Top Ten Brave Writer Arrow Guides

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I confess.

I am a paper girl trapped in a world of PDF’s.  Despite these handy electronic files,  I continue to print out most everything. And this includes my homeschool curriculum guides.

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Open my file cabinet in the basement and preview the stacks and stacks of Brave Writer Arrow guides from three full years of subscriptions.  Thirty printed guides are sitting in my files in addition to their PDF counterparts sitting on my computer.  I am not really sure why I feel the need to save the printed copy, but I do.

So as part of my procrastination file cabinet organization, I pulled out all of my Brave Writer Arrow Guides and sorted them until I found my favorite guides released in the school years that began in 2013, 2014, and 2016.  This list does NOT include any titles from the current school year (2016-2017).


I made my decisions based on the literary element and content of the guide and not the content of the book.  Some of my absolute favorite stories did not make this list because of this selection criteria.  Of course, we have enjoyed all of these titles for different reasons, so rest assured that they are all excellent stories.

Without further ado and in NO particular order:

Top Ten Brave Writer Arrow Guides  

Story in a Story

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool.  {The Arrow}

This book tells two stories and the reader is taken from one story to the other throughout the book.  The Arrow Guide for Navigating Early helps parents make connections between these two stories.

NOTE:  This is a complex story.  My sixth grade could hang with it, but I was glad that I was reading it out loud to discuss the two stories.

The literary element in this guide is a “story within a story“. The concept is discussed in depth and guidance is given to help students give it a try with their own piece of writing. I remember vividly helping my daughters try it with one of their past free writes. This particular literary device frequently appears in movies and novels so introducing it early was beneficial for my kids!

NOTE:  The Arrow Guide for Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher addresses the concept of framing a story within a story as well, with a slightly different twist.

Graphic Novel

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch.  {The Arrow}

I will never forget our first family read aloud graphic novel. This was it. And I loved it. Our family has continued to stay hooked to this genre, constantly exploring new titles.

It makes sense that the literary element introduced in this particular guide is the graphic novel.   The coordinating writing project encourages your students to attempt their own brief graphic story using the included pages of graphic novel slides or ones they create on their own.

Both of my daughters worked on their own graphic tale despite one daughter’s hesitation about the artwork aspect.  Learning to move a plot forward using illustration and dialogue was a worthy exercise and a bit different than your “typical” writing project.

Hook and Return

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm.  {Arrow Guide}

A Delightful story in a beautiful setting – Key West, Florida.

Right off the bat in this guide, you’ll find a discussion of idioms.  (see what I did there?)  Throw in a little Shirley Temple and I am already hooked!  The lyrics from Shirley Temple songs included in this title provide a natural way to introduce your kids to this well-known American icon.  While you read or listen to the lyrics, your Arrow Guide will highlight some adjectives along the way!

The literary element in this Arrow Guide is the author’s use of a “hook and return”.  Plenty of examples of narrative hooks in children’s literature are included for discussion.  What I remember so vividly about this particular guide is grabbing children’s literature from all over the house to examine with my kids.  We were on a hunt for good narrative hooks.  The guide includes descriptions of different types of hooks so you can identify the ones you find.  The discussion of a narrative hook has remained a standard aspect of our book and movie discussions to this day!

The Power of a Name

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. {Arrow Guide}

This story is jam packed. Sibling relationships. Reconnecting with a mother who abandoned you. And the Black Panthers. I learned a lot from this book and accomplished quite a bit of outside reading and research on this time period.

Of course, the Arrow Guide for this title contains a lot of great background information on the Black Panthers.  Also included are discussions points about identity and ways in which person might feel like there are two identities living inside of them.

The literary element for this guide is the idea of “naming” in a variety of writing contexts and more specifically, the importance “naming” played in this story.  We worked on all sorts of different and fun names for various people and situations. We became name collectors for the afternoon and then organized a list of some of our favorites.

Non-Fiction Literary Elements

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles by Tanya Lee Stone.

This was an engaging and fantastic non-fiction title. Not only did we read this story, but we took some time to dive into the time period. I was pleasantly surprised how much we enjoyed a non-fiction book together.

The literary element found in this Arrow Guide is actually an introduction to non-fiction literary elements. The guide suggests that you read through the list of elements prior to the start of the story and identify them as you read.

The writing activity is writing an oral report. Yes. This the perfect guide to use if you want to cover the elementary school non-fiction oral presentation.  This Arrow guide provides some guidance and suggestions are you engage the process of report writing with your kids.


Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

Homeschooling moms, you are going to love the educational insights as seen in this tale of self-discovery. You and your children will read along as Elizabeth Ann transforms into Betsy both in name and in personality.

This transformation by the main character makes this an excellent book for a discussion of the literary element, characterization, as found in the Arrow Guide. The guide will describe the various ways writers construct their characters. After some detailed discussion, your kids can try their hand at giving a character a make-over. This can be done orally or in writing and you can take it as far as your children seem eager to go!

Letter Writing

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles.  {Arrow Guide}

There is nothing I didn’t love about this book.  It is a delightful and touching story all at the same time.  It also made me think about my Gema and how fun she was just like the Grandmom in this book.

In this guide, you’ll introduce (or revisit) the concept of an author’s opening hook and a chance to do a little acting out if you wish!  Certain aspects of the plot are revealed through letters written between Ruby and her Grandmother.  That makes this the perfect book for teaching your students proper letter writing format as well as fun details of letter writing.

