different books and authors come to mind for each of us. For me, Chris Van Allsburg is the top of the list. If you are visiting from my post over at The Nerdy Book Club, welcome to Creating Lifelong Learners.
In my post over at Nerdy Book Club, I wrote about the MAGIC OF READING and how I feel it connects to the MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS. Each year before Christmas break, I teach a very deep critical reading unit focusing on Chris Van Allsburg’s books. Although he is thought of as a children’s picture book author, if you look critically at his books, you will notice that there is much more there than meets the eye. His books are fabulous for teaching readers to look beyond the text to find hidden meanings and themes any time of year.
Below are just a few examples of the MAGIC in Mr. Allsburg’s pieces.
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
Van Allsburg begins this book with an opening letter about a character by the name of Harris Burdick. There is very little text in the book other than the letter. The book itself is made up of 14 illustrations and one caption for each. Mr. Van Allsburg claims that the illustrations found in the book are simply leftover from other unpublished stories that had by written by the man named Harris Burdick. He leads to reader to believe that he didn’t write this book at all, he simply compiled the pictures in hopes that his character would come forward to be recognized. However, Mr. Burdick has not been seen or heard from since he delivered the original snippets of the stories, leaving a bit of mystery and intrigue. If you read his books closely, you will notice small trademarks through out the book that prove that he did in fact write this book. It gives students a wonderful chance to build the missing stories and explore the possibilities of the clues within each picture and caption. This book inspired the creation of The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, written for adults, which was written by 14 phenomenal authors such as Lemony Snicket, Kate DiCamillo, and Stephen King. Each author took one of the illustrations and created a story to go with it.
This is a story about a crew of very intelligent and talented men aboard a ship. They find a stone and it begins to draw their attention to such an extreme that they begin ignoring all other aspects of their lives and duties aboard the ship! Never is anything other than the stone specifically mentioned in the book. However, if you read very deeply…you may notice that this stone is a symbol for other types of “stones” that draws many people’s attention away from other duties. “It is a rock, approximately two feet across. It is rough textured, gray in color, but a portion of it is flat and smooth as glass. From this surface comes a glowing light…” Do you notice any hidden themes or stories in this quote? Do you notice any symbolism? Do you see any connections to television or technology? Maybe not, but is sure does offer some deep literary conversations to have with your students.
A wonderfully told tale of a little boy who falls asleep studying for a geography test. That afternoon he had wanted to play baseball with his friend but the rain kept him home and inside his house. As the story is told, it begins to rain and his house begins to float past several famous landmarks around the world. We are led to believe that our little friend is dreaming of his adventure, however, at the end of the story, we realize that his friend had the same “dream,” and both kids saw each other as they were floating around the world. This surprise ending leads you to flip back through the story and in fact, you will find the children passing each other and waving while they were “dreaming.” Not only is this a great book to demonstrate the importance of deep reading and re-reading of a story, it is great for geography, and writing, and so many wonderful things. After reading the book, my students researched each landmark and used Google Earth to visit each place! A fabulous book to introduce and build many lessons for kids of all ages.
I could go on and on, and if you ask my friends, they will certainly tell you that I do. I have a true fascination with his work and am in awe of his imagination and creativity. I hope that you have found at least one book by Chris Van Allsburg that you can incorporate into your classroom, no matter what age group you teach!
If you would like to win a 10th Anniversary edition of The Polar Express, complete with the magical letter written by the author which inspired my post over at the Nerdy Book Club, please join in the fun and register below! You'll need to be connected with at least one of the options listed so that I contact you for delivery information. :)
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