Brave Writer DART Review & Book Reports

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Our school year is coming to an end, and we are starting to slowly wrap up many of our curriculums. It’s also that time of year where we look back on all we did and evaluate how our year went.

I won’t be doing a full blog post reviewing our year, but you can find all the curriculum we did use HERE. I did do a quick live video on my Instagram sharing all the curriculum we used and a quick review of our thoughts if you want to check that out.

Our biggest change in curriculum this year was our Language Arts program for my daughter, who was in 3rd grade. We have used The Good and The Beautiful Language Arts curriculum since she was 4 years old, but this year we just needed to switch it up and try something new. You can read my blog post all about our decision to change and what the Brave Writer DART program is HERE. This blog post also breaks it down and helps explain how the Dart guides work each week.

Looking back on the year we were able to complete 7 different Dart literature singles (they are each 4-week guides.) At the end of each book and Dart we finished, I had my daughter complete a simple book report. This was NOT included in the Dart curriculum, just something I wanted her to learn and work on this school year that incorporated more writing.

So today I want to share with you our overall review of the Brave Writer Darts, the books we completed and what we thought, as well as the book reports we did along each one.


We have LOVED this for Language Arts this year! If you read my blog post on how the curriculum works, you’ll see how there is no workbook and it is a very organic way of learning. This was totally new for us and I learned a lot about just trusting the process and seeing how it worked. It has really opened my eyes to a new, relaxed, way of learning this past year. She was able to learn and identify grammar concepts as she was reading great books (her favorite thing to do) and apply them in everyday life. The lessons were short, enjoyable, and she really retained a lot. It doesn’t have a ton of writing built into the lessons, but they do offer a writing program that is paired well with the Darts called Partnership Writing. These look like really fun writing projects that you could easily add into your year to work on writing more. I decided to just work on book reports this year as our writing source but will definitely be using their writing program in the future.

We also enjoyed that each Dart was only 4 weeks long, so each month felt completely new, even though our rhythm of doing things was the same. We still completed the different copy work and dictation styles each week/month, but it was a new book and new passages. My daughter really enjoyed this curriculum and was always looking forward to the next book. Next year we will be continuing using Brave Writer Darts for her 4th grade year.

This year I purchased each Dart individually and tried to choose books I thought she would enjoy, or went along with our other studies. Next year I’m going to purchase the bundle. A new bundle of books is released every year and the PDF download for the guide is sent to your email each month. The bundle will save some money and I’m excited to just follow the program and have her read books that maybe I wouldn’t have chosen for her. Broaden her reading horizons!

The books/Darts we completed:

We read and completed 7 different Darts this past year. Our favorite book was a tie between Heartwood Hotel and The Very Very Far North. She also really enjoyed Nim’s Island and is continuing to read the other books in the series. Our least favorite was Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake.

Sometimes we read the books together, sometimes she reads them on her own. If she read the book on her own, I would later try to read the same chapters, so we could talk about the story together and I knew what was going on. All of the books were very appropriately chosen for the age/grade level (8-10 years.)

*Click on the book title to get to the Dart literature single. Click on the photo for a link to purchase/read more about the book.

Heartwood Hotel

Such a sweet, heartwarming story. This was our first Dart and this book really helped us fall in love. It was an easy-to-read story about a hotel for animals in the woods, and all the happenings that go on there. Full of friendship, courage, and community. This Dart focused on learning about anthropomorphism.

Rickshaw Girl

We read this book to also go along with our study of India, although it is about a Bangladesh family. It was a great story to learn about gender roles in Bangladesh and using your talents and acts of service. Naima learns to use her talents of painting to help save her family from debt. This Dart focused on learning about chapters in books.

Skunk and Badger

This was one of our least favorite books. It was quirky and fun, but a little hard to read, even for me. A lot of strange words and a LOT of onomatopoeia, which is what the Dart is focused on for this book. It is about a skunk and a badger that become unlikely roommates and the chaos that ensues.

The Very Very Far North

Another favorite book! This book is so cute and hilarious, we laughed through the whole thing! This book is basically a Winnie-the-Pooh concept with animals in the Artic who have lots of fun adventures. It was easy to read, but our only con was the chapters were realllly long. This book Dart focused on what an intrusive narrator is.

