Subject Area : Language Arts
Reading Level : 4.2
Meet Ereth, a selfish, crotchety porcupine who lives deep in the woods of Dimwood Forest. For his birthday, he dreams only of peace and quiet - and a delicious bit of salt to satisfy his craving. However, when Ereth encounters a dying mother fox that asks him to look after her three kits, he gets more than he bargained for on this special day. Previously irritated by children and their neediness, Ereth must learn to care for the young foxes and keep them out of harm's way in the dangerous forest. Meanwhile, he faces perils of his own in the form of Marty, the evil fisher, who lurks in the shadows, waiting to pounce on prickly porcupines.
Students will analyze characters in the novel by examining their physical descriptions, relationships with other characters, motivations, behaviors, and dialogue. They will also examine how Avi creates animal characters with human traits and explore the techniques he uses to achieve this goal. In turn, they will form a deeper understanding of the book's characters.
Standard: Understands elements of character development (e.g., character traits and motivations)
After reading a few chapters, ask students: "What are your impressions of Ereth, the main character?" Invite them to brainstorm in writing (5-10 minutes) and then share their ideas with the class. For example, "Ereth's favorite thing in the world is salt" and "Ereth is a prickly porcupine who dislikes children."
- Chart and discuss ideas from the Warm-up Activity. Note that a reader forms impressions of characters based on their physical description, personality, behavior, likes/dislikes, dialogue, etc. Focus on how the author Avi creates animal characters with human traits. What human traits does Ereth possess? Point out that Ereth, a porcupine, could also be described as having a "prickly" personality.
- Tell the class that one way to study various characters in a novel is to create Character Cards . Explain that Character Cards are similar to baseball cards in that they contain vital statistics and information about the character. Character Cards also help readers organize and record their ideas, impressions, and insights about a character.
- Show a model of a Character Card (see below) and review the different items:
Personality Traits (three or more):
Likes and Dislikes:
Relationships With Other Characters:
- Ask students to create three Character Cards, including one for Ereth. Remind them to use their notes from the Warm-up Activity and refer to the text for additional information.
- On the blank side of each Character Card, illustrate the character. Use illustrator Brian Floca's vivid drawings as a guide.
Play the Character Card Game! Use the Character Cards to assess students' knowledge and understanding of the book's characters. Working in pairs, students can quiz each other in two ways:
1. Read off information from the card and try to guess the mystery character's identity.
2. Name the character and ask your partner to give specific information from the card. Either way Character Cards make great study tools.
Other Books About Animals
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame
A classic story of animals and their fascinating world. Rat, Mole, Toad, and Badger teach valuable lessons about friendship, freedom, and responsibility.
by E. B. White
The entertaining story of a mouse named Stuart Little, on a wild adventure in the world beyond his mouse hole.
Other Books by Avi
Poppy and Rye
The Man Who Was Poe
Nothing but the Truth
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
The Fighting Ground
Teaching Plan written by Lauren Gold