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  • The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School
  • Written by Candace Fleming
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  • The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School
  • Written by Candace Fleming
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Written by Candace FlemingAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Candace Fleming

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On Sale: June 03, 2009
Pages: 192 | ISBN: 978-0-307-48451-2
Published by : Schwartz & Wade RH Childrens Books
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

These contemporary “fables” are instructive, hilarious, and now in paperback!

The fourth graders at Aesop Elementary are, well, unusual. There’s Calvin Tallywong, who wants to go back to kindergarten. But when he actually gets the chance, he’s forced to do the squirrel dance and wear a yellow-school-bus name tag. The moral of his story? Be careful what you wish for. Then there’s Amisha Spelwadi, who can spell wildebeest, no problem. She’s sure she’ll get 100 percent on her spelling test. But when the teacher, Mr. Jupiter, asks the class to spell cat, all Amisha can come up with is kat. The moral this time? Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Here’s a collection of contemporary fables about a hilariously rambunctious group of kids and their amazing teacher that is sure to delight students and teachers alike!

Excerpt

THE PRINCIPAL STRUGGLES

The soon-to-be fourth graders at Aesop Elementary School had a reputation for being--
"Precocious," said their former first-grade teacher, Ms. Bucky. She ground her teeth.
"High-energy," added their second-grade teacher, Mrs. Chen. The muscle beneath her jaw twitched.
"Robust," agreed their third-grade teacher, Mr. Frost. He patted his now all-white hair.
"Humph!" snorted Bertha Bunz, the lunchroom monitor. "Those kids are just plain naughty." Because she wasn't a teacher, Mrs. Bunz felt free to speak the truth.
Mrs. Bunz was right. So special were the incoming fourth graders that no teacher dared set foot in what would soon be their classroom.
"Not for love or money," shivered Ms. Bucky.
"Not for all the tea in China," shuddered Mrs. Chen.
"Ye gods, no!" yelped Mr. Frost.
It was the last day of summer vacation, and Mrs. Struggles, Aesop Elementary's principal, was at her wits' end. "School starts tomorrow, and I still don't have a fourth-grade teacher," she moaned. "What am I going to do?"
"Have you placed a want ad?" suggested Ms. Bucky.
"Spoken with the superintendent?" suggested Mrs. Chen.
"Talked with the school board?" suggested Mr. Frost.
"Humph!" Mrs. Bunz snorted again. "Call a zookeeper!"
Mrs. Struggles ignored the remark. Defeated, she shuffled into her office and flopped into her chair. If Aesop Elementary were bigger, she thought, I would have separated the troublemakers long ago. But the school was small--only one classroom per grade level--so the kids had to stay together. Rubbing her throbbing temples, she sighed, "How I wish a teacher would walk through that door."
At that precise moment, a breeze blew through the principal's office. It rustled the papers on her desk, rattled her window blinds, and flung open the door to reveal a tall, dark man wearing a pith helmet and clutching a copy of the morning's want ads.
"I am Mr. Jupiter," he said. "I have come about the teaching job."
Mrs. Struggles rubbed her eyes. Was this a dream? she wondered.
But no, Mr. Jupiter was still there.
"You are looking for a fourth-grader teacher, aren't you?" he asked.
Mrs. Struggles nodded, her spirits suddenly soaring. Waving Mr. Jupiter into a seat, she said, "Tell me a bit about yourself."
"Where to begin?" he replied. "My first job was as an assistant dog groomer aboard King Bernard's yacht, the SS Pooch, anchored off the Dalmatian coast. After receiving my degree in nanothermal economics from Dummer University, I led an expedition in search of the dodo bird. Later, I conducted the Timbuktu Philharmonic Orchestra, worked as a translator for Bigfoot, became the first man to ski down Mount Everest, collected mummified cats in Egypt, and discovered the lost city of Atlantis." He smiled. "Among other things."
Mrs. Struggles tapped her desk with a pencil. He certainly sounded interesting.
"Do you have any teaching experience?" she asked.
"Some," replied Mr. Jupiter. "I was head tetherball coach at Matilda Jane's School for Prim and Proper Girls in Las Vegas, as well as the swimming instructor at Loch Ness Middle School. I also taught Swahili as a second language at Dooglehorn Elementary in Switzerland, hula dancing at Balderdash Academy for Boys in London, and organic geochemistry at Harvard." He smiled again. "Among other places."
Mrs. Struggles tapped her desk some more. He sounded experienced, but . . .
"Have you worked with high-energy students?"
"I studied for a year at the Coochie-Coochie Institute for Misbehaved Monkeys," said Mr. Jupiter. He smiled a third time. "Among other schools."
Mrs. Struggles kept tapping.
"Is there anything else you'd like to add?" she finally asked.
Mr. Jupiter shook his head. "Nothing important," he said, "although you might be interested to know I attended fifth grade at this very school."
Mrs. Struggles stopped tapping. "You did?" she exclaimed. "Really? Who was your teacher?"
Her question caused Mr. Jupiter to turn as white as his whale tooth necklace.
But Mrs. Struggles didn't notice. Leaping to her feet, she cried, "Why didn't you tell me this earlier?" She extended her hand. "You're hired! Welcome back to Aesop Elementary, Mr. Jupiter."


