Five in a Row Volume 2: Book List Recommendations for Every Book

Five in a Row Volume 2: Books, movie, and read-along recommendations Books Around the Globe


Five in a Row Volume 2 – book list, movies, connections

Disclaimer: This page about recommendations for Five in a Row Volume 2 resources may contain affiliate links for which I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. 

Five in a Row Volume 2 Books

Five in a Row Volume 2 books, and recommendations for resources for people planning FIAR unit studies.

Other FIAR volumes: Five in a Row Volume 1 Recommendations   Five in a Row Volume 3 Recommendations  Five in a Row Volume 4 Recommendations



Five in a Row Volume 2 book: The Giraffe That Walked To Paris, by Nancy Milton

Painting: The Nubian Giraffe, by Jacques-Laurent Agasse (painting in 1827)

Top Recommendation: There is a Zarafa movie (2011) that is 1 hr and 18 minutes, and it features Maki finding an orphaned elephant, taking her on a hot-air balloon ride, and trying to bring her back to her homeland. It was free and instantly accessible from Prime.


The Nancy Milton book was out-of-print for a while, and during that people turned to other versions.

I have the alternatives:  Zarafa by Judith St George, and A Giraffe Goes to Paris, by Mary Tavenor Holmes. Below is why I can’t recommend them – at least without a warning. 

I found Zarafa (the book by Judith St. George) to have illustrations that included all of the people Zarafa the giraffe would see on her journey, from the Masaai tribe in Africa, to people in Egypt, to socialite courtiers in France.

It may be Britt Spencer’s overall style as an artist to draw all people as cartoony and as cariacture versions – but it felt like the Middle East scene was drawn in an anti-semitic style, and the scenes in central Africa were drawn primitive. It was a subtle bias put into the pages. Meanwhile, then when Zarafa arrives in Paris, for the first time women are included in the street scenes, and everyone on the Paris streetcorner is shown wealthy and well-dressed. (No peasants, no dirt, and no rebellions with the people singing Les Mis.) Idealized France, drawn with beauty, after stereotyped Egypt and central Africa.

A few of the French men are mocked individually by the illustrator for being dandies, in monacles or red-cheeked, but it’s still a more positive vibe than the past two crowd scenes, in my opinion.

A Giraffe Goes to Paris, by Mary Tavenor Holmes, had a different representation problem. It only focuses on Zarafa’s time in Paris, with the boy bringing her in as the only symbol that she has come from afar. He sits, page after page, with nothing to do. Sometimes his pants or arms aren’t even drawn into the scene, his existence partially vanishing as he stands there.

Plenty of wealthy French people arrive into the story, and the boy who cares for Zarafa is like the furniture of the story. There is no non-French representation in this version of the book (outside of the giraffe’s caretaker). This book compared to the others is a very “pro-French”, an all-about-France style book. Think cheese and grapes and Eiffel Towers – but the Giraffe’s origin outside of Paris is an afterthought to her experiences inside of France.

Thus, Nancy Milton’s book, The Giraffe That Walked To Paris, seems to be the best book version of the 3.

Now, Zarafa the movie is really good, so I do heartily recommend Zarafa the movie. It was released in 2012 and covers the story of Zarafa, from her home in Africa to her crossing the Mediterranian and making it into France.  

Other great books about France here (picture books and chapter book read-alouds)


A Giraffe Who Walked to Paris:  Zarafa in art

The Nubian Giraffe, by Jacques-Laurent Agasse

Study of the Giraffe Given to Charles X by the Viceroy of Egypt (1827) by Nicolas Huet II


(warning:) Zarafa, stored in posterity – the giraffe was taxidermied. Could lead into a discussion of that practice, along with other preservation practices. Zarafa the giraffe stays on exhibition in the Museum of Natural History found in La Rochelle, France

Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Three Names by Patricia MacLachlan


Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf

Wee Gillis Activities: Highland Games – a group field day event. 

Resource from a group that hosted one (for ideas):

Food: oatmeal – The Scottish Highlanders would eat oatmeal for breakfast.

