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Meet Author/Illustrator Chris Van Allsburg. "its not bad to be different. Sometimes it's the mark of being very very talented." — Chris Van Allsburg.

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"its not bad to be different. Sometimes it's the mark of being very very talented." — Chris Van Allsburg

“At first, I see pictures of a story in my mind. Then creating the story comes from asking questions of myself. I guess you might call it the 'what if - what then' approach to writing and illustration. “Chris Van Allsburg

“At first, I see pictures of a story in my mind. Then creating the story comes from asking questions of myself. I guess you might call it the 'what if - what then' approach to writing and illustration. “Chris Van Allsburg

“There was a great deal of peer recognition to be gained in elementary school by being able to draw well. One girl could draw horses so well, she was looked upon as a kind of sorceress.” Chris Van Allsburg

"I don't think ordinary things are very interesting, so I try to imagine a world that is less ordinary." — Chris Van Allsburg

meet chris van allsburg the illustrator
Meet Chris Van Allsburg the Illustrator

What medium do you use to draw your pictures?

I use many different things. I use charcoal pencils. I use colored pencils, pastels. I use a little watercolor sometimes. I use pen and ink, and I use something a little different for each book because that way it is always interesting for me to make the pictures.

What does it take to write and illustrate a book?

It takes me between 7 and 9 months to write the story and make the pictures that become a book. The picture making part takes much longer then the writing part. In almost every case, the original pictures I make are much larger then they appear in the finished books.

Why are some of your books in black and white and the others in color?

I did not study painting or drawing when I was in college learning about art. I studied sculpture. I drew pictures of the sculptures I planned to make, and I took a few required drawing classes. When I was 29 years old and wrote my first book, making pictures with a charcoal pencil was all I really knew how to do. I didn't feel bad that my pictures were not in color because I like black and white pictures, as well as black and white photographs and movies.

As time went by, I became more interested in picture making and taught myself to use different material to make color pictures. Materials like dry and oil pastels, craypas, crayons, colored pencils, and paint. Now I decide if a book should be black and white or color as a result of a how I imagine the story while I am thinking about it. When I tell myself a story, I see it in my imagination, like a short movie. Sometimes I see the stories in black and white and sometimes I see the stories in color. I'm not sure why.

interview with chris van allsburg
Interview with Chris Van Allsburg

http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/vanallsburg/

If you would like to read more about Chris Van Allsburg http://www.kidsreads.com/authors/au-van-allsburg-chris.asp

biography
Biography

Chris was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 18th, 1949, the second child of Doris Christiansen Van Allsburg and Richard Van Allsburg. His sister Karen was born in 1947.

When Chris was 3 yrs. old his family moved to the edge of Grand Rapids.

When Chris was in 6th grade his family moved again to East Grand Rapids. The street he lived on looked like the street and houses on the front of Polar Express.

Chris attended East Grand Rapids junior and senior high school. He was interested in math and science and did not, believe it or not, take any art classes while there.

In the fall of 1967, Chris began his academic endeavor The University of Michigan, he majored in sculpture.

biography1
Biography

While there he learned bronze casting, wood carving, resin molding and other techniques.

He graduated in 1972 and went to graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to continue his study of sculpture.

From there Chris went to the renowned Rhode Island School of Design from

where he earned an MFA. He married and settled in Providence Rhode Island, where he still lives today with his wife and two daughters. It was his wife, Lisa, an elementary school teacher who first suggested that Chris illustrate a picture book.

Though still involved in making sculptures, Chris set aside some time and created the story and pictures that became The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, 1979.

Since then, Chris has written and illustrated 15 books and has illustrated three others that were written by Mark Helprin.

biography2
Biography

In 1991, Chris and Lisa became parents when their daughter Sophia was born. In 1995, their second daughter, Anna was born.

Chris lives in Providence RI and works in his 3rd floor studio. For recreation and amusement, he rides his bike and plays tennis.

awards and honors
Golden Archer Primary Award Winner from the Wisconsin Educational Media Association for Jumanji.

Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award Winner [Grades 3-8] for The Sweetest Fig.

1995

Rhode Island Children's Book Award Winner for The Sweetest Fig.

1993

Maryland Children's Book Award Winner for Two Bad Ants.

1992

Georgia Children's Book Award Winner, Georgia Child Picture Story Book Award for Two Bad Ants.

1991

Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award Winner for Two Bad Ants.

