Seven Hills Elementary March 2011 Book of the Month Mr. Peabody’s Apples Written by Madonna power of your words!” “Remember the Illustrated by Loren Long Mr. Peabody’s Apples is the story about the power of words, the vulnerability of perception and the importance of community. It tells of how one man’s innocent actions, when viewed from the wrong perception, leads to the near-ruin of his reputation. Each Saturday after the game, Mr. Peabody, the respected history teacher and baseball coach of Happville, helps himself to the shiniest apple he can find in Mr. Funkadeli’s fruit market. Tommy, one of Mr. Peabody’s players and students, sees him taking the apple without apparently paying for it, and immediately assumes that Mr. Peabody is a thief. He spreads the word around town and, before long; the same townsfolk who had only recently been his friends shun Mr. Peabody. When the fact that Mr. Peabody actually pays for his apple in advance comes out, it offers him an opportunity to teach Tommy a valuable lesson about community, trust and the power of words. By having Tommy split open a feather-filled pillow into the wind and telling him, “Each feather represents a person in Happville,” Mr. Peabody creatively illustrates (he is a teacher, after all!) the wide reach that words carry. By having Tommy pick up each feather, Mr. Peabody helps him learn the work that it takes to undo misused words and the impact that even the slightest words can have on an entire community. I chose Mr. Peadbody’s Apples as our March book of the month because I think it illustrates the March character trait very well. Although Tommy wasn’t purposely being dishonest, he did spread a lie about Mr. Peadbody. This story shows how our words can really harm a person feelings and reputation. We hope that students will realize how powerful their words are in positive and negative ways. Recognizing the power of words obviously has huge implications for us. Words have a life of their own. Teaching students to appreciate this fact is what we live for as teachers. If our students walk away from our classrooms with nothing other than having been affected by the awesome impact that words – the written word in particular, can have – then we have been successful. For all of the power that words carry, one of the more telling pieces of Mr. Peabody’s Apples is the wordless last page. There on the bed sewn back together with imperfect stitches is the pillow with most of its feathers put back in. Even more interesting what does that pillow look like? Though difficult and no doubt tedious, Tommy was apparently able to piece back together the broken pieces of his mistake. What do you see through the window? What do you know after seeing this last page of the book? Does it need words? A misplaced word, a conclusion too quickly arrived upon or too tightly held to, or a choice to isolate one can all lead to feathers blowing in the wind. Discuss the words: honesty, dishonesty, lies and rumors Are lies different from rumors? Create a chart that students can record experiences that required students to be honest when it was hard. Play the telephone game with the students and discuss how rumors can get started. Fill a bag with leaves or flowers, take them outside, and let them blow away. Use this to show them the idea of taking back your words and hard that is. Have the students write a newspaper article about the story. Have the students illustrate their article. 3rd-5th grade students have been very engulfed in TAKS practice. Use Mr. Peabody’s Apples to allow the students create different graphic organizers that can be used. Also, have the students create their own TAKS formatted questions about the book. Discuss with them the types of questions that are on TAKS, and do not allow them to write simple knowledge questions. Students can switch questions with each other. Explore the dialog in the book, and have students pull a previous written narrative piece and add dialog to it. Analyze the characters of the book using text evidence from the book. For instance, what does the way Mr. Peabody handle the rumor tell about him? Do you think that Tommy is a bad boy because he spread the rumor? Write about a time you had to be honest even though it was hard. Write about a time you were dishonest and what happened as a result of your dishonesty. Did you learn a lesson?