Readalong Books for Wee Gillis: 

Always Room for One More, by Sorche Nic Leodhas. This book won a 1966 Caldecott medal for illustrator Nonny Hogrogian’s illustrations.

There Was a Wee Lassie Who Swallowed a Midgie, by Rebecca Colby.

Videos for Wee Gillis:

Playlist of Wee Gillis-related clips

and Bagpipe video, where the bagpipe was made homemade using a latex glove.

TV Show for Wee Gillis: Puffin Rock, on Netflix. It is set in the Shetland Islands (which is an archipelago of islands, in the far North above mainland Scotland), and the show teaches about the bird, the puffin, which looks like a penguin mixed with a toucan. It is a very environmentally-friendly show about sea creatures.

Science Article about Puffins and where to find them.

Chapter Book in Scotland: The Water Horse, by D. King-Smith

Movie: The Water Horse (PG film, 2007)

Imagine taking an egg home from the Scottish beach, having it hatch in your bathtub, and it being a water dragon, like the Loch Ness monster, only cuter. That’s how the story The Water Dragon starts out.

Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Science Activity: Get owl pellets (2 per person work well). This activity is so much fun. 

Read-Along Book: Harold’s Purple Crayon is a good book to use with it, because they both have a moon in them. 


Five in a Row Volume 2 book: A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert

set in a country where the ligdonberries grow (which is Scandanavian countries, Poland, or Germany. Ziefert, the author, is German.)

An article on them growing in Germany and Poland here, with map.


  • shear sheep – people use wool yarn, or cotton balls to illustrate this process. Also a good time to get a hair cut.
  • dye fabric or yarn using berries (if you do it: dye 100% animal fiber yarn, polyester doesn’t work well.) If the berries are hard to find, food coloring with acid works. Other foods are beets and red cabbage.
  • Dye yarn with Kool-aid
  • Weave using paper weaving.

IKEAs have ligdonberry products. Ligdonberry jam is often sold at grocery stores like World Market.

Wool Read-alongs:

Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep, by Terri Sloat (out-of-print but delightful in rhyme if you can find it for $10 or under.)

Blackberry Booties, by Tricia Gardella

Videos: How it’s Made: Wool (Youtube)

Videos: Weave on a Mini Loom with Met Kids 

German post-WW2 Read-Along (there was a Chocolate Pilot who dropped candy to the Germans): 

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot

Read-along books: Boxes for Katje, by Candace Fleming set in the Netherlands in Post-WW2

Molly, the American Girl, has a British girl stay with her. “Welcome to Molly’s World, 1944” covers the war time period. (Be mindful – Molly does the hula and not in a culturally attuned way. Discuss how this happened in the 1940s and 50s (like people dressing up in authentic dress to play cowboys and Indians and how that isn’t respectful, but they were excited and didn’t know better – or else they would have acted better). In context, you can discuss how the Molly story takes place right before Hawaii gained U.S. statehood, but after Hawaii was forcefully claimed for economic gain. In World War 2, the US had 48 states.)

Nanea in the American Girl series would be another great addition, also from the 1940s.

which comes along with this PBS documentary called the “Candy Bomber” – if you’re a PBS subscriber, it’s available to you.



Movies: Molly Movie about the Homefront (American Girl)

Additional early elementary books about World War 2: The Bracelet, by Yoshiko Uchida (American internment camp of Japanese-American citizens in the United States)

Video: Kids Meet a Survivor of a Japanese-Internment Camp   

Read-Along Book: Feather-bed Journey, by Paula Kurzband Feder (out of print) – a family in Poland ruin grandma’s pillow, then she shares how that pillow was part of a larger blanket. Time and war and Holocaust made it smaller, but it kept on going. And now it’s just a feather, but family stays together.

Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco

For a deeper touch into the Holocaust, The Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco.

Hana’s suitcase was found saying “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931 – orphan” to the Holocaust center for kids in Japan. Which begged the question: Who is Hana? What happened to her? Tokyo children worked to find out the answer to that question. 

