Perspective Biographies

I love this time of year; anticipating the fresh start of a new school year around the corner. I love striving to do better than I did the last. And one goal I always have is to help all students connect better with literature that fits them. I believe in using a wide variety of literature in mini lessons, in hopes that a few kids will connect and go on to read more. I’ve written about many biographies here, here, and here.  Different historical figures connect with different students, and it is fun to use a variety.
Past biographies I’ve written about are picture books that could probably be read aloud in completion. The books I’m featuring today are great biographies that are longer. I like to use a few pages for a mini lesson and provide copies for students to read independently if they choose.

The other cool thing about these books is that they are both written from a unique perspective!

Lewis and Clark and Me is written from the perspective of Meriwether Lewis’s dog, Seaman. It is so fun to experience the expedition from the dog’s eyes! This book is 64 pages broken into 9 chapters. Each chapter has a beautiful illustration. The text size is a bit larger than your average novel, making it a not-so-intimidating chapter book. I also found this book to be very ELL friendly for many of my intermediate 5th graders because the pictures in each chapter provide great support, there is a great map, and not too much confusing jargon. 
For mini lesson ideas:
Preview and Predict: If you introduce it being from the dog’s perspective and show the map, then you can have student’s predict what types of things a dog would think about on a journey like this. (How would he eat? Would he hunt? Would he have to protect the men during danger? Is he a guard dog?)
Visualize it!: For fun, I like having my kids crawl on their hands and knees for a second and imagine the dog’s physical perspective for a minute. What kinds of things is Seaman seeing? 
Primary Source Documents: The end of each chapter contains a very short excerpt from Meriweather Lewis’s journal. This makes for great discussion on Primary Sources, authenticity, validity, etc. 
You can play around with this book and use it in many ways. The chapters are very episodic, so you could easily pick one from any point in the book and read it aloud to suit your lesson purposes. The last chapter is a sweet chapter that connects to anyone who has a strong relationship with a pet. It’s very sweet. This would be a great book to enjoy with your students or your own children! 🙂
Play, Louis, Play! is a biography of Louis Armstrong told from the perspective of his horn! Kinda extra cool that it’s written from an inanimate object, and that gets me going with all sorts of writing ideas. Anyways, this book is 112 pages and feels like you’re reading a novel and not a non-fiction biography. 
This story is a beautifully told tale of trials and obstacles Louis overcame. You can use this book to discuss theme, perspective and author’s purpose. And SO much characterization of Louis. One of my favorite things in this book is Louis response to kids calling him names like “Sachelmouth”…Louis would keep smiling and say “A good nickname is hard to find.” He never let anyone get his goat. It’s an inspirational book for students! 
My kids also loved watching YouTube clips of Louis singing. This book is a great read! 



Books for the Times: Wonder

Yesterday I wrote about books for various age groups that deal with racism, diversity and prejudice. One thing I discussed is that teachers often teach racism as if it is a thing of the past, when it is still rampant today. Yet, much of the current literature that I shared does tell stories of the past. These stories are very important to share, but I’ve yet to find appropriate literature for children that tackles current racial issues in our country head-on. If anyone has any resources like this, please share! But, there are other resources we can use to build empathy and compassion in our students, and I wanted to share one in more detail today. 

 “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Fear is the root of so much evil. People do such hateful things to others out of fear of the unknown…”…they fear each other because they don’t know each other…”

Wonder, by RJ Palacio discusses fear of the unknown through the story of a fifth grader  named Auggie Pullman. Auggie has severe cranio-facial abnormalities. Due to multiple surgeries and issues, Auggie has been home-schooled up until 5th grade. This story follows his journey through 5th grade. RJ Palacio weaves an incredible story and shares from the perspectives of friends and family as they walk along Auggie. 

I don’t want to give too much away, because I believe that almost anyone would enjoy this book. And, if you haven’t read it, you must.   But, one huge plot point is how other children fear Auggie because they don’t know him. If you buy the extended version with “The Julian Chapter” you will get a 5th grade appropriate dose of the type of hate and evil seen during Nazi occupied France. The fear of people who are “different” is weaved through the 1940s all the way into today’s times. 

At the end of the school year I read this book to my 5th graders for a few minutes each day, and it is so powerful. The kids are so drawn in, and they love the message. This wasn’t a big “novel study” and there were no tests given. But, we did watch this video during the last week of school.

