Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reading Aloud EDWARD TULANE--had to share

So, I loved Edward Tulane before I read it aloud to my class. I am a huge Kate DiCamillo fan and love her work. All of it. I especially loved THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE when it first came out. Love the whole story and the writing was brilliant.

It has been our class's read aloud and we finished it yesterday. As often happens, I love the book even more after sharing it with kids. I must say that the kids loved the story. But, as kids do, they got more out of the story than I did. They are amazing. The story is so accessible and real for kids.

When we finish our read alouds, we often think about big questions that we'd like to linger over. Questions that are still swirling around in our heads after we've finished the book. The students brainstorm the list and then decide which they want to discuss. I have learned to just stand back and listen since their thinking is often better than mine. Sometimes we choose one to discuss as a whole class. It turns out that no matter which questions they discuss, they almost always gain a new understanding about the theme of the book.

So, these were the questions that came up after this read:

Why are the stars important? (Do they all connect to Edward's emotions?)
How did Abilene's grandmother know Edward only cared about himself?
Why did Kate DiCamillo choose the places he went? How did each place change him?
Why did the boy throw Edward overboard?
Why did the line, "You disappoint me" come up over and over.
Why did the illustrator decide on the front cover illustration? Why was it so important?
What does the title mean?
Why is Edward made of china?
Why did he not love before and why did he start to love later?
What does the quote at the beginning tell us?
Did Edward help himself? Was his time in the ocean the time he started to help himself?

So, as often happens, I think I can predict the conversations that will take students somewhere new in their thinking. And, as often happens, when I predicted today, I was wrong. I was pretty sure that the question "Why was Edward made of china? would take us nowhere. What was there to say or think about this one?

Then kids started sharing their thinking on the topic and we stayed with it for a while. I sat back and listened to them build on each others' thinking and was totally floored. Here are their theories--all of the things that his being made of china tell us: (I was amazed. So I must share!)

-Edward was china because he was breakable. His heart broke and broke.
-China is special and at the beginning Edward thought he was special and he was selfish.
-He was with a very rich family at the beginning--expensive, then he went to not so rich families, got dirty, etc. but even though they weren't rich, he learned to love.
-On the inside flap, it tells us that Kate D had a china doll and lost her.
-China is fragile--it is delicate and can shatter. Edward was delicate and shattered.
-People Edward meets along the way were all fragile or broken in some way.
-Breaking is like the dark and the author talks about the dark a lot.
-Maybe his whole being was broken--not just his heart.
-He was put back together at the end and that is when he found Abilene-broken and put back together and he was home --china and put back together again.

So, as always they blew me away. This little question brought them to this amazing thinking about Edward and the story of a broken heart. It was not a long conversation--15 minutes. These are 8 and 9 year olds. They are so brilliant every day. I do love my job.

I had to share. As much as I LOVE Mother Reader and as hard as I laughed at Mother Reader's view of Edward Tulane, this is the one and only time I have to disagree with her (SORRY MR). This book is a work of brilliance AND it is hugely accessible to kids--it is an amazing story with a huge life message. Full of hope and happiness. A great read aloud. It was a great day to be a teacher:-) (most days are)


  1. Anonymous11:02 PM

    I'm all choked up. "His heart broke and broke..."
    What a beautiful set of things to discuss in the middle of an ordinary school day. Life is good...

  2. I read Edward Tulane to my 4th grade class last year and it was one of our favorite read alouds! My kids had such a powerful whole class conversation at the end and their thinking blew me away! These are the days that I wish I was back in the classroom this year...I miss it tremendously!

  3. I'm glad you had such a great reading/sharing experience. And I forgive you. I don't understand you, but I forgive you. (smiles)

  4. Can someone please tell me what the quote is at the beginning of the book and who it is written by? Thank you!


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