What is a Living Book

June 9, 2020

What is a Living Book


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A living book is a book that comes alive. The author writes with a passion that makes you want to keep reading. It is often written in narrative form and almost conversational. It is extremely well-written with longer, more detailed sentences. Living books touch emotions, and visualizing what is written is easy. Ideas are a big part of the book. These ideas show characters who have critical thinking skills and think outside the box. Living books are great teaching resources to grasp your students’ attention and can be used as a discussion starter.

Living books at a glance

  1. Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (1997)
  2. Charlotte´s Web (2012, Trophy Newbery)
  3. Our favorite: Holes (2000)
  4. The Prince and the Pauper (2009)
  5. The Sign of the Beaver (2011)
  6. Number the Stars (2009)
  7. Snowflake Bentley (2009)
  8. The Story of Ferdinand (1936)
  9. The Mouse and the Motorcycle (2016)
  10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998)
  11. Because of Winn Dixie (2015)
  12. The Lorax (1971)

Living books are great resources for teaching comprehension skills as well as can be used as additional classroom activities with other subjects such as history, science, and math. 

12 of the Best Living Books

1. Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (1997)

 Author: Cindy Neuschwander

A story written with wordplay and puns creates a visual of a knight (Sir Cumference) going on an adventure.

This adventure isn’t just any adventure but a math adventure. With help from his wife (Lady Di of Ameter) and son (Radius), they must save the kingdom, but first, to build a table where all knights can be heard when meeting. The plot moves quickly and is presented in such a funny way that the reader will be hooked from the beginning. 

This book is a great teaching tool to learn not only about circles but other shapes as well and is the first in a series of Sir Cumference books.

2. Charlotte´s Web (2012, Trophy Newbery)

 Author: E.B. White

In this timeless tale of friendship, overcoming struggles, and loneliness, we meet Wilbur, a pig, who befriends Charlotte, a spider. Together, they plot to keep Wilbur from being family dinner. With help from a rat, Charlotte teaches Wilbur what it means to be a friend. 

This book was written over sixty years ago. It is an award-winning chapter book that evokes so many emotions as you read. You will be laughing one minute and crying the next.

A great story for any age, you’ll fall in love with every character.

This book should be read by every child at some point; it is easily visualized and keeps you wanting more. 

3. Holes (2000)

 Author: Louis Sachar

Meet Stanley Yelnats, a boy who finds himself going to a detention center after a freak accident. While he is at the detention center, he learns more than character. He digs holes to find something, something the warden wants.

Did we mention Stanley’s family is cursed? Wil his time at the detention center just happen to break this curse?

This multiple award-winning story is great for any age. The fast-moving pace of the plot really draws the reader in. The flashbacks in the story help create a beautiful spider web of connection.

This book can easily be tied to math concepts such as percentages, ratios, and elapsed time.

4. The Prince and the Pauper (2009)

 Author: Mark Twain

A story originally written in 1882, provides an adventure of two boys who happen to look alike, trade places. The prince becomes the pauper, and the pauper becomes the prince.

This story of hardship and acceptance shows character development and change.

A great read while learning about medieval times, this book offers insight into life during that time.

This book does have some mature content that may not be suitable for readers under eight years of age. 

5. The Sign of the Beaver (2011)

 Author: Elizabeth George Speare

Thirteen-year-old Matt must quickly become a man in this early American historical novel. He is left to defend the homestead when his father returns to the east to gather his mother and sister. Matt learns valuable lessons about himself and how to survive. After his only gun is stolen, he must learn from Attean, a Native American boy. In return for Matt’s lessons, Matt must teach Attean how to read and communicate to help his tribe survive the ever-growing white men.

This is a well-written novel that would tie greatly to westward expansion and early American history.

Deep lessons and conversations can take place while reading this book as to the mistreatment of Native Americans and settlers struggles. 

This book can be slow at points, but overall is a worthwhile historical novel great for boys and girls. 

