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Tales of Extraordinary Bravery: March 2016 Intermediate Titles

February 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | March

flora and ulyssesFlora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readersKate DiCamillo. Illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Candlewick Press, 2013.

Flora’s been pretty cynical since her parents’ divorce. She spends most of her time reading superhero comics while her self-involved mom works on her next romance novel and her dad, with his lack of confidence, flounders. But when Flora sees a hapless squirrel sucked up by a vacuum, she’s on the scene in an instant performing CPR (she learned it in the back of a comic book). “For a cynic I am a surprisingly helpful person,” she thinks. The squirrel not only lives, but is changed by the experience. He understands what Flora says. And he can write—poetry no less—plunking out deep, thoughtful verses on the typewriter belonging to Flora’s mom. Flora names him Ulysses (for the model of vacuum that was almost his demise) and thinks of him as a superhero in real life. Ulysses may not be able to save the world, but he just might be able to save Flora, restoring her belief in friendship and family. Kate DiCamillo’s witty, wonderful work of magical realism is patently absurd with its flights of fancy and wordplay, but that’s its charm. The lively prose narrative is punctuated by interludes of black-and-white panel illustrations by K. G. Campbell that showcase small vignettes of action while referencing the comic-book form.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources for Flora and Ulysses, including links to 8 lesson plans at TeachingBooks.net!

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: Both stories (Flora and Ulysses and Stubby the War Dog) use headlines. What would be the headline for your life today?
  2. How do the text features affect the story? How do the illustrations affect your understanding of the story and the characters?
  3. How does the mother change throughout the story? Why does the mom want to get rid of Ulysses? What does the mom say that’s hurtful and why?
  4. Why do you think that the boy pretends to be blind? How would the story and characters change if the boy didn’t pretend to be blind?

Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s stubby the war dogBravest Dog by Ann Bausum. National Geographic, 2014.

As he was training for duty overseas in 1917, Pvt. J. Robert Conroy bonded with a stray dog at the training camp. Conroy named the dog Stubby due to his stub of a tail, and smuggled him on board his ship when he headed for France. Stubby was so smart and so personable that he quickly became the unofficial mascot for Conroy’s division. On the battlefield, Stubby proved his worth by locating fallen soldiers and staying with them until help arrived, and warning the unit of poison gas. He earned a medal for bravery when he captured a German soldier. After the war, Stubby’s reputation and fame continued to grow. Author Ann Bausum did extensive primary research through documents, photos, and mementos at the Smithsonian, which has taxidermy Stubby in its collection, and one of the intriguing aspects of her narrative is occasional comments on the challenges of separating fact from fiction, since even stories written when Stubby was alive were prone to hyperbole. She also interviewed Conroy’s grandson, who shared memories of his grandfather and his stories about Stubby. Numerous photographs of Stubby, Conroy, and other memorabilia are an integral part of a volume that includes a timeline, extensive bibliography, and wonderful research notes.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Check out the great resources for TeachingBooks.net!

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: Both stories (Flora and Ulysses and Stubby the War Dog) use headlines. What would be the headline for your life today?
  2. Can you identify any primary sources in the book? How do the primary sources affect the story?
  3. Make a timeline of Stubby’s Story.
  4. How do animals help people through difficult times? What examples can you find in this book? Which of Stubby’s feats impressed you most?

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