A copy of Laurie Halse Anderon‘s The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School arrived at my home last week. I read it once and put it aside since I was unsure of what this book would be most suitable for teaching (i.e., there’s so much it can be used for!). I took a week away from Fleefenbacher and turned back to Susan Ehmann and Kellyann Gayer’s I can write like that! A Guide to Mentor Texts and Craft Studies for Writings’ Workshop, K – 6 before cracking it the picture book open again. I reviewed all of the craft elements Ehmann and Gayer define in their book (pgs. 9 – 25) and made a list of the ones I thought I remembered being present in the text.
My highlights represent changes I made once I reread the text.
When I reread the text, which is about a first grader named Zoe who has WILD hair. Her hair was admired and appreciated by her family, friends, and even her Kindergarten teacher. By the time she arrives in first grade, her new teacher, Ms. Trisk, feels that her hair is out of control and needs to be tamed. Zoe’s parents are called in and efforts are made to tame the girl’s hair, but eventually her teacher grows to accept and appreciate what Zoe’s hair can ‘do.’
That being said, personification is a biggie in this text since Zoe’s hair can do things that ordinary people’s hair cannot do (e.g., open cookie jars, pick up the trash, and tickle people). In order to make Zoe’s hair come alive, Halse Anderson uses descriptive language, which enhances the illustrations depicted by Ard Hoyt, throughout the book. Thanks to strong verbs and specific nouns, it’s clear what Zoe’s hair is capable of doing and how hard it is to be tamed.
The ending of this story is not only satisfying to the reader because justice is served and Ms. Trisk becomes more tolerant and understanding, but it’s also a circular ending. The final sentence of the book contains the main character’s name, which is also contained in the book title, as well as the fact that she has one blue eye and one green eye (which the lead did). While a circular ending might be hard for some young writers to achieve, you can certainly teach the ending as an “effective” one, rather than a “circular” one.
Additionally, there are several places in the text where there are lists, sound words, and a variety of interesting print features and layouts. Therefore, carrying this text alongside you in a conference will allow you to teach up to ten craft elements to your students.
I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshop. I've been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Prior to that, I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher in New York City and Rhode Island.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).
I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, doing Pilates, cooking, baking, making ice cream, and reading novels.