6. Number the Stars (2009)

 Author: Lois Lowry

This novel set during WWII, offers a story of friendship, courage, and cooperation. When Annemarie’s family learns German troops would start relocating Denmark jews, they know they must help Annemarie’s best friend Ellen Rosen and her family.

This story of heroism is becoming a classic read for children. So many lessons in this story are great for the present. Annemarie’s courage enables Ellen to escape to freedom across the sea into Sweden.

This book is fiction. However, it contains many nonfiction facts that make it a great supplementary tool while teaching WWII and the holocaust.

7. Snowflake Bentley (2009)

 Author: Jacqueline Briggs Martin

A great living book to aid in teaching science, Snowflake Bentley, is a biography of Wilson Bentley. Wilson Bentley was determined at a young age to photograph the beautiful crystals that created snowflakes. During his time, people often misunderstood his goal. However, because of Bentley’s work, we know that no two snowflakes are the same.

This award-winning book is perfect for students younger than 4th grade.

The story of commitment would aid in lessons on perseverance and determination.

8. The Story of Ferdinand (1936)

 Author: Munro Leaf

Another timeless tale, Ferdinand, is a strong, black bull, unlike any other in Spain. Ferdinand does not want to fight in the bullfights; he would rather sit and smell the flowers. However, through a force of nature, Ferdinand is picked to fight in the bullfights. What happens next is unexpecting as he just sits there, smelling the flowers in the ring.

This well-written storybook shows it is alright to be unique and not like those around you. It is also a supplementary story to read while learning about Spain and bullfights.

Ferdinand encourages us to be unique and to be ourselves.

9. The Mouse and the Motorcycle (2016)

 Author: Beverly Cleary

The first chapter book in the Ralph Mouse trilogy, this story is about a mouse who makes a toy motorcycle come to life to go on an adventure to save the day. Ralph lives in a hotel and makes friends with Keith, a visitor to the hotel.  Keith owns a toy motorcycle, and when he leaves it unattended one day, Ralph jumps on to go through numerous obstacles.

This award-winning story is engaging and thrilling. It has you on the edge of your seat wondering if Ralph will get caught.

The imagery and entertainment will keep you wishing for a mouse to ride a motorcycle.

10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998)

 Author: JK Rowling

Harry Potter has often felt like the black sheep in his family. Why wouldn’t he as he lived with his horrible, terrible, aunt and uncle? His parents died in a car crash many years before, or so he thought. Then on his 11th birthday, he found out he was a wizard and not just any wizard but a famous one!

This is the story of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is a story of friendship, self-discovery, and overcoming challenges. It is the first of a seven-book series.

This series is the most cohesive children’s series ever written. 

JK Rowling created a world and vocabulary of wizards that are interesting, thrilling, and keeps you wanting more.

11. Because of Winn Dixie (2015)

 Author: Kate DiCamillo

You will fall in love with Opal, a young girl whose mother left her and called her father “the preacher” and Winn Dixie, a mangy mutt that Opal found in Winn Dixie who loves to sing and is afraid of thunderstorms. You will laugh when Opal takes Winn Dixie to church and cry when Winn Dixie can’t be found. Everything happened because of Winn Dixie, including all of Opal’s new friendships. 

This is an award-winning novel of friendship, evokes every emotion. Children’s author, Kate DiCamillo, has several living books, including The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and The Mercy Watson series.

12. The Lorax (1971)

 Author: Dr. Seuss

In The Lorax, the reader learns the lesson to speak up and stand up for those who can’t.

We follow the story of the Lorax as he tries to get people to see the beauty of the Truffula trees and to stop using them before they run out. 

It is a story of conservation and responsibility. This Dr. Seuss’ book has a great message and is easy to read. 


These living books will hopefully encourage you and your students to think outside the box. We are sure you felt the emotions and were able to visualize the amazing adventures of the characters. We love reading living books!

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