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Unit of Study:  Memoir

Page history last edited by Bonnie Cumbo 14 years, 3 months ago


This page is to share the suggested list of memoirs discussed in class and to provide a space for us to add to this list collaboratively.  *Please add your first and last name and the title and author of your text with your post. Please also add a picture if available and a hyperlink to the page where we could order the book online if we choose to.


Memoir Text Set


Picture Books 

Product DetailsSister Ann's Handsby Marybeth Lorbiecki

Recommended by Crystal Weathers. This is a book that I would highly recommend for a memoir study. the writing is rich with emotions and has a very emotional ending. The book is written from a child's point of view when she encounters prejudice for the first time in her perochial school.


Potato: A Tale From The Great DepressionPotato: A Tale from the Great Depression by Kate Lied

Recommended by: Amber Pitts This book is a very easy read for the younger grades. The author writes about her Grandparents and their struggles through the Great Depression. Students could connect to the hard times we are having in today's society because the family loses their job and also loses their home. It also goes well with Social Studies and trading/bartering and mapping the places they had to move (Iowa, Idaho, Washington DC and Hawaii).


Product DetailsThe Memory String by Eve Bunting 

Recommended by Crystal Weathers. This book is written so that the characters can be anyone they know. A button represents memories for Laura who has lost her mother and is having problems accepting her step mother. The book is  rich with emotion from a girl trying to hold on to her past memories and making new memories. I use this book because so many of my children can relate to Laura in some way.



Product DetailsDon't Say Ain't by Irene Smalls

                              Recommended by Kim Sutherland for a great memoir. I use this book to teach dialect and it teaches that you don't have to give up your culture to be educated.  Also, the book uses a repeating line and could be a great source for character building too.



Product DetailsWilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridgeby Mem Fox  

                         Recommended by Crystal Weathers for a great way for children to begin thinking about memories. This book inspires students to use metaphors in their writing.  Mem Fox uses metaphors to paint in your mind  a memorable relationship between a child who is creating memories and an aging adult retrieving memories of long ago.  


Product DetailsThank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Recommended by: April Camp This book shows how a young girl, the author, goes through troubled times of learning how to read and the struggles with classmates. I love it and recommend you to read it with any  age.  I use it as a way to motivate my lower readers and show them what they can become, a writer, when they try hard and succeed.  


Product DetailsChristmas in the Countryby Cynthia Rylant

Recommended by Dawn Mitchell.  This is a book I've used repeatedly in my Cynthia Rylant author studies.  It is great for teaching specific detail and elaboration.  Also perfect for a memoir genre with primary aged students. 


Product DetailsWhere the Relatives Cameby Cynthia Rylant


Recommended by Kelly Compton. This is a recommended book by Lucy Caulkins' writing curriculum. I use this book to teach my students how to write about their "small moments". This book is about a family who travels from Virginia to visit their family and the experiences they have while there. Great memoir for primary grades.  

Product DetailsWhen I Was Young in the Mountainsby Cynthia Rylant

Recommended by Amber McDonald: I love to use this book when talking about memories in 2nd grade! It has also been used in 5th grade to talk about their life stories. We discussed when I was young in Spartanburg and what they recall as their favorite memory based on all five senses.

Recommended by Martha Vest: 


Product DetailsMy Mama Had a Dancing Heart by L.M. Gray

Recommended by Renee Phillips. This is great book to use with memoir study. I have used it with 2nd and 5th grade. The use of a repeated line and "compound adjectives" make this a book that students will be able to use as a model with their own writing. It also takes place over a period of time (seasons) so they can see that a memoir might be about something that happens more than once. For example, reading with my mom before I go to sleep each night.

Recommended by Crystal Weathers. I also agree with Renee that it is a wonderful example of a memoir that happens over a period of time. I also am using this book as a way to model a circular ending. The writer uses the same exact words to end the story. I find this a good lesson because so many of my children do not know the best way to end a story. This writing example will give them an option.  

Product DetailsA Gracious Plentyby Kate Salley Palmer


Product DetailsThe Pink Houseby Kate Salley Palmer

Recommended by Cammie Price.  This is a story about an extended family going to vacation on Edisto Island. Kate Palmer uses all of her senses throughtout this story. I encourage my students when writing about previous or upcoming family vacations, to try and use each of their senses. This book is also helpful when teaching sequencing for both reading and writing. Kate uses words like, after, and next, to help the reader understand the order of events. The illustrations are wonderful and this book will remind you of your own family vacations to the coast of South Carolina.  

Product DetailsSaturdays and Teacakesby Lester Laminack

     Recommended by Joan Green.  I love this book and so do my students.  It has vivid details of a little boy's visit to his grandmother on Saturdays.  It is great for teaching students how to show instead of tell when writing.  Chris Soentpiet's illustrations help bring the story to life.  The dialogue in the story lets us hear just how the grandmother sounded, for example, "You better wait, buddy.  They gonna be mighty hot just yet."  This was a story that my students could relate to.  It led easily to memoirs about their grandmothers.


