Mo Willems and Jon Muth both delighted me and saddened me in their bittersweet story city dog, country frog (Hyperion Books for Children, 2010). It’s not a retelling of City Mouse, Country Mouse. It is a sweet story of friendship over time (in this case the passing of seasons in a year) and of loss and renewal. I can’t give it away. You should read it, but it is short and simple in text, delightful in illustrations, and profound in its message. It is useful for talking about seasons, friendships, loss, and life cycles. It is not just for kids; I’ve read it over and over.
But if you want to share it with kids, I’ve written a lesson plan for 1st grade, which could be used for kindergarteners also.
How does one write about tragedy and devastation for children? How about with an infusion of hope embodied in a dog and a brass cornet? Even though Louis Daniel is a fictional character in A Storm Called Katrina written by Myron Uhlberg and illustrated by Colin Bootman (Peachtree Publishers, 2011), his experience parallels the reality of many victims of Hurricane Katrina.
This book is obviously important for portraying a personal account of those first days of the water rising – scary scenes about death and chaos and potential harm are shown with a balance of honesty and grace that allow for young children to have a grasp of what happened without feeling devastated themselves as they internalize the tragedy into their own lives.
I found it a story both beautiful and sad, and utterly full of hope, something every child, and adult, needs.
While this book is useful for science lessons about extreme weather and emergency preparedness, I think it is equally if not more useful for promoting empathy. I have written a lesson plan with a focus on writing for 4th through 6th graders that allows students to “walk a mile in Louis’ shoes” in an attempt to promote empathy and self-empowerment. If interested please see
Little Red Writing by Joan Holub (Chronicle Books LLC, 2013) is perfect for the classroom. Well, sort of. It is actually a brilliant idea full of layers: the actual fractured fairy tale, the imbedded examples of writing problems both young and old writers can face, and the tongue-in-cheek teasers in both text and illustrations (think of a really sharp main character who happens to be a pencil for the kind of humor dotting the pages). However, these very creative layers can pose a problem in the classroom. The pages are very busy. They need pouring over and rereading, something that does not always get to happen in a classroom setting. The text and illustrations are fun. They should be dissected and discussed, and used for example, all things that are supposed to happen in our classrooms. So, I just had to write a lesson plan that can help teachers manage all these layers if they’d like to use this book. In my experience, students love this kind of story. I think it is well worth the time.
If you’d like to try this lesson in your classroom, please see: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-reading-and-writing-lesson-using-Little-Red-Writing-by-Joan-Holub-1047019