Monday, March 26, 2012

Book #86: A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats

Image from BetterWorldBooks.com

Peter’s having a birthday party and he wants to invite his friend, Amy. But he wants it to be a surprise, so he writes her a special letter and runs outside to put it in the mail box. It’s stormy and as Peter walks down the street the wind tugs the letter out of his hand. He chases it this way and that way. Just as rain begins to fall Peter sees Amy on the street. She tries to help him catch the letter, but Peter doesn’t want to spoil the surprise. He manages to snatch the letter away, but not before knocking Amy onto the ground. As she runs away in tears Peter sadly mails his letter. Peter’s friends arrive at his party, all but Amy. He’s about to lose hope, when there’s a knock on the door and there’s Amy! As he blows out the candles on his cake, Peter makes a wish all his own.

The illustrations are full of stormy urban landscapes created in Keats’ unique paint and collage style. Peter stands out from the graffiti-ed buildings and stormy skies in his bright yellow rain slicker and hat. Although Peter is African-American, Keats populates this story with characters of all races. The text is thoughtfully crafted. You can tell each word has been carefully chosen and placed.

Peter never tells us what he wishes when he blows out his birthday candles. After your read the story, ask the kids what they think he wished. Scholastic has a lesson plan with additional questions to ask before and after reading.

Use this story as part of a unit or storytime on writing letters. Practice writing letters, they don’t have to be long, and addressing envelopes. If you’re at home, set up mailboxes for each member of the household and assign each one an address. If you have young kids, just have them decorate and write the name on the envelope. If you have older kids, assign each person a street, city, state, and zip. Make a small alphabetized address book. Create your own stamps using stickers or rubber stamps. You can use an old shoe box or a tissue box for mailboxes or you can get really crafty and make some like the ones on Ikat Bag’s blog.

-Amy

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