Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Help for letter-writing, and silly word games

Sometimes books can be just silly fun to read. Playing with language can be a new way to explore words and their meanings -- here is a selection of books about language used in unexpected ways, from goofy sentences to word games. You can find these books by using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog! And Other Palindromes, by Jon Agee (Farrar Straus Giroux) Nonfiction. Palindromes are words, phrases, and sometimes whole sentences that read exactly the same backwards and forwards (read the title "Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog!" backwards). This knee-slapper of a book is jam-packed with palindromes like "Mr. Owl ate my metal worm," each of them illustrated with its own cartoon. Word aficionados may also want to check out Elvis Lives, the author's book of anagrams, and his book of oxymorons, Who Ordered the Jumbo Shrimp?

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster; illustrated by Jules Feiffer (Epstein & Carroll) Fantasy. Milo is bore
d--really bored. He just can't see the point in anything, so when a tollbooth appears in his bedroom out of nowhere, he blithely pays the toll and drives his toy car through...to a completely amazing and altogether unfamiliar place. Soon he's off on an adventure filled with peril, bizarre beasts, and its fair share of outright silliness, hoping to rescue twin princesses Rhyme and Reason and unite a divided kingdom. With more puns, wordplay, and over-the-top literalism than you can shake a stick at, this wondrous story is a word-lover's dream.

Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks, by Kate Klise (Avon Books) Fiction. Replacing a leaky water fountain should be simple, right? Dry Creek Middle School's principal thinks so when he requests a catalog from Flowing Waters Fountains, Etc. But in reply, artist and fountain designer Florence Waters informs him that all of her fountains are custom-made. Soon Ms. Waters is polling the fifth-graders for design ideas (they're in favor of auxiliary chocolate-milk dispensers) and planning an increasingly elaborate fountain ("Do you all have scuba gear?", she writes)--while a history class uncovers a sinister plot to halt the fountain's construction. Told entirely in letters, memos, transcripts, newspaper articles, and the like, this sublimely ridiculous story is filled with wordplay, puns, and clues to the mystery.

Word Nerd, by Susin Nielsen-Fernlund (Tundra Books) Fiction. As 12-year-old Ambrose's airways begin to constrict, he realizes that a trio of bullies have tampered with his sandwich and he visualizes the news headline "FRIENDLESS NERD KILLED BY PEANUT." Ambrose survives, but his panicked mom decrees that he'll be home-schooled from now on. While she works nights, Ambrose pesters their landlords' grown son, Cosmo, for lack of anything better to do. When Ambrose, who loves Scrabble and is constantly re-arranging letter combinations in his head, cons Cosmo into accompanying him to the weekly meetings of a Scrabble Club (without his mom's consent), neither of them has any idea of the misadventures ahead of them. Ambrose is a quirky, unforgettable character, and while anyone who likes a good laugh will enjoy this story, word nerds will love it.

Help for letter-writing

From Joanne Meier's weekly blog at the Reading Rockets website, here are some resources to help encourage and improve kids' letter-writing skills:

It is the time of year when many children sit down to write an important letter addressed to the North Pole. Other children pen thank you notes and party invitations during this busy time of the year. Some say letter writing is a lost art, but it doesn’t have to be!

An Introduction to Letter Writing covers activities for many common types of letter writing, including formal and informal letters, thank you notes, letters of complaint, and more. For kids who prefer to work online, or need a more step-by-step approach, try Read, Write, Think's Letter Generator. It's set up to help kids write either a friendly letter or a business letter.

For character-related fun, the Arthur section on the PBS Kids website has a Letter Writer Helper that shows kids the various parts of a "good old-fashioned" letter, an email, a greeting card, and a postcard. Staying within that site, kids can use Letters To to help them write to Arthur, Francine, Sue Ellen, or The Brain.

If you're wondering whether you have realistic expectations about your child's writing, some of the links within this section on Education.com can help you understand what to expect in writing by age and grade.

Whatever the reason for writing, hopefully these resources will help.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for highlighting resources from ReadWriteThink. We are very proud of what we have to offer on the site! If you are interested, we pay educators in the field to publish lesson plans and share teaching ideas. Let me know if you would like more information.