Finding strong upper elementary novels can be tricky. I always take time perusing the shelves looking for titles, covers, and teasers (on the back of the book) that would appeal to students in grades 3-5. On one of my countless hours in Barnes & Nobel, I spotted this book. The dark, creepy cover had my questions running wild. Intrigued by the cover and caught up in the uniqueness that the book promised to bring, I bought it.
Why I Finished It:
I love the creativity, this was a spooky one. I believe that we have all been spooked out by an old house or being alone in a home at night, so immediately there are connections to be made with this story. Olive, the lead protagonist, has moved into a new home with her geeky mathematician parents. The description of the home is provided through the eyes of Olive. Early on, she is drawn in to the old paintings on the wall. She notices peculiarities in the paintings and learns she can enter the painting, almost like a portal to another world, by using an old pair of spectacles. Olive demonstrates bravery and courage as she is solving a mystery within the paintings.
Who I Would Give It To:
This is a great read. I must admit, it was spooky. This is not for just any 8 – 12 year old. I suggest this for students who don’t spook easily and are drawn in to mysteries. It will appeal to both boys and girls who are interested in solving a very rare mystery.
There are quite a few themes going on in this book, as with many others, I suggest that courage be the main theme discussed. Olive displays an unusual amount of courage and bravery throughout the story. As essential questions for bravery to get the students discussing, try:
– What is courage?
– Is it possible to be courageous and afraid at the same time?
– How can an act of courage affect others?
– Why is courage valued?
Other books about courage:
– Spaghetti in A Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are by Maria Dismondy
– Wonder by R.J. Palacio
– Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
– May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
– Journey by Aaron Becker
– Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
While there is enough context to keep the readers reading and not get caught up in the difficult vocabulary, here are some words you might want to front load (not all – just a few):
- suspicious (1) – likely to suspect or distrust – questionable
- exotic (1) – different or unusual
- sheaf (2) – a group of things often fastened together and resembling a sheaf of grain; a bundle of stalks
- decreed (2) – decree – to command
- encroaching (3) – encroach – to enter or force oneself on another’s property or rights little by little; to advance beyond the usual or desirable limits.
- lackluster (3) – lacking in brightness, radiance, or interest; dull
- consolingly (6) – console – to comfort in times of grief, distress, or suffering
- distrustfully (9) – distrust – a lack of trust or confidence
- sepia (9) – a brown pigment made from the ink of cuttlefishes; brownish gray
- reluctantly (12) – reluctant – showing doubt or unwillingness
- silhouettes (17) – a picture of the outline of an object filled in with a solid (usually black) color.
- aggrieved (24) – troubled or distressed in spirit; having a cause for complaint
- scornfully(21) – scornful – feeling or showing contempt
- reproachfully (42) – reproach – something that deserves blame or disgrace; loss of reputation; disgrace; the act of disapproving; expression of disapproval
- indignantly (50) – indignant – filled with or expressing anger caused by something unjust, unworthy, or mean
- hoisted (50) – lifted
- barricade (51) – to block
- incredulous (51) – feeling or showing an inability to believe something; skeptical
- brusquely (55) – brusque – so short and frank in manner or speech as to be impolite
- menacing (62) – menace – to make or show of intention to harm; threaten; endanger
- indignant (64) – filed with or expressing anger
- demolished (65) – demolish – to break to pieces; smash; to do away with; put an end to
- inconvenient (70) causing difficulty, discomfort, or annoyance
- methodically (79) – methodical – marked by or performed or arranged in order; being in the habit of following a method; systematic
- petticoats (83) – a skirt or slip worn under a dress or outer skirt
- eternity (88) – endless time
- nonchalant (90) – having a confident and easy manner (from french meaning, “not excited”)
- enunciate (112) – to make known publicly; to pronounce clearly
- rhetorical (125) – used only for a colorful effect and not expected to be answered
- pummeled (163) – pummel – pound; beat; to defeat decisively
- oui (175) – French for “yes”
- askew (214) – out of line; awry
- ominous (232) – being or showing a sign of evil or misfortune to come
- beleaguered (235) – beleaguer – to surround with an army so as to prevent escape; to subject to troublesome forces; harass
Genre Study: Mystery:
There are so many books now that are mysteries written for upper elementary. The students love them, but are they prepared to actively read a mystery? Mysteries have a few elements that students need be aware of. In a mystery, the setting will be very important. The reader will also need to pay attention to all the details given, make inferences about events or interactions that seem “weird”, and focus in on characters. Help students divide up a notebook so that they have somewhere to write down what needs to be solved. Is something missing? Is there a secret? Then they will need a section to write down suspicious characters and/or events, clues, and distractions. When students complete the book they can complete a mystery cube.
When reading mysteries, inferences come alive. The reader must be actively reading and making inferences about both character interactions and events. Teach each one separately, but explain to students that every time two characters interact, they should stop and make an inference. An inference is derived from combining the text evidence and background knowledge to infer what might happen. So when the reader stops, have the student write in their journal:
The part where (text evidence)… might mean that (inference) … because (background knowledge).
Example: The part where Olive and Morton first meet and he doesn’t want to go with her and is running from her might mean that he doesn’t trust her. I know that when I first meet people, I’m never sure if I can trust them at first. I am always cautious. I think Morton isn’t sure, because he trusted Horatio and he wound up tricking him and trapping him in the painting. (pg. 47)
Another way to have students write inferences is by having them create a three column chart. At the top, head each column, Text Evidence/Background Knowledge (Schema)/ Inference. Students can fill out the chart as the characters interact.
Check out the interactive website for the series – http://booksofelsewhere.com/