This week, the second and fourth grade students and I read Du Iz Tak?, written and illustrated by Carson Ellis. This book is nothing short of brilliant. I could gush for the next few sentences, but I will refrain and just say, "Buy this book for everyone you know."
I don't really know where to begin explaining this book. The gorgeous illustrations? The crazy creative use of a made up language? The celebration of the natural world? It is all just lyrical and lovely.
Carson Ellis has done something incredibly special. She has created characters with delicate features and imbued them with fabulous personalities. Each page encourages careful exploration, lest you miss some important and beautiful detail, as with the subtle side-bar story lines (keep an eye out for the stick bug and slug, and don't forget about that cocoon). The use of color is effective and reinforces the sense of time as the seasons pass gently by. Did we talk about that invented language yet?!
I can tell you that four classes of fourth graders had the same mind-blown reaction I had when reading the book. The four classes of second graders were also impressed. You will find examples of the students' work and reactions following a brief dive into this amazing book. The library was filled with the new-found language during browsing and borrowing.
The inside flap of the book let's the reader know that "Du Iz Tak?" means "What is that?" Since we did not have Carson Ellis in our midst, the rest of what you see here is how my students and I translated the language.
Our story begins...
"What is that?" By reading "Ma nazoot" with expression, the students guessed it might mean, "No clue," or "I don't know."
The plant grows and our protagonists can't reach the next branches. I read the next four pages through and then went back to this page. The students quickly decided that Ru=we, badda=need unk=a ribble=ladder. We now knew the meaning of several more words!
All is going along swimmingly for our friends until the voobeck (spider) came along.
All I needed to do was point out the body language of the two insects to the bottom left - hands raised in fists- and the students knew the frustration of our characters.
That poor slumping moth let's us know how disappointing this situation is.
To embody this beautifully-wrought characters with such personality and expression is incredible.
The spider doesn't last long. (I'll not spoil the story for you, but it went over very well with the students.)
Imagine the surprise and awe felt when this "scrivadelly gladdenboot" blooms!
I asked the students to translate this, which they did easily!
The seasons change and so all good things must come to an end, but not without one last little surprise. I'll not spoil it for you here. You will have to read it yourself!
I used this book a little differently with each class that I worked with. Here's a peak at what it looked like and sounded like. More detail on the way I used the book with students is below.
In a nutshell:
Class 1 - I made a copy of parts of a few pages and asked the students to do their best to decode/translate the language using the picture and context clues. We then read the story and talked about the language and the book. As I listened to students working, many were trying to use their knowledge of other languages to figure out what language this was.
Class 2 - I revered this lesson and read the book first and then had the students work in groups to decode/translate some of the language. We then read the book a second time.
Class 3 - I repeated the lesson with class one, but saved time for students to add to the story.
Class 4 - I explained that the language was made up from the beginning and explained that we would still be able to translate it based upon picture clues and context. We built a word bank at the end, which the students used to write in new scenes and new characters. They also made up their own vocabulary to add to the story.
Class 1 and 2 - I explained that the language was made up from the beginning and explained that we would still be able to translate it based upon picture clues and context. The students added to the story with new words and new characters.
Class 3 and 4 - I explained that the language was made up from the beginning and explained that we would still be able to translate it based upon picture clues and context. We used what we knew to translate the book as we went along. They also made up their own vocabulary to add to the story.
I hope this is only the beginning and that more things will be popping up in this garden soon!