1987

Kentucky Bluegrass Award from Northern Kentucky University for The Polar Express.

1986

The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for The Stranger.

Caldecott Medal for The Polar Express.

Boston Globe Horn Book Award for illustration for The Polar Express.

Parent's Choice Award for Illustration from the Parents' Choice Foundation for The Stranger.

1985

The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for The Polar Express.

Irma Simonton Black Award from Bank Street College of Education for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

West Virginia Children's Book Award for Jumanji.

Parent's Choice Award for Illustration from the Parents' Choice Foundation for The Polar Express.

1984

Awards and Honors
more awards and honors
More Awards and Honors
  • The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.
  • Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award from the Washington Library Media Association for Jumanji.
  • Parent's Choice Award for Illustration from the Parents' Choice Foundation for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.
  • 1983
  • The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for The Wreck of the Zephyr.
  • The New York Times Outstanding Books citation for The Wreck of the Zephyr.
  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award from Ohio State Library for Jumanji.
  • 1982
  • The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for Ben's Dream.
  • International Board on Books citation for illustration for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.
  • Caldecott Medal for Jumanji.
  • Boston Globe Horn Book Award for illustration for Jumanji.
  • Children's Choice from the International Reading Association for Jumanji.
  • American Book Award for illustration from the Association of American Publishers for Jumanji.
  • Parent's Choice Award for Illustration from the Parents' Choice Foundation for Ben's Dream.
  • 1981
  • The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for Jumanji.
  • The New York Times Outstanding Books citation for Jumanji.
  • 1980
  • Caldecott Honor Book citation from the American Library Association for The Garden of Abdul College of Education for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.
  • 1979
  • The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.
more awards and honors1
More Awards and Honors
  • The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.
  • Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award from the Washington Library Media Association for Jumanji.
  • Parent's Choice Award for Illustration from the Parents' Choice Foundation for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

1983

  • The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for The Wreck of the Zephyr.
  • The New York Times Outstanding Books citation for The Wreck of the Zephyr.
  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award from Ohio State Library for Jumanji.

1982

  • The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for Ben's Dream.
  • International Board on Books citation for illustration for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.
  • Caldecott Medal for Jumanji.
  • Boston Globe Horn Book Award for illustration for Jumanji.
  • Children's Choice from the International Reading Association for Jumanji.
  • American Book Award for illustration from the Association of American Publishers for Jumanji.
  • Parent's Choice Award for Illustration from the Parents' Choice Foundation for Ben's Dream.

1981

  • The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books citation for Jumanji.
  • The New York Times Outstanding Books citation for Jumanji.

1980

  • Caldecott Honor Book citation from the American Library Association for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.
  • Boston Globe Horn Book Award
  • for illustration for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.
  • Irma Simonton Black Award from The Bank Street College of Education for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.

1979

  • The New York Times Best Illustrated
list of books by chris van allsburg
List of books by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Picture Books:
  • Garden of Abdul Gasazi, the (1979)
  • Jumanji (1981)
  • Ben's Dream (1982)
  • Wreck of the Zephyr, the (1982)
  • Mysteries of Harris Burdick, the (1984)
  • Polar Express, the (1985)
  • Stranger, the (1986)
  • Z Was Zapped, the (1987)
  • Two Bad Ants (1988)
  • Just a Dream (1990)
  • Wretched Stone, the (1991)
  • Widow's Broom, the (1992)
  • Sweetest Fig, the (1993)
  • Bad Day at Riverbend (1995)
  • Zathura (2002)
  • Probuditi! (2006)
  • Queen of the Falls (2011)
list of books illustrated by chris van allsburg
List of books Illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Swan Lake (1989)
  • A City in Winter (1996)
  • The Veil of Snows (1997)
how do i launch an author study of chris van allsburg
How do I “launch” an author study of Chris Van Allsburg?
  • Day 1:
  • Introduce the idea of an author study.
  • Tell the students that we are starting something called an author study. Tell them that they will read lots of books by a special author and get to know this author through their writing. Tell them the author is Chris Van Allsburg and then show them all of the books they will be reading.
  • If they say they've read one, tell them re-reading is great and helps you to know the book better. Tell them that they've probably seen some of the movies, but that we're going to be concentrating on his books.
  • Tell them that Chris Van Allsburg used to be a sculptor and explain what that is. When he first started doing art, he only knew how to use a pencil. He didn't know how to paint or use pastels. It's important to understand this about him because they will see in his books how his skill as an artist starts and how it changes. Tell them that it is important to pay attention to the illustrations because he is the illustrator and the author.
  • Then, introduce Book 1: The Garden of Abdul Gasazi and tell them to pay attention the the pictures in this book, but to also pay close attention to what happens in the book.
  • After reading the book, ask them what they noticed about the illustrations. The garden contained plants that are sculpted, which is called a topiary. Chris Van Allsburg used what he knew really well, sculpting, to help him with his first children's book.
  • Then, discuss the plot of the story and the surprise ending. Ask the students what they think happened and what the evidence is in the text.
  • Have them assist in filling out the attribute chart for this book.
  • Have the students write a response in their notebooks about the author or the book.
day 2
Day 2
  • Tell the students that they read the first book yesterday and that you're going to read another one today. Tell them to start to think about the genre of books that Chris Van Allsburg writes.
  • Read Book 2: The Stranger and then discuss the book. Ask the class if there were any surprise or strange events in the book. Ask them if all of the events could take place in real life. They should reach the conclusion that his books are fantasy. Ask them to described what the fantasy genre means.
  • Have them assist in filling out the attribute chart for this book.
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Find Fritz

