Deborah Wiles ' Each Little Bird That Sings is the second book in the Aurora County Trilogy. It won the 2005 Bank Street Fiction Award, a Golden Kite Honor Award, was a 2005 E.B. White Read Aloud Award winner, and a 2005 National Book Award finalist.
Readers who enjoyed this book may be interested in the others in the trilogy. Love, Ruby Lavender was an ALA Notable Children’s Book, a Children’s Book Sense 76 Pick, and a New York Public Library Book for Reading and Sharing. The book was nominated for twenty-six state book award reading lists, voted on by children. The Aurora County All-Stars, a 2008 Bank Street Best Book of the Year and SIBA Book Award finalist, completes the Aurora County trilogy.
Use these activities to extend your students' experience with this unique book.
1. According to Comfort's Rule Number Nine (pp. 51-52), people should bring a covered dish to the funeral home. She describes the types of foods that are favorite dishes, as well as the dishes that people do not eat. Then she invites the reader to submit their recipes for her and Aunt Florentine's forthcoming cookbook, Fantastic (and Fun) Funeral Foods for Family and Friends.
Research and write down your favorite food recipe to include in the cookbook. With permission and assistance from your guardian, make the recipe to share with your classmates.
Students' recipes will vary. Students should make arrangements with their teacher prior to preparing the dish for their class. Their teacher may wish to set aside a day for all students participating to bring in food as a pot-luck meal, much like one would experience at a funeral luncheon.
2. After Aunt Florentine has died, Comfort visits the graveyard to share her thoughts with Uncle Edisto. While she is there, she describes Uncle Edisto's headstone as having a finger pointed upward with an inscription under the hand that reads, "God's finger touched him and he slept." Then she describes Aunt Florentine's headstone as perfect for her since it has a granite telephone with an inscription that reads, "Jesus called her home."
Ask your guardian to take you to a cemetery to look at the inscriptions and carvings on the headstones. While you are there, make rubbings or etchings of some of the epitaphs using plain white paper and a pencil or crayon.
Challenge: Try to find the oldest headstone in the cemetery. When you get home, create your own headstone complete with a design and inscription that would represent your life up to this point (be sure to leave the death date open). NOTE: If you are not able to visit a cemetery, create the perfect headstone for yourself.
Students' responses will vary.
3. Comfort writes a Life Notice to be submitted to The Aurora County News each time a special person in her family dies (see page 11 for Uncle Edisto's, page 20 for Aunt Florentine's and page 217 for Dismay's life notices). Additionally, on Deborah Wiles's web site, www.deborahwiles.com, Comfort Snowberger has written a Life Notice for the author; however, this Life Notice is different because it has been written while Ms. Wiles is still alive.
After reading the various Life Notices that Comfort has written, including, if possible, the one for Ms. Wiles, select a person that you would like to interview about his or her life. Create a list of questions that will be important to ask him or her. Then conduct the interview (be sure to take notes or use a tape recorder so you can remember what he or she tells you), and write a Life Notice for that person.
Students' answers will vary. Questions on the list might include when and where the person was born, where he/she has lived, how many siblings he/she has, and whom his/her parents were. The questions might include the type of career/jobs the person has held, what schooling he/she completed, and of what organizations he/she has been a member. Students might also wish to ask what the person considers to be his/her greatest accomplishment in life, or for what he/she wishes to be remembered. Students may also wish to include some less expected questions, such as what the person wishes he/she might have done differently or what he/she would still like to accomplish. Students might even ask the person what his/her friends and family might say at his/her funeral. The possibilities are endless.