How To Write A Book Report Essay 5th Grade
Your Roadmap to a Better Book Report
A Book Report Outline and Tips for Students
Why do book reports strike terror in the hearts of most students? Simply, writing a book report is not easy. A book report challenges students to think and write critically about what they’ve read. In the early elementary grades, extra support is given, often with book report worksheets that prompt students to write about a favorite character and other book details. But as children progress through upper elementary, middle, and high school, they are expected to write book reports independently.
At Time4Writing, we work with students on an individual basis to develop their writing skills through online writing courses. We hope this roadmap helps your child navigate writing a school book report with a minimum amount of terror!
How to Write a Book Report
Before you write, read. There’s no substitute for reading the book. Choose a book you’ll enjoy—reading should be fun, not a chore! Read with a pen and paper at your side. Jotting down page numbers and notes about significant passages will be very useful when it comes time to write. Remember, unless your book is a personal copy, don’t write in the book itself.
Use a Book Report Outline
After reading the book, you are ready to start the writing process. When writing a book report, or when answering any writing prompt, you’ll find writing easier if you follow the proven steps of the writing process: prewriting, writing, revising, editing, and publishing.
In the first step, prewriting, you’ll plan what you want to say. An outline is a great prewriting tool for book reports. Start your book report outline with the following five ideas. Each idea should correspond to a paragraph:
2. Summary of Book
3. Book Details: Characters
4. Book Details: Plot
5. Evaluation and Conclusion
In organizing your thoughts, jot down a few ideas for each of these paragraphs. Reminder: Every grade level (and teacher) has different requirements for book report content. Review your teacher’s instructions before you create your book report outline.
Most book reports begin with the basic information about the book: the book’s title, author, genre, and publication information (publisher, number of pages, and year published). The opening paragraph is also your opportunity to build interest by mentioning any unusual facts or circumstances about the writing of the book or noteworthy credentials of the author. Was the book a bestseller? Is the author a well-known authority on the subject? Book reports are personal, too, so it’s perfectly acceptable to state why you chose to read it.
What’s the Book About?
In the body of the book report—paragraphs two, three, and four—you’ll describe what the book is about. This is your chance to show you’ve read and understood the book. Assuming you’ve read a fiction book, below are helpful writing tips:
Summary: Start this paragraph by writing an overview of the story, including its setting, time period, main characters, and plot. Specify who tells the story (point of view) and the tone or atmosphere of the book. Is it a creepy tale of suspense or a lighthearted adventure?
Character Details: In this paragraph, describe the main characters and identify the major conflict or problem the main characters are trying to solve. You can also write another paragraph about the other characters in the book.
Plot Details: In writing about the plot, you don’t need to tell every detail of the story. Instead, focus on the main sequence of events. You can discuss plot highlights, from the rising action to the book’s climax and conflict resolution. Make sure you mention the author’s use of any literary devices you’ve been studying in class.
Book Reports on Non-fiction
If you are writing a book report on a biography or other factual text, you’ll want to devote the body of your book report to a description of the book’s subject and the author’s points of view. Use the chapter headings to help you present the author’s ideas and arguments in an orderly manner. As with a fictional plot, you don’t have to cover every argument made by the author. Instead, choose the main ideas and the ones most interesting to you. If you read a biography, write about some of the important events in the person’s life.
Personal Evaluation and Conclusion
You’ll like writing the final paragraph because it is here that you’ll be able to offer your own critique of the book. What are the book’s strengths and weaknesses? Did the book hold your interest? What did you learn from the book? If you read a work of fiction, how did the book affect you? If you read non-fiction, were you swayed by the author’s arguments? Try to be balanced in your opinions, and support your statements with examples from the book. Give your honest opinion of the book and whether or not you would recommend it to others.
Revising, Editing, and Publishing
After you’ve drafted your book report, you’re ready to follow the next three steps of the writing process: revising, editing, and publishing. Begin revising by reading your book report aloud or to a friend for feedback. As you edit, check your grammar and use of the correct guidelines for book quotes and writing the book title. Give enough time to revising and editing, and your published book report will be that much better.
Book Reports: A Type of Expository Essay
A book report is usually written as an expository essay, although it can be written in other forms. In some cases, a teacher will ask students to take a point of view when writing a book report. Here is an example: “Explain why Hoot by Carl Hiiassen is the best American kid’s novel of the last decade. Please use examples.” This type of writing prompt requires a persuasive style of writing. Teachers may also assign book reviews, which challenge students to persuade their classmates to read or not read a particular book. If writing a book review, don’t reveal the ending!
Rely on Your Writing Training to Write Book Reports
Time4Writing’s online writing classes and one-to-one, teacher-led instruction help in building students’ writing skills. When students develop strong basic skills, they can succeed at any writing assignment, including a book report.
Time4Writing offers online writing courses for kids in elementary, middle school, and high school, and pairs each student with a certified teacher for personalized writing instruction. Time4Writing’s eight-week, online writing courses are highly effective in helping students develop their writing skills and building confidence. Find out how Time4Writing’s online writing classes can make a real difference in your child’s writing.