Fritz is the bull terrier with the dark eye patch that first appeared in The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. While Chris Van Allsburg does not own a dog, his brother-in-law once owned an English bull terrier very similar to Fritz, and that dog served as an inspiration for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.

Can YOU find Fritz in every book? I don’t want to give away all of Fritz’s hiding places, but I will get you started. In The Polar Express he is the puppet on the bedknob on the first page. That’s it, no more hints. But, I guarantee, if YOU look hard enough, you’ll find Fritz.

Check out Chris Van Allsburg talking about Fritz on channel 5.

how did fritz come to be
How did Fritz come to be?

Why do you put your dog in all your books?

Van Allsburg: “When I wrote The Garden of Abdul Gasazi , I knew that I wanted a particular kind of dog to put into the pictures. When I draw things, I like to have models, to look at the thing I am drawing. So the dog that I wanted was a bull terrier, but unfortunately, I did not know one. My brother-in-law wanted to buy a dog at that time, and I talked him into getting a bull terrier. Now I had my model. This dog was named Winston, and I drew many pictures of him when I drew pictures for The Garden . Not long after I finished the book, Winston was, I am sorry to say, hit by a car. Because I was thankful to Winston for the help he'd given me, I decided that I would have him in each of my books.”

question and answer sessions with chris van allsburg
Question and Answer sessions with Chris Van Allsburg

*Do you remember some of the books that were important to you as a child?

Van Allsburg: “The book I remember most clearly is Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson. It's memorable to me for two reasons. First for its theme, which has to do with the power of imagination, the ability to create things with your imagination. And second, there was something mysterious about the book's method that made it unforgettable to me. It contains -- what shall I say? -- a fairly elusive idea, but presents it so succinctly through these simple drawings that it registers very clearly.”

the garden of abdul gasazi
Publication date: 1979

• Caldecott Honor Book 1980

• New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year

• Boston Globe–Horn Book Award

• ALA Notable Book for Children

• Reading Rainbow Review Book

• First book by Chris Van Allsburg

Turn to channel 2 for a video clip for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi

http://www.chrisvanallsburg.com/videoclips.html

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi
the garden of abdul gasazi1
The Garden of Abdul Gasazi

Sometimes that very thin line between illusion and reality is not as clearly defined as we would like it to be. It clearly wasn't the day that Alan Mitz stumbled into the garden of Abdul Gasazi. For in this bizarre and eerie place - where strange topiary trees loomed - the evil visage of Gasazi casts its shadow. And even after Alan escaped, the spell of Gasazi still seemed to penetrate into his everyday world. In this extraordinary, unusual, and unique picture book, a young artist explores both the real and the surreal worlds with incredible deftness. In doing so, he has created exquisite and beautiful images that will continue to haunt readers long after they have left the enchanted garden of Abdul Gasazi.

illustrations from the garden of abdul gaszi
Illustrations from The Garden of Abdul Gaszi
  • The flower pattern on the rug near the couch is also repeated several times in the Gasazi adventure - can you find them? But Alan's adventure may not be a dream after all. Can you find any hints that it isn't a dream?
slide21
The Garden of Abdul Gasazi Ideas for the classroom:

Suppose Miss Hester was upset because Fritz really didn't come home? Write a different (but magical) ending to the story.

