get this approved by your teacher.

Master Puppeteer

Jiro is the thirteen year old son of a puppet maker. He lives in Osaka, Japan with his mother and father during the time of Feudal Japan. Food and money are scarce for the poor however the rice merchants have plenty. For this reason, the puppet theaters still thrive. The merchants continue to come for entertainment.

On a trip with his father to Hanaza Theater in the city to deliver a puppet, Jiro meets Yoshida, the master puppeteer. Yoshida is impressed with Jiro and offers him a job at the theater. Jiro's father declines and they head back to the country where things only worsen. As an act of sacrifice, Jiro runs away and becomes an apprentice to Yoshida.

While at Hanaza, Jiro becomes great friends with Kinishi who assists him in learning the art of puppeteering. Meanwhile, Jiro's parents have left town and eventually only his mother returns. She becomes a night rover, people who riot and demand change because they are starving. There have been rumors of Saburo, a mysterious bandit who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Who is this elusive Robinhood?

This book is about family, friendship, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and finding one's passion. I didn't want to put it down...the climax is unforgettable

Kate DiCamilloEdit

by Maureen Besancon

About The AuthorEdit

Kate DiCamillo currently lives in Minneapolis, MN. She was born in Philadelphia, PA and moved to Florida when she was 5 years old because of her continuing struggle with pneumonia. She cites her pneumonia as a contributing factor to her becoming a writer, since she spent a lot of her time reading. Although she was told she had a talent for writing in college, DiCamillo did not start writing until she was 29 years old. She initially started writing stories for adults. Although she received over 400 letters of rejection, she remained persistent in her writing. After starting a job for a book warehouse and working on the children's literature floor, she decided to write a children's novel. It was at the book warehouse where she met a sales representative for Candlewick who offered to take her children's novel manuscript to an editor. This manuscript became her first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie.

Today, Kate DiCamillo is the author of 5 young adult novels, 6 early reader chapter books, and 2 picture books. She has won numerous awards for her books. A few of these awards include: the Newbery Honor Award in 2001 for Because of Winn-Dixie, DiCamillo's first published novel; the 2004 Newbery Medal winner for The Tale of Despereaux; and Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, the 2nd book of the Mercy Watson Series, was awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book in 2007. Two of DiCamillo's books, Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, have been adapted to popular movies. Her latest novel, The Magician's Elephant is currently being adapted into a movie.

DiCamillo writes two pages a day, five days a week. DiCamillo views herself as a storyteller and gets her inspiration from the people around her, from reading and from other authors. Kate DiCamillo states on her website, "Writing is seeing. It is paying attention." She further states, "What stories are hiding behind the faces of the people who you walk past everyday? What love? What hopes? What despair?"

Kate DiCamillo's Website
Scholastic: Biography and Interview of Kate DiCamillo
Reading Rockets: A Video Interview with Kate DiCamillo

Genres and ThemesEdit

DiCamillo writes mainly children's novels that are primarily realistic fiction and animal fantasy books. Her realistic fiction books include: Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tiger Rising. Her animal fantasy books include: The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Magician's Elephant, The Mercy Watson series, and Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken. Loss, love, hope, faith, the healing power of friendship, and belonging are all recurring themes for Kate DiCamillo.

Types of CharactersEdit

Many of DiCamillo's books feature an animal character and begin with or contain a single character (human or animal) who has suffered a loss of a parent (Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tiger Rising, The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and The Magician's Elephant). DiCamillo states on her website, "I think my subconscious is dealing with my own issues of growing up in a single-parent home..."

Book ReviewsEdit

Because of Winn-Dixie

This is a heart warming story about forgiveness, love, tolerance and the healing power of friendships. The reader will immediately be drawn into this unique group of friends and find of piece of themselves along the way. 10 year old Opal Baloney comes home from the Winn-Dixie supermarket with a stray dog, which she aptly names "Winn-Dixie". Opal quickly sees Winn-Dixie needs a home, some love and a sense of belonging; not realizing these are the very same things she herself desires the most. Opal and her father, who is a preacher, have just moved to Naomi, FL. They are both struggling in their own way to get over Opal's mother leaving them 7 years before. Opal has a great need to know something about her mother and wants to feel some kind of connection with her.

Through Winn-Dixie, Opal finds the courage to ask her father about her mother. Through Winn-Dixie, Opal forms some unusual friendships within the community including: Miss Franny, the librarian; Otis, a pet store clerk with a past; and Gloria Dump, a woman also with a past who is nearly blind and relies on her heart to see. Each of these friendships teach Opal something new about life. Miss Franny teaches Opal how the sweet and the sad in life are all intertwined. While, Gloria Dump teaches Opal how to see the world with her heart and teaches her "You can't hold on to something that wants to go". Your heart will swell with sadness and happiness as Opal learns to let go and love what she has.

