Why I Picked It Up:
Title and author. Adam Rex has my same sense of humor – a little offbeat with a hint of snarky – which helps explain the title and cover. With a simple click, this one found its way into my Amazon cart.
Why I Finished It:
This is not your typical Valentine book. This is possibly an “unValentine” book. Ox writes gushy love letters to Gazelle. Gazelle’s reply is a standard Hollywood form letter expressing how she has a lot of admirers and “thanks.” Ox replies with a whole-hearted (…or snarky – you make the call) thanks for the “personal” letter. The letter exchange continues, with Gazelle repeating how she could never love a big, clumsy Ox. Ox, unfazed, writes back about how he still loves her. Just when you’re beginning to feel really sad for Ox and dislike Gazelle immensely, there’s a twist. That’s all I will share!
Who I Would Give It To:
This is a fabulous read aloud for all elementary classrooms for Valentine’s Day. My 13-year-old son also found this rather amusing, but he does share my sense of humor, so you’ll have to make that call for your own classroom!
As I am helping students in fourth-grade prepare for a writing assessment, we have been focused on avoiding form writing, or, working on making our writing unique. With Gazelle writing two obviously “form” letters and Ox writing from the heart, this would be a great mentor text for illustrating the difference.
In addition to discussing the voice and personality in the writing, this book could also be used as a mentor text for writing letters in general. Use this book as a jumping off place to discuss what type of information should be shared in a friendly letter, how to format the letter, and how to respond to another letter. Kids love getting mail and sending notes, so let’s turn that into a lesson. Assign each student a classmate to write a letter to. I usually put my students in groups of four and they write to the person on their right. Once the letters are written, exchange letters (this can be super creative if you like – or just as simple as passing the letter to the right), then have those students respond to the original writer. When I did this, in both second grade and fifth grade, the students had a blast writing to their friends and actually kept the letters! At the end of the year, it was one day that they talked about as being really memorable and fun.
Gazelle and Ox have very distinct personalities. Have students explain the characters’ traits. Ox is persistent and friendly, while Gazelle is self-absorbed and a bit of a narcissist. Obviously, let the students come up with their own traits and words. This is also a good time to have students discuss the characters’ feelings. The students need to understand that, regardless of what traits a character possesses, their feelings can change throughout the book. The great thing is that Gazelle will have a character switch. Students can discuss how Gazelle changes and what might have happened to create this change.
Combining Characterization and Letter Writing
Gazelle only writes the first few lines of her last letter to Ox. Students can use what they know from the events that have occurred already in the book and the personalities of the characters to write the final letter!