Town Is by the Sea

Written in the first person, a boy tells of his simple day. First he describes the setting by the sea with a house, a road, a grassy cliff, the sea, and the town and his father digging coal under the sea. Then getting up, going to the playground, having lunch, doing an errand in town, visiting his grandfather’s graveyard and and going home, listening to the radio, having dinner, An ordinary day, and at every stage he thinks of his father digging coal under the sea.

Joanne Schwartz, ©2017, Groundwood Books, 978-1-55498-871-6

A First Person Story of Your Day

Using the story as a model, students could write a simple story of what happens during a typical day in their life. They could then mark 5 places where they will place sentences, “And my mother”….. followed by “and my father.” They may need to consult with their parents to find 5 things that they typically do throughout a day. Putting these things together will show the three lives happening separately but at the same time of the day. It could be a rather powerful little piece of writing.

Mining Songs

In Canada, the song Working Man, sung by Rita MacNeil, is considered a classic. It is also a perfect representation of the life of the men of Town Is By the Sea. 

The Power of Repetition

At each point in the story, our narrator repeats that his father is a miner and that he digs for coal under the sea; this is repeated 5 times. Before that statement, each time, there is a description of the state of the sea—its white tips, its sparkle, its crash, its calm quiet, the sun sinking into it, the sound as you fall asleep. Under that sea is where his father digs coal.

Ask students to listen for the repetition—half of them listening for the description of what his father is doing, and half for the mention of the sea. They could make a quick note of each one, or they could just count how many times it happens.

For 11 teaching ideas, click Town is By The Sea to download.


The Great Wave

The Great WaveThis 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

Using Similes

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.