This is the view from my backyard window and that tree in the middle is the one that swings wildly during strong storms. We had a lot of weather this weekend and we chose to just stay inside in the Pacific Northwest where we are, admittedly "snow wimps." When I took this photo the rain was beginning to fall on the snow, creating this gorgeously atmospheric mistiness that reminded me of the cover of Snow Falling on Cedars.
The weather made me really thrilled to have an amazing novel to focus on. The book is Wildwood and it is by Colin Meloy, the lead singer and songwriter for the Decemberists, a Portland art rock band. It features two unlikely heroes, Prue and Curtis who follow Prue's infant brother into the Impassable Wilderness in Portland after he is kidnapped by a murder of crows. Who knew that this impassable wilderness was actually hiding a whole civilization complete with an evil queen, an avian crown prince, soldiers who are coyotes and bandit heroes. All within a stone's throw of the Willamette River.
Sounds a little like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis? You would be right in thinking that.
This book is very easy to like and it is quickly becoming a favorite of my fifth and sixth graders, who like quirky adventure stories with compelling heroes that are just average kids thrown into fantastic situations. The fabulous illustrations have been done by Carson Ellis, who is the wife of the author. She's also known for illustrating The Mysterious Benedict Society.
I created a novel study so that teachers could start to use this book with their classes and small groups. It is available for download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Right now, I've got it discounted to $2.00 because I'm hoping that people will take a look at it. There are 43 pages worth of student activities, vocabulary builders and comprehension questions. The first 26 pages are a student packet suitable for guided reading. This novel study focuses on vocabulary building as well as analyzing story elements. The novel Wildwood has some great vocabulary! If your school is using NWEA MAP data, this lesson plan is suitable for students with RIT score levels 210-220 and 221-230.
The multiple choice reading comprehension quizzes which are a part of the novel study are also available for a separate download at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
The assignments include an informational text feature called “EVIL IVY" which talks about the problem of invasive English ivy destroying some of the prettiest forests in the Pacific Northwest, including the one that I live near. Here's a photo of some evil ivy close to my home.
All in all -- a great weekend with a great book! I heartily recommend Wildwood to anyone who needs a good curl up read!
Also, in surfing around in the blogosphere, I found a cool looking Readability Calculator from Joe's Web Tools. Worth a second look!