Spotlight on Dan Gutman and Honus & Me
An author study is an excellent way to investigate and celebrate the work of a writer. One of the best ways to "meet an author" is through his or her books. As students read the books or listen to them on tape, encourage them to note the different genres that an author works in and to examine the copyright dates as a way of delineating the path of an author's career. To launch an author study, you might:
- Display a selection of an author's work.
- List interesting facts about an author on a poster pad.
- Assign one of the author's books as independent or group reading, or read one book aloud to the class.
- Ask students to read one or more other books by the author so they can compare themes, settings, characters, plots, and styles.
- Follow up with discussions and activities to promote comprehension and appreciation of the author's work.
- You might assign groups of students to monitor different aspects of Dan Gutman's work. For example, one group might explore point of view; some of Gutman's books such as The Kid Who Became President are told in the first person. The speaker or narrator is the main character. Other books such as Qwerty Stevens, Back in Time: The Edison Mystery are told from the third-person-limited point of view. Although the narrator is outside the story, the narrator tells the story chiefly from the main character's point of view.
Books by Dan Gutman
Titles by Dan Gutman that you might make available to students include:
Babe & Me
From the Secret Life of Dr. Demented
Jackie & Me
The Kid Who Became President
The Kid Who Ran for President
Mickey & Me The Million Dollar Kick
The Million Dollar Shot
Qwerty Stevens, Back in Time: The Edison Mystery
Race for the Sky
Shoeless Joe & Me
They Came from Centerfield
Link the Author to the Literature
Speaking about his career, Dan Gutman says: "In 1987, I decided to try my hand at writing about something I always loved ÃÂ sports." His first sports piece was an article for Discover magazine "about the science behind the spitball, scuffball, and corked bats." From there, Gutman moved on to writing about sports for children and eventually to children's fiction in They Came From Centerfield in 1994. It was in that same year he conceived the idea for a book about a baseball card time machine, which first appeared in Honus & Me. Other books in this baseball card series now include Babe & Me, Jackie & Me, Mickey & Me, and Shoeless Joe & Me. A question Gutman is always curious to have answered is what other baseball players kids think he should visit in the series.
When you discuss Honus & Me with students, point out the section at the end of the book titled "To the Reader" and stress that the book is a combination of fact and fantasy.
After students have read the book, ask questions such as:
- How well do you think Dan Gutman knows baseball? Why?
- What kind of research do you think he had to do for this book? What sources might he have used? In addition to nonfiction books, almanacs, newspaper clippings, and the Internet, you might want to mention that Gutman is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
- What are some things in the book that are not factual? Encourage students to refer to specific places in the book to support their responses.
Encourage students to refer to specific places in the book to support their responses.
Ask students to find and compare other books by Dan Gutman that feature sports. In addition to the baseball card series, some possible titles include The Million Dollar Shot (basketball), The Million Dollar Kick (soccer), and From the Secret Life of Dr. Demented (wrestling).
Ask students to reread the first line of the Gutman book they are reading. Invite volunteers to share these lines as you write them on the chalkboard or a poster pad. For example:
"Qwerty Stevens found the box at four o'clock in the afternoon on October 18."
[from Qwerty Stevens, Back in Time: The Edison Mystery]
"It was one of those summer evenings, the kind where it's so hot that your hand sticks inside your baseball glove from the sweat."
[from They Came From Centerfield]
"It's the greatest mystery in the history of sports."
[from Babe & Me]
Use these and other first lines to analyze how the author draws the reader into his story. Ask: Which opening is the most exciting? Which one focuses on setting? Which one features action? Encourage students to try different openings when they write their own stories.
Building the Connections
Help students summarize and review what they have learned about Dan Gutman with one of these activities:
- Have students retell a chapter from a book by the author in comic book form.
- Ask your class to write a letter to a character in a book by the author.
- Dan Gutman enjoys visiting schools throughout the United States. Ask students to draw up a list of questions to ask him should he come to your community.