Keeping with the Theme in Virginia Readers' Choice

As I sat and read the elementary Virginia Readers' Choice books, I realized a common theme that runs throughout them all. And that is why I have waited to write about all of them in one blog post. So, here goes!
A common theme of friendship runs through all of these Virginia Readers' Choice books. See how they can help so many students as they work on making new friends each day.

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A Long Pitch Home by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

An unexpected turn of events sends Bilal and his family across the world from Pakistan to Virginia, everyone except for this father. Life is different in America than it was in Pakistan. Losing everything he had back home, Bilal has to learn a whole new way of life.

One of the first things he has to understand is baseball. Back home, he was a cricket star, but in America, there is no cricket here in America. Instead, he learns a new sport, baseball. Though he can’t hit, he proves to be an amazing pitcher. He wants to share his new love of baseball with his father, who has not been able to come over from Pakistan.

Making friends isn’t as hard to do, but choosing who he wants as friends proves to be tricky. He quickly meets friends from other Indian cultures who understand him, but he also meets Jordan, a girl who plays baseball. The boys do not like her because she has taken spots on the elite baseball team, The Cardinals. Finding out more about Jordan helps Bilal as he waits for his father to arrive to be with his family. Jordan continues to wait for her father to arrive home from Afghanistan. Now Bilal does not feel alone.

The book A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts is the perfect picture book companion to this book! Check out my post about A Piece of Home by clicking {here}.

The story of friendship and baseball will help many children understand what it takes to wait for others and befriend those who need it.

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern

Benny's life has turned upside down when his father suffers a near fatal fall. As a fourth grader, Benny feels he should know how to ride a bike, so when he crashes into his father and causes an aneurysm, he takes it hard. Not only does he not have his "old dad", but he deals with his older autistic brother George, who is beginning to "grow up". Life isn't easy in his family, and school isn't any easier.

His best friend has moved away, so Benny feels he must find a new one. That quest for a friend leads him in directions he doesn't expect. Needing help in reading and math, he finds solace in Olga, a blind girl who helps him as he learns. Other students want nothing to do with her, but Benny realizes she is a true friend and a unique person.

And Benny is always trying to make his bad days not seem so bad. His mom always believed that when bad things happen, you should think about someone else's problem and try to help them. Benny and his friends all have the opportunity to do just that with the footprints program. They can earn footprints by doing good deeds, and Benny just can't earn any. Finally he finds out that his teacher Mr. Norris has an autistic child, and he helps to calm him down. Having George as a brother wasn't too bad after all!

What a great book to show that we can make the best of every situation no matter what!

Wish by Barbara O'Conner

Charlie must go live with an aunt and uncle she has never met when her dad ends up in jail, and her mother can't care for her. Her sister gets to stay behind in Raleigh with best friend, but Charlie has to go away to Colby in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.  Leaving behind her friends and life in Raleigh, Charlie just knows that everyone in Colby is a squirrel-eating hillbilly. 

Living with Bertha and Gus seems much easier than she thought. They show understanding and compassion, even when she gets in trouble at school. And Howard, her backpack buddy and class outcast, helps her learn more about life in Colby, as well as her own self. Yet, each day she makes a wish on whatever she can to make it come true.

The true highlight of her stay comes when she sees a scraggly stray dog. She knows she wants a dog of her own because he will love her no matter what. She and Howard find a way to catch the dog and make him her own. Wishbone becomes that one thing she has longed for and helps Charlie see how someone can love her unconditionally.

Learning to love no matter what makes for a great lesson for every child.

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

Bixby Alexander Tam (Bat) is different from other children his age. He knows that he thinks and acts differently than his classmates, and he works hard to try to be more normal. But what happens when his mother brings home a baby skunk who needs to be rescued, he can't resist taking care of it. 

Very quickly, the skunk becomes a part of all that Bat wants to do. He loves the skunk as his own pet and takes care of Thor the skunk every chance he gets. When he asks mom if he can keep the skunk, she always reminds him that it will be a lot of work. Bat is ready to take it on.

He even reaches out to a skunk expert, who helps him understand what it would mean to take care of the skunk. In that time, a boy from his class, Israel, shows interest in the skunk and befriends Bat. Bat has never had a friend, so he has to understand how he will make it work out as a friend.

Will Bat keep the skunk? Will this be a friendship Bat didn't expect?

Crime Biters:  My Dog is Better Than Your Dog by Tommy Greenwald

Summer is over, and Jimmy Bishop is less than ready for fifth grade. He has a large blotch on his face, and his parents are more involved with their own lives. His parents have decided he needs a new babysitter, and he and his best friend Irwin are both in love with the same girl. What's he going to do to make his fifth grade year great?

When he finally gets a dog, Abby, he realizes that something is different about her. She sleeps all day and truly stays up all night. She even seems to have fangs. So, how will this dog help him as he begins his fifth grade year?

Nothing seems to go right for Jimmy on his first few days of school. The school bully Baxter begins very quickly to pick on him, and his babysitter Mrs. Cragg is crazier than crazy. She makes unusual meals and hates the dog. But what is really going on?

Abby, Jimmy's dog leads them all on a crazy chase to find out what Mrs. Cragg is really up to. When Baxter, the bully, is embarrassed in a way, something amazing happens. A new and unlikely friendship grows.

The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg

John Watson has just moved to New York with him mom after a divorce. Now he wants to find new friends in this big city. On his first day there, he encounters Shelby Holmes, a 9 year-old sixth grader who takes in everything. Though he really wants to find guy friends who play basketball and think like he does. But Shelby intrigues him.

When a champion show dog turns up missing, Shelby is on the case, and John tags along. Now that Shelby has him around, she makes sure he becomes a part of the investigation, making him do all kinds of things he never imagined he would do.

Working together to solve the case, Watson realizes Shelby isn't quite so bad. She is someone he can depend on and work to find new friends. The first book in this series makes mysteries fun for children of all ages.

So, how do all of these books relate to each other? I found that all of these books included not only unexpected friendships but absent fathers in some way. It's not the overall theme of the books, but those do play an important role in the story.
A common theme of friendship runs through all of these Virginia Readers' Choice books. See how they can help so many students as they work on making new friends each day.

So, that's it for the Virginia Reader's Choice books for the 2018-2019 school year. Tune in next spring as I begin reviewing and talking about the 2019-2020 school year Virginia Readers' Choice books.

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