Monday, September 28, 2009

Mentor Monday: Know Your Reader

Several months ago, I wrote a Mentor Monday entry recommending that you read as much as you can within your genre. For me, that's picture books. I've read literally thousands of them during my almost 30 years of teaching preschool. Part of knowing your genre, is knowing your readers. What do they think makes for a good read? How do they process information? What do they find funny? How do they articulate their thoughts?

To that end, I'm having book discussions with my students at least once a week. My students range in age from 3 years 0 months to 5 years 2 months, and I mix the ages in my classes. I'm blogging at The Picture Book Project, and thought all of you children's writers might find it interesting to read beyond the professional reviews and find out what children really think about the books we write for them. (The numbers before each child's name indicates the child's age in years and months.) Enjoy!

Let's Get Started!


The first three books we're reading at Hogarth this year are Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? written by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar written and illustrated by Eric Carle. In our class discussions following the readings, we looked at Carle's illustrations and noted that the endpapers of the Bear books were illustrated with stripe patterns, and the endpapers of the Caterpillar book was illustrated with a dot pattern. References to stripes or dots within the children's comments relate back to that discussion.

In order to get the book discussion ball rolling, I asked each child to pick his or her favorite from among these books and talk about what made that book so appealing. If this didn't prompt a big response, I followed up with questions specific to their favorite book. If they picked either Bear book, I asked which animal depicted in the book was their favorite. If they picked the Caterpillar book, I asked which food they'd eat first if they were a hungry caterpillar.

EARLY KINDERGARTEN RESPONSES

4.8 Keegan: My favorite was Polar Bear. I liked the front cover. My favorite animal was the peacock because of his spots, and I never seen a peacock.

5.2 John: I liked them all because I liked when the zoo keeper came to feed the walrus in Polar Bear and because all of the kids were dressing up like animals. I like Brown Bear because the class was looking at the teacher and the teacher was looking at the fish and looking at the kids. I like The Very Hungry Caterpillar because of Monday, Tuesday and all of that stuff when they flipped over and there kept being more and more food. The Caterpillar one is my very favorite. I liked the way Eric Carle did the end papers. One had dots and one had stripes facing up and one had stripes going sideways.

4.10 Daniel: I liked the Caterpillar one best because it had the folds in the paper. I liked it when the caterpillar was a baby and I liked the part where it was a butterfly. It was really pretty.

4.3 Brady K.: I liked Brown Bear best because I liked the stripes on the end. My favorite animal was the purple cat because he's purple!

4.5 Sophie: I liked Brown Bear best because the teacher was reading the book about animals to the kids. My favorite animal was the purple cat because of the purple. I like purple.

(Note: Neither Brady nor Sophie heard the other one's purple cat preference. Mack in PK also referred to the purple cat. Obviously, this is a very appealing illustration.)

PREKINDERGARTEN RESPONSES

4.2 Kaitlyn: I liked the Caterpillar because it was super hungry and he ate too much and he had a stomach ache. If I was a hungry caterpillar I'd eat the apple first.

3.6 Eva: I liked the Caterpillar best because it ate a leaf up and then had a tummy ache, that's why. I liked the part where the caterpillar ate up all the food. If I was a hungry caterpillar I'd eat a leaf first.

3.8 Mack: I liked Brown Bear best because it had the kitten. It was purple. I liked that one. And she was licking her elbow. Meow! Meow! Meow! I can do the sound of her. That made me laugh.

3.7 Emelyn: I liked the Caterpillar because it was silly when you said the moon was an egg!


3.11 Acadia: I liked the Caterpillar because I got it at home and it's my favorite book. I like the colors of the circles. If I was a hungry caterpillar I'd eat the pickle.

 Even More Eric

We continued exploring Eric Carle's books today when we read The Grouchy Ladybug. Once again, I asked the children to pick their favorite Eric Carle book from among those we've read thus far.

EARLY KINDERGARTEN RESPONSES

4.5 Leah: I loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar so much! I liked the food part best. I loved that. That was so silly. If I was a hungry caterpillar I would just eat three plums so I wouldn't get a tummy ache.

4.9 Brooke N.: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because there were a lot of people who were big, but she said they were not big enough, but they were big enough. I liked the rhinoceros part because he was trying to eat him but he was too big.

4.2 Bella: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because of the pictures with the little pages and the big pages. I liked all the clocks because the hungry ladybug did all of that. [Points at clocks.] I liked the elephant best because I saw one at the zoo.

4.0 Arthur: I liked all of these books. My favorite was The Grouchy Ladybug because he keeps saying, "You're not big enough!" I liked that it did it like this. [Indicates the differently sized pages.] My favorite animal was the whale because it slapped the tail on the ladybug and the ladybug said, "Ah-h-h-h-h!" And then he put his tail back and that was my favorite part.

4.7 Hayden: I liked Brown, Bear, Brown Bear best. I liked the goldfish because it's yellow because I love yellow. I liked the duck because I love yellow a lot, because the ducky is gold and the goldfish is gold.

4.11 Brooke B.: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because when he said, "No, you're not too big!" I liked the hyena best because it reminds me of Izzy. She really likes hyenas and she's my best friend.