Book: Hana’s Suitcase  (2 1/2 hour read)

Movie: Inside Hana’s Suitcase documentary

This links to Holocaust stories in clips from The Number on Great Grandpa’s Arm (full documentary on HBO):

Movies: There is a Corrie Ten Boom documentary out from 2013, and a 1975 PG film version made by Billy Graham’s production company. The movie has generally high reviews – haven’t seen it yet. (Let me know your review of it if you see it.)

Quick Video: Kids Meet a Holocaust Survivor (Youtube)

Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully


Book Recommendation: The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers, about a Frenchman who crossed between the Twin Towers of New York City in 1974.

(It gently references Sept. 11, saying “Now the towers are gone. (But..)” Readers say the book leaves off at a happy ending. Adding in the story of 9/11 can then follow, but is not required.

They Were Strong and Good by Alice and Robert Lawson – Yikess!

Not recommended

This book is written in 1940, and celebrates slave-owning as “strong and good.”  It may be an interesting read for the parents, to then generate a similar geneology project of the various four sides of their family tree (or more, or less: I remember one student being joyful about her six grandparents – she came from a loving family with a step-parent in her life, generating an additional two grandparents to love her.)

Back to They Were Good and Strong: the attitude of the book itself, with dated language, treatment toward people of color, and celebration of a slave owner as “good,” it is probably not a good fit for today’s reader.  

For a replacement recommendation: 

Freedom Over Me, by Ashley Bryan. This book is beyond words. A show-stopper, conversation starter. I think about it a lot. It’s best designed for a 3rd-5th grade picture book, but could be worked on in 1st or 2nd grade. 


Babar, To Duet or Not to Duet

Do Not Recommend this Book

Not recommended

Here is a video made based on the book.  (Not for children’s viewing.)

I have my comments on why I do not recommend it – I may publish that later on. The FIAR authors also removed it from their list in their republication, so it’s general consensus that this book needed retired.

My commentary includes the words “crimes against humanity”, in its original form.

On one hand the book was like a Daniel Tiger episode, about practicing a skill, doing your best and asking for help. On the other hand, the context around the story was TERRIFYING. 

The backdrop, character names, backstory of the Babar series- it was designed in a location and era where the creator did not see everyone as human. The puns in the story are pro-white supremacy and pro-colonization. It has fallen out of print for a reason.

Five in a Row Volume 2 book: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Pair with Ferdinand movie (2017) that has been rated as really sweet, caring, and B-level memorability: 

Show your child some cork, like from a drink bottle or a corkboard bulletin board.

Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Down Down the Mountain


Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Interview by the author, Robert McCloskey, on the Read-Aloud Revival podcast

Movie: Fly Away Home (1996) A girl and her dad raise orphaned geese and get them to fly.

Five in a Row Volume 2 book: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

This book is on audiobook: free on Librivox, and many renditions are available for this classic. One recently published audiobook has Olivia Coleman (from The Crown) and David Tennant (from Doctor Who) as readers of Beatrix Potter.


There is a Peter Rabbit movie (2018). It has generally high reviews with a vocal minority saying it has too much violence, too much adult humor. Other people saying their 6-year-olds rewatch the movie weekly,  that the scenes were cartoony and done playfully. Personal preferences differ, so decide if it is right for you.


Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car, by John Burningham

Note: It is so hard to realize that this name is Mr. Gumpy, and not Mr. Grumpy’s Motor Car. Gumpy, like Bumpy. 

Read-along books for Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car: 

Mr. Gumpy’s Outing (the group goes on a boat ride)

Also search for books by John Burningham (author). Children tend to spot his illustrations in other books they come across.


Explanation of a phrase in the book: “a bone in my trotter.” So first, a trotter is the hoof or foot of a pig. It is the leg.

Next, a common British expression was “I’ve got a bone in my leg.” Sounds like a bad medical condition, until you realize it’s how legs were made. This phrase was used as a comedic excuse for getting out of chores. I can’t pick up the dishes, I got bones in my fingers.  The change that the author, John Burningham has done, is substitute the word leg (which humans have) for trotter (a funny-sounding word that applies more appropriately to our character, a pig.)

