Five in a Row Volume 1 Book List Recommendations

Five in a Row Volume 1: Books, movie, and read-along recommendations Books Around the Globe

Five in a Row Volume 1 Recommendations 



Hello, fellow parent and/or lover of books!

I started this list for my edificiation, and I felt it would also help others so I am putting it out into the world. Hopefully you find a FIAR resource or two, a good book or a movie go-along, that helps make your rowing journey easier. 

Also – remember: A unit study does not have to be perfect. Learning with your family does not have to look shiny or pass Instagram filters. It just has to be fun (or not stressful).

It can be reading the book 2 to 5 times and having a conversation. The rest of that glitter is just icing on the cake, and a piece of cake with too much icing is going to lead to burnout. Save yourself the hassle, and dare to be imperfect!

Choose the simple option, and regain time enjoying your family.

Here are collected some of the Five in a Row (Volume 1) resources that may help other families wanting to plan their FIAR units. What is included in these resources is often

a chapter book/read-aloud book,

several additional books that families have enjoyed reading with the Five in a Row book being “rowed”

and movie resources. 

Five in a Row is notable for its style of connected planning – taking a book and making it relate back to literature, math, art, science, geography, and history. That idea is really remarkable and has resounded through generations of users.

There are some issues with the Five in a Row books that are bound to arise from the nearly 30 years since the first edition was published. I have noted them, provided alternatives/suggestions, and in a coming post I will be providing some add-on books that I feel have the Five in a Row vibe, but which cover geographic areas outside of the initial Five in a Row focus on America, America, prairies, more America, and Europe!

Again, the FIAR volumes by the Lambert family have greatly enhanced my own ability to connect learning through a picture book. The Five in a Row method that they teach carries beyond those initial 50+ books, and teaches you how to read a picture book well for a lifetime.

That’s why this page is a loving resource to those beloved children’s books (just with a warning and “Do not buy!” on the few that did not stand the test of time.)

The Lambert family provided a wide range of reading literature for the time and place that they lived in, before local library requests were done on computers (they discussed paper book requests on inter-library loan), before the publishing world expanded to include all people on children’s book shelves – and this page is a loving modernization of their efforts to always grow, expand in knowledge, and treat others kindly. 


Five in a Row Volume 1 Resource Recommendations


Disclaimer: This page about resources for Five in a Row volume 1 may contain affiliate links for which I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. (Links are included mostly because it’s an easy way to provide readers with a link to the ISBN and book info. I truly don’t make much money from those links. Local libraries, used booksellers, places like BetterWorldBooks and thriftstore book sections are always great places to stock up on Five in a Row Volume 1 read-along books without breaking the bank.)


Five in a Row Volume 1 book: The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese

Notes: the duck gets spanked for being late.

Also, the yellow color of the duck is the same color used on Asian characters. Book is use with caution.


Recommendations for add-ons regarding ducks and geese:

Alexander’s Outing (look on Youtube) – a duck gets lost in Sydney, Australia. The bird sees Harbour Bridge, and other attractions in Australia.

  Chapter Books: Fly Away Home, by Patricia Hermes

The short novel is best suited for children 8 to 14, and a bit complex for younger readers. (It’s a movie, too, and the movie is great for all ages)



Chapter Book read-alouds (for China tie-in):

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin

Starry River Of the Sky, by Grace Lin

When the Sea turned to Silver, by Grace Lin 


Chinese heritage (chapter book, age 8+):

Half-and-Half, by Lensey Namioka, about a girl who is half-Chinese, half-Scottish

Ruby Lu, Brave and True, by Lenore Cook – beginner chapter books

Chinese international/interracial adoption (chapter books, age 8+):

Red Butterfly, by A.L. Sonnichsen, about a girl who is adopted by an American woman. Transracial adoptees have said this book is moving for them, that it captures the complexities of identities. Children ages 8 to 11 also enjoy this book. 

