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 elements of Sharon Creech's work. For example, one group might keep descriptive lists of her characters. Others might collect samples of words or phrases that she often uses. These lists are a good way to make comparisons among Creech's different books and also with other authors.
Books by Sharon Creech
Titles by Sharon Creech that you might make available to students include:
Love That Dog
Absolutely Normal Chaos
Walk Two Moons
Pleasing the Ghost
A Fine, Fine School
Fishing in the Air
The Good Carpet Ghost
Link the Author to the Literature
Family stories were the inspiration for Sharon Creech when she wrote Ruby Holler. It all started when Creech saw a photo of a "house in the holler" where her father lived as a boy. (Holler is a variant of hollow; a small valley or basin.) Says Creech, "I began to imagine this place, and as I did so, I knew it would be a great setting for a story." Two characters in the book, Tiller and Sairy, "evolved because I was thinking of my grandparents living in a holler." Creech says that two other characters, the twins Dallas and Florida, came to life as she thought about the mischievous behavior of her father and his brothers and sisters.
Write these lines from Ruby Holler on the chalkboard and invite students to comment on them. What do these quotations suggest about the story? the author?
- A silver bird, Dallas thought. A magical silver bird.
- "We've got some amazing secret recipes," Sairy said. "Beat-the-blues broccoli and anti-cranky crumpets and —"
- "You are now entering Ruby Holler, the one and only Ruby Holler! Your lives are never going to be the same —"
After students have read Ruby Holler, ask them to think about what the author might be like. Use questions such as these and encourage students to support their responses with evidence in the text:
- How does Sharon Creech show an understanding of the way young people act and think?
- Do you think the author has a good sense of humor? Why? How would you describe the author's imagination? What examples from her books can you give?
Journals for Readers and Writers
Before becoming a full-time writer, Sharon Creech was also a teacher. As a teacher, Creech had her students keep journals. Point out that journals are a kind of dialogue, sometimes with oneself, and sometimes with others. Students who have read Absolutely Normal Chaos will have noted that this book is written in journal form, and in Love That Dog, Jack's poetry is also a form of journal keeping and a dialogue with his teacher. Use these examples as inspiration to encourage your students to keep a journal for their author study. Students can record their responses to Sharon Creech's books in different ways. For example:
- They might note the ways in which she begins and ends her books. How do her beginnings draw in readers? How do her endings leave readers feeling? How do Creech's beginnings and endings compare with other books students have read?
- Students can use their notebooks to make predictions about how the characters and plot will develop and unfold.
- Once students are familiar with several of Creech's books, ask them to make notes about her style of writing. What do they notice about the kinds of words she uses? What are her sentences like? What similarities are there in her topics?
- Students might write short stories of their own based on family stories much as Creech did with Ruby Holler.
Bring on the Banners
Point out that Walk Two Moons was inspired by a message in a fortune cookie: "Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins" and that other favorite sayings of the author also appear in this book. As students read and appreciate the works of Sharon Creech, they might make banners with their favorite sayings and quotations from her books. Students may also wish to include quotes from interviews with the author. Display these on classroom walls as part of your author study.
Building the Connections
Help students summarize and review what they have learned about Sharon Creech with one of these activities:
- Have students write thank-you toasts to the author in which they mention some highlights of her work and why these are appreciated.
- Invite students to share favorite characters, lines, and events from the author's work by reading aloud passages from her books and explaining why these specific passages are memorable to them.
- Have students dramatize a favorite chapter or book by the author.
Author study written by Linda Ward Beech