Through the book, my students always wanted to see a picture of Auggie, but being fiction, there isn’t one. And, there are no illustrations in the book. So, it is interesting to see the various, unique and beautiful faces seen in this short video!  After watching we wrote Kindness Pledges 

 and did some writing that reflected on the type of people we wanted to be as we moved forward in our lives. (And onto middle school!) 

If you’re looking for something to read with your kids or your students to encourage students to celebrate differences and look beyond appearances, this is your book.

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave you with a two of my favorite quotes. 

“There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other.” 
― R.J. PalacioWonder

“what I want you, my students, to take away from your middle-school experience,” he continued, “is the sure knowledge that, in the future you make for yourselves, anything is possible. If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary—the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.” 
― R.J. PalacioWonder

Books for the Times

Last week, I sat in bed watching in disbelief as the Dallas sniper tragedy unfolded. My heart had been burdened all week by events from Baghdad to Baton Rouge. As I watched, I thought about my two girls asleep in their beds, blissfully unaware of the world’s sorrows. I thought about my parents watching the Rodney King riots  years ago while I was asleep. Like all parents, I know they hoped and prayed for a better world for their children. Is the world any better today? 

I taught 5th grade reading and history combined for a few years. Sometimes,  I think teachers are guilty of teaching as if racism is a thing of the past. ‘Once upon a time there was segregation, but now we can all go to school together and sit anywhere on the bus so it’s all good now.’ Smile and move on. 

Early on I was guilty of this. It’s uncomfortable and hard.  I didn’t know what to say, and was fearful of missteps. As my teaching career continued, I felt the need to be open about past and present racism in an age-appropriate way. By a certain age, kids are aware of what is happening in the world at large, so you can’t avoid the topic. I worked to incorporate literature in my classroom that dealt with racial relations in our country, but I also looked for literature with strong themes such as diversity, tolerance and acceptance.

As a mother, I’ve recently been wrestling with how to begin discussing racial diversity with my preschoolers. I want my daughters to grow up aware of the differences and the struggles faced by the oppressed. I pray they are loving, tolerant, and quick to embrace those who are different from them. I pray they are salt and light in this hurting world, and they are not too young to begin learning. As a teacher and children’s book enthusiast, my first response tends to be “Let’s find a book for that!” I believe in the power of story and it’s ability to make a better world. 

This week I’d like to share some books, resources and thoughts on this matter. For today, I’m sharing three book lists, broken down by age. (I’ve had a hard time narrowing it down, but these are my favorites!) The books for older students share more specific stories of racism and prejudices in America. The books for very young children tend to focus more on embracing differences and openly speaking about color and race. My hope is that this list can be a great resource for teachers and parents.
Ages 9+
Through My Eyes is an important autobiography that helps children walk in Ruby’s shoes on her first days of school. One of the most poignant parts to read to students is when Ruby recounts seeing protesters holding a black doll in a coffin. It is powerful to have students empathize with Ruby and infer her emotions.
When Marian Sang is a biography of opera singer Marian Anderson. She faced many racial obstacles in her career, one of which was being banned from singing at Constitution Hall. Ultimately, she ended up singing at ‘My Country Tis of Thee’ a The Lincoln Memorial. Her encore song was ‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.’ Her story is powerful, and the poetry of lyrics weaved into this book make the story even richer. This was hands-down my favorite picture book to read to my class each year. 
Benno the cat is loved by Jews and Gentiles alike in his community in Berlin, Germany. His world is changed as he watches his peaceful city becomes violent and hateful during Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). This story is appropriate for students who are not quite ready for full-blown Holocaust history, but are ready to learn the horrible implications of racism around the world.
Erika was thrown from a cattle car headed for a concentration camp in 1944. A German woman rescued her and raised her while risking everything. This is another powerful Holocaust story that is appropriate for older elementary students.
Personally and professionally, this is one of my favorite books of all time. This New York Time’s best-seller tells the story of Auggie, a 5th grader with severe cranio-facial abnormalities. His journey through 5th grade is told through the perspective of Auggie as well as others in his life. It discusses prejudice, judging by appearance, and overcoming being afraid of those who are different than yourself. This is an extremely powerful novel for parents to read to their children.
Ages 5-8
The Other Side tells the tale of two girls, segregated by a fence who have been told to stay on their sides. They strike up a friendship and dodge the rule by sitting on the fence together.
This biography of Ruby Bridges is a great telling of her story that is a little less intense than her autobiography. But, of course this book would still be a great read for older students.
Pen pals from America and India share about their lives and realize that in many ways they are different, but in big ways they are the same.

