Reading Set # 5 – Fantasy

wizard Chapter 7 – Fantasy – Reflection dragon

The genre of fantasy, like other genres, has subcategories within it.  In fantasy there is low fantasy, which takes place in the world we know but there is some unreal element to it, such as animals talking, magical powers, tiny people, toys personified, and time slips.  High fantasy indicates that a story setting will take place on a whole other planet or world in addition to having magical elements.  Ghost stories also fall into the low fantasy category because the creatures usually mix in with the world as we know it, which is what makes them so scary.

Many books in this genre are written as a series, and once readers become invested with the characters and the setting, they will eagerly anticipate each new addition.  According to Vardell (2008), “Some experts say people often become lifelong readers because of series books”(p. 211).

Science fiction is also considered fantasy, but often it includes complicated vocabulary, landscapes, and technology so it is considered more appropriate for older readers.  Fantasy has always been my favorite genre, probably because as Vardell (2008) put it, it has a “what if” (p. 204), quality to it.  Anything is possible, so an author creativity can run wild, and as a reader your imagination can tag along for the ride.

Vardell, S.M. (2008).  Children’s literature in action:  a librarian’s guide. Westport, Conn.:  Libraries Unlimited.


the underneath Author: Kathi Appelt

underneath author

Appelt, K. (2008). The underneath. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Deep in the woods of the Texas-Louisiana border a hound dog named Ranger is chained up to his abusive owner’s house.  Ranger offers the protection of the porch, “The Underneath,” to a mama cat who has been abandoned by her owners.  Shortly after she arrives, she gives birth to  a couple of kittens.  Ranger wants to protect them, and warns them not to be spotted by his owner, Gar Face, otherwise he’d make alligator bait out of them.  Eventually, the curious little kittens are seen by Gar Face and he takes Puck and his mama and intends to use them as bait for Alligator King.  Ranger tries to protect them from his owner, and gets a horrible beating for his efforts.  Just as Ranger hits rock bottom and is filled with a sense of hopelessness, the mythical shape shifting creatures that have had their own story line interact with the Ranger and the kittens.  With the help of these mythical creatures Ranger and the kittens are finally free and able to start their own lives together.

The events in this story are sad, and sickening, but the theme of abuse can truly be analyzed.  Gar Face was they way he was for a reason, and even elementary aged children can make the connection between how Gar Face was treated and how he treats the animals.  This story also lends itself to study the mythology behind Grandmother Moccasin, and the similarities and differences between her and Lamia from Greek mythology.  Students can extend this activity even further by comparing Grandmother, and Lamia, to the Mexican-American myth of La Llorona.

See the book trailer here!

Click on the link below for a literature guide for The Underneath.


the graveyard book Author: Neil Gaiman

graveyard author

Gaiman, N. (2008). The graveyard book. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Nobody Owens, or Bod for short, is raised in the historical graveyard by home after his family was murdered when he was a toddler.  The man Jack who killed his family wanted to kill Bod as well, but the residents of the graveyard are able to conceal and protect the baby.  The Owens’ adopt him, and Silas is his guardian.  The give him the Freedom of the Graveyard, and he learns how to fade and haunt.  As the years pass, the inhabitants of the graveyard serve as his teachers, playmates, and friends.  Silas begins leaving for longer and longer periods of time, and Bod soon discovers that he has been fighting a war against the man Jack’s awful, evil organization that sole purpose has become to destroy Bod.   It is up to Bod, now a teenager, to get rid of the man Jack and the organization he belongs to once and for all.  Bod is successful with the help of his family and friends.  Shortly afterwards, Bod begins losing his ghost-like abilities and is sent out into the world of the living to experience life for himself.

Dead or alive, this book’s main focus is on the importance of family and friends.  As dark as it may seem, there is still space for a coming of age romantic aspect, that doesn’t really get a chance to unfold.  When Bod temporarily get to go to a regular school, the theme of bullies is presented, along with the consequences of manipulation.  The bittersweet ending, requires a tissue, and focuses on a mother/son relationship, no matter how unusual.