MR. JUPITER GOES FOURTH

On the first day of school, Mr. Jupiter wrote his name on the blackboard.
"Welcome to fourth grade," he said to his nineteen new students. "I am your teacher, Mr. Jupiter."
"Jupiter?" repeated Humphrey Parrot. "Jupiter? That's a funny name."
"It's not as funny as Pluto," said Bruce Vanderbanter.
"Or Uranus," added Lenny Wittier.
The boys high-fived. "Mr. Uranus! Mr. Uranus! Mr. Uranus!"
They glanced at the new teacher, waiting for a reaction.
But Mr. Jupiter just smiled. "I'm glad to know my students have a sense of humor," he said.
Then--
POP!
In the back of the room, Bernadette Braggadoccio peeled a glob of pink bubble gum off her nose and shoved it back into her mouth. She chomped, smacked, and pulled long, sticky strings from her mouth. Then she huffed . . . and puffed . . . and peered over the top of her bubble at the new teacher.
She waited for a reaction.
But Mr. Jupiter was still smiling. "Chewing gum is known to help children concentrate," he said.
Then--


"Down by the banks of the Hanky Panky,
Where the bullfrogs hop from banky to banky,
The momma frogs get so cranky cranky
That they give their tadpoles a spanky spanky."


On the other side of the room, Missy Place and Rose Clutterdorf SMACK-SLAP-CLAPPED their hands to the rhythm of their words.
But their eyes were on the new teacher, waiting for a reaction.
Mr. Jupiter was still smiling. "What a wonderful exercise for improving eye-hand coordination," he said.
Then--
"I know a poem," shouted Lillian Ditty--Lil, for short. "Want to hear it?" And she waxed poetic:


"Oh, homework! Oh, homework!
Here's the true scoop.
It takes so much time
That I can't even--"


From the Hardcover edition.
Candace Fleming

About Candace Fleming

Candace Fleming - The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School

Photo © Scott Fleming

 Why did I write Clever Jack Takes the Cake? Mostly for fun, but also because I wanted to try my hand at writing a fairy tale. I do that a lot as a writer—challenge myself to try new things—and tackling a fairy tale was definitely a new thing. So how to begin? 

I knew I wanted my story to have a classical feel, incorporating such wonderfully delicious fairy-tale elements as four-and-twenty blackbirds, enchanted forests, and hairy trolls. On the other hand, I wanted it to be totally original, a story like no other. I began writing, and within a few weeks had a tale. But let me tell you a curious truth about writers—they are the stories they write, the fictions they spin. And when I read back what I had written, I realized I had created a fairy tale about . . . me. Weird, but true! The story is filled with my favorite things—journeys and birthdays and cake. The princess, taking after my son Scott, is allergic to strawberries. And Jack? Just like me, he good-naturedly follows life’s road, gathering experiences he can spin into tales.