The Turtle of Oman

This book was ok. It has a great meaning behind the story, but it was a little too drawn out and long for us. This was also the largest book we read and the only one with no illustrations. It is a story is about a young boy from Oman, who is preparing to move with his parents to Michigan. He is upset and nervous to leave everything he knows behind, but his grandfather takes him on a big camping trip and helps him learn that change is ok. This Dart focused on learning about sensory images.


This was a good book that we really enjoyed. It was a fictional, magical story that focused on learning about descriptive language. The story is about a young girl who sees beauty in the ugly, unloved creatures of their village and learns to stand up for herself and fight for what she believes in. She finds a way to save the creatures and her village.

Nim’s Island

This was another favorite! My daughter really loved this adventure story, and it was really easy and quick to read. She actually finished the book in 2 weeks, so we got the next book, Nim at Sea, to read as we finished the Dart. This is a story about young girl and her father that live on an island. Her father goes missing after sailing away to do a study for a few days. She has to keep herself busy, keep up and look after the island, and finds a new pen pal. This Dart focused on learning about the setting in a story.

Book Reports:

This year I wanted my daughter to learn about the elements of a story and to complete a simple book report after finishing each book. *These projects are not part of the Dart curriculum, just something I added myself. We used a blank manila folder for each report and created a background or illustration inside that went with each story. (These manila folders were helpful for creating a lot of space for her to write but making it easy to fold up and store.) Sometimes I printed clip art images or sometimes she did the illustrations. I also incorporated some fun art tricks, like learning to make a pop up and lift the flaps. Together we would come up with an idea for the background and then I would write down the same questions for her to answer. I also found a photo of the cover of the book on Google images, printed and pasted it to the front of the folder.

For each book report she filled out: the title, author & illustrator, setting, main characters, beginning, middle, end, problem, solution, favorite part, and book rating. For the beginning, middle, and end she wrote a few sentences summarizing those parts of the book. She also wrote about the problem in the story and the solution that fixed the problem in the end. I would have her write or draw about her favorite part of the book and then she gave each story a star rating.

We completed these after we finished each book/Dart and spent about 2-3 days making the book report. One day to design it and another 1-2 to write everything in. Then we would move on to the next Dart.

Here are all the book reports she completed for each book to give you some ideas and examples:

Heartwood Hotel

Rickshaw Girl

Skunk and Badger

The Very Very Far North

You can find a tutorial on how to create this one on my Instagram reels.

Turtle of Oman


Nim’s Island

If you are interested in trying a Dart, or other levels, to see if it is a good fit for your children, I suggest just buy one single to try. They are $15 each, only 4 weeks long, and very simple to add into your schedule. We tried one Dart for a month and never looked back. These would be perfect to try during the summer too! Also, if you use THIS LINK you get a $10 discount on any order! Making your Dart only $5!

I hope this post was helpful and gave you some great ideas for book reports to go with any story. We have decided to continue using the Dart program for 4th grade coming up and we can’t wait to see all the new books we will be reading next year. I don’t think I will have my daughter complete book reports again for each one next year since we focused on it a lot this year. Alongside our Darts, she will be starting IEW Theme-Based Writing (Fables, Myths, and Fairytales) and doing some fun writing projects throughout the year with her brother.

I’ll be sharing more about this and ALL the curriculum we will be using next school year later this week and next week!

Have a great Tuesday!

– Lindsay

8 Replies to “Brave Writer DART Review & Book Reports”

  1. Thanks for sharing! I love how creative you are with the book reports. I started fables myths and fairytales with my son part way through the year and it has been a great way to teach writing. I hope it works well for your daughter.

  2. I’ve always been so intimidated to try IEW. But you make it so easy!! I might just order it and work on it during the summer !! Thank you again Lindsay.

  3. Loved this post and the idea of adding a book report! I am starting Brave Writer with my 4 kids this year and we are also using the Dart level/program. I would love to know your rhythm or structure for this BW Dart lifestyle. I am struggling to figure out how to divide up the guidelines for each day or week while I use it for my kids who are between 2nd Grade – 6th grade. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    1. If you head to my Instagram (@littleschoolofsmiths) I have a whole highlight sharing how I break down the lessons throughout the week. We typically do the copywork/dictation and spelling at the beginning of the week. Then I break up the highlighted purple sections throughout the week (usually one or two each day) and we finish the week with the writing activity.

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