Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Popcorn Book 
by Tomie DePaola 

When I think back to teaching in the 80s, I cannot remember an abundance of good, inviting, appealing nonfiction / informational books for students to read…or for us to teach….other than the encyclopedia. Of course, there were nonfiction books, but many of them were not written with the appeal that informational books are written today. 

The Popcorn Book published in 1978, was almost a rarity at that time.

I purchased the book in 1989 at the International Reading Association Convention which was held in New Orleans that year.  Tomie de Paola was having a book signing and teachers were allowed to have him sign three of his books. I purchased two of his Christmas books and the Popcorn Book.  I had him sign the Christmas books to each of my children and I then waited until Christmas that year to give the books to them. Because popcorn was a common snack for us, I asked him to sign the Popcorn Book for our family.  We still have all three books, of course, and the autographed Popcorn book is the one I use for this review.

The Popcorn Book makes a great mentor text for beginning informational writers.  The speech bubbles, especially, add an interesting writer's move to a young writer's repertoire. 

Book Talk
The Popcorn Book, a narrative nonfiction, is really two stories happening simultaneously. The first story is about twin boys, Tony and Tiny, who want a popcorn snack. The illustrations and their dialogue in speech bubbles, help us follow the sequence when Tony makes the popcorn.

When the boys asked their mother if they could have popcorn she replied that it was in the refrigerator. This got the two curious about why their mom kept the unpopped popcorn in the fridge!

Tiny decides to ‘look it up’. At this point of the book, I have to admit—because these days are considered the age of ‘all things ‘Google'-when I turned the page, I expected to see Tiny at the computer ‘googling’ the question “Why put unpopped popcorn in the refrigerator?”.  

Instead (because the copyright date is 1978), Tiny heads straight for his family’s set of encyclopedias and gets the ‘P’ encyclopedia! 

Tiny then begins reading aloud to Tony interesting facts and history about popcorn (creating the second story)  while Tony is making (and wrestling ) the popcorn. Tiny’s dialogue is also presented in speech bubbles, making it fun for students to read.

A favorite line: "The Algonkians who came to the first Thanksgiving dinner even brought some popcorn in a deerskin pouch. The colonists liked it so much that they served popped corn for breakfast with cream poured on it."

Students will thoroughly enjoy the scientific and historical information they learn as Tiny enthusiastically reads the encyclopedia.  They will also enjoy the humor of Tony and Tiny fussing over the fact that Tony put too much popcorn in the pan—-and the end result!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Narrative Nonfiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Search for and Use Information, Analyze, Questioning, Summarizing
Writing Workshop Genre: Informational Writing (narrative non-fiction)
Curricular Themes:  Thanksgiving, food pyramid, food science

Tomie de Paola's website: http://www.tomie.com/

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