Tuesday, April 17, 2012

OIK Tuesday: qualities of good literature

After lunch each day comes read-aloud time in the Mighty Minnow classroom.  The children prefer to sit at their tables "where there's somewhere to lean" rather than on the carpet, which means I have to become a mobile reader app, circling the classroom and training some kids to keep their eyes on me (especially those English learners for whom the chapter-book experience is challenging) while I do it.  Although it feels all wrong, I pause when there's an illustration and use the Elmo camera to project it onto my fancy Promethean Board so everyone gets a clear view.

So far this year we've read the brilliant Sea Cat and Dragon King, by Angela Carter (yes, THAT Angela Carter), My Father's Dragon by Ruth Gannett Stiles, and Rip-Roaring Russell by Johanna Hurwitz.  I hope we'll also get to Catwings by Ursula LeGuin, but we do have to have all three installments of My Father's Dragon and there are only 8 weeks left in the school year!

Last week we started Book 2, Elmer and the Dragon, and were in the middle of Chapter Two when it became apparent that the poor baby dragon would not be able to fly Elmer on its back through a violent thunderstorm.  A sad death by drowning seemed imminent for our heroes.  I paused to build understanding and predictive thinking (driving crazy the children who already listen this way as a matter of course and just want to get on with the story) and asked, "Do you think Elmer and the Dragon will sink down into the ocean and this will be the end of the story?  How do we know that won't happen here in Chapter Two?"

I was looking for someone to explain that there was too much book (and indeed series) left for our protagonists to meet their demise, but Talia cut to the chase:

"Because this is supposed to be a GOOD book!"


  1. I love that comment, Heidi! She's right -- it's the thrill of "how will they get out of this." I hope you get to Catwings. It's one of my favorite books.

  2. At the library, I've been recommending the Elmer trilogy for the past 20 years. I've never had anyone come back and say they didn't love it!

  3. That reminds me of when my brother read "The Little Prince" when he was 11. He came downstairs, crying and furious. He yelled at my mother saying, "But YOU told me it was a GOOD BOOK." He couldn't believe that a good book would end with the main character's death.

    My boys both loved the Elmer trilogy, too.

  4. Heidi! Thanks for that beautiful beautiful line, your 'coaxing' has truly opened up a great many poetic ideas for me. :) Such careful thought and deliberation for a singular line, that's what poets do! :)


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