United States Through Literature

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This article by Carol Otis Hurst first appeared in Teaching K-8 Magazine.
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Let's explore the United States through literature in the library this month. Find as many United States maps as possible including shots from space to keep it all in perspective. Put your largest map on the bulletin board with pins and ribbons trailing from them on each state. Staple a book shape to the end of each ribbon and staple both to the edges of the bulletin board. A title such as "Look at the State I'm In" should go at the top.

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Robert McCloskey

Start things going by reading some picture books by Robert McCloskey since he uses three states for his locales: Massachusetts for Make Way for Ducklings, Ohio for Lentil and Homer Price and Maine for One Morning in Maine and Time of Wonder. List the things you learn about each state from the picture book. Decide on ways of verifying the information and make a chart such as the following:

 _______________________________________________________________________________
|  Author  |	Title	          | State  |  Understandings   |   Facts from   |    
|          |                      |        |    from Book      |  Non-Fiction   |
|__________|______________________|________|___________________|________________|
|          |                      |        |                   |                |
|__________|______________________|________|___________________|________________|

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Adding to the Map

Work at the map from two directions at once. Give the children some book titles and ask them to find out which state is the setting for the book. Give other children a state and ask them to find some fiction which is set in that state. Ask others to brainstorm a list of state settings for books they already have read. Mix picture books with novels for the older kids and keep the younger ones in the picture books or simpler novels.

My list of fiction about the states (see below) is no where nearly complete, but it might help you get started, but don't stop there. Kids should first read the work of fiction and then find some non-fiction material to verify and extend their information. Then they should ask themselves such questions as: Why did the author set that particular work of fiction in that state? Could it have been the same story if the setting were different? What would have to change?

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Your Own State

Look at your own state. What areas would be good settings for a novel? Which parts of history in your state? What historical figures would you try to work in? How?

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Historical Fiction

Of course, many of the works of fiction are set in other eras and this makes the topic even more interesting. Now you can make a time line of the fiction, compare the state or territory then and now, and ask such questions as: Why did the author choose that time? Were there other eras which would be equally interesting to write about with the same geographical setting?

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Quiz Games

Put the books together for some quiz games with questions like: How long would it take you to get from the place where Dicey's singing to Sal's blueberries? and, If Searchlight hadn't died and kept running north, which state would he run into?

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Student Authored State Books

How about an alphabet book for each state? It would be lots more interesting to compose and to read than the usual school state reports. Use drawings, photographs, travel brochures for illustrations.

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Children's Books

Alabama

St. George, Judith - In the Shadow of the Bear (Putnam, 1983) ISBN 0-399-21015-6)

Alaska

George, Jean - Julie of the Wolves - (Harper, 1972 ISBN 0-06-440058-1)

Arizona

Wier, Ester - Rumptydoolers -(Vanguard ISBN 0-8149-0439-4)

Arkansas

Greene, Bette - Philip Hall Likes Me I Reckon Maybe - (Dial, 1974 ISBN 0-8037-6098-1)

California

Yep, Lawrence - Child of the Owl - (Harper, 1977 ISBN 0-06-026743-7)

Colorado

Hobbs, Will - Bearstone - Atheneum, 1989 ISBN 0-689-31496-5)

Connecticut

Speare, Elizabeth George - The Witch of Blackbird Pond - (Houghton, 1958 ISBN 0-395-07114-3)

Florida

Cleaver, Vera & Bill - The Kissammee Kid - (Lothrop, 1981 ISBN 0-688-51992-X)

Georgia

Griffith, Helen - Georgia Music -(Greenwillow, 1986 ISBN 0-688-06072-2)

Hawaii

Feeney, Stephanie - Hawaii Is a Rainbow (University of Hawaii, 1980 ISBN 0-8248-1007-4)

Illinois

Cleaver, Vera & Bill - The Mimosa Tree - (Lippincott, 1970)Herman, Charlotte - Millie Cooper, 3B (Puffin, 1985) ISBN 0-14-032072-5)

Peck, Richard - A Long Way from Chicago.