     Reflections by Bonnie Cumbo. This book also inspired me to write my piece Saturdays and Doughnuts which I shared on the memoir inspired writing page of this wiki. I hope my piece gives readers of sense of what it was like to spend those Saturdays with my Dad while we were running errands.


Product DetailsThe Trip Back Home by Janet S. Wong


Product DetailsChicken Sundayby Patricia Polacco


Product DetailsAunt Flossie's Hats (and Crabcakes Later) by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard


Momma, Where Are You FromMomma, Where Are You From?by Marie Bradby

Recommended by Lindsay Blanton.  I LOVE this book and love to read it again and again.  It is the story of a little girl that asks the question, "Momma, where are you from?"  and the response is so poetic.  It makes you really think about where you are from and gives many writing opportunities. 


Product DetailsTwo Mrs. Gibsonsby Toyomi Igus


Product DetailsCalling the Doves/ El canto de las palomas by Juan Felipe Herrera




The Blue Hill MeadowsThe Blue Hill Meadows by Cynthia Rylant

Recommended by Martha Vest

Love this book! Cynthia Rylant takes us on a sweet journey to Blue Hill, Virginia to visit with Willie Meadow and his family.  Each of the four chapters tells a different story about this dear family and their beloved dog Lady.  Each chapter could stand alone or read all for a special treat.



Collections of Poetry


 Where I'm From (Writers' & Young Writers' Series #2) (Writers & Young Writers Series, #2)Where I'm From by George Ella Lyon

Recommended by Lindsay Blanton.  This book is a collection of poems that is great resource for the classroom.  The beginning poem, Where I'm From, for which the book is named has inspired so many other poems in this fashion.   


Product DetailsCome Sunday by Nikki Grimes


Collections of Memoir Vignettes by Single Authors


Product DetailsIn My Momma's Kitchenby Jerdine Nolen

Recommended by Sarah Stephanoff. I used this collection this past week with my students. We are actually studying slice of life which is similar to memoir so this collection could work for either genre. The best aspect of this collection is that the pieces are very short and are the length of what we would expect our students to write. This book is a good addition to any memoir text set because it balances out picture books and is a more direct model of what students will end up writing. 

Product DetailsMarshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher

Recomended by Renee Phillips. This is a great collection to use with intermediate students. All of his childhood memories are simple stories that show students how to write about small events. So many times students think they have to have done something amazing and "big". Plus he is such a great writer and the students can stand on his shoulders.   

Product DetailsChildtimes by Eloise Greenfield and Lessie Jones Little


Product DetailsA Summer Life by Gary Soto

The Moon and IThe Moon and Iby Betsy Byars

Recommended by Carla Taylor. I have used Byars' memoir for years in the classroom to introduce the writing process to my students. She sheds light on her process as a writer while hooking the reader's attention with a story about an encounter with a black snake on her porch. My students compare her process as a writer to their own processes.

Product DetailsMy Father's Summers- A Daughter's Memoir -by Kathi Appelt


Product DetailsSomehow Form a Family:  Stories That Are Mostly True by Tony Early


Product DetailsThe Circuit:  Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jime'nez


Recommended by Heather Yordy.  I chose this memoir to read for the unit of study and read it in 2 sittings... An excellent book that takes you inside the life of an immigrant child that has to move when the different crops are harvested.  Never truly settling into a home, and perfectly describing what it's like to live in a world where the language isn't yours, this memoir helped me understand what it must have been like for my native speakers as they came to the United States and struggled through school.  Even now, for many of them, having to live in 2 worlds - Spanish at home and English at school.  If provided the opportunity I would love to use it in my classroom to show our students how lucky they truly are to live with the freedoms they have and the opportunities they are given.


Looking Back: A Book of MemoriesLooking Back: A Book of Memories by Lois Lowrey


Recommended by Lori Milan. The author has taken pictures from almost 100 years and used them to write about her memories. In my classroom, I would use this book because of the pictures. Students can sometimes better put into writing what they see. One still picture can have pages of memories. You just have to write them down!


Collections of Memoir Vignettes by Different Authors


   Fragments of Isabella: A Memoir of Auschwitz Fragments of Isabella by Isabella Leitner 

Recommended by Kimberly Barnette.  I use this book to introduce both WWII and especially the Holocaust.  The author gives great imagery to let the students really feel what it was like during that time.  The students enjoy it because Isabella was just like them, talking about going to the movies with friends or on a date.  The book also has vocabulary, places, and events that are discussed in our unit.  This book fits right in a Holocaust unit for older students.


