Thursday, December 15, 2011

Writing a Book Report -- A Guideline

     A book report is a great way for children to learn the arts of reading, summarizing, analyzing, and writing.  However, when my oldest wrote his first one, I searched and searched for some sort of guideline or outline -- something that he could use to get started.  I finally found an outline on the internet that I liked, and then I changed it to suit our needs.  
     The idea is that you use the questions to help your child write six paragraphs.  If each question in a section is answered, the paragraph will be pretty solid.  However, do not use each question as one sentence. (I've never been a stickler for:  "Each paragraph must have five sentences.")  If you do, you will have a book report that sounds like this:  "I read Blah by John Doe.  I chose it because it had a great cover.  It was written in 2011.  It won the Bad Book Award.  The author is famous for writing Yuck and Boring.  There are 1,000 copies of this book in print."  The sentences will be too short and choppy!  First, print out the outline, then the student can write notes to the side of each question or write out his or her own outline before writing the actual book report.
     I'm including the outline with my changes and additions, followed by a book report my oldest finished today!  I asked his permission to use it because it's a great way to see how a book report should flow, and many students learn by example!  

Book Report Outline

Title of Book:  ________________________  Author:  _______________

Introduction: 
_____Title (underlined), Author
_____If desired, why did you choose the book? 
_____When was it written? 
_____Has it won awards?  (check the back of the book)
_____ Is the author famous for writing another book?
_____ Are there millions of copies in print?  (check the back of the book)
_____ What else would you like to say?

I. Setting
_____ 1. What was the setting for this book?
(example: snow-covered wilderness)
_____ 2. Where did most of the action of the book take place?
(example: northern Alaska)
_____ 3. When did it take place?
(example: the 1880's)
_____ 4. Describe what was this place like.
(example: bitterly cold, desolate, lack of food)
_____ 5. Why do you think the author picked this setting for the story?
(example: to show how hard it was to survive in Alaska)

II. Main Character
_____ 1. Who or what was the main character of this book? (example: a wolf-dog named Butch)
_____ 2. What did this character look like?
(example: large head, thick body, heavy brown and black fur)
_____ 3. What kind of personality did the character have?
(example: fierce, fearless)
_____ 4. Give an example of one of his or her good traits.
(example: loyalty to his master)
_____ 5. Give an example of one of his or her faults.
(example: reckless, easily distracted)
_____ 6.  Are there other important characters?  Discuss them briefly. 

III. Plot
_____ 1. Briefly summarize the book’s plot in one sentence.
(example: a new dog fought for survival on a sled team)
_____ 2. What was the goal of the main character? (example: to become the lead dog on the sled team)
_____ 3. Why was he or she trying to accomplish this goal?
(example: he was tired of being abused)
_____ 4. Who or what was working against the main character?
(example: a large husky named Plato)
_____ 5. What was the climax of the book? How did things resolve or work out?
(example: when Butch fought to defend his master)
     Climax is the turning point in the book, the high point.  Everything in the book builds up to this point, the climax, and the conclusion usually follows soon after.

IV. Message/Theme
_____ 1. What was the message of this book?
(example: kindness will be repaid)
_____ 2. How did the author get his message across to the reader?
(example: he showed that an animal can sense and return love)
_____ 3. Give a specific example of this from the book.
(example: Butch slept near the man who showed him kindness)
_____ 4. Give another specific example of this from the book.
(example: Butch was given his freedom, but he chose to stay)
_____ 5. What do you think the author wanted you to learn or to feel after reading this story? (example: that love can be more powerful than physical strength)

V. Personal Review/Conclusion – Conclude by wrapping it all up.
_____ 1. Did this book hold your interest? 
_____ 2. Why or why not? (interesting, sad, boring, etc.)
_____ 3. What was the author’s writing style? 
_____ 4. Did you enjoy the author’s writing style? Why or why not?
_____ 5.  What were strengths or weaknesses of the book? 
_____ 6.  What was your favorite part?
_____ 7. Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?



A Book Report of A Single Shard
By Darius Mullin

     A Single Shard was written in 2001 by Linda Sue Park and has won the Newbery Award. Linda Sue Park is also the author of Seesaw Girl, The Kite Fighters, and When My Name Was Keoko. A Single Shard is great historical fiction.

     A Single Shard is staged in a small potter’s village, named Ch’ulp’o, off the west coast of mid-twelfth century Korea. The village is surrounded by forest and mountains and has a good view of the ocean. I think the author picked this setting because this is what a potter’s village was actually like.

     The main character of A Single Shard is a 12-year-old boy named Tree-ear who lives under a bridge with his mentor, foster parent, and friend, Crane-man. Tree-ear is eager, curious, loyal, polite, and enthusiastic; however, he is also sometimes foolish and does things without thinking. He works for Min, the best potter in the village who is often quick-tempered and grumpy.

     This book is the story of how Tree-ear worked for ‘The Honorable Potter,’ Min, and how he took two pots to the royal emissary in Songdo, that Min might become the royal potter. Tree-ear’s goal is to please Min enough that he would teach him to make a pot. Tree-ear admires pottery very much and wants to make a pot himself. The only thing in his way is Min himself, who is unwilling to teach him. The climax of the book is when, even though robbers ambush him on the way to Songdo, he takes one shard to the emissary… and gets his master the job!

     There are many messages in this book, but the most important is that good may come as long as you stay loyal to the end. Tree-ear is loyal even when times are tough, and, eventually, Min adopts him. For example, even when he is told by The Honorable Potter that he will never teach him to make a pot, he is still as loyal as ever. Another example is even when he is ambushed on the way to Songdo by robbers, he looks until he finds the remains of the pots and takes a shard to the emissary.

     When I finished the book I felt shocked, happy, and sad all at the same time. Because it was very well-written and entertaining, I found it hard to put down! My favorite part was Tree-ear’s journey. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn about Korea or just loves a good story.


(I assigned this book to my son because of his Korean heritage!)


I have searched and searched the internet to find the original source of the outline, but since I found it about two or three years ago, there are multiple copies of it on multiple sites.  In addition, I have changed it some to suit our needs.  Many thanks to the anonymous author.

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