Just Like Me, by Nancy Cavanaugh

Written by a Chinese author who herself was adopted to American parents, this tells the story of a summer camp where other adoptees from her orphanage (living in American households) come together to work on their identity issues and find their individuality, with an eye toward community, too.


Taiwan graphic novel about fitting in, for ages 8+: 

Measuring Up, by Lily LaMatte, illustrated by Ann Xu

Cici has moved from Taiwan to Seattle, and is entering into the school cooking contest. She wants to win so she can afford a plane ticket for grandma to come visit her for grandma’s 70th birthday. But how will Cici win the American cooking contest if she only knows how to cook Taiwanese food? This graphic novel about fitting in, finding one’s way to shine, family, and food is perfect for 4th grade. 


Chinese TV shows:

Sagwa, the Siamese Cat (episodes may be available from PBS, or on Youtube) – this show begins with a theme song in English and Mandarin Chinese. It shows a cat living in a rich estate in Imperial China. Safe for young children (it’s like Clifford)


Chinese animated movies (see the highest grossing films for kids that were made for China): 

Kung Fu Panda   Kung Fu Panda 2  Kung Fu Panda 3

(Kung Fu Panda movies: think Shrek, set in China)

Films made in China, fairy tales for a Chinese audience (and voices done in English)

Monkey King: Hero Is Back

Ne Zha – a movie about Chinese mythology (for children 9+). The boy was born a spirit, but turns out to have a more problematic origin story. That makes him unloved by his community, but he shows that people are capable of change. This movie is the highest grossing film in China – but I could see some people uncomfortable with comparative mythologies not being ready to see this movie. Really it’s a story about a boy who’s designated to be bad, and can he become good?



Five in a Row Volume 1 book: Lentil by Robert McCloskey

Author Interview with Robert McCloskey, on Read-Aloud Revival podvast



Five in a Row Volume 1 book: Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans


Movies for Madeline: 

filmed children’s movie (1998): Madeline

animated cartoon (2003): My Fair Madeline


Madeline Science (human body): 

Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body

Madeline Youtube: 

Operation Ouch on Youtube is a channel run by doctors, showing information about the human body and diseases for kids.





Five in a Row Volume 1 book: A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno

#ownvoices Excellent book

Activity: Shoe-shopping, or playing “store”, buying and selling shoes. Studying how shoes are made.

Japan Unit Study resources: I have a Japan Unit Study page that lists books and movies about Japan.


Suki’s Kimono, by Chieri Uegaki



Five in a Row Volume 1 book: The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills


The Rag Coat Readaloud book (about wearing clothes that are not “cool”):  Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes

Song about a multi-colored coat, from Broadway musical (the musical is about Joseph, in Genesis 33-39): This song covers so many color names, it would be a good tie-in with going to a home improvement store to see the paint colors.

Children’s Books about West Virginia for read-alongs, to cover the Appalachian theme and location of The Rag Coat.

Ragcoat Chapter Book connection: Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (about a dog and his boy friend in West Virginia – 4th grade reading level)



Who Owns the Sun? by Stacy Chbosky

This is where the FIAR 1 curriculum falls flat – this is the singular representation of non-White/non-Asian peoples in this curriculum. It is written by a white girl.

The book’s message is good – it was written by a teenager in a writing contest, and is a message of anti-slavery.

But prioritization of the affected people’s voices should be part of our journey if we want to make sure we are hearing everyone. Does your own understanding of slavery include Black voices?


Slavery for Elementary School Recommendations:

Picture books: 

Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons: An Enslaved Woman Fights for Freedom Virginia history, a little after the American Revolution. Ona Judge was enslaved, in the rooms where history was being made, and found her way to freedom – albeit “illegally.”

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan This picture book takes a real event – the selling of 11 people as property in an auction – and reinvents them, giving them names and personalities. It’s like a fiction/non-fiction fusion, to remind the modern reader of the stories not told, when people became “goods of service”, denied their access to humanity.


Chapter Book for young listeners:

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Features beautiful artwork, and tells family stories across 10 chapters of American history. 