  • Gasazi's Greatest Goof! Pretend that we overheard Abdul Gasazi talking about the day when, right on stage, his big trick didn't work. What trick was it? How did he cover it up?
  • Start a prop box – students can bring in a cape, top hat, robe, fake moustache, and so on. Put on the Abdul Gasazi outfit and be interviewed by the press after a hat trick.
  • Get books from the library on magic tricks. Students can learn to do one. Practice before a mirror! Wear the robe and hat when the performance is polished and perform as Gasazi the Great!
  • Book of tall tales – when someone is believed to have magic powers, stories get started and they grow bigger and bigger and more and more unbelievable. Make a tall-tale book using a cutout of a tall magician's hat. Have students write something unbelievable that Magician Gasazi did. Staple the hat together at the top as a flip-up book. Then, make very big hat shapes as the tales get bigger and more preposterous.
  • Using glossy paper and printing from magazine advertisements, construct a billboard that advertises Gasazi the Great's next performance. (Who, What, Where, When, a clever title, adjectives on star shapes or rabbit shapes.) Have the children use words like "mind-boggling," "dazzling," "splendiferous." This billboard could become a large book cover.
  • Make combination words to describe Gasazi the Great. For example, put "wonderful" and "marvelous" together and create a new word like "wonderlous," or "marvelful." "Fantastic" and "entertaining" can come out like "fantaining" or "entertastic." Children enjoy playing with the language and should be encouraged to do so. It is a good exercise for making children more comfortable with words and with reading.
  • Read more on TeacherVision: http://www.teachervision.fen.com/literature/activity/5958.html#ixzz1QQQxZMRe
the stranger
The Stranger

This story opens with Farmer Bailey driving down the road and thinks he

has just run over a deer but to his shock it is a man! The stranger came

home with Farmer Bailey and his wife realizes he can speak. The family

is not sure who this man is or where he came from so they decide to get

the local doctor to come out and check on the stranger. He wasn't sure

if the man had a fever because the mercury in the thermometer would

not rise, broken, he thought. The stranger was helping the Farmer out in

the fields on a very hot day and, amazingly, no sweat. One day the man

was looking over the hills at the trees and their beautiful colors and looked

at the trees around the Bailey house, they were different. He seemed to

want the leaves to all be like those over on the hills. He picked up one of

the green leaves from the Bailey’s yard and blew on it, hmmm. After that,

the stranger left quickly from the farm. Now, every year the trees on the

farm are green a week later than the trees to the north. Every year in the

frost on the windows is etched “See you next fall”.

Teacher’s guide: http://www.teachervision.fen.com/tv/printables/hmco/Stranger_TG.pdf

discussion questions for after you read the stranger
Discussion questions for after you read The Stranger
  • What does it mean when mercury is stuck at the bottom of a thermometer? What might this mean about the stranger's temperature? Do you think the thermometer is really broken?
  • What does the stranger's interaction with the rabbits teach us about his character? Why do you think the rabbits are so comfortable with him?
  • What do we know about the season when we see geese flying south? Why is the stranger so fascinated by the geese he sees?
  • What is happening when the stranger blows on the leaf? Look closely at the picture. What changes about the leaf as he blows on it? Look closely at his face. What does his expression mean?
  • Who do you think the stranger is? What in the book makes you think that?
slide24

This book is prefaced with a letter from Chris Van Allsburg himself, explaining the book’s origins. “I first saw the drawings in this book a year ago, in the home of a man named Peter Wenders,” Van Allsburg begins. He goes on to explain that many years earlier, a man named Harris Burdick stopped by the office of Peter Wenders, who then worked for a publisher of children’s books choosing stories and pictures to be made into books. Burdick brought one drawing from each of fourteen stories he had written as a sample for Mr. Wenders. Fascinated by the drawings, Wenders told Burdick he wanted to see the rest of his work as soon as possible. Promising to bring the stories in the next day, Burdick left – never to be seen again. Mr. Wenders held onto the pictures and captions until Mr. Van Allsburg saw them himself. He reproduced the pictures and captions hoping to inspire many other children to write stories as well.