Let’s Talk About Race has a great opening as it explains that we all have a story. Our race is a part of our story, but in so many ways our stories are the same. I liked this book right away because I like how forward the title is. I believe it is important for us to become more comfortable being up front about race, racism and discrimination.
Grace loves to perform, but when it’s time for the school to perform Peter Pan, she is discouraged because Peter wasn’t black. (Spoiler alert, she gets the part!) This is a sweet story about achieving your goals.
This book is not so much about racial issues/tension; rather it is about the sharing of cultures. Patricia was born into a Russian/Ukrainian Jewish family. In this story she shares friendship, culture and traditions with an African American Christian family. 
Ages 2-4
This rhyming book uses many metaphors to describe skin colors. It is a fun nursery-rhyme read with preschool children, however the metaphors could make for interesting discussion with students who are a bit older.
Karen Katz is a master writer of preschooler books! This one tells the story of a young girl who learns to see the many shades of brown in the world.
The lovely illustrations in this book make for great conversation about cultures all around the world.  This book is beautiful poetry with words and pictures. “Joys are the same, and love is the same. Pain is the same, and blood is the same…” Whoever you are.
This is an old Sesame Street favorite, but it’s a classic. The various characters (puppets and people) compare their various unique features.

Many teachers might be scared about how to address this in the classroom, and perhaps some conversations need to arise as how to appropriately deal with this. But, I feel we can all agree that teaching students about past and current racism has to be addressed. It’s part of our history, and I pray that through honest discussion and the power of story that we can make our world better in the future. Be open, be honest, and be inspired to read transforming literature to the children in your life!


The Art of Miss Chew

Patricia Polacco is a powerful story teller, and my class has always loved getting swept up in her books.  Like many of her other books, The Art of Miss Chew is a personal story from Mrs. Polacco’s life. (My students always love hearing a “true story.”) Polacco formed a special relationship with Miss Chew when she took her special art class. 
Polacco had reading challenges, and when her classroom teacher was called away for a few weeks, Mrs. Chew came to her aid when the substitute made things difficult. Miss Chew inspired Polacco to be the artist she is today! It’s a powerful story about tackling obstacles and finding your strengths through the help of good teachers. This story is particularly inspiring for any child who has struggled academically, especially with standardized testing!
This would be a great story for parents or teachers to read with their students. It is long, 40 pages…So, it might be better to break apart for a classroom read-aloud.
Other observations/ideas:
*ART! This book talks about perspective, negative space and other art concepts. This could be integrated into an art lesson, or this book could simply be a great recommendation for a budding artist in your class. If you have elementary age kids, this would be a fun book for a summer read-aloud, and then you could practice some of the art concepts with your kids! 
*Letter in the Book Jacket- There is a letter addressed to readers from Patricia Polacco in the back flap of the book jacket. Students love hearing this…The letter does describe the sad fact that arts programs are often not funded in schools. I hate to dwell on the negative with my students, but I think it’s fair enough for older kids to know that the establishments aren’t perfect. I readily admit to my students that I wish there was more time and money for the arts. 
*Theme- I say this with many books, but Patricia Polacco’s books always come with a strong theme to discuss. 
*Negative Space Vase/Face Picture- On the page where Miss Chew teaches about negative space they discuss the picture that could look like an illustration or two faces looking at each other depending on how you look at it. If your students haven’t seen that they will love looking at it! 
*Summary- The plot of this story lends itself well to practice summary writing.
*Open-Ended Response Questions- 
What is the theme of this story? What text evidence proves it?
(If your students have been taught and trained on theme)
How do you connect with “Theresa” (Patricia) in this story?

Using the final page: Describe the emotions  you think Patricia, Mr. Donovan, and Miss Chew felt as they looked at the pictures of Mr. Donovan’s father? Explain. 

