Upper Elementary to Middle School Books

Theme: Real People: True stories of the famous and not so famous

Isaac Newton - (ISBN: 978-0142408209)

by Kathleen Krull

Although Isaac Newton made unquestionable contributions to science and math that include creating calculus, inventing the telescope, and postulating many basic tenets of physics, he was often a difficult man. Learn how his lonely childhood and his querulous nature led many to speculate that he might have had Asperger’s syndrome.

Knots in My Yo-Yo String - (ISBN: 978-0679887911)

by Jerry Spinelli

The author of the beloved Maniac McGee tells about his somewhat painful and always humorous adolescence as he tells stories and shares photos of some of his most interesting experiences and thoughts. You can taste, touch, hear, and smell Spinelli’s world in 1950’s Pennsylvania. What indications does he give that he will become an accomplished writer?

Lincoln Shot - (ISBN: 978-0312604424)

by Barry Denenberg

This book presents an exciting, comprehensive look at the day Lincoln died after being shot in a theater by John Wilkes Booth. After detailing the entire capture and prosecution of Booth, the book goes back to fill in information about Lincoln’s growing up. What new information did you learn about our former president?

Only Passing Through - (ISBN: 978-0440417668)

by Anne Rockwell

Sojourner Truth’s story begins as she stands as an object for sale at the slave auction. Although her name at that time was Priscilla, she had the seeds of becoming a great leader in helping people recognize the evils of slavery. After other slave owners steal her son from her, she goes to court and successfully gets him back, actions that shocked the world since she was only a woman and a former slave at that! Her determination to share her beliefs and experiences with the rest of the world made her into a great spokesperson for Civil Rights. Have you ever felt passionately about a cause? If so, what was the cause?

Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius - (ISBN: 978-1584302568)

Su Dongpo was truly a “Renaissance Man” of China. He was accomplished in multiple areas, including politics, philosophy, poetry, art, engineering, architecture and humanitarianism. His prominence in the Chinese society varied depending on who the current emperor was, but, when he died after returning to the capital city with great acclaim, he was recognized as one of the greatest Chinese thinkers and doers of all time. What questions would you like to ask him if you were interviewing him today for a PBS TV show?

Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius - (ISBN: 978-1584302568)

Su Dongpo was truly a “Renaissance Man” of China. He was accomplished in multiple areas, including politics, philosophy, poetry, art, engineering, architecture and humanitarianism. His prominence in the Chinese society varied depending on who the current emperor was, but, when he died after returning to the capital city with great acclaim, he was recognized as one of the greatest Chinese thinkers and doers of all time. What questions would you like to ask him if you were interviewing him today for a PBS TV show?

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean - (ISBN: 978-1423113379)

by Sarah Stewart Taylor

Boy - (ISBN: 978-0142413814)

by Roald Dahl

Marie Curie - (ISBN: 978-0142412657)

by Kathleen Krull

My Brothers’ Flying Machine: Wilbur, Orville, and Me - (ISBN: 0316971596)

by Jane Yolen

Activities for this Theme

Take pictures of your family members at the next get-together using a simple throw away camera. Put them into an album to help everyone remember that special day. Or use a digital camera and create an online scrapbook using a tool such as Smilebox.


Make a “life cube” of your favorite writer or athlete. Choose six of the person’s biggest accomplishments and write them on the sides of a paper square.


Read two biographies or articles about the same person. Make a Venn diagram to indicate what qualities both books point out. In outside parts of the diagram, show what qualities each book describes differently.


For an upcoming family birthday party, make a “This is Your Life” show. Collect photos and items of interest that are important to the person who is celebrating the birthday.