• ALA Notable Book for Children

• Booklist Editors' Choice

• Boston Globe/Horn Book Award

• Horn Book Fanfare Selection

• New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of the Year

jumanji
Jumanji

This Caldecott Award winning book has been intriguing people since it first came out. For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, it's the story of a bored brother and sister, left on their own for the afternoon, who find the board game, Jumanji, under a tree in the park. The instructions, on a note attached to the box, are firm: once started, the game must be played to the finish.

When the children play the game, each adventure on the board brings the real creatures and events to life and into their home, creating danger and chaos. It isn't until Judy reaches Jumanji, the golden city at the end of the board, and yells the name that everything disappears, broken things are made whole and all is normal. The children put the game back where they found it, telling no one, only to watch children of friends of their parents who are known for not reading directions, take the game.

Publication date: 1982

Caldecott Medal winner 1982

New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year

Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award

School Library Journal, Best Books of the Year

ALA Notable Book for Children

Booklist Editors' Choice

IRA/CBC Children's Choice

1995 blockbuster movie starring Robin Williams

let s take a look at the artwork in jumanji
Let’s take a look at the artwork in Jumanji.

It's interesting to note the way Van Allsburg gives great texture and detail to some things while leaving other things almost blurry or flat. Look at the back of the children in the picture with the adults. How carefully he did Judy's hair; you can see every strand in her braids and the folds in Peter's shirt get equal attention, but look at the woman's throat. There are no lines and her pearls look flat. The flowers in the foreground are carefully sculpted and Peter and Judy's hands look very real but the man standing beside Peter has strangely flat fingers. Not letting us see the faces of the adults is a nice touch. It's the kids who are important here.

As in any successful picture book, the illustrations are at least as important as the text, so look carefully. They're done in gray tones with something called Conte dust and Conte pencil and, like much of Van Allsburg's work, they have a surreal quality.

classroom activities for jumanji
Classroom activities for Jumanji

Jumanji teacher’s guide; http://www.polarexpress.com/sites/default/files/icme/jumanjitg.pdf

  • In Jumanji, wild creatures and events enter into Peter and Judy’s normal home life. Imagine a situation in which strange animals or events enter into the context of a very familiar situation (home, school, grandma’s house, etc.) and then write about it.
  • Invent your own magical board game. Think carefully about the rules of the game as you design it. Don’t forget to write the rules down.
  • Magical game: I would begin with talking about the magic in the story. I would have

children divide into groups and have them design their own magical game. They would

have to make the game board and pieces to go along with it. Everyone would have a

chance to play these games over the next few days.

the z was zapped
The Z was Zapped

Publication date: 1987• ALA Notable Book for Children• Booklist Editors' Choice

http://www.polarexpress.com/sites/default/files/icme/zapped_tg.pdf

The Z Was Zapped is a delightful alphabet book in the form of a play in twenty-six acts, performed by the brave and self-sacrificing "Caslon Players." One by one in alphabetical order, each letter appears on the stage experiencing some sort of predicament. The A, for example, stands up in the midst of a rain of falling rocks. As we turn the page, we read, "The A was in an Avalanche." Then we see the B, missing its top half, with the gigantic mouth of a hungry dog hovering overhead. We must turn the page, however, before we can read, "The B was badly Bitten." On through the alphabet we go, watching the letters suffer alliterative mishaps and surprising situations—all the way to the zapping of the Z. Each page gives us the fun of guessing what words will describe the picture we have just seen.

*Find Fritz:Fritz can only be the dog who badly bites the B!

discussion questions for the z was zapped
Discussion questions for The Z was Zapped.
  • What do you notice about how this book works? How is it similar to or different from other alphabet books you know?
  • Can you think of some ways to describe what is happening in the picture using other words? Try to use alliteration if you can.
  • Using the pictures and what you know of how the book is put together, try to guess how each letter will be described on the following page.

*Classroom activity:

Read through the book, asking your students to pay attention to the way Van Allsburg uses

alliteration in his text. I would have the children, in a whole group, try and come up with

other alliterative phrases with the alphabet. After you have come up with the alphabet

(this will take a few days) then I would put it together in a book.

