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Looking for a Hero?: Read the September 2015 Intermediate (Grades 3-5) Titles

August 28th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in September | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016

el deafoFrom the ROW Literacy Advisory Committee Intermediate Group: We paired these two books because they both focus on friendship and kindness. You don’t need to have superpowers to be kind, helpful or friendly — but you’ll definitely be a hero to someone if you are.

El Deafo by Cece Bell. Amulet, 2014.Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers

Cece Bell contracted meningitis at age four and lost her hearing. Once she started school she wore a Phonic Ear, a device that amplified her teachers’ voice through a microphone the teachers wore on a cord around the neck. Cece could not only hear what her teachers said in the classroom but also the teachers’ lounge and — gasp! — the bathroom. Feeling like she had a superpower, she secretly began to think of herself as a superhero she called “El Deafo” (turning a pejorative term on its ear, so to speak). The experience of not being able to hear (as when her Phonic Ear is sent off for repair after the gym teacher breaks it, or when the lights are turned off at a sleepover and she can’t lipread anymore) is strikingly depicted in the graphic novel format, whether the text is gradually fading, or dialogue bubbles are filled with sounds of gibberish (e.g., “WAH BESS MAH WAWA GAH ANDY! YOO GOOLA FA BERRY GAH BOOLA!” while watching The Andy Griffith Show without amplification). But the novel’s main focus is Cece’s deep desire to have a best friend as she goes through elementary school. She tries to assert herself when bossy Laura claims her; endures passive-aggressive Ginny, who insists on speak-ing slow-ly and loud-ly to Cece; and finally finds a kindred spirit in neighbor Martha. Cece’s friendship struggles are sometimes complicated by her hearing loss but also have a universal dimension that most children will recognize. Bell’s memoir is set against the vividly realized backdrop of 1970s culture (from the TV shows to food and fashion), and told with great humor and honesty. The characters are all drawn as rabbits, giving the book a quirky charm.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start discussion with these prompts:

  1. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
  2. How do the illustrations add to your understanding of the book and of the author? Why do you think the author chose to illustrate herself as a rabbit?
  3. In many ways this is a book about friendships. How does Cece find a best friend?
  4. This book is a memoir – a story about the author’s life. In memoirs, authors find ways to talk about their lives in colorful, creative ways that might bending the truth a bit. What parts of this book do you think are nonfiction? What parts do you think are fiction?

Find resources at TeachingBooks.net including this teaching guide from Abrams.

Lend a Hand: Poems about Giving by John Frank. lend a handIllustrated by London Ladd. Lee & Low, 2014.

An engaging, purposeful collection of thirteen poems, each in the voice of a child who is doing something helpful. The range of subjects shows how small kindnesses matter and can happen in many ways: jamming with an elderly neighbor who shares a love of music; sharing lunch with a friend who has none; teaching an awkward classmate how to swing a bat; loading groceries in the car of a mom with small children; giving up a bus seat to someone who needs it more; tutoring a younger child; writing a letter to a soldier overseas; helping stitch a quilt for someone in need. The quilting poem concludes, “A warm spread / should have maximum size … / but the spread of warmth / should have no bounds.” The illustrations show diverse kids and adults, and a note from the illustrator recounts discovering connections between the models he photographed and some of the poems’ subjects.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start discussion with these questions:

  1. What kinds of things do you do to help around your community?
  2. How do the illustrations and text work together throughout the book?
  3. The author tells about helpful acts using poetry. Do you think this format works well for the author’s purpose? Why?

Resources at TeachingBooks.net including this teaching guide from Lee & Low.

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