For this week's Hidden Gems selection, I picked Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt. I found this when I was looking at our library's new book shelf, and the title just grabbed me. This historical fiction novel is set in Louisiana after World War II. Tate lives with her great-aunt and -uncle, and is often picked on by classmates or is the object of pity.
Tate's teacher arranges for her class to have pen pals with Japanese students - which is not a popular idea with her students' families. (Poor teacher!) Instead, most students select their own pen pal - and Tate choses to write to her hero, Hank Williams.
As Tate writes letters to Hank, you learn a lot about her and her family. The reader needs to infer information from her letters in order to figure out what really happened to Tate. The surprise ending will have students in shock and - spoiler - grabbing a tissue box.
Dear Hank Williams is a wonderful novel for teaching students about overcoming tragedy and coping with grief. Reading skills such as inference and close reading can be taught using passages from the story. In addition, this novel would be a great addition to a letter writing unit or an American history unit on post-World War II.
Last week Caitlin from The Room Mom discussed The Bread Winner. I have also featured other read aloud ideas on my blog. Watch for a new book next week!
What books do you use to supplement history units in your class?