Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book #199: Extra! Extra! Fairy-Tale News from Hidden Forest by Alma Flor Ada, Illustrated by Leslie Tryon

Image from BarnesandNoble.com
Extra! Extra! Ada and Tryon use a clever newspaper format to tell the stories of several fairy tale characters. Through sequential issues of the Hidden Forest News classic stories, from Jack and the Beanstalk to the Tortoise and the Hare are told. The newspaper includes headlines on the strange massive beanstalk that has sprouted in the forest, op-eds on what should be done about the beanstalk, international news about Geppetto and the Half-Chicken of Mexico, as well as tongue in cheek advertisements on the back page.

The book uses illustrations in two ways. First, as black and white spot illustrations printed in the newspaper. Second, there are color illustrations that show Peter Rabbit delivering newspapers to residents all over Hidden Forest. These illustrations serve to not only show who is reading the news, but also serve as dividers between issues. Ada uses newspaper conventions, such as headlines and quotations, to provide visual, as well as textual interest. Ada’s vocabulary is rich with descriptive words to learn and share, such as “proposed,” “eliminated,” “extracted,” and “resilient.”

This book is best shared with an elementary school aged audience, as the book has a lot of text and several plots are presented at the same time. You may want to read the classic fairy tales mentioned in this book first so that kids will catch the references in the newspapers. After you read the book, have the kids help you make a list of all the fairy tales and characters mentioned in the newspaper.

After you read the first issue, encourage the kids to volunteer to read the next column or headline. Make sure to note the date of each newspaper as you read and refer back to the last issue so that everyone can see how many days have passed. As you read, discuss the difference between news stories and the opinion-editorials. Which type of story presents the facts and which one is written from a personal point of view? Why do you think it’s important for the newspaper to include both?  

Best of all, have the kids make their own newspaper. You can complete a simple newspaper in a few short hours or you can stretch this project out over days, weeks, or months. If you want them to write about other fairy tale characters provide collections and picture book variations and versions of fairy tales for the kids to use as source materials. Other possible topics for a newspaper include news from:
  • A single children’s book (such as Roald Dahl’s Matilda)
  • A children’s book series (think Encyclopedia Brown, Harry Potter, or The Penderwicks)
  • A specific genre (such as mystery or fantasy)
  • A single author/illustrator’s works (such as Shel Silverstein or Tomie DePaola)
  • A favorite movie
  • Or people/animals in a certain location (like animals in the zoo or sea creatures in an aquarium).

Have the kids make a list of the types of columns to be included in the newspaper (headlines, sports section, op-eds, ads, etc.). Then you’ll need to assign writers to each column, choose a name for the newspaper, and don’t forget to include illustrations! If you have a digital camera, you can also give the kids the option of acting out a scene so a picture can be included in the paper.

Depending on the technology and the kids preference, you can create the newspaper in a completely digital format, it can be all hand-written/drawn and then scanned, or you can create a combination of the two techniques. Just make sure you have a way to print copies of the newspaper for everyone in the group. If you have the money, you may want to print off extra copies that can be delivered to other classes/groups or posted on a community board.

Consider letting your local newspaper know that your library is hosting such a program, they may want to feature reporters in the making. A great confidence boost for the kids and good marketing for the library!

For more news about the residents of Hidden Forest, check out Ada’s other books including With Love, Little Red Hen, Yours Truly Goldilocks, and Dear Peter Rabbit. Each of these books presents information as letters written from and to fairy tale characters.


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