Book Review Writing
Download the PDF version of this lesson plan.
If you love to read, at some point you will want to share a book you love with others. You may already do this by talking about books with friends. If you want to share your ideas with more people than your circle of friends, the way you do that is by writing a review. By publishing the reviews you write, you can share your ideas about books with other readers around the world.
It's natural for young readers to confuse book reviews with book reports, yet writing a book review is a very different process from writing a book report. Book reports focus on the plot of the book. Frequently, the purpose of book reports is to demonstrate that the books were read, and they are often done for an assignment.
A book review is a totally different task. A book review's purpose is to help people decide whether or not the book would interest them enough to read it. Reviews are a sneak peek at a book, not a summary. Like wonderful smells wafting from a kitchen, book reviews lure readers to want to taste the book themselves.
This guide is designed to help you become a strong book reviewer, a reader who can read a book and then cook up a review designed to whet the reading appetites of other book lovers.
Form: What should the review look like?
HOW LONG SHOULD IT BE?
The first question we usually ask when writing something is "How long should it be?" The best answer is "As long as it takes," but that's a frustrating answer. A general guideline is that the longer the book, the longer the review, and a review shouldn't be fewer than 100 words or so. For a long book, the review may be 500 words or even more.
If a review is too short, the review may not be able to fulfill its purpose. Too long, and the review may stray into too much plot summary or lose the reader's interest.
The best guide is to focus less on how long to write and more on fulfilling the purpose of the review.
HOW DO YOU CREATE A TITLE?
The title of the review should convey your overall impression and not be overly general. Strong titles include these examples:
- "Full of action and complex characters"
- "A nail-biter that will keep you up all night"
- "Beautiful illustrations with a story to match"
- "Perfect for animal lovers"
Weak titles may look like this:
- "Really good book"
- "Three stars"
- "Pretty good"
- "Quick read"
HOW SHOULD IT BEGIN?
Although many reviews begin with a short summary of the book (This book is about…), there are other options as well, so feel free to vary the way you begin your reviews.
In an introductory summary, be careful not to tell too much. If you retell the entire story, the reader won't feel the need to read it him/herself, and no one appreciates a spoiler (telling the end). Here are some examples of summaries reviewers from The New York Times have written:
"A new picture book tells a magically simple tale of a lonely boy, a stranded whale and a dad who rises to the occasion."
"In this middle-grade novel, a girl finds a way forward after the loss of her mother."
"Reared by ghosts, werewolves and other residents of the hillside cemetery he calls home, an orphan named Nobody Owens wonders how he will manage to survive among the living having learned all his lessons from the dead. And the man Jack — who killed the rest of Nobody's family — is itching to finish the job."
"In vivid poems that reflect the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, an award-winning author shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South." Other ways to begin a review include:
- Quote: A striking quote from the book ("It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.") can make for a powerful beginning. This quote begins George Orwell's novel 1984.
- Background: What makes this book important or interesting? Is the author famous? Is it a series? This is This is how Amazon introduces Divergent: "This first book in Veronica Roth's #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy is the novel the inspired the major motion picture."
- Interesting Fact: For nonfiction books in particular, an interesting fact from the book may create a powerful opening for a review. In this review of The Middle East by Philip Steele, Zander H. of Mid-America Mensa asks, "Did you know that the Saudi Arabia's Rub' al-Khali desert reaches temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the day and plummets to the freezing point at night?"
- Explanation of a term: If a word or phrase in the book or title is confusing or vitally important to understand, you may wish to begin the review explaining that term.
Process: What should I write about?
Deciding what to say about the book can be challenging. Use the following ideas as a guide, but remember that you should not put all of this into a single review — that would make for a very long review! Choose the things that fit this particular book best.
What the reader ought to know
- What kind of book is it? (Picture book? Historical fiction? Nonfiction? Fantasy? Adventure?)
- Does the book belong to a series?
- How long is the book? Is it an easy or a challenging read?
- Is there anything that would be helpful for the reader to know about the author? For instance, is the author an expert in the field, the author of other popular books, or a first-time author?
- How does the book compare to other books on the same topic or in the same genre?
- Is the book written in a formal or informal style? Is the language remarkable in any way?
- What ages is the book geared to?
- Is the book written in normal prose? If it is written in poetic form, does it rhyme?
Writing about the plot is the trickiest part of a review because you want to give the reader a feel for what the book is about without spoiling the book for future readers. The most important thing to remember is that you must never give away the ending. No one likes a spoiler.
One possibility for doing this is to set up the premise (A brother and a sister find themselves lost in the woods at the mercy of an evil witch. Will they be able to outsmart her and escape?). Another possibility is to set up the major conflict in the book and leave it unresolved (Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part or He didn't know what he stood to lose or Finding your purpose in life can be as easy as finding a true friend.)
Try to avoid using the tired phrase "This book is about…" Instead, just jump right in (The stuffed rabbit wanted more than anything to live in the big old house with the wild oak trees.)
Who lives in the book?
