When I think of seasonal books, the first thing that comes to mind are picture books with illustrations of falling leaves or landscapes covered in snow. While these books are wonderful for young children, they may be too simplistic for older students. Another problem with these books is that they usually only focus on only one season. However, the changing of seasons throughout the entire year can have deep, figurative meanings in many works of literature and is excellent to discuss with students. If you are looking for a book like these that covers every season and is appropriate for older students, I have two wonderful chapter books that may be perfect.
The Blizzard Year: Timmy’s Almanac For The Seasons by Gretel Ehrlich
Reading Levels (According to Scholastic Book Wizard)-
- Interest Level- Grades 6 -8
- Grade Level Equivalent- 5.9
- Guided Readling Level- N/A
- DRA Level- N/A
- Lexile® Measure- 890L
The Blizzard Year is about a girl named Timmy who lives on a farm. The book is written in diary form, and, in each chapter, Timmy describes a different month of the year, starting with February. Timmy explains the seasonal and weather changes that occur during these months. At the same time, she covers the story of her family’s farm that is facing financial difficulty and may be closed. Through the help of her friends, Timmy tries to save the farm from one of the worst blizzard and weather years.
- As an ELA lesson, students could study the use of literary techniques in this book. For example, the seasons and weather acts as metaphors and help develop themes of never giving up, and starting over. This would make a great introduction or review of these literary elements, and could make a good discussion for the classroom. The themes could even be related to the students’ own lives.
- The language in The Blizzard Year is beautifully written. Students could analyze and discuss the story’s unique sentence structure and other language techniques used by the author.
- As mentioned in the summary, this book is written as an almanac or journal. Using the book as a model, students could write their own journals or almanacs based on the weather and events happening in their lives.
- Extreme weather plays a huge role in this book. This can be related to science and weather change. For example, students can study how blizzards form or affect the environment. They could also research and analyze if the extreme weather in the book was naturally occurring or caused by climate change.
- The book can even be used in a social studies lesson. The story deals a lot with fiances and property. Students could also study how farms run and affect the economy.
Overall, this is a fantastic book with beautiful writing and meaningful messages. These are just some of the many lessons that teachers could use in the classroom. The book is a quick yet enjoyable read and would be perfect for older elementary students and middle schoolers.
Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen
Reading levels (According to Scholastic Book Wizard)-
- Interest Level- Grades 6- 8
- Grade Level Equivalent- 6.1
- Guided Reading Level- R
- DRA Level: 40
- Lexile® Measure- 750L
When Marly’s father isn’t feeling well after coming back from the war, her family decides to move out into the country where he can get some peace and quiet. They go to Maple Hill where Marly’s parted grandmother owned a house. The hill is surrounded by maple trees and forests. Marly learns how to harvest syrup from the maple trees and goes on many other adventures. As the seasons change, Marly witnesses the rebirth of nature, as well as her father’s and family’s spirits.
- For an ELA lesson, Miracles on Maple Hill has a strong reliance on the seasons as a metaphor. Students can analyze what the different parts of nature represent (i.e. a new flower budding to life). The idea of miracles is also a recurring theme in the story that relates directly to the metaphors and other themes.
- The process of sugaring is explained in great detail throughout the story and it is very scientific. Studying the process or making their own maple syrup as an experiment would be a great science lesson for students.
- As the book explains, maple syrup was originally created by Native Americans. Learning about the indigenous people who made it and their lifestyle would make an excellent cultural or social studies unit.
- Marly’s father would be a great discussion for a social studies or history lesson. He is sick because he is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being in WWII. This can act as a springboard for discussing WWII and the effect that PTSD has on soldiers, even in society today.
- There are multiple incidences in the book where Marly has to make moral decisions about animals. Some of the characters consider animals’ lives to be insignificant or worthless, while Marly believes every life is valuable. This can make an interesting moral debate among the students. Do the students agree with Marly or the other characters’ view of animals?
Altogether, this Newberry Award winning book is a heartwarming story that is written with many effective and beautiful literary elements. Although the reading level is a little lower than A Blizzard Year, this book definitely goes deeper and is heavier read in terms of the subject matter. However, the use of nature and the theme of starting over will help uplift the spirits of the students.
A Blizzard Year and Miracles on Maple Hill are excellent books and can be used to compare and contrast each other’s themes, metaphors, and use of seasons.
Both are available on Amazon and through Scholastic.