Book Review & Author Interview (plus Freebie)

Happy Tuesday friends!

Hope the start of your week has been going well. Much to my dismay, we had a little bit of snow today. It was a real bummer -- I was really starting to enjoy the 60 degree days! I'm hoping it was just a fluke and we will be back to that crisp spring air soon (but who knows? I'm in New England after all...)

Today, I wanted to provide a review to a picture book I recently read with my class: Aesop's 1st Book of Childhood Adventures.

The author, Vincent Mastro, contacted me through my blog to ask if I would be interested in review his book. I jumped at the chance, because, as a teacher and a book hoarder, I just LOVE children's literature. He offered me both a pdf version and a print version to his book. I have the pdf version saved on my desktop, and used the copy of the book in my classroom for a read aloud and activity yesterday and today during our literature block.

Earlier in the school year, we did a unit on traditional literature, and in it, a mini-unit on fables. It just so happened that, as we were about to transition to our second fiction unit of the year, Vin contacted me! I used this as a "review" of fiction and traditional literature, before we official jump into our novel studies.

I read the first fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, aloud to the kids. They were all familiar with the fable, but this story has an interesting twist. In our first email exchange, Vin describe the story like this:

"Aesop, a young raccoon boy in the ‘why’ stage of life, experiences each fable as it unfolds.  He is encouraged to go on daily adventures by his grandmother in response to his many questions of ‘why’.  She eagerly awaits his return and validates his conclusions."

This makes for a very interesting discussion on point of view and character traits. I find that a lot of children's literature and picture books come from the point of view of the author or narrator. This collection of stories takes a unique turn. It is in the point of view of Aesop, but during the time that he is experiencing the fables he will later write and share with others. It's a very interesting concept that allows for some juicy discussions :)

Yesterday we read the story aloud, and had a class discussion on the setting (place and time) and character traits. We then completed an activity I created to pair with this book. We focused on character traits, in which students were prompted to choose a character (choices being: the hare, the tortoise, or Aesop), and fill in the Brain Frame (based on the EmPower writing curriculum) about their chosen characters' traits.

They then completed a Sequencing Brain Frame, based on the events in the fable. I gave them the choice to either draw the events (what I initially expected for the activity) or write a sentence describing the events, after students asked me if they could do so. I'm flexible -- the point is that they understand the sequence, not whether or not they drew images to describe it.

I really enjoyed sharing the first fable with my kiddos, and plan on reading more during our read alouds. My kids are very motivated by any read aloud, but especially love traditional literature. And as a teacher, I love any book that starts up a "juicy conversation" and keeps my kids engaged. Click the images below to head to my Freebie for use with this story :)

During my email correspondences with Vin, I was able to get some great questions answered about the book straight from the horse's mouth (I'm using that idiom correctly, right?)!

Why did you choose to only include 3 stories in each book?
To protect parents J  I remember when I would read to my twins and if they liked the stories they would not want me to stop and go to sleep.  They wanted me to read the next story and the next and the next.  With 3 stories in one book, it is a lot easier to say goodnight.

Why is the beginning and end of each story the same?
This gives the children a comforting frame of familiarity in which the story is told.  They do not need to focus on the details of the beginning and end of each story, they only need to focus on the main content of each fable.

Why did you structure the story so that you could state the life lesson twice?
The stories are structured so the Aesop states the life lesson as something he has learned that day.  The second time it is stated is when his grandmother validates the message.  I did this for two reasons.
1)       Reinforcement.  Repeating the message at different times helps the children absorb it.
2)       Some stories have more than one life lesson. 

Why is the message of perseverance in every story?
I believe that perseverance is the single most important trait for success. There are so many personal stories I can tell but I will tell you only one and also quote Thomas Edison. He said something like invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. He also said after inventing the light bulb that he knows over 1000 ways to not build one. Simply put, he kept at it until he found the right materials and methods. On a personal basis, my family and I have been through many difficult medical situations and if it was not for the dedication and perseverance of my wife, my kids would not be who they are today - nor as healthy.

Why does Aesop’s grandmother have such a prominent role?
There are three reasons.
1)      Typically, mothers are overly protective and would never let the little one do something like go out and explore the world without a watchful eye. By the same token, a grandparent is more inclined to do so.
2)       I feel very strongly about the value of generational wisdom. The grandmother obviously is the means by which I illustrate that - but my hope is that the parents who have not yet come to value their parents will learn from example.
3)      I was blessed with a wonderful grandmother.

I hope you enjoyed this post, my freebie and the above interview. I recommend checking out this book for your own students or kids! If you do, please let me know different ways you incorporate these stories into your lessons.


1 comment

  1. Hi Rae I've just found your blog through a comment you left on someone else's blog- I'm glad I did. I love the interview with the author at the end of this book review!

    I was also wondering what your Olympic Reading Linky Parties are all about- I've had a browse through them but just wanted to find out a bit more about what you post about.

    I only started my blog five days ago so am still learning learning learning about the blogging world! So far I love it! I really like what I've seen on your blog so far so will be clicking the button to become your latest follower!

    x Serena x
    Magic Mistakes & Mayhem


Thanks for the comments! I look forward to reading them :)

Back to Top