The House Baba Built

housebabauiltEd Young is well known for his picture books. The House Baba Built is more in the nature of a memoir of his childhood in the house his father built in Shanghai in which the family lived during World War II. We learn about the war, school, family activities in the house, taking in refugees including a Jewish family, food shortages, being unable to fill the pool…all through his eyes as a child. You can take just a part of this book for a rich study of many different topics.

Ed Young, Little Brown and Co.©2011, 978-0-316-07628-9

Exploring a Photo

Ed Young uses family photos as one of the many methods he uses to illustrate his story. Ask students to bring a picture of themselves that their family has taken – it’s best if they bring a coy. If they bring an original, make a copy for them so that the original is not accidentally destroyed.

Students need to look at their pictures and ask themselves the following types of questions:

  • How old was I when this picture was taken?
  • Where was this picture taken – describe quite precisely?
  • Why was this picture taken and kept? (Instead of others)
  • What am I wearing in this picture? How do I feel about these clothes? Was this typical of what I wore at this time?
  • What sensory memories do I have about this place – food, feel, sights, taste, smell, etc.?
  • What emotions are around this picture and why?

Encourage students elaborate and then use a copy of the picture to illustrate their “story” of the taking of the picture.

Make an Origami Box

In early spring, when the mulberry leaves sprouted, Ed Young and his friends traded silkworm eggs. They made paper origami boxes for silkworm houses and fed them on mulberry leaves.

Watch the YouTube several times and make it yourself, before you teach the class. Once they know how, it is very easy. If you live close to Richmond, there is very inexpensive origami paper at Daizo.

For 16 creative writing ideas, click The House Baba Built to download.

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Blue Willow

bluewillowThe legend behind the Blue Willow is the story of a girl who falls in love with a poor fisherman. Her father places obstacles in their path. First he says to wait until the fall, then until he finds money in the street then when a rainbow appears over the pavilion. Finally the daughter dies while  looking for her lover at sea during a storm. When her fisherman lover discovers her death, he cries out in anguish and is killed by the villages mistaking him for a screaming tiger. The rainbow and dove appear over the daughter’s pavilion. The father commissions the plate in memory of the two lovers.

Pam Conrad, ©1999, Philomel Books, ISBN 0-399-22904-3

The Common Elements of a Blue Willow Plate

Give students the black line master from the PDF of lesson ideas, and ask them to use those pictures to identify the common elements in all Blue Willow plates. Whatever the stories behind the Blue Willow  plate are, and there are several of them, the common elements are: a rainbow around the outside, a fishing boat, a pavilion, a small bridge with villagers on it, two dives flying, a house, and a tree.

The Story of the Blue Willow Plate

Before you read the book to the students, and after they have identified the common elements of the story, ask them to create a story, set in China that includes those elements. (You could give them small pictures of the elements to include in their story as illustrations.)

When they have their own stories, read them the book. Blue Willow is a very “tragic” tale of true love and the relationship between a father and daughter. It is a kind of Chinese Romeo and Juliet—of course,  you would then have to tell them the story of Romeo and Juliet. Maybe they could even construct a Venn Diagram comparing the two stories.

For 6 writing ideas, click Blue Willow to download.