Pairing Novels with Picture Books ~ Flora and Ulysses and The Secret Life of Squirrels

We read and use novels for our reading instruction.  As a way to teach additional skills and to integrate writing into this reading instruction, we often use picture books that are related to the novel we are reading.  We will be reading the book, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DeCamillo next.  This is such a great book.  Not only is it a Newbery Winner, the topic is so kid friendly and easy to read!  The kids will LOVE this book, I am sure!


Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo.

It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry — and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart. From #1 New York Timesbest-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format — a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell.

One of the picture books we are going to use with this novel is, The Secret Life of Squirrels, by Nancy Rose.


Adorable squirrels as you’ve never seen them!

You may think you know what squirrels do all day…but Mr. Peanuts is no ordinary squirrel. Instead of climbing tress, he plays the piano. (“Moonlight Sonutta” is his favorite.) Instead of scurrying through the woods, he reads books (such as A Tail of Two Cities). But everything is more fun with company, so Mr. Peanuts writes a letter to Cousin Squirrel and invites him for a visit!
Featuring candid photographs of wild squirrels in handcrafted, homemade miniature settings, this irresistible book is sure to surprise and delight readers and animal lovers of every age!
We will use this picture book as a mentor text for a writing project.  Students will write their own “Secret Life of ____________” pieces on the animal of their choice.  I think they will really get into this writing project.  They will need to do some additional research about the animal they have chosen to use, so we will need to use our Chromebooks or non-fiction books from the library.
I am also planning on having the students write informational reports on squirrels.  I found a great book to get for each of the six tables as a resource.  Here it is…

Did you know that a groundhog is really a type of squirrel? That squirrels control their body temperature with their tails? That most squirrels have yellow-tinted eye lenses that work like sunglasses to reduce glare? That tree squirrels can turn their hind feet completely around when climbing down a tree head-first? In Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide, Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie Ferrell unveil the fascinating world of one of the “most watched” mammals on the planet.

The diversity of squirrels is astounding. There are 278 species that inhabit all continents except Antarctica and Australia—varying in size from the lumbering 18-pound gray marmot to the graceful pygmy flying squirrel that is smaller than most mice. In many parts of the world they readily share human habitats, joining us for lunch in a city park, raiding our bird feeders, and sneaking into college dorm rooms through open windows. Reviled as pests or loved as an endearing amusement, squirrels have played important roles in trade, literature, and mythology.

Thorington and Ferrell cover every aspect of this diverse animal family, from the first squirrels of 36 million years ago to the present day. With over one hundred photographs and an intuitive question-and-answer format, this authoritative and engaging guide sheds light on a common mammal that is anything but commonplace.

I have created a novel unit for the book.  I am currently working on adding a writing section to the unit for the writing elements, so stay tuned!
*Click on any of the pictures to go to the links to purchase the books and/or the unit!
We will also be doing comic strips and we will be working on Superhero STEM Challenges, as well!
I know the kids will love trying out these Superhero STEM challenges!  I have been working out some additional ideas as well, like inventing our own superheroes, etc.
Do you have any other great ideas to use with this novel?  Please share in the comments section!

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