Sadlier Math Grades K–6
Core Program
Full Access
Progress in Mathematics Grades K–6
Core Program
Full Access
High-Impact Tutoring
Progress in Mathematics Grades 7–8+
Core Program
Full Access
Progress Mathematics Grades K–8
National Program
Full Access
New York
Critical Thinking for Active Math Minds
Grades 3–6
Preparing for Standards Based Assessments
Grades 7–8
Reading & Writing
From Phonics to Reading Grades K-3
Print Program
Interactive Practice Bundle
Fluency Booster Practice Book
Interactive Assessments
High-Impact Tutoring
Sadlier Phonics
Grades K–3
Close Reading of Complex Texts Grades 3–8
Print Program
Interactive Edition
Building Reading Success with Wiley Blevins Grades K–5
Tier 2 & Tier 3 Intervention for Grades K—5
High-Impact Tutoring
Sadlier Handwriting Practice
Print Program
Progress English Language Arts Grades K–8
National Program
Full Access
High-Impact Tutoring
New York
Vocabulary Workshop, Tools for Comprehension Grades 1–5
Print Program
Interactive Edition
Vocabulary Workshop Achieve Grades 6–12+
Print Program
Interactive Edition
Vocabulary Workshop, Tools for Excellence Grades 6–12+
Print Program
Interactive Edition
Vocabulary Workshop Adaptive
Grades 6—12
Vocabulary for Success
Grades 6–10
Grammar Workshop, Tools for Writing
Grades 2–5
Grammar Workshop
Grades 6–8
Grammar for Writing
Grades 6–12
Building Reading Success with Wiley Blevins
Tier 2 & Tier 3 Intervention for Grades K—5
High Impact Tutoring
Professional Learning
Professional Learning

English Language Arts Blog

The home of Vocab Gal and other educational experts K–12 resources

March 21, 2017 CL Teaching Strategies Notice & Note, ELA K-5, ELA Focus - Reading, ELA Resources - Activities, Core Literacy

How to Pair Books for Comparing and Contrasting Practice

I can feel the enthusiasm among my students when I am sharing a book with them that I love. I guess my passion and excitement are that contagious!

As a literacy specialist, my list of favorite books has become alarmingly long!

In order to share more of my favorite books during class, I've started sharing two "books that I love" with students at a time. When I made this change, I quickly realized that sharing two books at once was perfect for practicing compare and contrast strategies.



Today, I'm sharing how I use "books that I love" to compare and contrast.

Comparing and contrasting is a critical literacy skill emphasized in the Common Core State Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

This reading strategy is an important skill for students to develop. In the past, I've shared a variety of lessons and activities teachers can use to help students with their compare and contrast skills. You can download these resources at the bottom of the page!

To support compare and contrast activities, I carefully choose two books that will foster comparing and contrasting.

Fortunately, my familiarity with my favorite books makes it easy to pair them together.


Recently, I paired A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park and Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. I chose to share these two books together because they both are about "lost boys" of Sudan* and they each have a unique style of writing. Here are brief synopses of both:


a-long-walk-to-water-activites.jpegA Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008, and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the "lost boys" of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.


home-of-the-brave.jpegHome of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

“A man I helped to settle here
taught me a saying from Africa.
I'll bet you would like it:
A cow is God with a wet nose.”

Kek comes from Africa, where he lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived. Now she's missing, and Kek has been sent to a new home. In America, he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter―cold and unkind. But slowly he makes friends: a girl in foster care, an old woman with a rundown farm, and a sweet, sad cow that reminds Kek of home. As he waits for word of his mother's fate, Kek weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.


As mentioned above, in A Long Walk to Water, Park tells two different stories at the same time, which in the end merge into one. Every chapter begins with Nya's story, followed by Salva's story.

Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate, is written in a lyrical, poetic fashion. Her use of figurative language draws the reader in and inspires the writer within us. Aside from taking notes for comparing and contrasting, I always encourage my students to jot down phrases from this story that touch them. They record any passage in their writing journals so at a later time they can refer back to these passages to inspire their own writing.

After reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park and Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, students compare and contrast the experiences of Kek and Salva.

I have handout teachers can download to assist students in comparing and contrasting these two stories.




Sharing books that you love with students can spread an enthusiasm for reading. To make book sharing more impactful, present two books at a time that can be used for comparing and contrasting.

Two books that are great to share and compare are A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park and Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. The characters in these stories will leave a lasting impact on students.

I love these two books and now my students love them, too!





Compare-and-Contrast-Lesson-Plan-750px.jpgCompare & Contrast
Cinderella Stories

Download Now


The Isle of the Lost Cahracter Comparison

Download Now



Compare & Contrast A Mother's Wish

Download Now


*In 1987, civil war drove an estimated 20,000 young boys from their families and villages in southern Sudan. Most just six or seven years old, they fled to Ethiopia to escape death or induction into the northern army. They walked more than a thousand miles, half of them dying before reaching Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. The survivors of this tragic exodus became known as the Lost Boys of Sudan. (Taken from: https://www.rescue.org/article/lost-boys-sudan)