Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Story Time Monday

I admit to avoiding Jan Brett books in Story Time. The illustrations are frequently set in cold, snowy landscapes quite different from our Maryland winters, often feature Lapland or Scandinavian clothing and other elements that aren't familiar to our kids, and frequently have complicated story lines which are told partly with words and partly through the illustrations. This isn't a problem when you are reading one-on-one to a child and can take the time to really study the illustrations and discuss them, but isn't the best fit for the short reading periods I have with classes of twenty kids each.

But today I couldn't resist trying out her Christmas Trolls. I had found the story engaging, loved its message, and thought I could make it work for my students. Two trolls steal Christmas presents, decorations, and food from Treva's family in an attempt to make their own Christmas. When Treva goes to their house (way up in the big fir trees), she tells them that "You can't just take Christmas," you have to make your own Christmas. How? By cleaning your house and then decorating it, by trimming a tree, by having fun with each other instead of squabbling all the time, and, most important, by being generous to others. Treva shows them how to do all this, and in the end both Treva and the trolls have a wonderful Christmas.

Before beginning the story, I gave a brief explanation about trolls and Scandinavian landscapes and culture, and then let the story stand on its own. Both my four-to-five year olds and my Kindergarten students were quite spellbound by it.

For my little three-year-olds I read Margaret Wise Brown's Pussycat's Christmas, a gentle description of the sights and sounds of Christmas Eve as experienced by a cat, with beautiful illustrations by Anne Mortimer.

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