Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away from Home   
by Jennifer Larue Huget
Illustrations by Red Nose Studio (aka Chris Sickels)

Awards: Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Children’s Book of the Year 2014

Looking for a memorable mentor text to introduce your students to procedural / how-to writing? 

Try The Beginner’s Guide To Running Away From Home! 

The story narrator gives comical and entertaining step-by-step detailed advice on what to do and how to carry out a plan to run away from home.

Okay.  I have to admit it. The title of this book grabbed me. Really grabbed me.  I put it on hold at my public library and could not wait until I got the email that it was waiting for me!   Besides being a mentor for procedural texts, this book is a great example of how to write an enticing title!

Using this as mentor will possibly inspire several “The Beginner’s Guide to…..” stories in your classroom.  If this is the first time with a procedural Unit of Study for your students, that might be okay as the students  experiment with the genre and gain confidence as ‘how-to’ writers. 

Special attention should also be given to the unique illustrations by Red Nose Studio (aka Chris Sickels). Sickels uses handmade puppets (that he created) as the story characters with larger than life, often humorous facial expressions (the baby sister is screaming with a wide opened mouth in every picture of her), hair (the main character) and the like.  He actually creates the miniature sets-like a movie set-on each page.  I have included an interview with him below that focuses on the creating of the puppets and the developing of the sets. You never know which students you will inspire by pointing out this unique technique of puppetry /illustrations.

Another "How-to" by Jennifer Larue Huget that I have reviewed on this blog: How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps

Book Talk
The narrator (an unnamed boy) greets readers immediately and speaks directly to them throughout the book giving sound advice (from an 10-11 year old point of view) on how to go about planning running away from home.  The narrator is very detailed in his advice, not leaving out a single deed that the reader would need to do to run away. Humor abounds! Your students, no doubt, will love it and be drawn in! Exactly what we want!

Readers learn how to decide on a good reason to run away (everyone is paying attention to the baby), how to practice saying that reason out loud (will need to say it in a convincing , dramatic way when the time is right!), how to decide what to take with you and how to pack (taking a red wagon is recommended).

A favorite line: “If you’re planning on running away, the first thing you need is a reason. Like maybe your parents are going gaga over your little sister and ignoring you. So what if she is a baby? You were there first! Not fair!”

Readers are told that the most important part of running away is the note. And putting the note where it will be seen and not missed. (He pins it to his baby sister.)

Another favorite line: “And now for the most important part.  Write a note:
                                   Why I ran away
                                   (like anyone cares):
                                   It’s never my turn to pick the TV show.
                                   That dumb baby.
                                   Not allowed to keep a pet squirrel.
                                   Have to wear sweater vests.
                                   Grandma’s peas, peas, peas.
Imagine  your parents’ faces when they read it. If they look like they’re about to burst into tears, you’ll know your note is perfect.”

Using sophisticated humor that students will definitely understand and relate to, the narrator continues giving solid guidance to readers on selecting a place to run to. Somewhere at this point of the story, the boy starts having second thoughts about running away.  

He suggests that there is always the option of giving the parents one last chance and he heads home into the arms of his mother. He decides to give his family a chance once more—with the option of always running away again (now that the knows all the ins and outs!)

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Procedural / How-To (Narrative)
Reading Workshop strategies: Search for and Use Information, Inferring, Connecting, 
Analyzing and Critiquing
Writing Workshop genre and strategies: Procedural / How-to, Informational Writing Strong Lead, Strong Title, Elaboration

Red Nose Studio (aka Chris Sickels):
Interview with Chris Sickels about his unique style of illustrations:

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