Tag Archives: Characterization

In Jail, Ms. Wiz? by Terence Blacker

Schema: good witches, magic, 101 Dalmations

Text-to-text connections: Roald Dahl’s books and humor

Ms. Wiz, a witch, or as she likes to be called a “paranormal operative,” appears to Lizzie in a park and helps her find her lost cat. The story is similar to 101 Dalmatians except the evil woman wants cat fur to make her things. Large font and ink sketches make the book of five short chapters a perfect middle level read. At the end, Ms. Wiz turns all of the evil woman’s fur clothes back into the animals they were made from making her end up naked in her car when the police arrive to arrest her. Just a brief couple of sentences telling this add a bit of juvenile humor that intermediate level readers will enjoy. The author has been compared to Roald Dahl, and I would have to agree. The illustrator has illustrated some of Dahl’s books as well.

Cause and effect: Because Lizzie is so upset, the effect is that she can not concentrate at school.

Characterization: List all of Ms. Wiz’s traits: caring, kind, magical, loyal


The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan

Schema: Dust bowl, Great Depression, bullies, superheroes, sisters and brothers

Author’s purpose: to entertain and inform about the depression

Inference: The family was leaving Kansas, but then when the mysterious figure runs in front of the car, it seems that the family didn’t end up leaving Kansas. We may infer that the sudden stop caused the car to break down as we see the father working on the car after that.

Cause and Effect: Because of the drought, the effect is that the economy is depressed and people are out of work.

POV: The story is told from Jack’s POV.

Text-to-text connection: The Wizard of Oz

Text-to-self connection: wanting a parent’s attention

Characterization of Jack: Describe all of Jack’s traits such as his caring for his sisters, his desire to be loved by his father, his longing to help with the farm, his courage to confront the Storm Man and capture the thunder, his manner in dealing with the bullies, and the relationship he has with the Ernie.

Historical Fiction: Times were truly hard for the lack of rain during the 1930’s in Kansas, an area called the “Dust Bowl” because of the dry dusty soil that blew away because of the drought.  In order to survive and grow what feed they could for their cattle, the farmers would have jackrabbit drives, where they would round up the jack rabbits and club them to death.  Most of the rabbits would then be fed to other animals.  The people were afraid to eat them because of jackrabbit fever. The books provides a candid view of what life was like for people during this time period.

Drawing Conclusions: What do you conclude is the reason that Ernie tells Jack the stories he shares with him?

Synthesis: Can you think of another hard time in history where some type of superhero could have changed the harshness to happiness?  What would be the hero’s super powers?

This book is on the Texas Bluebonnet 2011 nominee list, written on a 2.3 AR level, and begins with the curse word “damn.”  Following on into the story the author injected two more “hell’s” andin my personal opinion the curse words were unnecessary.

The Hired Hand by Robert D. San Souci

Schema: fairy tales, element of magic

Genre: traditional literature

Setting: Virginia

Predicting: Predict what young Sam will do when the man comes back with the request to make his wife young again

Character Motivation: What motivates young Sam to charge the man for what the hired hand did?  What motivates him to change at the end?

Compare and Contrast young Sam and old Sam:

Characterization of young Sam: He damaged the saw blades because he didn’t clean the logs first concluding that he is lazy; he cuts the boards unevenly concluding that he is careless; he refuses to sweep the shop concluding that he is again lazy and disrespectful toward his father; he is dishonest and arrogant as he “puts on airs” when he is in charge.

Characterization of old Sam: hardworking and kind

Internal consistency of young Sam’s character: What types of things would you see young Sam doing in the future?

Big Idea or Theme: Work hard and treat people well or trouble will find you.

What evidence supports the conclusion that young Sam learned a lesson?

Are You a Horse? by Andy Rash

Schema: horses, saddles, birthdays; Roy does not have “horse” in his schema so he has to ask other to share with him.

Characterization:  Characterize the traits of a horse as each animal character shares a bit about horses.  He is told that it is a living thing, an animal, has legs, is friendly, doesn’t change color, does not lay eggs, is clean, is very fast, eats grass,  and does not have stripes.  Before reading or showing them the book have students draw a picture of what they think the animal would look like.

Personification: The wagon is personified.

Reader’s Theater: This would be a great book to use for reader’s theater with each student being one of the animals.

Drawing Conclusions: What is wrong with the conclusion that Roy came to about the horse when he finally found it?  Review the instructions that came with the saddle.

Summarizing: With the repetitive action in the story, this is a good one to briefly summarize.  Show students the summary in the CIP.