Science: Why do wheels get stuck in the mud?

Science: Cars on ramps, using Legos or other household toys.

Language: Study British phrases and idiomatic expressions

Turn a household box into a Motor Car.

Videos: Magic School Bus Water Cycle (for study on clouds)



Five in a Row Volume 2 book: All Those Secrets of the World by Jane Yolen

currently out of print. Its artwork is memorable – but the story isn’t. The premise is the father is off to war in World War 2, and these children play in the beach while he’s gone. It’s likely set in the Chesapeake Bay near Norfolk Naval Station in Hampton Roads/Tidewater region of Virginia.

Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

“making the world more beautiful” – quote

Videos: Magic Schoolbus Goes To Seed, Magic School Bus Gets Planted

Photosynthesis, Plant life cycle (seeds)

Capillary Action – PBS Kids experiment (paper towels also work, if you take marker, paper towel, and a bit of water that will soak upward over time)

Article on Bluebonnets (which are a lupine):  This is a Texas connection to the story in Maine. The article discusses the 2018 bloom, so it’s not recent, but has beautiful photos and close-ups of Texas bluebonnets in bloom and advice on where to see them.

Podcast episode by the author, Barbara Cooney, done on the Read Aloud Revival podcast with Sarah MacKenzie. Get to meet the author over audio.

Travel Article about Miss Rumphius, for Parents: (The backstory inspiration on who Miss Rumphius was, where the island she visits is located, and why she stayed single and unmarried)

Math Ideas: Check out the measuring of volumes comparisons (and the vocabulary bingo) with SchoolTimeSnippets’s review of Miss Rumphius.

Nature Study: pull out nature notebooks and look around, even if there aren’t any lupines to be seen.

Visit to the library – after all, Miss Rumphius was a librarian!

Read-along Picture books for Miss Rumphius, of Women as Inspiring and loving of nature:

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed A City Forever, by H. Joseph Hopkins

Kate Sessions’ work to make San Diego a more beautiful place, full of trees and gardens because of her work. 

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, by Frank Prevot (or another book about Wangari Maathai – there are many picture books on her efforts)

Fictional Picture Books

The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart

Other Barbara Cooney books (they’re set in Maine)

The Library, by Sarah Stewart, also works.

Five in a Row Volume 2 book: The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift


Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter

This book was a big memory in my childhood, and it follows the continued streak of “good, but…” books regarding African-American history. This book was written by a white woman. It has a white savior character who will bring them to freedom.

It’s still a quality-crafted tale by a solid storyteller, but the focus of the Underground Railroad has shifted through the selection of who to focus on. In the story, the lead character is really an observer to the most memorable figure, Peg Leg Joe.

It can still be read – it’s a fable, a tall tale version of the Underground Railroad story. But a quality unit study should have more accurate versions of the journey added onto it, to separate the fact from fiction. The book “Moses” about Harriet Tubman would be a good addition, or Henry’s Freedom Box, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

There is a Rabbit Ears audio production of the story – it’s 26 minutes long – and narrated by Morgan Freeman. It’s a cup of tea. There are other Rabbit Ear audiobooks, like Denzel Washington reading John Henry, and Pecos Bill narrated by Robin Williams. I owned the Rip Van Winkle story from this series on VHS as a child, and watched it sooo many times. I couldn’t find the visual copy but it’s nice to see the 20-30 min dhildren’s stories still available in audio format.


Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson


Read-along books: 

Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall – a story about listening to your inner voice

The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (a book showing the reason each crayon color is important – about team work)

Videos: How crayons are made

How Crayons are made 2

Picture tells the whole story books: 

Journey, by Aaron Becker (it leads into a trilogy)

What if your drawings came to life? And what you drew was real?

Andrew Draws, by David McPhail

purple food coloring to food (like pudding, and breads)

Take paper and draw, draw, draw!

