The first one is called "Lazy Cat Hero- The Rise of the Nap". It's a folk tale about the laziest cat ever and it is hilarious. If you've ever owned a cat, you know that they can certainly out-lazy any other animal on the planet. My own cat, for example was too lazy to respond to her own name (although, in fairness, maybe we called her the wrong name). The cat in THIS book is called Bubastis who calls himself Bub or sometimes just B, because really, Bubastis is SUCH a long name. Bub starts off in a crypt in Egypt, moves to a pirate ship, and ends up in with a knight and a dragon. In each story, Bub is either the craftiest cat alive, or the luckiest because each time he ends up in mortal peril, some aspect of his laziness completely saves his life. The kids are going to love how unlikely Bub's survival is and it would be really fun to consider using it as a mentor text for writing (you could totally use this one in a unit on folk tales and fairy tales). As a writing mentor text you could think about other lazy animals and how they survived perilous situations. This would be great paired up with Eric Kimmel's folktale called "Three Samurai Cats". Super fun!
The next one is non fiction. It's a biography about George Moses Horton who was a poet and a slave. It's called "Poet: The Remarkable Life of George Moses Horton" by Don Tate. It tells about George M. Horton who was born a slave but had such a passion for words and poetry (like the ones he heard at church) that he taught himself to read and then make poetry. He ended up at the University of North Carolina (his master lived near there and sent him to Chapel Hill to sell vegetables) where he was able to sell his poems. He gained fame and notoriety there and was even able to make money, enough money that his master was unwilling to sell him. Eventually, he met a woman who taught him to write. He wrote two books and was eventually set free. The pictures are nice and the story of his life is a good lesson about persistence.
The last one is another picture book biography and it's called "The Elephant Man" by Mariangela DiFiore. It's about Joseph Merrick who is also known as the Elephant Man because of his devastating affliction of tumors growing all over his body. It's one of the saddest stories I've ever heard and I could think that some kids will really like seeing the pictures of what he really looked like. I had a hard time moving past how mean people were to him. I understand that he lived in a time when it was culturally appropriate to gawk at people who were different (like bearded women or people who were extremely fat or tall or short) but it really makes you appreciate how far society has come when you think about the American's with disabilities act and Public Law 94-142 that requires that all kids are educated in their home school. I sure am glad we live in a more enlightened time.