Chapter Book for 3rd Grade+:

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina 1865



Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away, by Erica Dunbar Armstrong

This book is designed as a 5th grade reader (5th, 6th, 7th, but also interesting for adults). Students around 7 or 8 have listened to it be read-aloud to them.  Ona Judge worked in the White House for President George Washington in the nation’s capital, which was then Philadelphia. She also worked in Mount Vernon. When her future was on the line, she made an escape, receiving help from the anti-slavery movement in Philadelphia, and lived the rest of her life in Vermont as a fugitive slave. Although George Washington worked to return her into enslavement, following her escape, she kept her freedom.  Students learn a lot about the time period in the early American nation through this book. 


Related movies about slavery fitting for upper Elementary School:

Belle (2013) – rated PG, about a British women of mixed-race heritage, whose uncle decided the famous Zong case regarding a shipping case of a slave ship.

Amazing Grace (2006) – rated PG, about the British Prime Minister and his friend, a member of Parliament, who worked to pass a law ending Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. 


Both of these movies deal with the economics of slavery, and how people can make a substantial change toward the legal system. They aren’t visibly showing torture or enslavement – they’re discussing how the tea and sugar that we buy was produced by slave labor a continent away (Amazing Grace), or how people shouldn’t be paid insurance money because they have lost “cargo” – human lives they purposefully lost as sea, to make a personal profit (Belle). 





Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

Mike Mulligan Read-along Books: 

I’ll be a truck driver (when I grow up), by Connie Conwell Miller

In this story, the boy drives his Florida oranges across the country, to show how food transportation works. (A nice connection to How to Make an Apple Pie and Travel the World, too.)

Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site




Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen

Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman


How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World Readalongs:

How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A, by Marjorie Priceman (same author). This looks at domestically-made USA food products.

Cocoa Ice  – two girls share a story about how things are made where they live. One harvests ice, the other harvests cocoa. The story is set in the late 1800s, and shows how climates are different across the world. Also how that food comes together to make tasty treats.

Grandpa’s Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family  a story of how chocolate is grown in the Ivory Coast of Africa. Also a story of granddaughter and grandfather, her proud of his farming production.


Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

Grandfather’s Journey Readalongs: The entire works of Allen Say (his picture books are gorgeous and heart-warming)

Books about Japan


Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin (can only recommend with warning)

A person judges others, feels that a perfect-looking home is a sign of good hospitality, wants to help someone “poor or lonely” for the self satisfaction that brings, and this behavior is all good in the end. 

The story does give that heart-warming vibe that made it a classic, but its morals feel like too many a Thanksgiving for many families. 

A great gift for the grandparents, who may feel right at home in the story. 


Recommendations in place of Cranberry Thanksgiving:

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving: A New Look at Thanksgiving (National Geographic), by Catherine O’Neill Grace

Fry Bread, by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Excellent book for preschoolers and elementary students about fry bread and its history. Food shapes our culture, and culture shapes the foods we eat.

TV recommendations for Thanksgiving lessons: 

Hulu has “Taste the Nation”, by Padma Lakshmi – the eighth episode features a Navajo thanks-giving meal. The focus is on locally sourced, authentic to America foods that connect people to their community, beyond generations. The episode is clean language, understandable for upper elementary students, and young ones will learn as well. 

Youtube Recommendations: 

The Scholastic Channel has videos about the Wampanoag Tribe and the first Thanksgiving, re-enacted by members of the tribe. 



Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Another Celebrated Dancing Bear by Gladys Scheffrin-Falk



Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley

Note: this is the largest book ever. Taller than an encyclopedia non-fiction shaped book. It may be the tallest book I own. (For this reason, it may be a book to check out of the library and to not put in the collection. Couldn’t it an inch shorter? So it’s standard tall book size.)



Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews

This book is about Inuit practices. 