Spinning experiences into tales is what I did with The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School, too. I visit lots of school, and there’s nothing I like better than talking with kids, watching them in the lunchroom or on the playground, reading their essays and stories, listening to them tell jokes. And all the while I’m doing these things, I’m thinking about how I can use them in a book. Let me give you an example. A few years ago, I was visiting a school in Tennessee when a fifth-grade boy came up to me and said, “Look what I can do.” He stuck out his tongue, crossed his eyes and wiggled his ears – first the left one, and then the right one. I was impressed—but I hadn’t seen anything yet! Within seconds, the rest of the fifth graders surround me. Everyone, it seemed, had some special body trick to show me—double-jointed fingers and toes, eyelids that folded, lips that could be pulled up over noses, knuckles that cracked to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.” It was absurd and wonderful, and I knew I had to write about it. The result? Chapter five titled, “Hyper . . . Um . . . Hypermob . . . Um . . . Weird Body Tricks.”

Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide



NOTE TO TEACHERS

The Teacher's Guide posted below is intended for use with The Fabled Fourth Graders at Aesop Elementary by Candace Fleming as well as with A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken and The Tale of Tales by Tony Mitton.

ABOUT THIS BOOK

Candace Fleming writes contemporary stories built around Aesop’s fables in The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School. No one wants to teach the fourth graders until the amazing Mr. Jupiter comes along. He undertakes the task with humor, and along the way the fourth graders learn many lessons, including “He laughs best who laughs last;” “Be careful what you wish for–it might come true;” and “Slow and steady wins the race.”

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

Candace Fleming is the author of many critically acclaimed and bestselling books for children, including Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! and Ben Franklin’s Almanac. She lives in Illinois.

DISCUSSION AND WRITING

Questions for Group Discussion

• Traditionally, fables are intended to mold attitudes toward moral and ethical behaviors. What are the moral and ethical issues in Fleming’s fables and Aiken’s stories? Discuss how the authors’ shape the readers’ responses to the issues in each story.

• The moral in a fable is usually drawn from one simple act. Identify the simple act in each of Fleming’s fables.

• Explain the moral in “Mr. Jupiter Goes Fourth” in The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School. (p. 6) How does the title of this fable have a double meaning?

• There is a bully in Fleming’s story “Please Don’t Tease Ashley Z.” (p. 67) Explain how the moral “One good turn deserves another” is a good lesson in dealing with bullies. Who are the bullies in A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken? How might the moral in
Fleming s story apply to Aiken’s stories as well?

• Most fables have a good guy and a bad guy, a wise man and a fool. Identify the good and bad characters in each of the stories. Which book deals mostly with wise and foolish characters? Discuss the wisest character in The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School.

• Characters in fables are often flat or one-dimensional. How is this especially true in A Necklace of Raindrops and The Tale of Tales? Analyze the characters in The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School. Which character does the reader know the best? How is this character consistent in each of Fleming’s stories?

• What is the difference between silly and foolish? The moral lessons of many fables are expressed through a silly act. How does Fleming use silliness to convey the message in her fables? What are the silliest acts in Aiken’s stories? Discuss why it is better to learn a lesson through laughter.

• Fables, parables, and tales are closely related because they are each instructive. A tale is not always short, and does not necessarily supply a moral lesson. A parable usually has a hidden meaning, and a fable conveys a clear moral warning. Discuss whether, by definition, the stories in A Necklace of Raindrops and The Tale of Tales fit the genre of tale or fable. Why are fables, tales, and parables considered folklore?

• What is the message in The Tale of Tales? How do the animals in this book convey friendship and a sense of purpose?

