Magic Tree House
Junie B. Jones
Purpose: Classic literary authors (Shakespeare, Miller, Hurston, Morrison, Faulkner, Austen, Hemingway, Wright, and Brontë, just to name a few) are studied in classrooms every day across the country. Their texts have been used for years, and for good reason: the writing is exemplary, the characters are universal yet complex, and the themes touch on all aspects of humanity. We know, however, that in addition to these canonical texts, there are many contemporary books that address some of the same themes and conflicts and are written for younger audiences. We believe these text pairings—whether for small reading groups in the classroom or as independent reading—will enhance the reader’s experience by drawing parallels with the themes and archetypes of the classics.
To help spread the word about these text pairings, we have created a Teach-Alike blog that will be posted on our website every other month. If you have any creative suggestions, requests for specific texts, or reviews of the pairs read together, we would love to hear from you! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy, and keep reading!
Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr’s award-winning Owl Moon, published in 1987, is a beautifully quiet story about a little girl and her father exploring the woods one winter night, looking for owls. In this highly visual picture book, the readers experience the snowy, gentle night with the two characters, whispering “whoo-whoo-whoo” along with the father as he calls out for the owls, and understanding that “when you go owling you don’t need words or warm or anything but hope.”
Little Fox in the Forest (Schwartz & Wade) is a wonderful contemporary picture book to read along with Owl Moon. Completely wordless, it masterfully tells the story of two young children who follow a fox into the woods, only to discover an enchanting village. Like Owl Moon, this magical adventure promotes discussion for readers of all levels—from pre-readers to independent readers—as they are invited to create and articulate their own story, using the vivid art and characters as constants, and adding unique details and language. Graegin’s charming illustrations are irresistible, and readers will want to pore over the pages of this delightful story again and again.
Classroom Lesson: Read Owl Moon and Little Fox in the Forest to your students, and have them discuss the images and characters. Then split the students into small groups and instruct them to create their own storyline. (If your students are able to write, have them write down their ideas.) Share the stories to facilitate discussion about storytelling, structure, and dialogue.
Praise for Little Fox in the Forest
★ “Young children will pore over this wordless picture book again and again, finding something new to enjoy each time.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
★ “A charming, fantastical twist on the backyard adventure.” —Booklist, Starred Review
★ “This is a story not just to read but to inhabit.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
★ “[V]iewers can pick up skills in decoding visual narrative while also getting a chance to breathlessly root around in some serious cuteness.” —The Bulletin, Starred Review