Indiana

Goodwin, Marie D. - Where the Towers Pierce the Sky (Four Winds, 1989 ISBN 0-02-736871-8)

Iowa

Thomas, Jane - The Princess in the Pigpen - (Clarion, 1989 ISBN 0-395-51587-4)

Kansas

Barger, Gary W. - What Happened to Mr. Forster - (Clarion, 1981 ISBN 0-395-31021-0)

Kentucky

Lyon, George - Borrowed Children - (Orchard, 1988 ISBN 0-531-08351-9)

Louisiana

Callen, Larry - Pinch - Little, 1975 ISBN 0-316-12495-8)

Maine

McCloskey, Robert - One Morning in Maine - Penguin, 1952 ISBN 0-670-52627-4)

Maryland

Voigt, Cynthia - Dicey's Song (Atheneum, 1982 ISBN 0-689-30944-9))

Massachusetts

Lowry, Lois - Taking Care of Terrific - (Houghton, 1983 ISBN 0-0440-48494-4)

Michigan

Robertson, Keith - In Search of a Sandhill Crane - (Viking, 1973)

Minnesota

Paulsen, Gary - Popcorn Days and Buttermilk Nights ( Puffin, 1989 ISBN 0-14-034204-4)

Mississippi

Taylor, Mildred D. - Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - (Dial, 1976ISBN 0-8037-7473-7)

Missouri

Twain, Mark - Adventures of Tom Sawyer - (Troll Communications, 1991 ISBN 0893753580)

Nebraska

Conrad, Pam - Prairie Songs- (Harper, 1985 ISBN 0-06-021337-X)

New Hampshire

Blos, Joan - A Gathering of Days - (Macmillan, 1979 ISBN 0-684-16340-3)

New Jersey

Robertson, Keith - Henry Reed's Baby-Sitting Service - (Viking, 1966 ISBN 0-14-034146-3)

New Mexico

Baylor, Byrd - I'm in Charge of Celebrations (Macmillan, 1986 ISBN 0-684-18579-2)

New York

Konigsburg, E. L. - From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - (Macmillan, 1976 ISBN 0-0-689-20586-4)

North Carolina

Smith, Doris Buchanan - Return to Bitter Creek - (Viking, 1986 ISBN 0-670-80783-4)

North Dakota

Lawlor, Laurie -

Addie's Dakota Winter

- (Whitman, 1989 ISBN 0-8075-0171-9)

Ohio

Cameron, Eleanor - To the Green Mountains - (Dutton, 1975 ISBN 0-525-41355-3)

Oklahoma

Wallace, Bill - Danger in Quicksand Swamp - (Holiday, 1989 ISBN 0-8234-0786-1)

Oregon

McGraw, Eloise Jarvis - The Money Room - (Atheneum, 1981 ISBN 0-689-50208-7)

Pennsylvania

Rappaport, Doreen - Trouble at the Mines - (Crowell, 1987 ISBN 0-690-04446-1)

Rhode Island

Avi - Something Upstairs: A Tale of Ghosts - (Orchard, 1990 ISBN 0-531-08382-9)

South Carolina

Tate, Eleanora - The Secret of Gumbo Grove - Watts, 1987 ISBN 0-531-10298-X)

South Dakota

Cleaver, Vera & Bill - Dust of the Earth - Harper, 1975 ISBN 0-397-31650-X)

Tennessee

Jukes, Mavis - No One Is Going to Nashville (Knopf, 1982 ISBN 0-394-89264-X)

Texas

Nelson, Theresa - Devil Storm - Orchard, 1987 ISBN 0-531-08311-X)

Utah

Fitzgerald, John D. - The Great Brain - (Dell, 1972 ISBN 0-440-43071-2)

Vermont

Haas, Jesse - Keeping Barney - (Greenwillow, 1982 ISBN 0-688-00859-3)

Virginia

Reeder, Carolyn - Shades of Gray - (Macmillan, 1989 ISBN 0-02-775810-9)

Washington

Beatty, Patricia - Sarah and Me and the Lady from the Sea - (Morrow, 1989 )

West Virginia

Rylant, Cynthia - A Blue-Eyed Daisy - (Bradbury, 1985 ISBN 0-02-777960-2)

Wisconsin

Paulsen, Gary - The Island - (Orchard, 1988 ISBN 0-531-08349-7)

Wyoming

Gardiner, John R. - Stone Fox - (Harper, 1983 ISBN 0-06-440132-4)

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