"A Great Man is Never Really Gone"- Looking at Lincoln

Today I wanted to do a little review of a neat little biography of Abraham Lincoln called Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman. President Lincoln died on April 15, 1865 (assassinated April 14th) So, if for some reason you didn’t cover Lincoln during February, this would be a grew time to honor him and enjoy a great biography!
Age Range: Most likely 1st-3rd grade…But, this would be a great book to use with English Language Learners grades 4-6. The book covers major concepts of his life with great picture supports. 
Fun Features: This book is great for younger readers because it is full of fun and light-hearted facts about Lincoln such as he hid notes in his hat, he always had an apple on his desk, and he loved vanilla cake. The book also features really stunning illustrations. It is my absolute favorite part of the book. These illustrations could lead to great discussions about why the author chose specific colors, etc.
I loved the art so much that I ripped it up to hand an illustration on the wall. The side-by-side frames on the top right feature a beautiful illustration of the cherry blossoms in D.C.. I know it is hard to tell here, but the pinks and magentas are very vivid and beautiful. 
Educational Features: This book would make for a super strong social studies and ELAR lesson. You could discuss features of a biography and author’s purpose.

Other: This book does attribute the Civil War to the issue of slavery. We know that it is not that simple, but for our youngest learners, this is a place to start. Think about your objective with this book- your objective probably isn’t for students to understand the causes of the Civil War, but rather to understand Lincoln’s contributions to the country. This book can do the latter. 
Also, the author describes having a sort of emotional experience from staring at Lincoln’s face, and feeling like she could stare at it “forever.” That is not a concept I connect with, however I was very very captivated with the Lincoln Memorial when I had a chance to see it in person. I know the power of it, and the end of the book features the memorial. It would be great to show your students or kids photographs of the memorial. 

Strong Vocabulary Words: stern, inaugurated, democracy, abolished, wretched

Favorite Biography- When Marian Sang Part 3

If you’re new here, welcome!! Today I’m wrapping up some writings on my favorite biography, When Marian Sang.

Part 1 was an introduction and brief summary of the book.
Part 2 included a few lesson ideas.

Today I’ll finish up by discussing a few more ideas you could use with this book.

Classroom Ideas for “When Marian Sang” Part 2

Extend into Eleanor Roosevelt

While this book is primarily written about Marian Anderson, you learn a little bit about Eleanor Roosevelt, too. This article from PBS has more information about Marian Anderson and Mrs. Roosevelt. The Daughters of the American Revolution owned Constitution Hall, where Marian was set to perform. When the DAR would not allow her to perform, Roosevelt resigned from the group and helped make the arrangements for her to perform at the Lincoln Memorial.

This could transition right in to extending learning about first ladies.

(Also, you could read the PBS article and compare the structure and style to the book!)

The Lincoln Memorial

If this book extends right into Eleanor Roosevelt, it also extends right into learning a bit about the Lincoln Memorial. You can learn about it’s significance, symbolism, etc.  The beautiful words inscribed at this memorial are worth taking time to discuss.

I know that it would be completely impossible for anyone to use all the ideas I’m listing, but this one is easy! Just showing them a few pictures would help them form that deeper connection to the place. I visited the Lincoln Memorial after a couple years of using this book in my class. So, when I went I had to stand on the spot and take pictures!!!

My view from the memorial! I loved asking kids to imagine themselves standing right there looking over the crowd.
When Marian Sang and the Common Core

I’m a Texas girl, but I’ve been learning more about the core…If you’ve been reading these posts already, then you will easily see the connections between these common core standards and “When Marian Sang.” I’ll be brief with these…

1) Relationships and Interactions:

These standards could be used to discuss how the events took place, how Roosevelt and Anderson’s lives crossed paths, etc

Common Core:
Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text. 

Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text. 

2) Stucture:

The author included “specifics” when she used lyrics. How did the lyrics relate to the text/events that were occurring?

Common Core:

Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

3) Author’s Viewpoint and Purpose

This works with the TEKS, too. Ask students the author’s point of view on Anderson’s life. How did it shape her writing?

Common Core:
Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text. 

Potential Vocabulary Words

This totally depends on your own teaching situation, so I encourage you to look through the book with the vocabulary lens for your class. Here were just a few that I liked discussing, and using as context clue examples:


Thanks for joining me! I hope this inspires you to look into this book for the students in your life!

Favorite Biography- When Marian Sang Part 2

Yesterday I wrote Part 1 about my favorite biography, When Marian Sang.

Click here for yesterday’s summary.

So yesterday was part 1 of writing on this great book. Not to be terribly confusing, but today I want to start writing classroom ideas for this book, and then follow up with more ideas tomorrow.

