Thursday, July 23, 2015

Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Why,Commas Really DO Make a Difference! 
By Lynne Truss
Illustrated by BonnieTimmons

Awards: 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year Honor book

Following the success of her book for adults called by nearly the same name, (Eats,Shoots & Leaves, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation), British author Lynne Truss turned her attention to writing a children’s version focusing on the (dreaded, yet important) comma. 

Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a comical and amusing mentor text to use to draw attention to the on-going challenge for students: understanding and using commas correctly!!

Bonnie Timmon’s hilarious illustrations demonstrate the confusion that the misuse of the comma can cause. 

The illustrations are key to the full understanding of the comma and enjoyment of the book by students, but the book is small. I recommend that you use this book with a document camera to enlarge the illustrations for the full effect and to generate the conversation that you would want to have with your students.

This book will deepen student engagement in the often dry topic of conventions. A possible group writing project would be for student to come up with their own version of the book with sentences whose meaning can change with a shift of a comma or two.

Book Talk
The book actually starts before the introduction,with a funny interaction between a panda and a librarian, demonstrating misunderstanding that can happen when commas are placed incorrectly in a sentence.

Lynne Truss then fills the book with simple sentences…actually the same simple sentence on the same open page spread. 

However on each page, the sentence is punctuated differently with commas— which, of course, completely changes the meaning of the sentence!

Bonnie Timmons’ illustrations are lively and entertaining, but in being so, really drive home the message to the students about the importance of correct punctuation.

Examples from the book:
“The kids, who got ice cream, were very happy.
The kids who go ice cream were very happy.”

“Becky walked on, her head a little higher than usual.
Becky walked on her head, a little higher than usual.”

Truss and Timmons have two follow-up books that continue having fun with the challenge of punctuation. I have not read them, but  I plan to as  they would be worth exploring as mentor texts as well:
The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes
Twenty-odd Ducks: Why Every Punctuation Mark Counts

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre:  Nonfiction / Informational (narrative)
Reading Workshop strategies: Monitoring and Correcting, Maintaining Fluency, Adjusting Fluency, Understanding Conventions, Search for and Use Information
Writing Workshop genre and strategies: Informational Writing, Grammar, Understanding Conventions
Curricular Themes: Grammar

Lynne Truss’s website:
Bonnie Timmons’ website:

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