The Amazing Bone by William Steig

Schema: foxes, sheep, not following directions, forgetting where you leave books

Text-to-Text Connections: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig has similar illustrations of the animals.  The Teeny Tiny Woman also has a talking bone in the story.

Personification: The bone takes on human characteristics and feelings.

Compare and Contrast with Chris Van Allsburg’s The Widow’s Broom.  How are the bone and the broom alike?

How did the bone help Pearl and her family?

How did the broom help the widow?

Characterization: List the fox’s characteristics.  Hungry when he describes Pearl, cruel when he talks about eating the bone,

Terrible Storm by Carol Otis Hurst

Schema: grandparents, blizzard, Massachusetts, point of view

Compare and Contrast the character traits of the two men: This story presents a wonderful opportunity to show students this strategy.  A Venn diagram could be used to show the differences and similarities between Fred and Walt, characters based on the author’s grandfathers.  It’s fun to read through the book, then go back and read the top half all the way through, then go back and read the bottom part all of the way through.  As you read, write the traits of each of the men in the diagram. 

Differences: Walt likes to be with lots of people,  but Fred liked to be alone.  Walt was bored in the barn with the cats, but Fred would not have chosen to be at the tavern. 

Similarities: both men worked in delivery services of goods to people,  but Fred could leave his milk daily without talking to anyone, and Walt would have to make appointments to see who needed the wood and where they wanted it stacked.  Both men were not dressed warmly.  Both had food, a bed, and a shelter from the storm.  Both agreed they didn’t have much choice in where they stayed.

Inferences from the illustrations: Walt liked dogs, Fred liked cats.  Outgoing people are more like dogs, and introverts are more like cats.

Drawing Conclusions: I am drawing the conclusion that each man will head to his favorite place to be the next time a blizzard comes rather than working a little longer and getting stuck in the places they were this time around.  Text evidence: each man said the three days they spent either in the barn or the tavern were the worst.

Point of View: Each man is describing the same event from his own perspective, one who likes crowds, and the other who prefers to be alone.

Cause and Effect: Because of the blizzard, the effect is that each man had to find shelter in a place they did not want to be.

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Schema: teachers, fifth grade

Text-to-Self Connections: many students will identify with one of the seven characters

Text-to-Text Connections: Jessica refers to many great books that she is reading throughout the book. Students will relate to some of the titles. Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars is about a girl and her mentally handicapped brother, Charlie.  In this book, the students form a bond with a special needs class in their school.

The book is written from the point of view of seven different students in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class. Mr. Terupt is a first year teacher.  Use the characterization chart for each character to analyze their traits as you read through the book.  I think it would be fun to purchase seven additional copies of the book and let seven students take on the role of each of the seven characters in a reader’s theater. The seven student types are ones that students will connect with such as:

Peter who begins the story and is one who likes to play around;

Jessica, a new girl who is new to the area, whose parents are divorcing because the father found another woman;

Luke, a very intelligent boy, who consistently tries to achieve;

Alexia, a mean and devious girl;

Jeffrey, a quiet boy with a secret about how he had a younger brother who died, even though his parents had him to use his stem cells, and now deals with the depression of his mother;

Danielle, an over weight girl with parents who are extremely conservative;

Anna, a very shy girl whose mother is very young and had her while still a teenager.

Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different student.

The book is sequenced by months beginning with September and going through the school year.

Cause and Effect: One of the kids actions has a serious effect on Mr. Terupt, and the second half of the book is devoted to how each student deals with this effect.

Drawing Conclusions: Many opportunities can be found to discuss what conclusions you draw about each of the kids before you find out why they are the way they are from what you learn about their home lives as you read through the book.  The text makes you think about being negative towards kids because of their behaviors and comments before you understand why they are behaving this way.  Students will relate to these circumstances for many perspectives.

Voice: Include “voice” in the characterization of each character.  Their voice reveals their emotions.  Read some of the text aloud and have students tell you whose voice they hear.  Have them write something that sounds like the voice of each character.

Math: Mr. Terupt designs a math game to help students practice addition that Luke uses throughout the story.

Thunder-Boomer! by Shutta Crum

Schema: thunderstormSetting: outside on a farm

POV: The narrator is the young girl in the story who tells the story in first person.  The day is hot, and everyone on the farm is hot and lazy except for Dad, then a big thunderstorm begins.

Text-to-Self Connections: Being outside when a storm blows in, feeling the air get cooler; hearing the whole house shake when it thunders; having a dog that gets scared when it thunders

Character Analysis: Dad returns to the rain to rescue their chicken showing his caring nature.  Dad also agrees that they can keep the kitten showing his loving nature.

