Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What To Do About Alice?

What To Do About Alice? How Alice Roosevelt broke the rules, charmed the world and drove her father Teddy crazy!
by Barbara Kerley
illustrated by Edward Fotheringham
Scholastic Press, 2008
review copy compliments of the publisher

Barbara Kerley's website
Classroom activities for What To Do About Alice

Check out reviews at:
Big A little a
Becky's Book Reviews
Wild Rose Reader
the excelsior file

The topic of my minilesson in reading workshop was "Pay Attention to the Way the Character in Your Book Changes." I led off with Crash, by Jerry Spinelli, and my already-familiar story of staying with that book only because I knew Jerry Spinelli HAD to make Crash, one of the most despicable characters (my opinion) in children's literature, change by the end of the book, and I wanted to be there to see it.

Then I showed them the way Pam Muñoz Ryan clues the reader in to her main character's changes in Paint the Wind by making each section of the book a faster and faster gait of a horse, beginning with walk and ending with gallop. I told them that both of the main children characters in Ryan's book are not very nice to begin with, but that the author shows you their family situations and you understand why they are like that. And they both do change.

Next, I shared The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, which I was in the midst of listening to at the time. I told them about the annoying character Constance Contraire, whose very name even means "always irritating," and how the characters in the book are in the same place as the reader in wondering why she's that way and when she's going to change. (She never does change, and for myself and all the other readers like me who didn't put together the numerous clues we were given, the author explains why at the end of the book. Clever author!)

I ended the minilesson by sharing the story of an amazing, strong-willed, unusual character who doesn't change: Alice Roosevelt, in What To Do About Alice, by Barbara Kerley. We wondered at this remarkable woman's life-long resistance of the status quo, and were amazed by how fully she lived her life from childhood through old age -- always on her own terms.

Then I sent them off to read and to pay attention to the ways their characters did and didn't change.

Later that day, during read aloud (Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor), the topic of characters who change and don't change came up again. But that's another story for another post. Stay tuned.


  1. Anonymous6:01 AM

    Sounds like good stuff all around: the book, the lesson, etc.


  2. Hi Mary Lee!
    Yes, the fantastic and awesome Lester Laminack is the one who said, "Reading is Breathing In, Writing is Breathing Out." Is he amazing or what? That is exactly how it is....one of my favorite mentor authors. :)

  3. What a wonderful lesson on character -- thanks so much for sharing!

  4. What an interesting series! Thanks for sharing your lesson strategies with us.

  5. Anonymous7:51 PM

    I read and re-read your comment about Crash being one of the most despicable characters in children's literature and have to ask -- did you find yourself rooting for him as the story went on? I began the book (which I LOVE) really disliking Crash, but found myself cheering him on by the end of the book, when he really did seem like a changed person.

    On another note, I love this post!

  6. Jenny,
    Yes, I ABSOLUTELY changed my mind about Crash by the end of the book because Spinelli changes him. I guess I should have said that Crash BEGINS as one of the most despicable characters in children's literature! The way he treated Webb really rubbed me the wrong way. But he changes. And that was my point.

  7. Loved this mini lesson and I can't wait to think about how it might work for younger kids. Sounds like great talk and thought.


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