Classroom Ideas for “When Marian Sang” Part 1

Utilizing the Songs
The song lyrics in this book range from spirituals, to patriotic, to Anderson’s powerful encore on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when she sang “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”
So, if you are in a a school situation where singing a spiritual song could pose a problem, you can skip them and stick with secular.
However, when I used this book, I gathered up all my courage and sang ALL of the songs to my students as I read. At first some of them giggled a little, but then they got over it. Some of them began to sing some of the songs with me. I think they enjoyed it because it was something different.
So I would encourage anyone to try your best to sing!
I mentioned this yesterday, but as you read the book you realize that the author has pieced together songs from her life that mirror the emotions of the events. So, those are wonderful discussion topics! 
You can use the songs as poetry. You could also extend by having students bring in a song that represents an event in their life. Students can write about their connections and share.
If kids get really into writing about connecting lyrics with life events, you can have this as a choice in a writing station.
Discussing Theme

I feel like I say this with every book, but this book would be outstanding for working on themes. Like most books, there are many themes represented but, you could practice choosing one by having various themes written down, and then for each theme listing pieces of evidence that would prove the theme. You could make various Anchor T-Charts. Or, have students do their own and come back to discuss.
Courage    –>     Evidence
Endurance –>    Evidence
Overcoming  –>  Evidence
All 3 of these themes would be strong, for this story, but you will have students who will  throw out things like love or friendship. If you have those students really look for how many examples of evidence go with “love” you will come up weak, and that can help students learn to really dig into the text to find the overall theme. 

Youtube Videos

So my final idea for the day is to leave you with just a few videos of Marian Anderson herself. Again, the kids may giggle for a second at her voice, because many of them are unfamiliar with this type of singing. I promise, once they get into it, they will stop their giggling and you’ll be able to hear a pin drop once the video is over.
Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial
Marian Anderson singing “Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child” (this song is used in the book and a beautiful example of figurative language!)
Marian Anderson singing “Deep River”
I sure hope y’all will come back tomorrow for more ideas to use with this book! 

Favorite Biography- When Marian Sang Part 1

So, awhile back I was blogging on biographies. Click here for an intro.

I was saving my favorite biography for last, but then life, baby reflux and the stomach bug got the better of me.

I’m back, and I’m ready to talk to you about my favorite biography for students.

But, before I delve in, I would like to tell you my non-research, nonacademic, teacher-opinon on biographies.

Two Types of Biographies

I think there are two types of biographies. For our purposes, I’ll refer to them as “set biographies” and “story biographies.”
Every elementary library probably has a nice little series of biographies. Maybe they are in the reference section, maybe not. It might be a set of all the U.S. Presidents, or famous athletes, etc. These are the Set Biographies. They may all have been written by the same person. Each of these biographies use the same structure.
Set Biogprahies are fine. They are informative. They teach features of a biography such as use of chronological order, timeline, photos, etc. They’re fine.
Let’s look at the 5th grade Reading 
(A) identify the literary language and devices used in biographies and
autobiographies, including how authors present major events in a person’s life.

Literary Language. The presentation of events in a person’s life.

So, these little sets of biographies in the library. The presentation of the events is chronological at best. It’s almost too simple.

Literary language? Haha. These are written in such a matter-of-fact way that I don’t feel that they carry the beautiful language of Story Biographies. Story Biographies are like the types I’ve shared with you. Biographies that use more of a story structure to share the person’s life. In my humble opinion, the rich story-like biographies work better with the standards and provide way more engagement for students!

Thank you for bearing with me…Now onto the most beautiful Story Biography…

by Pam Munoz Ryan
illustrated by Brian Selznick

Summary: Marian Anderson is one of the most famous African American singers in U.S. History. She had great talent, and traveled the world singing. However, she was denied the opportunity to sing at Constitution Hall in D.C.. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was furious, and worked to give Ms. Anderson the opportunity to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial! And, to a much larger audience.

