Saturday, August 29, 2015

By Donald Crews

Donald Crews is, of course, a well recognized and outstanding children’s literature author. In 2015, the American Library Association (ALA) honored Donald Crews with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, because of his lasting contribution to children's literature. So very well deserved!

BigMama’s is a delightful children’s lit classic and a wonderful autobiographical journey into Crew’s summertime adventures at his grandmother’s farm in rural Florida.  

BigMama’s is an excellent mentor text to use with grades 3-5 as an example of ‘personal narrative’ writing.  Crews’ writing is genuine, sincere, and fresh. He describes moment-to-moment as the kids excitedly roam and thoroughly examine BigMama’s house to reassure themselves that everything is (wonderfully) the same and in its proper place (including the all important Sears and Roebuck catalog).

BigMama’s would be an outstanding story to share as a read aloud for grades K-2. By the time it is used as a mentor in the upper elementary, the students should be familiar with this classic and be ready to look deeper at Crews’ writing craft and moves.

Book Talk
Crews starts the story at the end of the train trip from New Jersey to Florida.  Crews and his siblings are so excited to be at BigMama’s. Readers learn that “BigMama” is the special name that Crews’ family calls his grandmother: his mother’s mother.

The family is greeted by Uncle Slank who takes them to BigMama’s house.  The children scatter throughout the house to see if everything is the same—or to check if anything has changed.

A favorite line: “Then off with our shoes and socks. We wouldn’t need them much in the next few weeks. Now to see that nothing has changed. In the hall, the sewing machine that you had to pedal like a bicycle. The big clock over the fireplace.”

To their delight everything—from the sewing machine to the tiny extra room off the back porch to the well at the end of the porch to outhouse that was scary in the dark—was the same!

Another favorite line: “In the backyard was the chicken coop, where Sunday dinner’s chicken spent its last days.”

The kids continue to roam all over BigMama’s farm digging up worms for fishing, swimming in the pond and eating dinner around the huge round table with their grandparents and their cousins from the down the road.  

The evening ends with the whole family enjoying the beautiful black, rural night sky filled a millions of stars. The book ends with a fast forward to Donald Crews as an adult thinking back to  the good times at BigMama’s with the whole summer ahead of him.

Suggested Uses As a Mentor Text:
Book Genre:  Autobiography 
Reading Workshop Strategies:  Summarizing, Connecting, Questioning, Visualizing, Fluency
Writing Workshop Genre and Strategies: Personal Narrative, Small Moment, Elaboration, Flashback, Strong Lead, Strong Ending

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