Sometimes it overwhelms me to take my kiddos to the library to find a good stack of books to take home for reading. Where do I start? Do I search by author? By theme? And how do I find a good new author? Should I start in the Clifford or Arthur section? And you should see me try to thumb through books to find keepers while trying to chase my two curious boys (also trying to keep their noise levels to a minimum—almost impossible). Lately I have requested books online through my library’s website. I place a hold on them, and then when a good bunch comes in I swing over to pick them up. Sometimes the stack that awaits me has many treasures, other times not so much. Recently I searched by the theme of “leaves” and “fall.” One of the books from that search turned out to be a real keeper—South by Patrick McDonnel. We are adding this one to our Fall Reading Family Favorites list (that list really just exists in my head—nothing fancy.)
Here’s What the Book is About
South is a wordless book. I “read” a wordless book for the first time as a child— Snowman by Raymond Briggs. Even without words, the story was magical—whisking me away to a land where snowmen came to life. Wordless books hold great potential for teaching kids narrative skills and igniting their imagination. This particular story starts with a practically leafless tree full of tweeting birds. All the birds fly away, but we find at the bottom of the tree one little bird left—sleeping. The last leaf of the tree floats down to land on this little birdie’s head and the birdie jolts from sleep, only to find that all of his birdie friends have flown away. Luckily, a nice dog nearby sees in which direction they flew (south). Hand-in-hand they set out together in search of the lost flock of birds. Along the way they find many different friends—but no birds. Just when it seems there is not hope the two companions hear something promising. Go check this book out from your library if you want to "read" the ending to this endearing tale. The journey that the little birdie and the kind dog take together is a story you will not mind “reading” over and over again. McDonnell’s will perfectly perk your interest and keep you pleasantly entertained. Read more about his comic Mutts, read his biography, or check out other wordless books of his like Me . . . Jane which has won many awards including the 2012 Caldecott Honor Award.
Here’s How We Made It Come to Life
I thought this story provided the perfect opportunity to build some narrative sequencing skills. I am not sure if I was right or not. Mr. Big Stuff was not as excited about the activity I chose as I was. I decided to sketch a few scenes from the book for us to use to put in order and re-tell the story. You can print them from here, here, here, and here. (If you are like us and need to start with fewer scenes try this printable here.) Sequencing and re-telling a story is actually a pre-Mathematics skill. It helps children to grasp concepts like first, second, third, next, after, and last—it gets their minds thinking in a linear manner. Depending on the age of your child, you can choose how many scenes to have in your story. We started with five. First I told the story and laid each scene out in order as I spoke. Then I laid out the first one and gave verbal clues like, “First the birdies flew out of the tree. Then what happened next?” I let Mr. Big Stuff try to pick the next scenes in order. He did a great job retelling the story but laying them all out proved to be a little trickier, so we tried again with just three scene tiles. Even so, Mr. Big Stuff wanted to put the last scene down and then fill the middle in next. I guess we have some practice to do on story order! Glad we tried though, it is always fun to try something new. I am excited to try this type of exercise again with this story, and possibly with others. As you can see from the printables above, I sketched many more scenes than five, so this is an activity that can grow as we do! I used to do this type of activity at the preschool I worked at—it is a good one for the 3 to 5-year-old set. Happy sequencing!
|First I told the story and put all the story tiles in order.|
|Then I mixed them all up and said, "Okay, now it's your|
turn to tell the story!"
|I helped by placing the first tile and saying, "First the |
birdies fly away."
|"Then what happens next?"|
|Mr. Big Stuff knew what happened next, but it was a little|
tricky understanding where "next" goes in the order.
|So we got a little mixed up.|
|Mr. Big Stuff really just wanted to cut the pink paper. After|
we were done I let him chop to his little heart's content for
all that hard work he did for me. Proud Mama.