Reviews should answer questions about the characters in fiction books or non-fiction books about people. Some possible questions to answer include:
- Who are the main characters? Include the protagonist and antagonist.
- What makes them interesting?
- Do they act like real people act or are they too good or too evil to be believable?
- Are they human?
- What conflicts do they face?
- Are they likeable or understandable?
- How do they connect with each other?
- Do they appear in other books?
- Could you relate to any of the characters in the story?
- What problems did the main characters face?
- Who was your favorite character, and why?
- We learn about characters from things they do and say, as well as things other characters say about them. You may wish to include examples of these things.
What is the book about at its heart?
What is the book really about? This isn't the plot, but rather the ideas behind the story. Is it about the triumph of good over evil or friendship or love or hope? Some common themes include: change, desire to escape, facing a challenge, heroism, the quest for power, and human weaknesses.
Sometimes a book will have a moral — a lesson to learn. If so, the theme is usually connected to that moral. As you write about the theme, try to identify what makes the book worth reading. What will the reader think about long after the book is finished? Ask yourself if there any particular lines in the book that strike you as meaningful.
Where are we?
The setting is the time and place the story occurs. When you write about the setting in a review, include more than just the location. Some things to consider:
- Is the book set in the past, present or future?
- Is it set in the world we know or is it a fantastical world?
- Is it mostly realistic with elements of fantasy (animals that can talk, for example)?
- Is the setting unclear and fuzzy, or can you easily make the movie in your mind?
- How much does the author draw you into the setting and how does s/he accomplish that?
OPINION & ANALYSIS
What do you really think?
This is where the reviewer shares his/her reactions to the book that go beyond the essential points described above. You may spend half of the review on this section. Some possible questions to address include:
- Why do you think other readers would enjoy it? Why did you enjoy it (if you did) or why didn't you (if you didn't).
- What ages or types of readers do you think would like the book?
- How does it compare with other books that are in the same genre or by the same author?
- Does the book engage your emotions? If a book made you laugh or cry or think about it for days, be sure to include that.
- What do you like or dislike about the author's writing style? Is it funny? Is it hard to follow? Is it engaging and conversational in tone?
- How well do you think the author achieved what s/he was going for in the writing of the book? Do you think you felt what the author was hoping you would feel?
- Did the book feel complete, or did it feel as though key elements were left out?
- How does the book compare to other books like it you've read?
Are there parts that are simply not believable, even allowing for the reader's understanding that it is fiction or even fantasy?
- Are there mistakes?
- Would you describe the book as for entertainment, self-improvement, or information?
- What was your favorite part of the book?
- Would you have done anything differently had you been the author?
- Would any reader enjoy this book? If not, to what ages or type of reader would it appeal?
Special situations: Nonfiction and young reviewers
Some of the tips and ideas above work best for fiction, and some of it is a little too complicated for very young reviewers.
What to do if it's real
When reviewing a book of nonfiction, you will want to consider these questions:
- What was the author's purpose in writing the book? Did the author accomplish that purpose?
- Who is the target audience for the book?
- What do you think is the book's greatest value? What makes it special or worthwhile?
- Are the facts shared accurate?
- Is the book interesting and hold your attention?
- Would it be a useful addition to a school or public library?
- If the book is a biography or autobiography, how sympathetic is the subject?
- Is it easy to understand the ideas?
- Are there extra features that add to the enjoyment of the book, such as maps, indexes, glossaries, or other materials?
- Are the illustrations helpful?
Keeping it simple
Reviewing a book can be fun, and it's not hard at all. Just ask yourself these questions:
- What is the book about? You don't need to tell the whole story over — just give an idea of what it's about.
- Do you think other people would like it?
- Did you think it was funny or sad?
- Did you learn something from the book?
- l Did you think it was interesting?
- Would you want to read it again?
- Would you want to read other books by the same author or about the same subject?
- What was your favorite part?
- Did you like the pictures?
Remember! Don't give away the ending. Let's keep that a surprise.
GENERAL TIPS & IDEAS
Use a few quotes or phrases (keep them short) from the book to illustrate the points you make about the book. If there are illustrations, be sure to comment on those. Are they well done? Has the illustrator done other well-known books?
Make sure you include a conclusion to the review — don't leave it hanging. The conclusion can be just one sentence (Overall, this book is a terrific choice for those who…).
You can use the transition word handout at the end of the Writer's Toolbox to find ideas for words to connect the ideas in your review. If you would like to read some well-written reviews, look for reviews of books for young people at The New York Times or National Public Radio.
How to award stars?
Most places you post reviews ask you to rate the book using a star system, typically in a range of from one to five stars. In your rating, you should consider how the book compares to other books like it. Don't compare a long novel to a short poetry book — that's not a valid comparison.
It's important to remember that it's not asking you to only give five stars to the very best books ever written.
- 5 Stars: I'm glad I read it or I loved it (this doesn't mean it was your favorite book ever).
- 4 Stars: I like it. It's worth reading.
- 3 Stars: It wasn't very good.
- 2 Stars: I don't like it at all.
- 1 Star: I hate it.
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