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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

ReedALOUD: The Only Fish in the Sea

Sadie is back! For those of you who loved Special Delivery as much as we did, you, too, are excited by this news!

But I'm not the only one delivering news. Sadie's friend Sherman has some news of his own:

"Hey, Sadie! Did you hear about little Amy Scott? About how she got a goldfish for her birthday and then she said, "Goldfish are boring!"

Not only that, Sherman explains how Little Amy Scott dropped that fish in the ocean with no care at all.  

Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell do not disappoint in the new adventure for Sadie. I read The Only Fish in the Sea with my second graders on Wednesday and had so much fun, I turned around and read it with my first graders on Thursday. I used my document camera to project the book on the screen allowing students to fully appreciate the details and storyline in the art. 

If you can, lift that dust jacket because we have another incredible example of wonderful case art. So much here to explore and revisit after reading the book.

Not only is this a fabulously fun read aloud, The Only Fish in the Sea lends itself to conversations about how writers and artists work to "show don't tell" how their characters are feeling, what their characters are doing, or where the story is taking place. There's so much to love about Philip Steads' narrative and Matthew Cordell's art. 

Philip Stead presents this story in dialog giving it an immediacy and intimacy. We readers feel close to these two special friends and bond with them during their quest. Stead's dialog shows Sherman's concern and Sadie's determination to save Ellsworth. There's also something more, which I will get to at the end.  

Let's talk about how Matthew Cordell chose to illustrate the dialog in this book. Matthew Cordell's art frolics and strides across the page with the energy young Sadie brings to her latest adventure: saving a goldfish carelessly tossed into the ocean by an unkind little girl. 
This book had me from the outset. I am taken with the urgency in these breathless clouds of language. This is big news! Sherman has huffed it over to Sadie to share what Little Amy Scott has done. I also am completely enamored with how Matthew Cordell shows how our stories paint pictures for others. There's Sadie looking up at what Sherman has just described.
And again, Sadie even removes her glasses to see and understand more fully what Sherman is saying. Students often hear how they should show not tell in their writing. Authors and illustrators along with their teachers and I will give examples of this. 
While reading the book, I zoomed in on Sadie and asked the children how she was feeling. They understood fully that she was upset. I then modeled saying the words while strolling across the library with my arms at my side and then striding across the library gesticulating with my arms. Crystal clear. Enough said.
Sadie grows attached to the goldfish right away and takes on his plight. We know she's attached because she gives him a name, a proper name. 

We interrupt the story for a peak at some of the proper names my students would give a fish!

Back to our story! 

I haven't mentioned this but the banana-wielding bandit monkeys are back and, of course, imparting their own humorous story line. Sadie would not have been able to accomplish her task without their help (turns out those bananas are a trading commodity). 
While they are gathering supplies, we get another taste of Little Amy Scott's personality. She is just not a kind person. And once again, look at Sadie - head down, focused and determined. 

Maybe you are noticing the balloons that they are all gathering. 

This page was the perfect opportunity to remind students about what good readers do -- good readers think while they are reading. 

As I read this page, I heard so many students say, 


which is exactly what I thought, 

"Why did they need 21 pink balloons?" 

The students shared some predictions and we moved along. In every class that I read the book there was a collective, "Aha! So THAT'S what those balloons were for!" The students also quickly noticed how the fishing poles were used (so many little things to appreciate in this book).

But wait, this image needs more time to explore, Sadie's words are met with a look of fear and shock on Sherman's face. I asked my students why and heard some interesting reasons, among which was the concern that they would eat Ellsworth for dinner. Very clever, Philip Stead, very clever. 
(I didn't take a photo of this, but one of the monkeys has been left behind and my students laughed out loud at the reactions of the monkeys. One of the many snippets I had fun acting out.)

Here's our wayward monkey making his way out on the umbrella, note those not rescuing the monkey seem concerned about the whale, but not Sadie.
Nothing will deter her from her quest. 
I don't want to spoil the whole book, trust me, there's much more to discover when you read it, like the messages those balloons spell at the end. As you might guess though, Ellsworth gets rescued.
But wait! That wasn't the end. The end surprised me! After seeing Ellsworth safely ensconced in his new home, with food and friends a plenty, Sherman and Sadie consider what to do about Little Amy Scott.
This isn't how I expected Sadie to react to Sherman's question. Sadie is a more empathic and caring person, how could she not want to help Little Amy Scott? And how does Sherman feel about her answer? He went out of his way to say hello to her during the balloon scene. 

I have so many questions! 

Maybe that's the point. 

Maybe Philip Stead wanted us to stop and think more deeply and honestly.

I wonder if Philip Stead wanted us to see Sadie as human as the rest of us and capable of the same feelings -- including letting Little Amy Scott live with the consequences of her actions. 

I asked my students what they would have done, and their responses sounded like this:

"I would tell Little Amy Scott that she should more nicely say 'no thank you' to a gift."

"I think Little Amy Scott got what she deserved."

"I would tell Little Amy Scott to just say thank you and then give the gift to someone else."

"I would help her to be nicer."

Thought Provoking.
Worthy of reading to all grades. 

After reading the book, the students had a chance to share proper names for fish (above) as well as ways they take care of others (one of our school rules).  How do my students help others, like Sadie helped Ellsworth?

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher along with an activity kit, which is not yet available on their Website, but hopefully will be.

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