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.