Friday, June 21, 2013

Don Brown - What a Writer!

Since beginning All-en-a-Day's Work, I've recommended several of Don Brown's books:  Gold! Gold from the American RiverTeedie: The Story of Young Teddy RooseveltOdd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein

Don Brown is one of my favorite children's authors.  It could be the subject matter--people starting out as the "underdog," but triumphing in the end.  It could be his writing style--a wonderful mix of nonfiction narrative and the notes he includes in the back of his books.  It could be his illustrations--the simplistic detail that brings each text to life.  It could be the kid appeal--there's not a Don Brown book that I've shared with students that they haven't loved... and haven't asked to read independently.  It could simply just be his brilliance!

In Conferring:  The Keystone of Reader's Workshop I mention several of Don's books when I discuss the idea of strengthening stamina and endurance in young readers.  I think he understands the importance of working hard, exploring passion, and enduring the difficult times that create strength... in character, in life, in learning!  He has an amazing knack of bridging the gap of history with his stories, which are all grounded in the truth of the character's lives that he, indeed, brings to life.  

This week, I spent some time adding to my Don Brown Collection.  Oh sure, I had to dig for some his books, but I found them (although I'd love shiny new copies, many of them are used and well-loved).  Well worth the dig!

My current favorite is Bright Path the story of Young Jim Thorpe.  Jim Thorpe... once the "greatest athlete in the world"... whose story is amazing.  My fourth graders were mesmerized by his accomplishments and he quickly became the topic of study and intrigue among some of my students.  

In Bright Path there are several snippets of writing that my students and I found to be brilliant.  Here's a sample...

Summer or winter, Jim seemed to spend all his time in the
open.  He hunted, stalking raccoons, tracking deer, or snaring
quail in traps made of cornstalks.  He played wild games with 
his friends, too.  His favorite was Follow-the-Leader where Jim
and the other boys swam rivers, climbed trees, and dashed 
among the livestock.

But life wasn't all games and hunting.   

As my young writers were working on their own nonfiction writing, they chose to attempt to emulate Don's magical rhythm, the structure of his sentences, the "But" at the end.  And, in  Don's books, you'll find a similar cadence, the same play with words.  His writing is wonderful.  It's bright!

But what I really love about using Don Brown's work with young learners is the way that he invites us into the lives of famous and infamous people... to share a bit of their story that's real and honest and often humbling.  Human.  It's the humanity in which Don couches his words that makes his books a must have for any classroom library... from the youngest readers to the most seasoned readers.  Each of his books deserve to be held up as shining examples of the importance of lifetime learning... of enduring.. of staying the course. 

My advice?  Start building your Don Brown collection as soon as possible!  He's THAT good.


  1. Oh my gosh! Don't think I own any of these. Definitely need to hunt Don Brown down today! A trip to TC may be in order. Oh wait, I'm not supposed to spend money on books! Uh-oh!

  2. And may I add...come to the Dublin Literacy Conference next February where he'll be one of our featured speakers!!

  3. I know this is a late comment but thank you for guiding me toward this author. I checked out every book written by him that our public library had. They were wonderful! So thank you.