Mom tells the kids to let the clothes on the line go and get in out of the rain showing that she is caring toward her children.

Cause and Effect:  Because of the storm, the effect is that everyone has to run inside.

Drawing Conclusions: Students will conclude that Maizey is worried about something because she pecks Dad when he is bringing her in and fusses about being in the house.  We might conclude that she is worried about her eggs or a baby chick, but a twist in the story reveals that she was worried about a kitten which they name “Thunder-boomer.”

Sequencing: The family is outside and hot, the wind starts to blow, they run to put up the tractor, get the chickens in the coop, get the clothes off the line, something white blows away, Dad gets Maizey in, Maizey acts unusually fussy, Scooter is scared, they see the underwear outside, it hails,  the rain stops, they let Maizey out and she reveals that she was worried about a kitten.

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino

Schema: flippers on the cover connect with swimming, title mentions sea

Author’s purpose: to share real information about sea scientist, Jacques Cousteau.

Metaphor: Cousteau’s quote on the first page makes a mental image of the sea a casting spell over him and holding him with “its net of wonder.”   The sea is like a net in that it can capture you.

Cause and Effect: Because doctors told Jacques Cousteau to swim to build up his strength, the effect was that he started swimming and found that he loved the ocean.

Text-to-Self Connections:

Have you ever taken something apart to see how it works?  I had lots of response about this from my second graders such as helping parents repair things such as cars and motorcycles or taking electronic toys apart.

Car Accidents-many kids have been in one

Things that Change your life forever: Jacques had the goggles that changed his life.  Students shared things such as art, being baptized, having surgery, losing a loved one, having a new sibling, going to a certain school, pets dying, learning to play soccer, reading a book from a dog’s point of view, and technology.

Sometimes something changes our lives forever and we don’t realize it until later, but Jacques says he knew that very day when he used the goggles for the first time.

Characterization:  Use the Describing Wheel to list the traits of  Jacques Cousteau: inventor, scientist, explorer, humanitarian, writer, and film maker.

Drawing Conclusions: Jacques Cousteau was curious.  What text evidence supports this conclusion?  tinkering with gadgets, trying ways to make a snorkel tube, inventing the aqua lung, taking the camera apart, testing his hypothesis about living under the sea, inventing the saucer and sea flea

See the Jacques-Yves Cousteau website.

Pirates by David L. Harrison

Schema: Pirates or sailors on ships, missing a hand or a foot, we can infer that they take risks if they are missing a limb, they wear funny hats, have parrots for pets, brave, hunt buried treasure, modern pirates steal and harm

Text to self connections: Pirates of the Caribbean’s Jack Sparrow, Peter Pan’s Captain Hook

Compare and Contrast the pirates in the book with the pirates in the movies using a T-chart.  Read the “Here’s How it Was” information at the end of the book.

The pirates in the book lead many boring days at sea, eat hard bread, receiving no pay: “Another Day at Sea”

Eating hard bread and soup that make them feel sick: “Table Talk”

Being whipped for fighting: “Cat-O’-Nine-Tails” vs. in the movies the fighting is viewed as fun

Point of View: “Through the Glass” from the POV of an official government ship captain

“Coming for Your Gold” from the POV of the Pirate

“Fog Attack” from the pirates POV

“What’ll the King Say, Cap’n? from the pirates POV

“Trouble” from one of the pirates POV about getting his share of the loot, the “plunder”

“Marooned” from the POV of a pirate that has been left on a deserted island

“On the Run” from the pirates POV

Characterization: “Blackbeard” characterized the pirate, Blackbeard.

Author’s purpose: to make a mental images and feel emotions of what it was like for real pirates

Characterization: Use the Cluster Word Web to list the traits of the pirates in the poems as you read.

Reader’s Theater of “The Pirate’s Code” could be performed after reading the book.

Cause and Effect: “Ship Rules” talks about the effect of breaking the rules.  Because you have joined the Pirates, the effect is that you will regret it.

Because you steal, the effect is being beaten with a whip.

Because you commit mutiny, the effect is being shot and thrown to sharks alive.

Because you lose an arm in battle, the effect is you will be paid well.

Drawing Conclusions: What evidence or clues can you find in the poems that supports the conclusion that people who chose to become pirates made a bad choice in careers? they were beaten, not fed well, lost body parts in fights, died young

“Captured” and “Farewell” support the conclusion as the pirates are realizing their lives are over.