This week the first graders and I read, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. This book is a wonderful read aloud and carries these distinctions: E.B. White Read-Aloud Picture Book Award (2010); Children’s Choice Illustrator of the Year Award (2010); and, An ALA Notable Children’s Book (2010).
About The Curious Garden: "While out exploring one day, a little boy named Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world. This is an enchanting tale with environmental themes and breathtaking illustrations that become more vibrant as the garden blooms."
We are continuing our conversation about both browsing (looking for books to read) and caring for our library environment while browsing. Lucky for me, this book also connects wonderfully to these two areas of focus in our library lesson.
Connecting with good browsing strategies
The students and I talk about things that good readers do such as making predictions while they read. I connect this with browsing by emphasizing the importance of making predictions before even opening a book. (Although, we never judge a book by its cover and always then open the book and do a picture walk or some reading to get a real sense of book.) There are three things that I ask the children to identify on the cover and use to help make predictions: the title, the name of the author and/or illustrator, and the cover illustration.
After talking about how the title, name of author and/or illustrator, and cover art can help the reader make predictions, I ask the students (that have not yet read the book) to make predictions (really good guesses) about the book. It is a cool thing to hear their predictions about the book, they are such close readers of all media. I heard things like this:
"It's about a boy who finds a garden in an unexpected place like the desert."
"It's about a boy who reads."
"It's about a boy who reads about gardens."
"It's about a boy who makes interesting plants."
"It's about a boy who has a good imagination."
"It's about a boy who plants a garden and takes care of it."
We then read the story to great fanfare. "Would their predictions be correct?"
I like to stop on the first spread and ask the students to use picture clues and context to think about what the word "dreary" means. The students come up with adjectives like sad, dark, polluted, and unfriendly. This year, I had two of my new students from China liken it to their city, this prompted another conversation, which was interesting.
Spoiler alert! It's then fun at the end to have the children come up with a one word description for the last spread, which is anything but dreary.
About the word curious
We also stop on the page where Liam, our curious boy goes up the stairs to the train tracks. We talk about what the word curious means. The idea of curious to imply strange, odd, unexpected was not in their lexicon, so it is very cool to come back to the title at the end and talk about the curious garden that explores the train tracks, but also was an unexpected surprise for Liam to find.
Connecting with taking care of our library
Liam takes care of his environment the way that I hope the students will take care of our library. We talk about taking the initiative to see what needs to be done and do it. We also love that Liam secretly spreads his gardening gifts far and wide. I hope my students will share their gifts as well.
We finish with talking about Peter Brown's inspiration and connect to the High Line in NYC. I showed the students this picture, which I took on the High Line this summer:And share that I like to think that Peter sat at this particular spot to create this spread:
The High Line
It seems to cool not to talk about why they elevated the High Line and then why it was no longer needed and became a public garden. We finish with watching about one minute (from 1:40-2:34) of this movie about the High Line.
Narrated by Ethan Hawke. This video is a concise introduction to the history of the High Line, from the days of Death Avenue in the 1840s, to Friends of the High Lines preservation efforts. Features historical imagery. Produced by Matt Wolf. Made possible by the Trust for Architectural Easements.
Want more information?
About the High Line
If you visit, you will see Peter Brown's book at the information stand!