“When Marian Sang” uses such beautiful flowing language, that you feel like you are gliding through her life. The illustrations are lovely. I have read this book to 10 different sets of 5th graders, and every single group of students is enthralled. The toughest guys, to the most withdrawn girls.
The story begins with Ms. Anderson growing up singing in church choir, and then continues her journey as she struggles to grow as a singer and performer because of the oppression of racism.
The journey wraps up with Anderson singing at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and then later accomplished her ultimate dream by performing at the Metropolitan  Opera.
Along the way, there are song lyrics embedded. Songs that Marian sang. Each song represents what Anderson was going through at that time. This leads to some AMAZING discussion. I never like to spoon-feed that to my kiddos. Ask, “why do you think the author chose those lyrics?”. or “What can you infer about Marian’s feelings from the lyrics?”..Strong writing prompts, too. 
Both the lyrics and the text itself offer figurative language by using phrases such as “sometimes I feel like a motherless child.” 
I hope you enjoyed a basic summary of the book with a few sparks of lesson ideas. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with a few additional ideas you can use while reading aloud, and then for follow up!

Biography Week- On a Beam of Light

On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne, is a biography of Albert Einstein. There are a few little reasons why I love this simple biography:
– This is shorter and easy to read aloud to a class in one sitting. It would be perfect for 3rd graders who are learning about biographies.
– This book does not use the term “dyslexia” or “disability,” but it does discuss his struggles with school. I’m a reading specialist by degree, so I appreciate anything that sends the message that you can be successful in life even if school is challenging for you. I like telling students with dyslexia about Albert Einstein.
-This book has a little science connection…Not super in-depth, but it mentions light, gravity, heat, magnetism, etc. But, you could totally connect it to one of those topics.
– The Author’s Note afterward has some fun additional information about Mr. Einstein. It has subheadings/subtitles…Those are discussed on STAAR tests so you can utilize the terminology.
– The illustrations are fabulous…Note that the page that discusses atoms uses a form of pointillism art. You could ask students if they notice that the illustrator did something differently on that page, see if they can make the connection.
– The author utilizes bold print and different colors of print. You can discuss why. (This is a topic that could totally come up on STAAR.)
On a Beam of Light is a great little biography to share with your children!

Biography Week- Just Being Audrey

Just Being Audrey is just fantastic. Don’t be put off because Audrey Hepburn seems to draw more of female audience. I’ve seen many a 5th grade boy enjoy this biography, and boys AND girls need to hear biographies of great men AND women. 
Today on my other blog I wrote about how I love decorating my girl’s rooms with children’s book illustrations. I would even tear up a book for it. I loved the whimsical art in Just Being Audrey so much that I framed this illustration:
Just Being Audrey covers the high points of the life of Audrey Hepburn including:
*Challenges through childhood.
*Persistence to overcome challenges and try new things early in her life.
*Audrey’s acting career.
*Audrey becoming a mother.
*Audrey’s work with UNICEF.
*Audrey giving a speech to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund.
I LOVE that this book focuses on a few key themes of her life:
1) Overcoming challenges
2) Being yourself (Hence the title! Maybe you could have your class predict the theme!)
3) Serving others
This book is amazing for working on author’s purpose… (Side note: I feel that when we only use PIE to teach author’s purpose, we are really missing the mark. PIE can be a starting place, but there’s so much more.)
I felt that one of the author’s greatest purposes in writing this book is to share with us that Mrs. Hepburn was so much more than a beautiful, fashionable actress. Her inner beauty and service to others is the most important.
You can even show your class a portion of this clip of Mrs. Hepburn giving that speech to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
There are also many youtube videos, such as the one below, of Audrey Hepburn serving with UNICEF. There are many great ones, but I would be selective about which portions to show, because some of the images of starving children are disturbing. While I’m all for exposing my own children to realities of the world, you as a teacher have to take the pulse of your classroom and decide what they can view. You can get the message across without some of the more graphic images.
Here are a few other quick ideas for using this book in the classroom:
Show students a brief clip of Audrey, maybe the first 2 minutes of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s intro. You could have it playing as they come into the room.
As I said before, have students predict theme based on the title.
Have students predict the author’s purpose. 
Later on, have students quote textual evidence from the book to prove the author’s opinion of Audrey Hepburn and the author’s purpose for writing. (Slide this book on the document camera to have students dig for that evidence.)

 From the 5th grade standards you could discuss how the author presents the events in her life. You can discuss chronological order.


Take some time to read the timeline at the end of the biography. Discuss how this text feature is used in the biography, what is it’s purpose, what can you learn, etc.


Discuss how one device biographies often use is quotes from that person. You can take a look at some of Audrey Hepburn’s favorite quotes and have students write responses.

Click here for Audrey Hepburn quotes.

This would be an amazing biography to share with your class!