In Japan, the oldest and wealthiest man in the village lives on the hill in his rice farm. In the village below, villagers are getting ready for a festival. Suddenly he senses a problem, and when he sees the waters recede realizes a tsunami is coming. He cannot get down to the village to warn them in time so he needs to draw the villagers to him. As a desperate act, he sets his crop on fire. The villagers rush up the hill to help put out the fire, and they are all saved.
Kimiko Kajikawa, Philomel Books, ©2009, ISBN 978-0-399-25006-4
This is a good time to study the science of the tsunami. These giant waves form where tectonic plates collide, where there is a gigantic (frequently underwater) eruption of a volcano, or after a meteor impact. 86% of all tsunamis come from underwater volcanoes or seismic shifts. These displace huge quantities of water suddenly. The water rushes in to fill the vacuum (thus explaining why the “tide” seems to go out suddenly and unusually far) and then rushes back out again in the form of a huge wave.
There are many websites with great information including the video below.
The True Story
This book is based on a story in the 1897 publication by Lafadio Hearn called Gleanings in Buddha-Fields. The original wise wealthy man of the village was Hamguchi Goryo and there is a Japanese museum dedicated to him. (He was 35, not an old man, when it happened but the story is still wonderful. Making him older makes it possible for “experience” to tell him what to do.) Ask students to research the real person at locations such as The Fire of Rice Sheaves.
For 8 creative writing ideas, click Tsunami to download.
Night Flight has few words. It concentrates on just 14 hours and 56 minutes of time, starting in the evening from Harbour Grace in Newfoundland on May 20th, 1932, and ending in Ireland. The author recreates the experience in vivid descriptive language of what she had to do to stay awake, storms, failure of equipment, flying through the night. The author also describes what is seen from the plane as she left, during the night, flying over tundra, approaching land in Ireland. Imagine the Irish farmer coming toward this strange vehicle that had landed in his field, and the woman waving and saying, “I’ve come from America.” Amazing.
Robert Burleigh, Simon and Schuster, ©2011, 978-1-4169-6733-0
Talking With Amelia Earhart
The back of the book has many quotes from Amelia Earhart that are worth discussing with students, or using as prompts for journal writing:
- Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.
- I prefer good mechanical work to rabbits’ feet.
- I could not see. I carried on.
- Everyone has their own Atlantic to fly. Whatever you want very much to do, against the opposition of tradition, neighbourhood opinion, and so-called common sense—that is an Atlantic.
- One of my favourite phobias is that girls, especially those whose tastes aren’t routine, often don’t get a fair break.
- The most effective way to do it, is to do it.
Having students draw from their own experience is a good way to get a journal response to a piece of
writing. Here are some possibilities:
- Amelia had to stay awake a long time. Describe a time when you were up very late. Did you have to do anything special to stay awake?
- Amelia was caught in a lightning storm. Describe an experience you had with a storm?
- Amelia had to be well prepared, but still incredibly brave. Describe a time when you prepared very well for something and then did it.
For 8 creative writing ideas, click Night Flight to download.
James advises his younger brother on the 10 things you must not do if you ride the school bus. They range from not sitting at the front, not sitting at the back, not making eye contact with the bully, to not touching the bully’s stuff, not sitting with a girl, and finally to not talking to the bus driver. During the course of the day, his brother inadvertently breaks all 10. But he discovers that things work out and makes a rule 11—you don’t have to pay attention to the rules.
John Grandits, Houghton Mifflin, ©2011, 978-0-618-78822-4
With the PDF of lesson ideas there is a listening chart with the 10 rules cited on it. The second time you read the story, students could note how these rules are broken. Discuss at the end. For each one, ask if it is a sensible rule and why.
This is a good time to teach students the structure of a simile. Each of the 7 similes in the book is reflected in the illustration, which cleverly reflects the perception of the narrator. You may want to project the illustrations as you point out the similes in the book and ask the students to discuss their meaning. The only simile missing is that of the bus driver, although the illustration of her is of a predator bird. The similes are:
- a dog…sounded like an arctic wolf that hadn’t eaten all winter
- school bus …charging at me like a giant yellow rhinoceros
- staring at me…I felt like a zebra at a lion party
- big kid…up close, he was the size of a grizzly bear
- girls…as mean as snakes
- bus driver…illustration of a predator bird, no simile
- brother…jumping up and down like a spider monkey.
For 7 creative writing ideas, click Ten Rules to download.
Fu is planting rice and is bored enough not to be doing it well, in neat rows. When he is rebuked, he throws a rice plant out of the paddy into the path of the warrior, Chang. The insulted warrior challenges him to a duel. Fu finds the sword Master and asks for help in getting ready. Through the night, all the Master does is teach him how to make and pour tea – with Purpose, Flow, and Patience. When Fu faces Chang in the morning he faces him with a teapot and suggests a pot of tea. Chang’s followers laugh at the boy, but Chang says, “There’s always time for tea.”
John Rocco, Disney-Hyperion Books, 2009, ISBN 978-1-4231-0965-5
Similes That Matter
Purpose, Flow, and Patience are the three lessons Fu must learn. To that end, there are three important similes in this story:
- Just as a bamboo grows upward to reach the sun—you must have purpose.
- Like a stream that flows from the mountain to the valley, the tea must flow from you to the cup.
- Just as a caterpillar patiently waits in its cocoon to become a butterfly, you too must be patient.
Writing a Trailer
Just as movies have trailers to be shown in movie theatres and on TV, so does John Rocco (who has worked for Disney) constructed two wonderful “movie” trailers for his books, Fu Finds the Way and MoonPowder. Talk with students about what a trailer does: gives you a hint of the movie, tries to get you excited about seeing it, doesn’t give away the plot, etc.
These are the total number of words for the trailer for Fu Finds the Way:
- A story of a distracted boy
- A mighty warrior
- And a duel
- The Teacher who trains him
- And the pot of tea that saves him
- Fu Finds the Way
Ask students to work in pairs to write a trailer for each other’s most recent published story. Ask students to read them out to the class to see which trailers can drum up the most interest in reading the story without giving the plot away completely.
For 8 creative writing ideas, click Fu Finds the Way
This is the story of fishermen who are caught in a huge wave that deposits a baby into their arms. He grows up uncertain as to where he comes from or who his real parents are. A fish promises to help him answer his questions. When the boy finally becomes scared, the fish turns into a dragon and says that Naoki now knows that his “real” parents are the ones that raised him.
Veronique Massenot, Presetel, ©2011, 978-3-7913-7058-3
There are 7 different similes in the story that can be listed for students to describe what two elements are being compared:
- The wave…like a giant creature opening its foamy mouth, greedily swallowing everything before it.
- Heart beat more wildly than all the drums of the world together.
- All his friends shot upwards, faster than bamboo.
- His thoughts drifted…coming and going like the water’s ebb and flow.
- It’s scales shimmered like silver.
- The back of the fish lengthened and began to move like a wave.
- The sea was as smooth as glass.
Ask students to re-write a portion of a recent piece they have written to include three original similes.
Inspired by a Painting
This book was inspired by the painting, The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Hokusai, which was part of a series of woodblock prints called 36 Views of Mount Fuji. In this painting, Mount Fuji is hidden by the wave. Why not choose some other prints from the same series, and ask students in groups to write a story using that picture as an inspiration?
For 9 more creative writing ideas, click The Great Wave to download.