So glad we got involved in this book project the first year out. It has opened us up to so many interesting books and activities.
This year the 3rd Annual Booking Across the USA hosted by Jodie at Growing Book by Book is about choosing a children’s author or illustrator that was born in, lived in or currently lives in your state. After reading a book of theirs we are to create an activity or craft to compliment it.
Our state is Maine and we are so lucky to have connections to many wonderful authors and illustrators of children’s books. Many of these books are enjoyed on a regular basis in our shared reading times.
For this activity I decided to look for an author I had not read with the children as often. Chris Van Dusen caught my attention when I saw the title: The Circus Ship. Last year in our study of Maine and reading about the islands off our coastline there was a story about a circus ship catching fire off an island. I wondered if there might be a connection. There was! In looking farther into his books I found many would also fit nicely into the focus on rhyming books we had in March. The children really enjoyed the Mr Magee books: Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee and Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee. They were silly and based on experiences many of them are aware of or have done.
Chris Van Dusen was born in Portland, Maine, 3/16/1960. As a child, he would spend hours drawing with his brothers. He loved the work of Dr. Seuss for the rhythm of the words and Robert McCloskey’s (who also lived in Maine) detailed illustrations.
After college Chris started drawing cartoons and illustrations for a magazine for teenagers. He worked as a freelance illustrator for 10 years specializing in art for kids with work appearing in magazines like Nickelodeon, Family Fun and Disney Adventures. His first book, “Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee” was published in 2000 and he has been busy writing and illustrating children’s books since.
Chris lives in a town on the coast of Maine with his wife and two sons. Many of his books are pulled from his experiences in Maine.
Chris has a really nice website with links to his books, bio informaton, and a blog. It is worth checking out especially if you are going to share some of his books with young children. I’ve always found children love learning more about the authors and illustrators of books shared with them. We enjoyed the FAQ sections where we found out the idea for The Circus Ship came from a magazine article he read. The book was inspired by the historic event of the wreckage of The Royal Tar, which sank off the coast of Maine in 1836.
Now for more on The Circus Ship ~
- 2009 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award Winner
- 2009 Lupine Award Winner
- 2009 Minnesota State University Moorhead Comstock Honor Book
- 2010 Read With ME book
A circus ship on it’s way to Boston for a show runs into some bad weather and runs aground off the coast of Maine. The circus owner (Mr. Paine) and ship’s captain row to safety on the mainland, but the circus animals are left behind. They make their own way to shore on an island. The local islanders were not sure what to make of the circus animals viewing them with suspicion. Somethng happens to change that and the islanders help the animals in return.
When I preread the book I realized this was going to be an interactive book for my current group of puzzle lovers. We do lots of puzzles, mazes and I Spy activities here and there is one section of the book when it is open which works perfectly for an I Spy activity. I had a pile of unifix cubes on hand and when I got to the correct page I asked the children to count out the animals using their fingers as I read the story. I then stopped and we counted out the right number of unifix cubes. Now it was time for the children to find the animals that the island locals had helped to hide on the island when Mr. Paine returned to claim them.
The children placed a cube wherever they found a hidden circus animal. We then got to practice our counting again as we uncovered the animals and put the cubes away. Can you make out the camel in the hay field, bear on the bike and giraffe as a flag pole?
After finishing the story we talked about what you might see at a circus. Popcorn was mentioned a couple of times and I took that into a rhyming activity for another day.
Using rectangles of read construction paper and gluing on strips of white I made a popcorn box. I added labels that had worked with word families we have been doing other activities around.
Then it was just a matter of using yellow scrap paper for cut out popcorn kernels and writing letters on them that the children could pull from a bowl and make a word with. Once used the kernel was placed with it’s container. At the end we had groups of rhyming words.
I later made more kernels and wrote out words for different word families. This allowed the children to sort out the words to the right popcorn box. For one of my children who is really into words this was a nice extension and had her reading.
The book is back to the library and the popcorn boxes and kernels are into our activity drawers for free play choice.