Going Deep with Award Winning Books:
Close reading and text-dependent questions
For Younger Elementary Students
Brown, Marcia. Once a Mouse. ISBN: 0-689-70751-7. Lexile: AD530.
This is a fable from ancient India, with lovely woodcuts by Marcia Brown. The text is short enough to read aloud in one sitting, and its central message of gratitude is one that young children will understand. A wise hermit with magical powers transforms a mouse into creatures of increasing size each time it is threatened. In the end the tiger gets his due because he doesn't want anyone reminding him that he was once a mouse. Consider using questions similar to the following:
Fables are stories that teach a lesson. What lesson can we learn from this story? (What might you write as the moral at the end of the story?)
Look again at the parts of the story where the mouse had become a tiger. What does it mean when it says that “he peacocked about the forest, lording it over the other animals”?
The hermit seems to be kind and caring. Give evidence from the text that proves this.
What angered the hermit? How do you know? Why did he finally decide to turn the tiger back into a mouse?
The author chose to begin and end the story in the same way. What was the hermit thinking about, and why is this important to the story?
Henkes, Kevin. Kitten's First Full Moon. ISBN: 0-06-058828-4. Lexile: 360.
In this short story, Kitten spends one night trying desperately to get what she thinks is a great big bowl of milk that is really the full moon. The illustrations extend the text and give children a lot to think about. Some suggested questions for you to ask:
Look at the front and back covers of the book. What clue do we get that something will happen on the night of the full moon?
Why might Kitten mistake the moon for a big bowl of milk?
How do we know that Kitten really wanted that bowl of milk? Use evidence from the text.
Kitten had many different feelings in the book. Use the illustrations as evidence to show a feeling that Kitten had. How did the artist show that feeling in the picture?
Why did Kitten climb the tallest tree she could find?
What reason might the author have for repeating these words several times? “Still, there was the little bowl of milk, just waiting.”
The picture that shows Kitten in the pond is the biggest illustration in the book, and it is a close-up of Kitten's face. Why do you think the illustrator made those choices? Why do the words say “Poor Kitten!” (How was Kitten feeling there, and why?)
How might the ending of the story have been different if there wasn't a bowl of milk waiting for Kitten on the porch?
Pinkney, Jerry. The Lion and the Mouse. ISBN: 978—0-316-01356-7. Lexile: not available.
This beautifully illustrated, almost-wordless rendition of the classic fable from Aesop provides a wonderful opportunity to remind very young readers that there is much to be learned from the illustrations in a book, and that good readers pay close attention to them.
If your copy of the book has the paper dust jacket, ask “Why do you think the illustrator chose to use these two images for the front and back cover?”
What hints do we get on the end papers and the title page that Mouse lives among other, larger, creatures?
How do we know that the story begins as night is fading into day? What evidence is there in the illustration on the first page?
This book is mostly a book without words. What kind of words are used, and why did the author choose to use them?
What is the lion feeling once he is caught in the net? What do you see in the centerfold illustration that makes you think that?
The two pages that follow the trapping of the lion show Mouse in four frames or panels under the word RRROAARRRRRRRRRR. What is the author showing us there? Why did he choose to do that?
Rathmann, Peggy. Officer Buckle and Gloria. ISBN: 0-399-22616-8. Lexile: 510.
Children love this laugh-out-loud tale of the safety officer whose canine sidekick steals the show during his presentations at schools. They love being in on the joke with the students in the book, while Officer Buckle hasn't a clue about what is really going on. Consider using some questions like:
What evidence do we have that before Gloria arrived the children were bored with Officer Buckle's safety talks?
What words did the author use to show that the children were finally paying attention to the safety tips once Gloria joined Officer Buckle on the stage?
The illustrations show Gloria mimicking Officer Buckle on the left, and Officer Buckle checking on Gloria on the right. What makes this so funny?
How do we know Officer Buckle was upset after seeing the evening news?
How do we know that Gloria preferred to work with Officer Buckle, and not alone?
What three things helped to change Officer Buckle's mind about going back to giving safety talks?
Do you think Safety Tip #101—Always stick with your buddy—was a good way for the book to end? Why or why not? Use evidence from the text to show your thinking.
Stead, Philip. A Sick Day for Amos McGee. ISBN: 978-1-59643-402-8. Lexile: AD760.
This is a lovely, gentle book about friendship and the importance of taking time for those we care about. Small children love the idea of a kind zookeeper who counts a number of animals among his closest friends, and they delight in the ending. Some possible questions are:
How did Amos show that he was a good friend?
(Pause during the read-aloud to ask this question on the page with the words “Later that day...”) What do you think might happen next? Why do you think that?
What are the animals doing on the very next page? How do you know? What clues in the picture tell you?
How does the animals' visit to Amos remind you of Amos's visits to the animals? (What
words and actions does the author repeat?)
Do you think this would make a good bedtime story for a younger brother or sister? Why or why not? Think about the words and the pictures and the way the book ends.
Yolen, Jane. Owl Moon. ISBN: 0-399-21457-7. Lexile: 630.
This book captures perfectly a special time between a father and his child. Often used as a mentor text in writing, it is full of imagery and similes and wonderful word choices. This is a book that works on many levels with many ages of children, depending upon your purpose.
What words and phrases does the author use to create a peaceful scene as the story begins?
The girl had been wanting to go owling with Pa for a long time. How did she show that she was ready for this special outing?
Why did the girl and her father shrug after getting no answer to Pa's calls from an owl?
The author paints lots of pictures with words. Think of some words that helped you to see something in your mind's eye.
Even after they had seen an owl up close, the girl “was a shadow as we walked home.”
What does this mean? Why do you think she would choose to remain quiet even after it was all right to talk again?
Why do you think the author says at the end “When you go owling you don't need words or warm or anything but hope.”
Close Reading In Action • For Younger Elementary • For Middle & Upper Elementary • Resources