The Brave Writer Arrow Guide provides ideas for a discussion about letter writing with your kids.  Then everyone can practice sending some snail mail!  This happened to be the last book of our school year when we read it.  At our book club celebration, the girls all brought self-addressed envelopes to exchange with their friends so they could write letters over the summer.  Of course, there is never a bad time for letter writing.  Kids love to send and receive “old fashion” mail.

Musical Language (AKA: Figures of Speech)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by e. l. konigsberg.  {Arrow Guide}

The adventures begin in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From there, the two main characters set out to solve the greatest of art mysteries. Everyone will enjoy the siblings and Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and the mystery is solved.

The Arrow Guide for this title includes a look at various types of pronouns (subjective, objective, and possessive). I found it handy to pair it with one of my favorite children’s grammar stories, “Mine, All Mine!: A Book About Pronouns” by Ruth Heller.

The literary element at the end of the guide covers a lot of ground! It is a great introduction to the most common figures of speech: simile, metaphor, personification, alliteration, onomatopoeia, idioms, and hyperbole. Whew! An overflowing handful of musical language to share with your kids! The guide includes specific examples of each and you can also find some in books all over your home and at your library.

In the end, this Arrow Guide will walk you through a writing activity to expand and strengthen your students’ use of figures of speech.


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. {Arrow Guide}

I still remember reading this book out loud to my fifth-grade classroom. They loved it as much as my own children did many years later. This is a classic survival story that takes place in the Canadian wilderness. After his place crashes, Brian, a thirteen-year-old boy, must survive alone in the wilderness with only his windbreaker and hatchet.

In this Arrow Guide, your child will learn about times when nouns double as verbs. This was a great opportunity to cement our understanding of both nouns and verbs and then to take it to the next level!

The literary element taught in this Arrow Guide is personification. I love helping my kids learn how to use figurative language in their writing. The guide included an activity to practice personification in writing that allowed everyone’s participation. This was not a “formal” writing piece, but just a way to play with personification in sentences.

NOTE: There are quite a few Brave Writer guides that teach different types of figurative language. The Arrow Guide for the Mysterious Benedict Society focuses on metaphors and similes as the literary device for the book.

Free Verse

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai. {Arrow Guide}

This was the first novel we read as a family (and that I had ever read at all) written entirely in free verse poetry.  I was in love with the story and the format immediately.

It makes complete sense that the literary discussion for this guide is Free Verse Poetry.  The Brave Writer guide has instructions to guide your family as they compose their very own free verse poem.  I appreciate this guide because it helps the parent move their children gently from a narrative format to the more poetic free verse format.

NOTE:  The Arrow Guide for the book, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K. G. Campbell, also includes a writing activity for Free Verse Poetry.  We absolutely adored this story and it is another great option for the Free Verse Poetry study or a follow-up title for later in the year.

NOTE AGAIN: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech is another novel available for study using the Brave Writer Arrow Book Guides.  It is also written entirely in free verse poetry.  The writing activity is not specifically writing a free verse poem this time but does include poetry writing based on the poems referred to in the story.

The Arrow Guides have become the backbone of our Language Arts program in our homeschool.  I am happy to pass on my experience to you and I hope you find the perfect title to suit your goals!  If you are curious about how a week looks with the Arrow Guide, you can read about our typical week with a guide.



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11 thoughts on “Top Ten Brave Writer Arrow Guides”

  1. I print my Brave Writer curriculums out too, even though my husband is a tech junkie and I’m never more than a few feet from some sort of computer. It is a good thing my library offers free printing!

  2. Thank you for these reviews, Mary. I have wondered about the Arrow and Boomerang guides. Do you do this as a family? You have a 14 year old, right? My children are 12 and up.


      Laura, My 8th grader reads the Boomerang on her own. My 6th, 4th and 2nd graders do the Arrow Guide titles. My 6th grader reads them on her own sometimes. Other times, she listens while I read them out loud. If my kids were all 12 and up, I would select a Boomerang title that worked for everyone or am or challenging Arrow title (Navigating Early comes to mind 🙂 )

  3. I just found brave writer and i am so excited to start.I am trying to decide between the Boomerang or the arrow, I have a 12 year old and a 8 year old. Do you think the arrow would be challenging enough for a 12 year old, especially if we are just beginning with bravewriter.


      Jessica – My 12-year-old is reading the Arrow titles this year. Some are easy for her, but our grammar and literature discussions are always great! These older guides don’t have questions at the end, but we just had great discussion throughout the book. (I read them out loud to the kids). I try to do as much together as possible, so I can understand why you would want to!


      Oh yes – another great title! What did they like so much about the Arrow guide for that book? I’m curious.

      1. It was our very first Arrow so I think that is the source of most of their love especially since our previous LA curriculum was workbook based. The story is very sweet too and appealed to all my children.


          Yes. My top ten guides by title would be a bit different. But I can totally see that the memory of a good change is important to them. Tell them I totally agree that Ginger Pye is a GREAT story! Good choice 🙂

  4. Mary, have you used the Arrow guide for “Number the Stars”? If so, what did you think? Do you remember what was being emphasized in it (literary element, punctuation, etc.)? I asked on FB, but didn’t get a response. Thanks for any help you can give!

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