I’ve always been a diary and letter person. I have loads of journals from my childhood and post-college years. To this day, I relish letters I saved from my childhood since they’re a permanent reminder of a time in my life. In these days of e-mail, texts, and Tweets, correspondence and journals can be savored.
I was drawn to two recently released picture books because they feature writing within the writing. One is told as part-narrative/part-travel journal whereas the other is a back-and-forth e-mail correspondence. Here’s a bit more about them:
Publisher’s Summary: A winsome armadillo from Brazil takes a trip to Paris in this delightful new picture book from Julie Kraulis. Arlo is an armadillo who is always up for adventure. His grandfather, Augustin, loved adventure too. When Arlo was born, Augustin wrote travel journals about his favorite places for Arlo to use when he was hold enough to go exploring on his own. When Arlo reads about Paris and the one the French call La Dame de Fer, or Iron Lady, he decides it’s time to strike out on his first adventure. He travels to France and, guided by Augustin’s journal, discovers the joys of Paris: eating a flakey croissant at a café, visiting the Louvre, walking along the Seine and, of course, meeting the Iron Lady… But who is she? Each spread has a clue about her identity, and kids will see hints of her scattered throughout the book. This book is like a gorgeous stroll through Paris with an adorable new friend–a stroll you’ll want to take again and again.
My thoughts: At first I thought I loved An Armadillo in Paris because I’m a Francophile. After a second read, I realized that the illustrations make you feel as though you’re walking along the banks of the Seine and viewing all of the famous Parisian landmarks alongside Arlo. Upon a third read, which is when I started “reading like a writer,” I discovered the richness of the text: both the journal entries and the narrative. The journal entries act as a tour guide to the city, while the narrative is told by a narrator who keeps you engaged every step of the way. This unique structure appealed to me as a reader and had me dipping back into the text for multiple reads.
As a mentor, there is so much we can learn from Kraulis’ writing. Whether you’re teaching students how to embed a second language into their writing, helping kids write with authentic voice, or showing them how to select precise words, An Armadillo in Paris can become your writing workshop co-teacher in so many ways.
Take a look inside of the text:
Publisher’s Summary: Alex is not happy about being sent to his grandparents’ retirement community while his parents go on a fabulous vacation. What could be worse than tagging along to Grandma’s boring bridge game or enduring the sight of Grandpa’s dentures?
But as the week goes on, Alex’s desperate emails to his parents turn into stories about ice cream before dinner and stickball with Grandpa. Before he knows it, Alex has made a surprising discovery: grandparents are way cooler than he thought!
My Thoughts: If you know and love I Wanna Iguana and I Wanna New Room, then you’re going to love this new installment about Alex. The e-mail communication between Alex and his parents is amusing. The medium is very 21st century, but the contents of Alex’s messages to his parents stays true to his voice from the first and second books.
Alex from I Wanna Go Home has strong opinions and uses a convincing tone in his e-mails to his parents. In each correspondence, Alex provides his parents with reasons he should be able to go home, some of them are stronger than others. I think you can chat with students about the strength of Alex’s arguments if you’re teaching them how to craft compelling arguments. The e-mails Alex sends to his parents reflect an economy of words in that they’re short, but each one packs a punch. Talking about elaboration with this book in-hand can help students understand that purposeful word choice, not the amount of words, is what really matters. For these reasons, and many more, I Wanna Go Home can be added to a mentor text basket for persuasive letter writing for early elementary students. If you’re unfamiliar with Orloff and Catrow’s I Wanna books, your students will find them accessible and humorous.
Here’s a peek inside of the book:
This giveaway is a copy of An Armadillo in Paris and I Wanna Go Home. Many thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Tundra Books for donating a copy of each book. For a chance to win this copy of An Armadillo in Paris and I Wanna Go Home, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, November 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Wednesday, November 5th. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contacts at Putnam and Tundra will ship your book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
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I used a random number generator to select winners of both books. The people whose numbers were selected were tmckee219 (An Armadillo in Paris) and Leigh-Ann Hildreth (I Wanna Go Home).
Here’s what tmckee219 wrote:
Thank you for sharing new mentor texts! As a third grade teacher, i am constantly looking for new ways to incorporate ‘different but fun’ books into my classroom. My students LOVE being read to (as most students do! :)) and I am always on the lookout for new books. You did a wonderful job of framing the books for their content and personal touches that you liked – thanks for the insight! I appreciate it and would love to get a copy of my own! 🙂
This is what Leigh-Ann Hildreth said:
We are knee deep in an opinion writing unit in second grade. We are using “I Wanna Iguana” and “I Wanna New Room” as mentor texts. The students have been crafting their own persuasive letters using these two mentor texts. We even convinced the custodian to fix the broken drinking fountain in our room. They have learned first hand the POWER of WORDS!! I can’t wait to share “I Wanna Go Home” with them!!! Thank you for the recommendation.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
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).