Open Court Themes and Stories:
Unit 1: Friendship
- Gloria Who Might Be My Best Friend
- In this piece of realistic fiction, Julian tests his skills at making friends with the new kid on the block, who just happens to be a girl.
- Angel Child, Dragon Child
- This story tells of a Vietnamese child’s first experiences in an American school – her feelings of separation and alienation, and the subsequent joy as she is understood and accepted.
- The Tree House
- Chrissy and Leah both refuse to let the other visit as they quarrel over whose tree house is best. Finally, though, the girls discover that sharing something increases its worth.
- Rugby & Rosie
- This selection tells the story of friendship between pets and people. When a puppy comes to stay for just a year, existing relationships change. The story teaches students that sometimes friends have to say goodbye and that even in the midst of sadness over separation, new friendships can begin.
- This piece chronicles the challenges that Jackie Robinson faced as the first African-American baseball player in the major leagues, and the integrity of those who supported him.
- The Legend of Damon and Pythias
- Damon and Pythias are legendary figures passed down from the Greek tradition. Their trust and loyalty in each other have made them examples of true friendship. The sacrifice they are willing to make for each other is a lesson in the beautiful potential of friendship.
Unit 2: City Wildlife
- The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring
- King Shabazz, with the aid of his faithful friend, Tony Polito, hits the streets in search of the mysterious spring. Students learn that wildlife can be found in any city neighborhood, no matter how crowded.
- City Critters
- A variety of “wild” animals are found in cities, in unusual places. These “critters” may be able to tell us about the effects of urban living on human city-dwellers. Students learn the differences between a wild animal and a pet. Scientists study city animals to find out about the effects of pollution and other city phenomena.
- Make Way for Ducklings
- Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings are due at the Public Garden, where they are to meet Mr. Mallard. But first they have to cross a busy Boston street. Students learn that some animals have a natural ability to seek and adapt to environments that meet their needs. People also have a responsibility to nurture and protect wildlife.
- Urban Roosts
- This selection will guide city naturalists to birds’ nests hidden in different places throughout the nation’s cities.
- Two Days in May
- When a family of deer ends up in the city looking for food, a community must decide how to help them. Students learn that as natural habitats disappear, wildlife enters cities and towns.
- Secret Place
- A hidden spot by the river right in the middle of the city is home to many species. Students learn that wildlife can thrive in cities but must be protected.
Unit 3: Imagination
- Through Grandpa’s Eyes
- Realistic fiction that tells how a blind grandfather teaches his grandson how to “see” without using his eyes.
- The Cat Who Became a Poet
- A humorous fantasy that tells of a cat who reluctantly became a poet.
- A Cloak for the Dreamer
- A family of tailors thinks of the perfect gift for a boy with a lot of imagination.
- A biography of Picasso that describe the many challenges faced by this imaginative genius. Students learn that the way we express our imagination may change depending on our changing life circumstances.
- The Emperor’s New Clothes
- A modern retelling of a famous fairy tale. A vain leader lets his imagination lead him astray.
- Realistic fiction that shows how young children’s powers of imagination enriched their lives.
Unit 4: Money
- A New Coat for Anna
- Anna needs a new coat. Her mother has no money. Students learn that there are ways of obtaining what we need without money.
- Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday
- Alexander uses ample humor to tell the story of how, in a very short time, he squandered a lot of money. Students learn that it can be difficult to save money, especially when faced with so many temptations to spend it.
- Kids Did It in Business
- Children are ingenious, creative, and responsive in the businesses they imagine and go on to build. Students learn that some children earn money by starting their own businesses. This involves imagination and hard work.
- The Cobbler’s Song
- The cobbler sings while he works. What makes him so happy? Students learn that wealth does not necessarily bring happiness.
- Four Dollars and Fifty Cents
- Borrowing money can lead to trouble. Students learn that problems can beset people who live on credit.
- The Go-Around Dollar
- How many times does a dollar change hands in one day? Where do dollar bills come from? This engaging nonfiction and narrative selection examines these and other questions. Students learn that paper money is carefully managed by the federal government.
- Ant and the Three Little Figs
- A humorous tale about a boy sharing a story with his little brother, Ant. However, when the boy decides to change the details of a familiar story, Ant doesn’t think it’s funny.
- Uncle Jed’s Barbershop
- Uncle Jed had a lifelong dream of owning his own barbershop. Will a family crisis and the Great Depression make his dream impossible? Students learn that many dreams must be paid for with money. Saving the money takes patience and determination.
Unit 5: Storytelling
- A Story, A Story
- An African folktale that explains how stories came to fill our world.
- Oral History
- This article tells of people who used storytelling to preserve their history.
- Storm in the Night
- A story about a grandfather and grandson who keep each other company during a thunderstorm. Students learn that stories bring families together, teach, and entertain.
- Carving the Pole
- This factual narrative tells of carving a wordless story in wood.
- The Keeping Quilt
- This true story tells how a quilt was used to tie a family’s past and present together.
- Johnny Appleseed
- This biography tells about the life of the real person behind the legend.
- Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later)
- In this piece of realistic fiction, Aunt Flossie’s hats evoke memories, which she shares in story form.
Unit 6: Country Life
- The Country Mouse and the City Mouse
- This famous fable illustrates why “a simple life in peace and safety is preferable to a life of luxury tortured by fear.” Students learn that there are advantages and disadvantages to country living.
- The countryside comes alive in this tribute to the great American heartland. Students learn that the United States has large agricultural regions that are vital to the country’s continued prosperity.
- Leah’s Pony
- This story shows the courage of a young farm girl and the hard times her family faces in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression.
- Cows in the Parlor: A Visit to the Dairy Farm
- This piece provides a look at a modern-day dairy farm to trace the daily routine of a dairy farmer. The automatic milking process exemplifies how advanced farm technology affects the way people in the country work and live.
- Just Plain Fancy
- Young Naomi longs to own something fancy, but the rules of her Amish community strictly forbid it. Then, she gets her wish in an unexpected and very unusual way.