Have you ever read Owl Moon by Jane Yolen? It seems there are very few people who I have met who have not read it. It is an excellent book for teaching figurative language and sensory details. This week’s Mentor Text would make an excellent companion to that book. It’s called Crow Call by Lois Lowry.
Lois Lowry typically writes novels, so I was surprised to discover that she also wrote a picture book. This is a true story from Lois Lowry’s childhood. It begins with a girl named Liz who is heading out with her dad to go crow hunting after not seeing him in a long time. They feel like strangers due to this war that had kept them apart. They first head off to the local store to pick up a proper hunting shirt and to the diner to grab a slice of cherry pie. Then as they head into the woods to seek the crows, they begin to bond and grow to understand one another. Through dialogue, the girl explores the idea of possibly harming crows who have babies, even though they eat their crops. At the end, dad has a tough decision to make – save his crops, or save his bond with his daughter.
First let me say that in reality, my summary does not do this mentor text justice. I wish I was more eloquent with words so that you could see the “good-feeling” this book creates. Just like Owl Moon, it is has many places where you could explore imagery or sensory language. For instance, “I feel the smooth wood of the crow call in my pocket, moving my fingers against it for warmth, memorizing its ridges and shape” or “Grass, froze after its summer softness, crunches under our feet; the air is sharp and supremely clear, free from the floating pollen of summer, and our words seem etched and breakable on the brittle stillness.” In addition to using this book as a great mentor text for teaching sensory language, it would also be a great text to compare and contrast to Owl Moon. It could also be used as a great discussion for Text to Text connections. (It could be used to teach writing summaries like I need to practice- right? HA!) The best reading strategy skill this book loans itself to is questioning. I feel this book would be a great one for students to stop and write questions down on sticky notes as you read. When I first read the book, I had lots of questions (some that were answered, some that were not). For instance, right away, I wanted to know why she said, “I sit shyly in the front seat of the car next to the stranger who is my father…” or later in the dinner why she was pretending to be a boy with her father.
This text would also be a great text for focusing on character. The two main characters in the story, Liz and her father, go through this bonding moment as they go on this adventure. What specifically caused them to bond? Why at the end did he decide now to shoot the crows? Let’s not forget that this book would definitely create a lot of discussion about how the pictures and dialogue used in the text contributed to the overall message of the book. Students could focus on how the characters changed, their feelings and motives, and how it all lead to the actions in the book.
Finally, this book has fantastic vocabulary! I am always looking for any mentor text that can push my students’ use of language a bit farther. This text introduces words such as dubiously, disdain, condescending, fluttering, tentatively, lurching, and disgruntled. That’s just a sample. Fear not, the language would not keep you students from understanding the overall message.