The characteristics of the fantasy (ghost story) genre abound in this novel.  Students will be able to analyze the characteristics chapter by chapter.

Watch the book trailer here

A teaching guide is provided by Harper Collins Publishers

The Graveyard Book Teaching Guide


rapunzels revenge Authors: Shannon & Dean Hale

rapunzels revenge authors

Hale, S. (2008). Rapunzel’s revenge. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

This is a Western version of Rapunzel who isn’t exactly a helpless damsel in distress.  Rapunzel’s evil stepmother, Mother Gothel, encapsulates her in a giant tower like tree when Rapunzel discovers she was kidnapped from her real mother as a small child – and that her mother is still alive in the mines.  After five years of living in the tower, Rapunzel is able to escape with the help of her braided rope hair.  Through magic, Mother Gothel, has control of all the vegetation in the land, making a wasteland of the neighboring towns.  Rapunzel meets up with Jack (remember the beanstalk?), and together they set out to save Rapunzel’s real mother, and destroy Mother Gothel.

This graphic novel, with its adventure comic appeal, is sure to get even the most reluctant reader engaged.  The combination of adventure and romance will have boys and girls alike reading.  Graphic novels such as this one is also a great choice for an English Language Learner who will be able to use the visual support of the illustrations for context clues.

While this is not the traditional fairy tale, it does have traditional elements such as good vs. evil theme, magical elements, sacrificing for the greater good, and true love’s first kiss.

Get to know a little about the author here:

Keep up with her on her official website!

Ideas on how to use Rapunzel’s Revenge in the classroom can be found on her website.


untitled Authors: Jennifer L. & Matthew Holm


Holm, J & M. (2011). Babymouse queen of the world. New York, NY: Random House.

Besides wanting to be Queen of the World, Babymouse wants to be invited to Felicia Furrypaw’s slumber party.  Anybody who’s anybody is going, and Babymouse will do anything, including giving Felicia her book report.  When she finally gets an invitation, she realizes that she’ll have to stand up her best friend Wilson in order to go.  The party wasn’t all she thought it would be, and she leaves early and heads to Wilson’s house to watch the movie they had planned to watch.  She realizes she already is living the good life with her real true friends, good books, and yummy cupcakes!

The illustrations are done in black and white with splashes of pink here and there.  The cover art and graphics has a “girlie” feel to it, but the stories are so funny both girls and boys will be drawn to this graphic novel.  The story has the themes that are most important to elementary school children:  the importance of friendship, being yourself, and dealing with bullies and bad whisker days.

Because of the illustrations that can be used as context clues, reluctant readers and English Language Learners will be eager to read the humorous adventures of Babymouse.  Avid readers will love the story lines as well, making this book a great choice to use in a heterogeneous classroom.

Get kids really hooked with the Babymouse song!  It’s not your “typical” intro to a book! 😉

To learn a little bit more about Babymouse watch the book trailer here:

Babymouse activities can be found on the Random House Kids website by clicking on the link below:

In addition, Random House provides Book Notes Teacher’s Guide that can be accessed by clicking on the following link: Babymouse Teacher’s Guide


 Author: Jarrett J. Krosoczka

lunch lady author

Krosoczka, J. (2009). Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

The school and local librarians have banded together and stolen fundraiser money in order to prevent the release of the new video game console system.  The Lunch Lady and her trusty sidekick Betty discover what the librarians are up to using their spy cam.  They try to stop the librarians, and are almost defeated by them until the Breakfast Bunch come to their aid.  The librarians are arrested, and the Lunch Lady steps in as librarian.  She uses the new video game system as an incentive during the school Read-A-Thon.

Krosoczka’s illustrations are drawn in four colors:  white, black, gray, and yellow.  He uses yellow in his illustrations for punch and to draw the eye towards key elements.  The action comic style of the Lunch Lady series is another excellent choice for reluctant readers.  This graphic novel will attract readers of all genders and ages.   The action packed plots read like the TV shows they watch.  English Language Learners will also enjoy these fast paced plots because they will be able to use the illustrations to help fill in any gaps they may have with the language.

