A Note to Readers
I am so thrilled to welcome my friend and debut group member Leah Rose Kessler to the blog to talk about her new picture book Rat Fair. This nearly wordless picture book is full of so much kindness and joy–I just love it! And wait until you see the amazing tools Leah has to offer for using Rat Fair in your classroom! You will LOVE this!
Teaching Rat Fair
Tell us about your book.
RAT FAIR is a nearly wordless picture book about a group of rats who find letters fallen from an ART FAIR sign and put them back together to spell RAT FAIR. It’s a light-hearted look at what would happen if rats set about building a fair for themselves. On a deeper level it’s a story about perseverance, creativity, and kindness.
What do you hope your young readers will take away from your book?
I hope the rich illustrations in this book feel as warm and inviting to young readers as they do to me. My wish is that readers feel like they’ve been welcomed into the rats’ secret world and leave with a sense that they’ve been included in something special.
How might a teacher or librarian use your book in the classroom?
RAT and ART, two of the three words used in the book, are anagrams. You can use this as a jumping off point to explore other anagrams such as STOP and POTS. You can also pick any word or phrase and ask the students to see how many new words they can make by rearranging the letters. For example: How many different words can you make from the letters in RAT ART FAIR? (Be forewarned; one of them is FART!)
RAT FAIR can be used to talk about sequencing and time of day. Rats are nocturnal animals and most of their scenes in the book happen at night or dawn. Prompt students to look for details that might tell them what time of day it is on different pages (the color of the sky, the absence or presence of electric lights, etc.). Discuss what the characters on the page are doing and what the characters off the page might be doing at the same time.
More generally, wordless books like RAT FAIR are terrific tools for introducing and practicing all kinds of Language Arts skills. Early elementary students are expected to have repeated experience with a variety of literacy concepts such as sequencing, story structure (beginning, middle, end), summarizing, action and reaction, and point of view.
Introducing and practicing all of these concepts (and more!) with a wordless text makes for an easy-entry lesson for students who may not be confident in their reading or writing skills, and a fun activity for all. Focusing on visual details, predicting what will happen next, and practicing flipping back a few pages to check facts, are all important literacy skills that can be done in books without text.
Can you share an exercise or activity that teachers can do with students after they’ve read your book?
The free curriculum guide available on my website (leahrosekessler.com) includes pre-reading questions, guided reading questions, and extension activities, and I’ll be adding printable activity pages to my website over the next couple of months.
A fun activity you can do with little to no prep is to either have your students draw a rat or have a rat they can color and/or cut out, then look at the full page spreads in Rat Fair such as the one showing the rats’ village. Brainstorm other locations that a rat might enjoy, like a playground, a store, a bedroom, and have the students create a scene for their rat to enjoy using markers, crayons, or collage.
What book(s) work well with your book?
RAT FAIR lends itself particularly well to discussing different points of view. There are two distinct points of view built into the story: the rats’ and the humans’. And within those broad categories, you can use the facial expressions and actions visible in the images as a jumping off point to discuss how even people experiencing the same event might have different feelings about it.
For a study of point of view, RAT FAIR pairs well with Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, which features a family of mice going on about their business in the illustrations while a family of humans up above drives the narrative.
They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel is a story with a more extreme take on different points of view. It could also make for good discussion in conjunction with Rat Fair.
About the author. Leah Rose Kessler graduated from Carleton College with a BA in Biology and a tremendous love for reading and writing. She has worked as a science educator, a curriculum specialist, and a lab manager. Currently, she’s an on-again, off-again elementary school teacher with a passion for brainstorming creative ways to get students excited about learning.