Gustav Gloom and the People Taker by Adam Troy-Castro takes place in a cookie-cutter housing tract called Sunnyside Terrace. Gustav lives across the street in the dark Gloom Mansion. People don’t bother him, although his house definitely bothers them. When Fernie and her family move to Sunnyside Terrace, they are in for a real surprise. Fernie makes her way to the Gloom Mansion in search of her lost cat only to find an unforgettable journey awaiting her.
This book is filled with excitement, descriptive sentences, and excellent story structure. The use of imagery is showered amongst its many pages with a respectful amount of similes and metaphors throughout.
A genre study on fantasy stories is a great lesson that can tie into this read. Because the book is fiction, I was able to study fantasy and teach literary elements at the same time. I was able to cover story elements, tie in writing prompts, and end of the book reflections.
Before starting the book, I talked with my class about the fantasy genre. We watched a few clips of our favorite genre movies to kindle interest (although just saying the word fantasy sparks enough interest to light up an entire school). We had an open classroom discussion about what they could recall about the genre. We noted some key aspects and decided to look for these while reading Gustav.
These bookmarks came in handy as a quick way to check, and then take notes in our Reader's Notebooks.
Red Hot Vocabulary is an opportunity for students to document words that they do not understand. Before reading the book, we discuss the concept.
Students get a copy of a vocabulary template. I share with students that they will be looking for “Words to Know” as we read. It is the job of the students to document words they have found, the page, the context the word has been used in, the definition based on how it is used, and the actual definition.
We then take approximately 10–15 words that were commonly listed and create a vocabulary list for the next two weeks. While we are studying and reviewing the terms, we continue reading and finding new words for the coming weeks.
Before we break into the pages, I pump the kids up one last time. I try to really get them thinking. I present a slideshow to them with five slides that are somehow connected to the story. I ask students to do the following:
Look at the five slides
Determine how all five are connected and related to this story
Based on the five slides shown, make a prediction about the story
At the end of the novel, revisit the slides and connect the dots
We spend a lot of time with mini-lessons connected to the unit study. Understanding the literary elements of the story is key. Taking the time to go over this concept and review it while we are reading is a great recall tool for the class. With each chapter, we set up our Reader's Notebooks with an outline for thinking aloud while we read.
We spent a lot of time determining traits for the characters. Here is a wordle one of my kids made for Gustav. Many of the activities in this unit can be used in conjunction with two fabulous lessons shared by Scholastic bloggers Erin Klein and Lindsey Petlak.
Offering students choices gives them a bit of ownership over their work. I try to offer final project ideas for students to explore. I use this handout as a guide. Students will need to show that they understand literary elements using evidence from the text. Many of the projects offered came directly from finds at the Scholastic Teacher Store.
After reading the book, I look for students to show that they understand the literary elements and comprehension strategies that were taught during the reading of the book. I pass out the guide mentioned above and students choose which project they would like to complete. It is then turned in for a final assessment .
The possibilites are endless with this book. The Gloom Mansion holds a number of rooms of “things that never were." This is a great opportunity for students to finish the things that never were. Here is an example of how to cover your bases in other subjects while reading this book.
Because it reads more on the dark side (the kid's last name is Gloom), I decided to introduce an art project to reflect that. One of the rooms in the Gloom Mansion has a checkered floor that looks as though it is rising up off the ground, creating an optical illusion (or op art). The kids were so impressed by the illustration and the illusion it creates, they wanted to try their hands at it. Through a great art lesson created by Mrs. Brown's Art Class, they did just that.
Write a book that has never been seen, but should be. How would you get this book into the Gloom library without being caught by the People Taker?
Pretend you are a reporter. Interview Mr. Notes on the day that went crazy. Find out what happened to him inside the Gloom Mansion.