ABOUT THIS BOOK
Grades 6 up
Filled with action and adventure and seeped in Chinese culture, this series is perfect for engaging young readers!
Twelve-year-old Fu and his temple brothers Malao, Seh, Hok, and Long don’t know who their parents are. Raised from infancy by their grandmaster, they think of their temple as their home and their fellow warrior monks–their temple brothers–as their family. Then one terrible night, the temple is destroyed. Fu and his brothers are the only survivors. Charged by their grandmaster to uncover the secrets of their past, the five flee into the countryside and go their separate ways. Book #1 follows Fu as he struggles to find out more and prove himself in the process.
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
LOYALTY–The five brothers are fiercely loyal to each other and their grandmaster. How is loyalty of this degree achieved? Is it due to specific actions of the grandmaster? Or is it a result of the character of each brother? Ask students if they have ever been in a situation where their loyalty was tested. Who are they loyal to and why?
TRUST–Tonglong, a soldier of Ying’s, says, “If you do not trust people, you make them untrustworthy.” (p. 125) What does he mean by this statement? How does it apply to Ying and his situation? In what situation does Fu not trust, and what does it cost him? How could you apply this statement to your own life?
SOCIAL STUDIES–The Chinese calendar differs markedly from the Western calendar. Ask students to investigate and record facts of interest regarding the history of and legend behind the Chinese calendar. Then, in small groups, have students design and illustrate a Chinese calendar to display in the classroom. Tiger takes place in AD 1650, the Year of the Tiger. Have students research the “animal year” in which they were born and the history of that year. Tiger is set in the 17th century in Henan Province, China. Ask students to locate Henan Province and research the history of the area. Have students record their findings on “ancient” scrolls to be displayed in the classroom. Use them as a catalyst to discuss how novelists use research to weave fact with fiction in historical novels.
LANGUAGE ARTS–Have students form groups and write a collaborative narrative focusing on 17th-century China, weaving this fiction with facts from the “ancient” scrolls they made above. Students should include a historical setting, well-developed characters appropriate to the time period, a timely problem/conflict, plot complications, and a resolution to the problem or conflict. Have students share their historical narratives with the class.