Product DetailsThe Milestones Project:  Celebrating Childhood Around the World-  Rachel and Michele Steckel, editors


Product DetailsLinda Brown, You Are Not Alone:  The Brown vs. Board of Education Decision  - Joyce Carol Thomas, editor


Product DetailsI Thought My Father Was God and Other True Tales form NPRs National Story Telling Project - Paul Austere, editor


Product DetailsGuys Write for Guys Read- Jon Scieszka, editor

Recommended by Sarah Stephanoff. Absolutely hilarious stories written by famous male authors! Any boy student in the upper elementary grades will love these memoirs. I read a few to my students this past week in our slice of life study and boys and girls came up to me afterward asking if they could read more. Make sure to pre-read the individual memoirs before you allow students to as some are not appropriate for elementary school.


Memoir Excerpts

Product DetailsKnots in My Yo-Yo String:  The Autobiography of a Kid by Jerry Spinelli


Product DetailsBad Boy by Walter Dean Myers


Product DetailsBreaking Through by Francisco Jime'nez


Product DetailsCaught by the Sea:  My Life on Boats by Gary Soto


Memoir in Novel Form


Little House In The Big Woodsby Laura Ingles Wilder

Recommended by: Bonnie Cumbo  This book series is a memorable account of what Laura Ingles Wilder's life was like when settlers were moving out West to explore new land.  Wilder uses imagery to describe crops that are grown and stored for the winter, how butter is made, as well as the beautiful calico material that is bought to make their dresses. It is also easy to determine the author's use of Voice in her writing. I recommend this book as a read aloud as early as second grade. 

The Unbreakable Child The Unbreakable Child  by Kim Michelle Richardson posted by Cathy Rode

I could not put this book down, the chilling tale of Kim Richardson's abuse that occurs when she is in a Catholic orpanage and the law-suit that follows will keep you engaged until the last sentence.  It gives graphic details of abuse, so I would not recommend it for young students.  A great book for a student that may want to enter the social field.


Shades of Blue  Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury

Recommended by Heather Yordy. This book is fiction, but based upon memories sparked by a song that Karen Kingsbury heard.  Karen took a life-altering event in her life and created this story.  Her recollections and descriptions of the emotions she experienced were infused into her characters.  A story about the choices we make that can forever change our lives, forgiveness, redemption, and healing.



Audience: adult

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor  recommended by Kim Wells

Fans of The Secret Life of Bees will enjoy the reflective quality of this memoir by the famous author and her daughter. Any mother (or daughter) who has experienced the loss and adventure of coming of age will immediately be captivated by the alternating chapters penned by mother and daughter. The rich stylistic symbolism and metaphor of Sue Monk Kidd infuses the stories of traveling to Greece. As a memoir it provides author's insight in The Secret Life of Bees, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, and The Mermaid's Chair.



Product DetailsAll Over But the Shoutin' - Rick Bragg

Recommended by Carla Taylor. I have used this laugh-out-loud funny, but incredibly touching book with 8th graders (only excerpts, of course, as content is not necessarily appropriate for the age).  Chapter one begins with an incredible sense of place established through imagery.  I typically have the student do a quick write of their "homeplace". Then I read part of chapter one giving each group a sense (sight, sound, smell...) from which to collect words.  Then we share whole group and discuss Bragg's use of imagery, specific nouns, etc.  Finally, the students revise their writing to model Bragg -- it is an excellent mentor text -- the kids just "get it."


Product DetailsAva's Man - Rick Bragg


Product DetailsPrince of Frogtown - Rick Bragg


Product DetailsThe Most They Ever Had - Rick Bragg


Product Details'Tis- Frank McCourt


Product DetailsFried Butter:  A Food Memoirby Abe Opincar




The Vespasiano Memoirs: Lives of Illustrious Men of the Xvth Century (RSART: Renaissance Society of America Reprint Text Series)The Vespasiano Memoirs: Lives of Illustrious Men of the XVth Century

                                by Vespasiano da Bisticci

Recommended by Kimberly Trott. Vespasiano was a bookseller in Florence, Italy in the 1420's.  His bookstore beacame a meeting place for smart men ofthe the time period.  This book is a collection of his thoughts about his friends and patrons and offers a glimpse into the issues of the time period.  This book could be used for excerpts from it at the high school level to glimpse at Late Medieval and Renaissance life.                              


Product DetailsGalileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love by Dava Sobel

Recommended by Kimberly Trott.  I have not actually read this book but have read Dava Sobel's other works which are easy to read and a delight for readers who like the Renaissance period.  This book is a memoir of letter's written by Galileo's daughter, a nun, to her father.  His letter's to her have not survived. This book would be great to show student's the workings of the Catholic Church and the beliefs of thought during this time period.   


Product DetailsHoward Carter:  The Path to Tutankhamun by Howard Carter

Recommended by Kimberly Trott.  This book is Howard Carter's memories on every thing he saw and felt unearthing King Tut's tomb. 


Online Sites

Kimberly Trott recommended this site from NPR (National Public Radio) that published six word memoirs.  The link is below.

Can you tell your life story in exactly six words?


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