Divide the pages up among the class to have them illustrate them.

bad day at riverbend
Bad Day at Riverbend

Riverbend is a sleepy western town, "just a couple dozen buildings alongside a dusty road." Nothing ever happens in Riverbend until the morning Sheriff Ned Hardy sees a brilliant red light briefly appear and then fade into the sky. Soon the stagecoach pulls into town. Instead of their usual black-and-white outlines (just like everything else in Riverbend), the townspeople are horrified to see that the coach's horses are covered with messy, greasy red stripes. Ned Hardy decides to go and look for the missing stagecoach driver. As he follows the wagon's trail to the west, he sees that the ground is covered with the same greasy red stuff. Ned soon finds the bewildered coach driver sitting on the ground, his face completely filled in with different colored stripes. As he rides back into Riverbend, Ned sees that many of the buildings have been colored in as well. The townspeople are gathered inside the hotel, avoiding the flashes of light that seem to be leaving the greasy stuff behind. Ned decides to ride in the direction of the lights to "put an end to it" and leaves town with a posse of men. As they look over a hill, they see a strange thing: a man made entirely of the greasy red stuff, "as tall as a cottonwood tree and as skinny as a broomstick." Convinced that the stranger is responsible for the town's trouble, Ned and his men gallop over the hill to try to stop him. As soon as they cross the hill, they are frozen in the bright light that suddenly fills the sky . . . and we see the arm of a child with crayon in hand reaching toward the cowboys, who are now quite "colored in." The last pages show a full-color pastel drawing of a child hard at work on a coloring book and then walking out the door, leaving the "Cowboy Coloring Book" closed on the table. "And then the light went out," reads the last page.

Teaching guide

http://www.polarexpress.com/sites/default/files/icme/badday_tg.pdf

Publication date: 1986

ALA Notable Book for Children

discussion questions for a bad day at riverbend
Discussion Questions for A Bad Day at Riverbend
  • What do you think has happened to the stagecoach? What is the "shiny, greasy slime" covering the horses?
  • Look at the illustrations: How do you think the people of Riverbend are feeling about the colored stuff? How can you tell?
  • Van Allsburg writes, "Pretty little Riverbend was now too ugly for words," as the houses and streets start to fill with color. Why do the townspeople think the color is ugly?
  • How did the tall red cowboy get into Riverbend? Do you think that Sheriff Hardy and his men have anything to fear from the stranger? Why or why not?
  • As Sheriff Hardy and his men ride over the hill, they are "frozen in the bright light," that suddenly fills the sky. What is this bright light? What is happening?
  • What do you think is happening in Riverbend as the child closes the coloring book and leaves the room?
the sweetest fig
The Sweetest Fig

This is a story about a dentist, Monsieur Bibot and his dog, Marcel One morning he has a lady show up at his

office. One morning with no appointment and a toothache. When the dentist pulls her tooth she tells him she has

no money to pay him with and then pulls two figs from her pocket. She tells him they will make his dreams come

true. Bibot thinks the woman is crazy and shoved her out the office door. That night he decided to have one of

the figs for a snack, it was the sweetest fig he had ever eaten. The next day when he goes to walk his dog he

realizes that he is in his underwear outside! Then the Eiffel tower began to bend like rubber, and he realizes the

lady was telling the truth. These were all things Bibot had dreamed the night before and this led him to think of

ways not to waste the second fig. He tried to train his brain to dream that he was the richest man in the world.

After many nights of dreaming his wonderful dream he decided it was time to eat the fig. He placed the fig on a

plate and when he turned around Marcel ate the last fig. The next morning Bibot woke up under his bed looking

At himself and it said “come on Marcel, time for a walk”!

Find Fritz:Fritz is on the label of a bottle sitting on the counter in Bibot's kitchen.

Teaching guide for The Sweetest Fig http://www.polarexpress.com/sites/default/files/icme/sweetestfig_tg.pdf

classroom activity for the sweetest fig
Classroom activity for the Sweetest Fig
  • What You'll Need:A copy of The Sweetest FigChart paper or an overhead projectorMarkers/overhead pensPaper, pencils, and books for students to read on their own

Introduction:If you have not yet read the book to your students, do so now. Tell your students that one of the amazing things that authors do is write characters that are so easy for us to believe in that we actually begin either to like them or dislike them. In The Sweetest Fig, the character of Bibot is one about whom many readers develop strong feelings. Tell them that during the lesson, they will be talking about how Van Allsburg creates characters about whom we readers have feelings. Later, in their independent reading work, the students will be noticing how they feel about the characters in their own books and discussing this with their partners.