Have the child pick their favorite color, and narrate a story – do they see pink flamingos? Red firetrucks?

Make art work that is entirely purple – purple construction paper, purple crayon drawings, purple marker. Obviously line and shape become important in telling the story!

Watch videos of creators of doodles:

Mo Willems Lunch Doodles (15 episodes of 20 min)

Scribbles and Ink: How to Draw Emotion 

Art for Kids Hub art channel (free drawing lessons on how to draw anything): first video is elephant. Here is dragon



What do you know about the moon in the book?

Oreo cookie moon phases (Harold’s moon is not a full moon.)

Geographically, Harold lives in the Imagination Land, or the Land of Make Believe.

Novel (somewhat) recommendation: 

Emily’s Runaway Imagination, by Beverly Cleary. I was a bit hesitant to recommend this book about libraries, but felt that the period-piece nature of it made it worth including.  Emily lives in the 1920s, in a town so small it doesn’t have a library. She imagines a great many things, and also builds a library. There are elements of Asian misunderstanding – and whether that element causes this book to fall into conversation starter or a complete “skip” is up for you to decide.

Emily initially makes fun of her neighbor’s pronunciation of English, then becomes embarrassed and ashamed for having done so. The neighbor included in the story is a key to the solution of Emily’s big dream, too. However, it’s like the character is rebuilt from childhood, from Beverly’s real life as a kid, and so the character has a gleen of not being accurate, of being an interpretation by others. 

If Beverly Cleary wrote a story about the 1920s featuring a positive inclusion of an Asian character, is there an expectation that the story would be 100% conforming to our language 60 years after its publication (which took place in the 1960s)? And if a character makes a mistake, then learns from the mistake, is it perpetuating harm or providing a dialogue for growth (learning from other’s mistakes, that they realize themselves was cringe what they had done)?

That question’s not for me to decide – whether good intentions are enough.

So I have included it with hesitations into the list. It seems to be a “loved!!!” to “it’s alright” rated book, and nobody, not a single person, gave a solidly bad review of the book [which is usually easy to find if it’s problematic]. More of a consistently said: “this feels dated, possibly…”  vibe regarding the story. (Let me know your thoughts as you read it. We haven’t gotten to this book yet, so ) 

“Emily’s Runaway Imagination” is 4 hours 30 minutes on audiobook.

Five in a Row Volume 2 book: When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant


Five in a Row Volume 2 book: Gramma’s Walk by Anna Grossnickle Hines


Book List Recommendations for Books about Aging and Grandparent Bonds:

Books About Disabilities:

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything, by Annette Bay Pimentel

When Jennifer Keelen-Chaffins was 8 years old, she went to Congress to make sure that the Americans with Disabilities Act got passed. This law would ensure accessibility in public places. 

When she went to Congress, she entered from the front steps, climbing without her wheelchair. The need for wheelchair accessibility ramps was made clear by this child advocate.

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López. (Features childrens with medical conditions, discussing the challenges they face. Deafness, autism, diabetes, and asthma are are some of the highlighted conditions. Sotomayor is a Type 1 diabetic)

Poetry Tie-In: “One, Two, Three” by Henry Cuyler Bunner. This was a poem that was memorized a lot in the early 1900s.

Books for Read-alongs:

Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox. A boy tries to learn what memory means. 


Five in a Row Volume 2 book list recommendations for audiobooks

Audible Editions of Five in a Row Volume 2 curriculum books / FIAR (having an audiobook available on Audible means it may perhaps be found also on other audiobook sites, like library’s Hoopla, Scribd, Epic, Kanopy, or any other audiobook app. Use those local library resources, save some money!): 

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney

When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

Complete Works of Beatrix Potter (including Peter Rabbit)

Follow the Drinking Gourd – Rabbit Ears Production, voiced by Morgan Freeman


Other FIAR volumes: Five in a Row Volume 1 Recommendations   Five in a Row Volume 3 Recommendations  Five in a Row Volume 4 Recommendations