ABOUT THIS BOOK
Grades 6 up
Filled with action and adventure and seeped in Chinese culture, this series is perfect for engaging young readers!
At 11 years old, Malao is the youngest of the Five Ancestors. Master of the monkey fighting style, he’s curious and quick, fast and fun-loving. But now, with the destruction of the temple and the deaths of his older brothers and Grandmaster, Malao the fun-loving monkey is forced to face things he’d rather not. As he grapples with these new and unwelcome feelings, Malao has an encounter with a dangerous band of bandits, is adopted by a troop of monkeys commanded by a one-eyed albino, and hears tantalizing rumors of a mysterious recluse called the Monkey King, who is said to act, and look, a lot like him. . . .
USING THE SERIES AS A WHOLE
KUNG FU—STYLE DOCUMENTARIES
In groups of three or four, have students research one of the animals–tiger, monkey, snake, crane, or eagle–in its natural habitat, exploring the following questions and more: What are the animal’s physical attributes and how does it move? What adaptations ensure its survival? What are its sleeping and feeding habits? Who are its natural enemies? Have students relate their research findings to the personalities and abilities of Fu, Malao, Seh, Hok, and Ying. How would one monk naturally get along with the other monks? Which monks would be natural enemies? How do their natural abilities help them in their kung fu styles? Next have the groups write and film a short video “documentary” explaining how the animal relates to the kung fu style of the monk. They will need to incorporate a variety of visual elements and sequences in their animal documentary and explain the role the animal plays in the young monk’s life that they chose to research. For example, the albino monkey in Malao’s life, the snake that attaches itself to Seh, the crane that helps Hok, and the tiger that stays in the distance for Fu. Students may follow the model of public television animal programs or may adapt the edgier tone of documentary programs such as The Crocodile Hunter.
CANGZHEN TEMPLE CHARACTER CHRONOLOGIES
Divide students into five groups and give each group one of the books in the Five Ancestors series. Ask each group to follow their character from the burning of the temple to the end of the series, making a list of each of the major stops along their journey, noting when possible the time lapse between moves the character makes, who he or she is traveling with, and the moves of the other characters. Then on a long piece of bulletin-board paper have each group first write their character’s events on a time line, and then illustrate in color each event along the time line, making a mural that shows the travels and experiences of all five of the monks after the temple burned. When the time line is complete, students will be able to see where the lives of each brother and their sister have intersected on the journey to their destiny.
A FINE LINE: TRACING THE LINEAGE OF THE FIVE ANCESTORS
A family tree traces the background of a family to its origins. Starting at the bottom of the tree, ask each pair of students to write the names of each of the five monks, and on the same horizontal level write the names of their brothers and sisters. Just above the monks and their siblings, students should write the names of their parents (fathers and mothers) using both the animal name and the Cantonese name of everyone in the tree. If additional explanations are needed about any of the relationships, ask students to write the explanations on a side bar and identify the additional explanations with numbers correlating to each monk. Two generations of Cantonese monks has made for a strong family tree. Ask students to write on one side of the tree a brief explanation of how each of the five young monks came to be at the Cangzhen Temple.
DISCUSSION AND WRITING
COURAGE–Even though Malao is quite small he risks his life by challenging a large group of bandits in order to save wild monkeys from being killed. (p. 43) What does this courageous act say about Malao’s character? Why does Malao stutter and stammer when he talks to the bandits? What role does fear play in this interaction between Malao and the large man known as Hung?
FAMILY–As the tired warrior monks follow the Grandmaster’s orders to uncover their pasts to find their futures, they are unsure of what is happening to them. On pages 96—99, Malao, Fu, and Hok are captured until they eventually free each other. What drives the monks’ fierce tie to family? What lessons were taught to them as monks that result in their willingness to lay down their lives for one another? Why does Ying, who was trained with them, not share the same passion for family?
HISTORY–The Canghzen Temple and the Shaolin Temple both play integral roles in the Five Ancestors series. Divide students into groups of three and ask half of the groups to research the Canghzen Temple and the other groups to research the Shaolin Temple. Have each group make a class presentation on the history, architecture, culture, and traditions of their assigned temple. Encourage them to include interesting information such as the hierarchy of the monks, the tenets and practices of their religious studies, and the current status of the temple should also be included. Each group should create a mobile, diorama, or other 3-D model to present along with their findings.
LANGUAGE ARTS–Malao is full of fun, always joking and doing his best to make others laugh. Often times his good nature wears thin on his brothers who take life more seriously. Ask students to select three or four situations in the book where Malao irritates one or more of his brothers because of his playfulness. Have students write and illustrate a haiku or a limerick to depict the situation and then share it with the class. Collect the poems to make a classroom booklet to share with other classes.
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