Saturday, March 19, 2016

I Wanna Iguana 
by Karen Kaufman Orloff
Illustrated by David Catrow
Published 2004

Awards/ Recognition:  2005 IRA (International Reading Association) Notable Book,  2005-6 Read-Aloud Books Too Good To Miss AIME, Children's Book-of-the-Month Club selection, Junior Library Guild selection. I Wanna Iguana also received nominations in many state wide book awards including the 2006-07 California Young Reader Medal.

I totally agree with the “Read-Aloud Books Too Good To Miss” recognition that I Wanna Iguana  received!  What a fun book to use as a read-aloud in your class!  Many students will be able to relate to Alex, the main character, who desperately wants a pet—specifically an iguana—and tries everything under the sun to persuade his mother to get him one.

I Wanna Iguanna would be great mentor text for writing workshop for students writing an opinion or persuasive piece!  The format of humorous letters written back and forth between Alex and his mother would be an easy format for young writers (perhaps grades 1-3) to emulate to try to persuade someone of their strong opinion on a particular topic. The author does an excellent job of presenting a claim and supporting statements in each letter and in a format that would be easy to understand and apply for young writers.

David Catrow’s colorful and comical illustrations add to the humor and enjoyment of this book.

Book Talk
I Wanna Iguanna  starts with Alex writing a letter to his mother asking to take a friend’s iguana as a permanent friend. (The friend is moving away.)  Alex uses charm, reasoning, claims, supporting statements, evidence—everything you can think of to convince Mom to allow him to have the iguana. Mom’s letters back to Alex are full of humor—and don’t necessarily tell Alex an outright ‘no’—but rather raises questions.  Which, of course, in turn—motivates Alex to use more charm, reasoning, claims, supporting statements to persuade Mom!

Some Favorite Lines:
It was hard to pick my favorite letters, but here is an example of the fun, humor…and opinion writing, of course!

Dear Mom,
I know you don’t think I should have Mikey Gulligan’s baby iguana when he moves, but here’s why I should. If I don’t take it, he goes to Stinky and Stinky’s dog, Lurch will eat it. You don’t want that to happen, do you?
Signed, Your sensitive son, Alex

Dear Alex,
I’m glad you’re so compassionate, but I doubt that Stinky’s mother will let Lurch get into the iguana’s cage. Nice try, though.
Love, Mom

Later in the book….
Dear Mom,
Forget the girl. I need a new friend now! The iguana can be the brother I’ve always wanted.
Love, Your lonely child, Alex

Dear Alex,
You have a brother.
Love, Mom

The story continues in the back-and-forth amusing style of letters between mother and son, until Alex does the trick! Mom and Dad are finally convinced by Alex to give him a ‘trial-run’ with the iguana!

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Connecting, Inferring, Fluency
Writing Workshop Genre and Strategies: Opinion Writing, Strong Lead, Strong Ending, Character Development, Writing with humor

Karen Kaufman Orloff’s website:

David Catrow’s website:

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