This series has the classic themes of good vs. evil, teamwork, never giving up, and doing the right thing that most comic books storylines contain, therefore teachers can compare and contrast the heroes of various series.

Watch the book trailer here:

Lunch Lady: Jarrett Krosoczka Interview – Video

Random House Kids has a couple of downloadable activities you can access by clicking the link.

Random House also has a 6-page Educator’s Guide to Graphic Novels for teachers and librarians.  It is in PDF format, and can be accessed here: Educators Guide to Graphic Novels


skulld Author: Derek Landy

skull author

Landy, D. (2007). Skulduggery pleasant. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Gordon, a horror novelist, dies suddenly and leaves practically everything to his 12-year old niece, Stephanie.  On the first night she stays at her uncle’s mansion, she is attacked.  A strange friend of her uncle’s, Skulduggery Pleasant, comes to Stephanie’s rescue, and she soon discovers that he is actually a skeleton held together by magic.  Stephanie becomes Skulduggery’s apprentice and they head out to save the world from the Sceptre of the Ancients.

This book takes off from the first paragraph, and reads easily throughout.  The characters in the story are very well developed making this a great novel to use for character studies.  The magical, though dangerous and evil world of Skulduggery will engage readers’ imaginations.

Q & A with Skulduggery Pleasant’s author Derek Landy

Listen to the audiobook here (Part I)

(Part II)

HarperCollins publishers provides a teaching resource guide for the  novel.  Click on the link to access the PDF file. TeachingSkulduggeryPleasant

hugo Author: Brian Selznick

hugo author

Selznick, B. (2007). The invention of Hugo Cabret. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Hugo, a 12-year-old orphaned boy is secretly lives and works as a clock keeper with a Paris train station.  He finds an automaton that his father was fixing before his death in a fire, and decides to continue working on it.  Hugo befriends Isabelle, the spirited adopted daughter of the toymaker in the station that Hugo has been stealing parts from.  She has the key to start the automaton.  The pair soon discover that the toymaker is actually the famous French silent movie pioneer, Georges Méliès, who was thought to be dead.  Hugo is able to renew George’s interest in films, and becomes part of the family.

He uses the idea of Méliès silent films to tell parts of story solely with black and white illustrations. His incredibly detailed illustrations can be used as picture writes, and studies in inference.  The themes of hope, family, and creativity (through machines and film) can be analyzed with this work.

Watch the book trailer here:

Scholastic’s website offers interactive activities based on Selznick’s novel. Click on the link to take you there!

Find even more useful resources at Web English Teacher’s site:

Watch an interview with Brian Selznick, and find out what inspired his book.

Smart Chick offers, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by B. Selznick, HUGE Literature Unit on Teachers Pay Teachers.  This 74-page unit includes a novel study, activities, and printables for $9.99!  Find it at the link below:

big guy ball Author: Mo Willems

big guy author

Willems, M. (2013). A big guy took my ball. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Piggie finds a big ball, and a big guy takes it away.  Piggie goes to her best friend, Gerald the elephant for help, and whines that “big guys have all the fun.”  Gerald is happy to help Piggie until he sees the “big guy” for himself, and realizes that he’s actually an enormous whale, and he had taken the little ball because it belonged to him.  Piggie and Gerald also discover that the whale is sad because no one likes to play with him and says that the “little guys have all the fun.”  Gerald finds a way for them to all play together.

The theme and characters of this story are endearing. The friendship between the two main characters is like many of the reader’s real life relationships. They are easy to identify with. The theme of inclusion is a strong theme in many elementary school classrooms. That’s why this story would fit in perfectly.

Students can discuss the importance of friendship, acceptance, and inclusion.  This easy reader is also a useful introduction to the concept of perspective and point of view.

Watch the book trailer here:

Click on the next video to get Mo’s take on what it’s like to win a Geisel Award.

Here’s an interview with Mo Willems as he discusses what it’s like to be an author.

For Elephant and Pig activities click on the link below.

Elephant and Pig Event Kit


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