• Setting is secondary in most fables because emphasis is on the moral lessons learned through a character’s actions. How might Fleming’s fables be different if set outside of Aesop Elementary School? What does the jungle setting in The Tale of Tales contribute to the story? Consider the cover of A Necklace of Raindrops and make an assumption about the setting.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES

Connecting to the Curriculum

English/Language Arts
–Ask students to pick one of the following moral lessons and create a contemporary fable:
• Try before you trust
• Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
• A stitch in time saves nine
• Every truth has two sides
• The memory of a good deed lives
• Beauty is only skin deep
There is no clear moral to the stories in A Necklace of Raindrops. Ask students to write and illustrate a moral found in each of the stories. Bring newspapers to class, and have students find a story that could convey a moral lesson to the reader. Ask them to rewrite the newspaper story as a fable. Allow students to share their newspaper story and read aloud their fable in class.

Social Studies–Have students research the folklore of one of the following countries: India, China, Japan, Vietnam, Kenya, Peru, Israel, or Mexico. Have them write a fable drawn from a folk story that is unique to the country.

Drama–Divide the class into small groups and ask them to write and perform a one-act play based on one of the fables in The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School. Play charades with fables. Ask students to select a favorite moral from any fable that they have read and pantomime it for the class.
Such morals may include:
• One good turn deserves another
• A man is known by the company he keeps
• Necessity is the mother of invention
• Not everything you see is what
it appears to be
• He that has many friends has no friends
• Do not trust flatterers
• Little friends may prove great friends
• Self-conceit may lead to self-destruction
• Plodding wins the race

Music–Ask students to locate music that might be used in a film of The Tale of Tales. Suggest that they consider music from The Carnival of the Animals, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, or even jungle sounds effects. Have them bring the music to class, and share where in the story they would use it.

Art–Ask students to participate in a project called “The Fabled Art Show.” Each student should make a poster, using a medium of choice, that best illustrates a favorite fable. Instruct them to write the moral of the story at the bottom of the poster. Invite parents and students from other classes to the show.

VOCABULARY

The vocabulary in these books isn’t difficult, but students should be encouraged to jot down unfamiliar words and try to define them, taking clues from the context of the story. Such words may include:

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary
School:
precocious (p. 1), obnoxious (p. 9),
conscientious (p. 31), arabesque (p. 37),
humiliation (p. 58), versatile (p. 113),
contagious (p. 146), and buoyancy (p. 148).

A Necklace of Raindrops and Other Stories:
precipice (p. 49), oasis (p. 52), affronted (p. 55),
and zither (p. 63).

The Tale of Tales: preen (p. 10), billow (p. 37),
gaggle (p. 101), grotto (p. 106),
and megaphone (p. 108).

BEYOND THE BOOK

Internet Resources

Aesop’s Fables Online Collection
www.aesopfables.com
This site has 655 fables, indexed by story and morals.

Literature.org
www.literature.org/authors/aesop/fables
Includes texts of fables and gives the moral
to each story.

University of Massachusetts
www.umass.edu/aesop
Traditional and contemporary computer illustrations by
college art students for 35 of Aesop’s classic fables.

Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fable
A brief history and explanation of the fable
and its history.

OTHER TITLES OF INTEREST


All Stuck Up
Linda Hayward
Illustrated by Normand Charter
Fairy Tales & Fables • Animals • Humor
Grades Preschool—2
Random House PB: 978-0-679-80216-7
(0-679-80216-9)

The Bremen-Town Musicians
Ilse Plume
Animals • Art, Music & Theater
Classics • Fairy Tales & Fables
Grades Preschool—3
Dragonfly PB: 978-0-440-41456-8
(0-440-41456-3)

The Greentail Mouse
Leo Lionni
Animals • Fairy Tales & Fables • Belonging
Grades Preschool—3
Alfred A. Knopf HC: 978-0-375-82399-2
(0-375-82399-9)

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