"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mock Caldecott: Leo: a ghost story

The fourth and fifth graders read Leo: a ghost story as part of their Mock Caldecott unit. The book is written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Leo is published by Chronicle Books.  About Leo: "You would like being friends with Leo. He likes to draw, he makes delicious snacks, and most people can't even see him. Because Leo is also a ghost. When a new family moves into his home and Leo's efforts to welcome them are misunderstood, Leo decides it is time to leave and see the world. That is how he meets Jane, a kid with a tremendous imagination and an open position for a worthy knight. That is how Leo and Jane become friends. And that is when their adventures begin."

Check out the trailer:
The students are being close readers of both narrative and art. I am excited by their conversations and can tell from what I am hearing that they are being thoughtful about our criteria. 

When thinking about the importance of the illustrationsthe students recognized that they would not know when Leo lived, what he looked like, or how he was dressed without the illustrations. They used the art to determine when Leo lived -  the peeling wallpaper, ornate table, old fashioned phone, and natty attire - guessing it was at least a hundred years ago.  They also enjoyed comparing Leo's home to Jane's modern house with a simplicity of style. In terms of appropriateness of the stylethe students felt that the limited palate was extremely effective and appropriate for a ghost story. The style also echoed Leo's mood. When thinking about excellence of execution, they recognized the complications of maintaining a ghostly presence throughout the story and felt Christian Robinson succeeded. They also appreciated the details of the two houses. Regarding appeal to a child audience, this book received a solid thumbs up across the room. One thing that did continue to arise was the idea that a ghost can carry something while also being walked through. I shared that in my lifetime, this has just been a cool thing that ghosts can do.

Along with verbal conversations, th
e fourth graders continue to practice good digital citizenship by expressing their opinion on our Padlet wall. 


  1. Jennifer, I love reading about your Mock Caldecott lessons! Would you mind sharing step by step what you do during the lesson? Do you read the books aloud, and then have discussions? Do students rate the books on a rubric or just discuss? Thanks!

    1. Hi Marisa,

      I do it a little differently each year. In the past each student had a folder with the criteria and then a rubric for each book. After reviewing the criteria, reading the book, and asking the students to reflect in a turn and talk about one of the criteria elements, they would go off and evaluate each book. When the final voting day came, I didn't feel that they were able to use their folders in the way I envisioned. For the last two years, I follow the same format of quickly reviewing the criteria, reading the book, and then engaging in conversation with the turn and talk and then whole group. These conversations seemed to stay with them more than the rubrics. On our voting day, the students rank the books, then they have fifteen minutes to review and discuss the books according to the criteria. The students then use a Google form to rank and evaluate their top three books. Does this help? There are samples of last year's Google form on the blog.

    2. Thank you Jennifer! That is very helpful!