What Really Happened?
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
by Carolyn Crimi
About the Book
Henry, a young bunny, is different from the other bunnies on the ship Salty Carrot. While the other pirates relish stealing jewels from other ships and admiring their tattoos, Henry favors reading books. But when a big storm arrives, Henrys favorite activity saves the lives of the pirates, especially Henrys scornful father, Barnacle Black Ear.
Set the Stage
Get students ready to read by showing the front and back cover and talking about the title and pictures.
- What kind of animal is swinging on the rope? What else is the animal doing? Explain that the animal is the character Henry in the book.
- What do you notice about the animals watching Henry?
- Talk about the meaning of buccaneer as a pirate or adventurer. What did some pirates do years ago?
- Look at the illustration on the back cover. What does the skull and crossbones on the flag mean? (It was used by pirates and it meant death or danger. Nowadays, it means poison.)
After students have enjoyed the book, lead a lively discussion with these questions:
- At first, why was the captain disappointed with his son, Henry?
- Why did pirates on other ships shake with fear when they saw the Salty Carrot coming?
- What signs showed Henry that a storm was coming?
- In what ways were Henrys books an important treasure?
- How did the dishonest characters change from the beginning of the story to the end?
- Would you want the buccaneers as friends? Why or why not?
- Which page(s) are your favorites? Why?
Students will test their comprehension skills by identifying which events actually happened in the story.
To extend students enjoyment of the book, try these:
- Pirate Phrases Book: Many expressions in the book are those used by pirates long ago (Walk the plank pieces of eight). As a group, make a list of those phrases and discuss their meaning. Invite children to make illustrated booklets with different characters from the story using different phrases. Place the completed booklets in the reading center with other books on pirates.
- Change the Ending: Suppose Henrys books had not survived the storm. In that case, how would the story conclude? Ask children to create a different, but happy, ending to this tale.
- Whats Inside the Treasure Chest?: Create a box for each group of four students, with various classroom treasures – such as a crayon, eraser, marker, and puppet. Ask each student, one at a time, to close his or her eyes and select one item. Ask the child to identify it by touch alone.
- Puppetry Show Time!: Show children how to make bunny stick puppets. To make a puppet, use a stick, and then paste a paper drawing of a character at the top. Ask children to hide behind a cardboard box or desk, and act out the story for the audience.
- Sink or Float?: During the storm, most – but not all – of the items on the Salty Carrot sank. Create a Sink or Float? activity where children predict, then test, whether each item youve set out in a basin will float or sink. Suggested items to use: chalk, key, marble, leaf, pencil, and feather. You can graph the predictions and see which childrens predictions were correct.
- Heavens, a Hurricane!: Brainstorm and make a word web of what children already know about these storms. Then add to childrens knowledge by reading aloud some nonfiction books on the topic. As a group, create a list of Five Things You Should Know About a Hurricane. Read the list aloud to a younger class.
Lesson Developed by Dr. Susan Shafer
Dr. Susan Shafer is a former elementary school teacher with more than 20 years of classroom experience and a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. While teaching she received special recognition for her innovative, theme-based teaching methods. The author of two books for children and numerous articles for adults, Susan is presently a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.