Why I Picked It Up: I actually didn’t pick this one up, my 3.5 year old son did on one of our sort-of-weekly library trips. He usually picks up a few of his own books, but this time, he found this one and brought it to me. “I choosed it out for you, Mommy because it has a penguin on it!” After I picked myself up out of my puddle of melted heart, we read it together at the library and then put it in our bag to take home.
Why I Finished It: I always thought it would be fun to have a pet penguin, that is until I actually got to pet (and smell) a real live penguin. But this book rekindled that day dream for me, but without the unpleasant aroma. My son and I had fun talking about what it would be like to have a penguin, and we enjoyed the surprise with Elliot’s father at the end of the book.
Who I Would Give It To: This book would be an excellent read-aloud for lower elementary students, and upper elementary (2-5), it would be an ideal mentor text for quotation marks and dialogue (see below!).
Penguins were the hook for me personally, but the clever way the dialogue is presented made my teacher brain happy and took it to the next level. I wish I had known about this book when I was trying to help 4th graders understand the rules of punctuation for dialogue. Buzzeo does a wonderful job of helping students visualize quotations WITH the correct punctuation. Kids can easily see who is talking (or thinking) and still see how the person’s dialogue fits into the rest of the narration.
The way the dialogue is written, it also helps students follow who is talking.
After you have read the book once for enjoyment, pull out one of the quotes. Make sure everyone can see the sentence. Ask the students, “what do you notice?” Acknowledge all answers given. Use this time to spiral review. If they say I notice a period. Then respond, “yes, there is a period here, because it’s a complete sentence. There is a subject (here), a verb (here), and it is a complete thought.” The spiral review is good for them to hear it again … and again … and again! Direct them to notice the quotes. Ask students why they think the quotes are there. Practice moving the quotes and ask how that changes things. Trust me, this can be quite entertaining. Then have students notice where other punctuation is when there are quotes. Write some rules down for quotations and have students add a piece of dialogue to thier own writing.
Once he gets his penguin home, Elliot realizes he needs to do some research. He goes to the library and the librarian helps him find several sources of information, including a website, a reference book, and a nonfiction title. Both pets in the story (spoiler alert, sorry!) are named after explorers that discovered or researched the animal, so that adds a layer of history as well!
Students could select an exotic pet (like Elliot and his father both have), give it an appropriate explorer name (like Magellan or Captain Cook), and start researching. Elliot needed to find out what his penguin liked to eat, to do, etc., so students could do the same. Students could then create a presentation or a smore to display their research.
Here are some resources to get going: https://www.smore.com/k455e-animal-research?ref=my