Sunday, July 19, 2015

Picture Book Love: The Circus Ship

Have you read this book?

Click on the picture of the book to preview some pages on Amazon. I found it a a teacher supply store a few years ago and had to have it. However, everyone that I show it to has never seen it before. So, if you don't have it already, go buy it!

It's short, and written in rhyme.

In brief, it's the story of a ship carrying circus animals that gets shipwrecked in a storm. The animals swim to shore and try to fit in among the nearby townspeople. The townspeople aren't sure about the animals at first, but then the tiger saves a girl from a burning house, and they start living together happily. Then the greedy circus owner comes to town to get the animals back, and the townspeople and animals work together to devise a plan to keep the owner from getting the animals back.

Between the rhyme, pictures, and story, the book provides great opportunities for reading and writing activities. I've used the book the last two years in my fourth grade classroom, and the students love it.

Even though it's a short book, there's quite a bit of vocabulary in it, but my favorite thing is that it has bunches of figurative language in it. There are examples of similes, alliteration, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia. I teach my students about these words and then we identify the figurative language in the book.

The illustrations really add to the story. In one page, Chris Van Dusen hides all fifteen animals in the picture so the students can find them. You might think that that would get boring for fourth graders, but after I finish reading the book, my students all want to borrow it so that they can count the animals and make sure they found them all.

There are also other things that are special about the illustrations, so we write them down as well.

The book is very loosely based on a true story, so the students can research the real event that inspired the book - the sinking of the Royal Tar. Then they can do some compare and contrast activities with their findings.

I put together some lessons and activities to go along with the book, including some fluency task cards that have real historical circus facts on them.

Click on the picture below to see the whole unit.

What books do you have in your classroom (or personal collection) that you can't live without?

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