The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman

Recommended Grades: 3-5

A little girl visiting her great-grandfather is encouraged to find something in his shop and he’ll tell her a story.  She chooses a cigar box that turns out to hold a host of matchboxes.  Inside each is a memento attached to a story.  Through the mementos, the little girl learns about her great-grandfather’s youth in Italy and subsequent immigration to the United States. 

Lesson Idea:


Mentor Text: Memoir Writing:  Read aloud The Matchbox Diary and discuss the characteristics of memoir writing.  This particular book is not an actual memoir, but is memoir-like.  Use this as a model/mentor text for writing about objects that evoke memories. Pair this with The Keeping Quilt,  Ma Dear’s Aprons and Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later).  How do the authors use objects to write autobiographically?

©2013 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

Recommended Grades:3-5

An autobiographical account of a quilt that was passed down from generation to generation. 

Lesson Idea:


Mentor Text: Memoir Writing:  Read aloud The Keeping Quilt and discuss the characteristics of memoir writing.  Use this as a model/mentor text for writing about objects. Pair this with Ma Dear’s Aprons and Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later).  How do the authors use objects to write autobiographically?

©2013 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco

Recommended Grades: 4-6

This is the heartwarming story of how Patricia Polacco discovered she was an artist, a story that shows just how important a teacher can be in a child’s life. 

Lesson Idea:  


Memoir Mentor Text:  Read aloud The Art of Miss Chew and discuss the autobiographical aspects of the story in a study of memoir mentor texts.  Use several of Polacco’s books in an author study of memoir writing.  Other books by Polacco about inspirational teachers taken from her life are Junkyard Wonders and Thank You, Mr. Falker.

©2012 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack

Recommended Grades: 3-5

A memoir of the author’s weekly Saturday visit with his grandmother.  The author’s voice is prominent throughout. 

Lesson Idea:

Writers Workshop:


Memoir/Voice Mentor Text: Read aloud Saturdays and Teacakes and discuss how the author’s voice comes through in the text.  Use this book as model during a study of memoirs or as a model text for writers workshop when students are writing their own memoirs or when they need a model for voice in a memoir.

©2012 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

George: George Washington, Our Founding Father by Frank Keating

Recommended Grades: 4-6

A first person telling of the more important events in George Washington’s life is told woven with quotes from his “Rules of Civility.”

Lesson Idea:

Memoir-esque:


Mentor Texts: Several recent books weave quotes from the person into the story.  This is a great model for students to use in their own writing.  Read aloud George: George Washington, Our Founding Father (Paula Wiseman Books) and discuss how he used his “Rules of Civility” to guide his character.  How did the author effectively weave Washington’s actual rules into the story? Read aloud other books, like Martin’s Big Words or Imogene’s Last Stand that effectively use quotes woven through story as model texts.  Have students use the models to guide their own writing.       

©2012 by Dawn Little for Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.