Teaching:Ask your students how they feel about Bibot. Do they like him or dislike him? Why or why not? Most students will say they don't like him and will be quite willing to list a host of reasons for their feelings: he is mean to his dog, he only thinks of himself, he only helped the woman because he wanted her money, he is selfish, and so on. Tell them that whenever they are reading books with characters in them, it is important to pay attention to how we readers feel about the characters and why we feel that way.As they go off to read on their own in their partnerships, ask them to keep in mind that you'll be asking them about whether or not they like their characters, and why.

Reading Time:During reading time children should be sitting near their partners. They need not be reading the same book. As they read independently you will confer with them individually about how they feel about the characters in their books and why.Stop them midway through reading time and ask them to discuss with each other how they feel about the characters in their books, and what the authors are doing to make them feel that way. Listen in on several conversations during this time.Share:Ask a partnership whose conversation you heard to share their thinking with the class. It will be helpful if you choose children who can model not only the thinking work you asked them to do about their characters but also how to talk and listen to each other in a respectful way.

the polar express
The Polar Express

Caldecott Medal winner, 1986

5 million copies sold worldwide

New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year

New York Times Bestseller

It is Christmas Eve. The boy is in his bed waiting. His friends have been trying to tell him that Santa Claus doesn't exist. He wants to believe in Santa, but wants to believe his friends as well. He is waiting to hear the bells to Santa's sleigh.

But something unexpected happens instead. A train pulls up to his house. The conductor calls to the boy to board the train. To where? Why, to the North Pole! The boy boards the train. There he finds other children, all heading to the North Pole to see Santa Claus. Adventures are around every corner! Who can hear the bells from Santa’s sleigh, can you?

classroom activity for polar express
Classroom Activity for Polar Express

“Santa is our culture's only mythic figure truly believed in by a large percentage of the population. It's a fact that most of the true believers are under eight years old, and that's a pity.” Chris Van Allsburg

Transportation: I would begin with talking to the students about different types of transportation.

Then we would read books on these different types of transportation.

I would let the children pick one mode of travel and then do research on how this mode

of travel began, who invented it, and how ,if any, has it changed over the years.

Christmas Around the World: This is a perfect book to use when beginning a unit on Christmas Around the World. The students are already very interested in the topic of Christmas and this book excites their imagination. I would talk about what we see in the story and is it like how we celebrate Christmas? What are the traditions (go over what this word means) does your family have? Then I would take several books that deal with several different cultures and their Christmas traditions. The students should first write about their own Christmas and then we would go on to “visit” each country we are talking about. I would end each discussion and unit of a country with some foods we have learned about. The children always love eating what they have learned about!

This would be helpful when

discussing beginning, middle,

And end.

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North Carolina First Grade objectives that are covered in this author study and the activities that go along with it.

Visual Arts:

1.04 Discuss and examine familiar objects and literature to inspire imagery.

1.05 Carefully observe and examine the world around them.

4.01 Recognize that an artist's work has certain characteristics that distinguish it from that of others.

6.05 Recognize that the use of art elements by the artist can tell a story, or describe a feeling or mood.

6.06 Discuss artwork using the design principle of repetition.

Language Arts:

2.01 Read aloud independently with fluency and comprehension any text that is appropriately designed for emergent readers.

2.02 Demonstrate familiarity with a variety of texts (storybooks, short chapter books, newspapers, telephone books, and everyday print such as signs and labels, poems, word plays using alliteration and rhyme, skits and short plays).

2.04 Use preparation strategies to anticipate vocabulary of a text and to connect prior knowledge and experiences to a new text.

2.05 Predict and explain what will happen next in stories.

2.06 Self-monitor comprehension by using one or two strategies (questions, retelling, summarizing).

2.07 Respond and elaborate in answering what, when, where, and how questions.

2.08 Discuss and explain response to how, why, and what if questions in sharing narrative and expository texts.

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Resources

Van Allsburg, Chris. (1985). The Polar Express. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company

http://www2.scholastic.com/teachers/authorsandbooks/authorstudies/

authorhome.jhtml?aut

http://www.chrisvanallsburg.com

http://www.eduplace.com/author/vanallsburg/biography.html

http://www.eyeonbooks.com/ibp.php?ISBN=0618253963

http://www.kidzone.ws/magic/

http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us

http://www.storylineonline.net/storyline/polarexpress/

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http://kids.msfc.nasa.gov/

http://www.schoolwide.com/newsletter/dec06/chrisvanallsburg/chrisvanallsburg.pdf

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=1486_type=Contributor_typeId=3697