Very Last First Time Read-along books by Inuit #ownvoices authors:


Fishing with Grandma by Susan Avingaq

A Walk on the Tundra by Rebecca Hainnu

A Walk on the Shoreline by Rebecca Hainnu

Other great children’s books about Alaska, including the charming story of Charlie and the Blanket Toss by Tricia Brown


Art study of pointillism:

Video how-to lesson – Make a flower with pointillism (Have your colored markers ready)

Art with Mati and Dada – Georges Seurat’s famous painting by the water (cartoon, like a BrainPop video)



The Clown of God by Tomie DePaola

This book is not secular.  

It is not sold to charter schools

This book is religious. The clown has a reference to Jesus. The clown goes through a circle of life, from young boy to talented juggler, is suffering in old age, and then juggles one last time in front of Mary and child before passing on.

Old Yeller spoiler: The clown dies at the end of the book – recommendations say it can be changed to “went to sleep” for youngest readers – and the book highlights that the juggler died in honor and service of God. 

Similar books –  The book has Giving Tree vibes to it. Instead of boy with tree, this is boy who juggles in his spiritual connection with God. 

I don’t have a copy on-hand, and so I can’t make any connecting resources for it.



Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Storm in the Night by Mary Stoltz

This book is great for a weather unit. However, it highlights the issue with the literary publishing world in the 1980s and 1990s when FIAR was being curated. 

This book has Black characters, and is written by a white author. This means no books on the entire FIAR Volume 1 book list were written by Black voices, even with a Black family represented (and slavery being discussed, in “Who Owns the Sun?”)

Again, don’t hold this problem against this book, it won the 1988 Coretta Scott King Award for illustrations. 

The book is written neutrally, like the characters don’t have heritage, or ethnicity – they’re textbook stock characters. The illustrator Pat Cummings thus interpreted them as a connected Black family, in beautiful illustrations. (Pat Cummings is an illustrator of African-American heritage)

That’s likely why this book was selected on FIAR – because it would have been a positive representation of Black families in publishing, during a time when talking animals significantly outrepresented Black humans in children’s picture books. Just, today isn’t the early 1990s, so please make sure Black children are in your children’s books and that this and “Who Owns the Sun” aren’t your only exposure to Black history (both of which were written by white people.)

It’s 2021, and #ownvoices should be heard. This book is still good to read about a thunder storm, but make sure to read something written by an actual black author in addition to the FIAR books found in Volume 1.


Recommended science books with Black characters, featuring real-life accomplishments:


Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner

Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch, by Heidi Tyline King

Ron’s Big Mission, by Rose Blue and Corrine Naden, illustrated by Don Tate


Ron McNair was a Challenger astronaut in South Carolina, MaVynee Betch was an environmentalist of beaches in Jacksonville, Florida, and Charles Henry Turner was an American and the first Black entomologist (scientist of bugs). His work influenced the field of human psychology.

Other recommmended weather book for Storm in the Night:


Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco. Includes a recipe for Thunder Cake. Word on the street is that if you take the tomatoes out of the recipe, it tastes better than the original.

Storm in the Night Recommened Chapter book: 

I Survived the Joplin Tornado, by Lauren Tarshis


Storm in the Night Videos: 

Magic School Bus Wet All Over

Magic School Bus Kicks Up a Storm

Story Bots, Where Does the Rain Come From? episode (also on Netflix)



Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton



Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha


Science of Jellyfish:

Smithsonian Institute’s site on jellyfish and how biolumenscence works.

TV Show: 

Octonauts and the Jellyfish Bloom, on Netflix

Five in a Row Volume 1 Book: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers


Stopping By Woods on a Snowing Evening Choir performance, by a youth choir: Stopping by Woods (2 minute song, of the poem)

Stopping By Woods on a Snowing Evening Related Video: 

Reading Rainbow episode “Snowy Day” (season 9) is about reading poetry in the snowy town of Jackson, Wyoming.

Appears to be available on Amazon Prime,  orPBS Kids for Amazon ($1 for a month), and may be found on Youtube.


That’s it so far for Five in a Row Volume 1 recommendations.

Five in a Row Volume 2, Five in a Row Volume 3, and Five in a Row Volume 4 recommendations are also here.