Tuesday, August 11, 2015

 by Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Awards: Numerous! Parent’s Choice Silver Honor, School Library Journal Book of the Year, American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, State Book Award in California, Washington, Missouri, Louisiana, Arizona, Rhode Island 

What a story to capture anyone’s imagination! 

At the beginning of the year,Weslandia would be an excellent read aloud to introduce the idea of a unique (classroom) community to your students. How could your classroom imitate what Wesley does in the story?  Could they together create a unique classroom culture/civilization? Using it as a read aloud in this way will initiate the student's comprehension, making them 'ripe' for deeper understanding of strategies when you are ready to use Weslandia as a mentor text for Reading or Writing Workshop.

Weslandia is an excellent mentor text to introduce fantasy writing to intermediate students. Fleischman's brilliant writing can be used as a strong model for students in Writing Workshop on how to use strong verbs and adjectives to develop elaboration and create a unique,imaginative story.

Wesley is a bright, intelligent, creative child who just doesn’t fit in with anyone at school and is basically misunderstood by all—including his parents.  He doesn’t like pizza and his best sport is running away from the kids who bully him.  His parents can’t figure him out and can’t understand why he won’t conform.  But Wesley is true to himself.  Thank goodness!  Without his intellect, creativity and willingness to be a nonconformist, we would not have a story!

Summer begins and so does Wesley’s summer project: to use everything he has learned in school to create his own civilization in his backyard. It succeeds beyond expectation!  He prepares a garden plot to see which seeds the wind would blow into the yard…..and Wesley would take it from there. And did he!  From the seemingly magical seeds that arrived, he produced food, then  hats, clothing, tools, shelters, games, lotions, musical instruments, writing pens and ink, papyrus type paper. He is inspired to create his own oral language and from that, he develops his own written language.

The kids in the neighbor (his tormentors)  notice all of this, of course.  At first they continue to torment, but soon they are just curious, then drawn into the fascinating ‘civilization’ that Wesley has created—which by this point of the story—he is calling ‘Weslandia’. They buy sunscreen from him, play his new games, and by the time school starts, they are all wearing the clothes he has woven from the stalks of the magical plant (which Wesley has named ‘swist’)

Fleeishman’s writing voice and use of strong adjectives and strong verbs deepens the anticipation of the reader to see if Wesley is successful and we find ourselves cheering him on!  Hawkes incredible illustrations add beauty, appreciation and actually, a magical touch to the story.

Favorite lines from this story (very hard to select just one):
“Fruit appeared, yellow at first, then blushing to magenta. Wesley picked one and sliced through the rind to the juicy purple center. He took a bite and found the taste an entrancing blend of peach, strawberry, pumpkin pie, and flavors he had no name for.”

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Fantasy
Reading Workshop strategies: Fluency, Inferring, Synthesizing, Analyzing, Visualizing
Writing Workshop genre and strategies: Fantasy Writing, Elaboration, Strong lead, Strong ending, Inspiring writers, Boy hook, Analyzing
Grammar: strong verbs, strong adjectives, sentence fluency

A chat with Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes about Weslandia:  http://www.candlewick.com/book_files/0763600067.art.1.pdf#search='weslandia%20alphabet'

Paul Fleischman’s website: http://www.paulfleischman.net/index.htm
Kevin Hawkes's website: http://www.kevinhawkes.com/home.htm

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