Last night at The Tattered Cover, I ran across Sammy in the Sky by Barbara Walsh (another winner by our friends at Candlewick Press). What a beautifully written book! As I read it to my students, we were struck not only by the story line, but by the craft itself. Afterward, I told my kids I thought we could use this book to learn a lot about the "tools" we need as writers... complex sentences, unique punctuation, etc. Of course, it's the kind of book that you have to let "drift into your heart and mind." The story of Sammy is touching and heartwarming... and serves as a launch for incredible notebook writing. I had to have it when I read it in the children's section... tears streaming down my face! By the way, it's illustrated by Jamie Wyeth, Andrew's son.
A cousin? Another book we shared this week Saying Goodbye to Lulu. Written in the same vain as Sammy in the Sky, it's an equally touching book written by Corinne Demas and illustrated by Ard Hoyt. We used it as a launch for a memory write and for many of my students, it unlocked that "saying goodbye" theme. Not all sadness by the way. I think sometimes a text likes this leads to writing that is poignant, but based in happy memories. This book tugs at heart strings, but influences young writers in a special way.
And another cousin? I'll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm is another book that I loved; it's an older book, but it's always been a favorite. It was one of the first picture books in my collection and one I rely on often. Do I always use a "cousin" as a writing launch... no. This one is often a book I slip into a child's hands after he/she shares the pain of losing a pet with us. It's a wonderful book that helps young people realize that "it will be okay."
It was my friend, Colleen Buddy, who introduced me to the idea of "cousin texts" and it's a lesson I've never forgotten. But, what defines a cousin? Perhaps it's a cluster of books similar themes (like in this case), perhaps it's a cluster of books that follow the same structure, perhaps it's a cluster of books that share certain punctuation techniques, perhaps it's a cluster of books that share a specific content (ala text sets)... but however you define a "cousin," you can't go wrong when you invite your students to look for and notice how texts can become the best of companions... to enhance their reading, writing, and thinking!
I've linked all these authors on this entry, be sure to check their websites out!