5.2 John: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because the nice ladybug offered, but the ladybug said, "Hey, you! You want to fight?" But she said, "Aw, you're not big enough!" And I liked it because it had when the ladybug said to the tail on the whale, "Hey you! You want to fight?" And the tail gave her a big slap. And I liked it because it had the house and the lighthouse. And I liked it because when the ladybug met the wasp and he showed it his big stinger. And I liked when that animal [points to stag beetle] showed him his big claws. And I liked when the mantis wanted to fight and he said, "If you insist." And I liked the bird because I knew it was going to eat the ladybug. I liked the lobster because he opened his claws and I knew he was going to snap him in his claws. And I liked the skunk because he lifted his tail and I knew he was going to release a stinky smell at the ladybug. And I liked that the snake was going to eat the squirrel and the ladybug for his breakfast. And I liked the hyena because he laughed and he was going to eat him. And I liked the gorilla because he was beating his chest and he was going to punch him. And I liked the rhinoceros because he was lowering his horn and he was going to run into him and then he said, "Oh, you're not big enough!" And I liked the elephant and he was showing his tusk and his trunk a long way out. And I liked the whale because he said nothing and I thought that the ladybug was going to run into the water going up out of the whale. And when he said, "Hey, you! You want to fight?" and the flipper said nothing. And when he asked the fin to fight the fin said nothing. And I liked when the ladybug spoke to the whale's tail and said, "Hey, you! You want to fight?" and the tail gave him a big slap and he was flying over where he started and he got to eat some aphids. And then I liked it because the ladybug said, "You're welcome." And I liked that the leaf said, "Thank you!" And I liked the fireflies were dancing around the moon and I liked the moon and I liked the stars. And I liked the green grass at the beginning and at the end. I think Eric Carle wrote nice books. I think he does his art in not a fast way, but in a slow way. I like that art best.

PREKINDERGARTEN RESPONSES

4.5 Christel: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because he said, "You're not big enough!" I liked when the whale flipped the Grouchy Ladybug into the sky. And I liked this part when the lobster tried to bite him. And the skunk looked like he was going to spray. And the snake looked like he was going to eat the ladybug. And I liked this one [hyena] when he looked like he was going to bite the ladybug. And I liked the gorilla! [Christel then turns to the last double-page spread in which the ladybugs share the remaining aphids.] This is my favorite part because he let him share the bugs! And I'm all done!

3.4 Camryn: I liked The Very Hungry Caterpillar because it's my favorite. I have some caterpillars in my yard. Their backs go up and down. [Points to caterpillar on cover.] I like his back. I love his ears, too! [Points to caterpillar's antennae.] If I was a hungry caterpillar I would eat the cake and ice cream first.

3.8 Mack: I have caterpillars in my yard, you know. My mom found one and she was very colorful and she had a red head and she was so soft and she had little antlers sticking out and she had the legs that she could climb.

4.2 Kaitlyn: I liked the Ladybug book and the Caterpillar book. [The rest of Kaitlyn's commentary relates to the Ladybug book.] I liked the nice one and the grouchy one, because the grouchy one said, "Hey! You want to fight?" The nice one said, "Why don't we share?" And they didn't share. I liked that one [sparrow] because he thinked the bird was too big, but it was too small, but it was really big. That one [elephant] was definitely big. He talked to that one [whale's fin] but it wouldn't talk. I liked that it ended up back where he started.

4.0 Arthur: [Popping into the conversation.] Why did they put the clocks on the ladybug book?

Miss Murphy: Eric Carle used the clocks to take us through the whole day with the ladybug. The clocks let us see what time the ladybug met up with each animal.

3.8 Mack: I really like the Polar Bear book because the polar bear saw the lion. All the kids dressed up like the animals. I like Eric Carle's drawing about the ladybug. I like the caterpillar one because I like his green eyes. I like his legs. This one isn't attached.

CPG Children Weigh In On Eric Carle

In addition to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the CPG children read Eric Carle's "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth and My Tool Belt. The children reacted to their favorites as follows.

4.3 Julianna: I liked the Sloth. I liked it when he was boring. And I liked it when he was hanging upside down. And I liked this [indicates picture] with the monkey and tortoise.

4.8 Ryan:  I liked the Caterpillar best. I liked it because he ate so much food and he was green and that was my favorite color. Mom would like the red and she would say, "Ryan! I have that book!" And that's why I like it.

3.9 Brady D.: I liked the Sloth because him was keep staying right there and because the animals kept coming back and forth. I liked this one best. [Points to Yellow-Spotted River Turtle on the back end papers.]

3.7 Maeve: I liked the Sloth book because of the night. [I asked Maeve which animal was her favorite, and she pointed to the anteater and the caiman. When I asked why, she pointed to the caiman's teeth and said, "Claws!]


3.10 Aiden R.:  I like the Caterpillar because it itches. Polar bears would like that story. If I was a hungry caterpillar I'd eat the watermelon and the cupcake and the candy and the lollipop and the pickle and the cheese and the cake.

4.3 Teagan:  I like Brown Bear best because I saw a bird and a bunny and a dog in there. My favorite animal was the purple cat.

3.6 Aria:  I liked My Apron because I do. I liked the pages. [Indicates end papers.]  I liked this one. [Indicates page with Aunt Elizabeth making an apron for young Eric Carle.] Her making an apron for her. I liked this one. [Indicates page with the house with the incomplete roof.]

This is just a small excerpt. If you're interested in continuing to research your reader, head over to The Picture Book Project.


4 comments:

Barbara said...

Well, I liked 5.2 John's review of the Grouchy Ladybug because John sure new what he liked and he liked them all, and not only did he like them all, but he said exactly why he liked them all, and he remembered them all.

And if I ever write another picture book, it will definitely have a purple cat in it!

Great post, Andy! It's nice to hear from the audience a book was intended for.

I'm Jet . . . said...

3.8 Mack: I have caterpillars in my yard, you know. My mom found one and she was very colorful and she had a red head and she was so soft and she had little antlers sticking out and she had the legs that she could climb.

"She had little antlers sticking out" I love that. Fabulous idea, A!

Jet

Mur said...

Must reading for all picture book writers!

Andy said...

I love blogging with my students. They really know how to turn a phrase.

Glad you liked it, Sistahs!