This is a very compelling story that will stay with you long after you put the book down.

Link to Amazon Editorial Reviews

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

This is a compelling story about loss, hope and the value of love and friendship. The main character, Edward Tulane, is a china rabbit who leads a spoiled life. Edward is more concerned about his extensive wardrobe and his looks rather than with Abilene, the 10 year old girl who loves and adores him. As Edward is on a journey across the ocean with Abilene, he is tossed overboard and lost at sea. Edward spends 297 days at the bottom of the ocean and it is here where he feels his first emotion: "He was afraid." Edward is rescued from the bottom of the ocean by a fisherman who takes him home to live with him and his wife. It is here with the fisherman and his wife Edward begins to understand love. Fate intervenes and Edward is taken from the fisherman and his wife. Edward's journey then takes him to a garbage heap and on to life on the rails with a hobo named Bull and his dog, Lucy. It is with Bull and Lucy, Edward truly understands what it means to be a friend and to truly love. Fate once again plays a part and Edward is cruelly separated from Bull and begins to understand loss. Edward then finds himself being taken by a boy named Bryce to his sister, Sarah Ruth, who is very sick. Sarah Ruth soon dies and it is here where Edward truly feels LOSS and cannot bear to go on. Edward's journey continues through the streets of Memphis and finally to a doll shop where he is found once again by Abilene and her five year old daughter.

Through every experience on Edward's journey, we see Edward's heart grow and change. Eventually we stop asking the question whether Edward can love and begin asking if he could possibly bear to give his heart again. DiCamillo captures your heart as she shows it is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.

The sepia-toned drawings by Bagram Ibatoulline add depth and meaning to the story.

Link to Barnes and Noble Editoral Reviews

Classroom ActivityEdit

Grade Level: 4


Using the book Because of Winn-Dixie, students will discusss characters and characterization in a text. They will identify and analyze the listing technique presented in Winn-Dixie. Students will create a list of 10 things about a character in the novel.


Discuss the thoughts, words, and interactions of characters. (Reading Applications: Literary Text)


(Students will already have read book and had prior class discussions.)

Day 1:

1. Class will summarize Because of Winn-Dixie in whole group discussion.
2. Ask the students to name the characters of the story and record responses on chart paper.
3. Introduce character trait - a quality of a person or a character. Brainstorm as a class examples of different character traits people may have (i.e., honest, leader, dependable, brave, thoughtful, mischievous, creative, compassionate, wise).
4. Discuss different ways of characterization authors can use: physical description, how a character acts, and how other characters react to this character.
5. Ask the question: What are some ways Kate DiCamillo describes the characters in this story so the readers can get to know them?
6. Review the beginning of Chapter 4 when Opal asks her father to tell her ten things about her mama, one for each year of her life. (pages 26-29) Also review Opal's list of 10 things about Winn-Dixie on pages 162-163. Allow time for discussion of how the lists relate to the different ways of characterization.
7. Have students think about a person they know well - parent, brother, sister, best friend, etc. Have them make a list of ten things they know about this person. Be specific and creative. Have them write lists on a piece of paper with two columns. The left side should be labeled "Trait" and the right side should be labeled "Proof". Under the traits column, list the ten traits. Under the proof column write descriptive and specific events of this this person portrays this trait. Have a list of 50 or so character traits to pass out to help them get started.

Day 2:

1. Have students share in groups lists of ten from Day 1.
2. Discuss who the students think is the most interesting character in the novel. Use the chart paper from Day 1 to review list of characters.
3. Discuss what each character teaches Opal.
4. Have students choose their most interesting character from the novel. Each student will then create their own lists of ten for that character.
5. Have students write lists on a piece of paper with two columns as they did in Day 1. Again, under the traits column, list the ten character traits. Under the proof column have the students provide how the character portrays this trait and reference a page #. Remind students of character traits list passed out on Day 1 if having difficulty coming up with 10 traits.


Students would receive 2 points for each character trait listed. They would also receive a total of 3 points for the proof column. The 3 points would be broken down to 2 points for how the character portrays the trait and 1 point for the referenced page #. Total possible points: 50.

Link to Scholastic's Discussion Guide
Link to Scholastic's Extension Activities


Anderson, Nancy A. (2010) Elementary Children's Literature, 3rd Edition, Allyn & Bacon.

Norton, Donna E. (2007) Through The Eyes of a Child, Pearson Education, Inc.