Using picture books to teach students literary analysis skills is one of my favorite strategies to engage high school students. As a mom of two little readers, I usually find new lesson inspiration from their recommendations. Today, I am sharing a special recommendation from my daughters: “Do You Like Wild Animals?” by M.S. Gatto.
I am thrilled that my daughters love this book because it is special to me for another reason. It was written and illustrated by Aunt, Michele Gatto. I have been inspired by my Aunt’s accomplishments, interests, and talents since I was a child, and now more than ever as she published and illustrated the charming children’s book, Do You Like Wild Animals?
This children’s book was inspired by her travels around the globe: from a safari in Africa to an excursion in South America to an adventure in Australia. I love hearing about her travels and marveling at her photography. Now, kids of all ages have a window to the wild thanks to her new book.
Not only is she a talented painter and writer, but she also uses creative verse to present her research about each animal she observed on her travels. These elements make the picture book an excellent complement to every classroom.
Here are some k-12 lesson ideas to bring the magic of her travels to your classroom:
- The lyrical verse makes this picture book a fantastic read aloud. Read one animal section each day to inspire curiosity and spark discussion.
- After learning about the animals, ask students to invent a story about their favorite one.
- Assign each student one animal from the picture book. After they read their section, ask them to present their animals to the class in a reader response format describing what they like about the animal, what they learned about the animal, and what they want to know more about.
- Use this picture book as a mentor text to study style and diction. After reading the book, ask students to research an animal not listed. Then, ask students to follow the style and language to write a verse about their animals. Adding an artistic component could be a fun extension. Finally, compile these pieces into a shared book to promote authorship.
- Ask students to explain the rhetorical situation of the picture book using the author’s experience (below) and the picture book itself. This is a great way to practice rhetorical analysis.
- Use the picture book to highlight literary devices, such as tone and mood, and poetic elements, such as rhyme scheme, meter, imagery, and figurative language.
One aspect that makes this book truly special is her mission: getting books into the hands of children. That is why all proceeds from this book are being donated to schools and charities to promote literacy. You can purchase this book here.
Author Experience in Creating Do You Like Wild Animals? by M.S. Gatto
People often ask me to elaborate on how and why I created the book entitled Do You Like Wild Animals? It is my sincere pleasure to tell you the back story.
The sensory experiences during travels to Africa, Australia, and South America became the driving force behind writing and illustrating this book, Do You Like Wild Animals? Observing a wide array of animals in their natural habitats mesmerized me. I could not fathom that I had the opportunity to feed orphan elephants at an elephant orphanage in Zimbabwe, pet them, and observe them communicating with each other in their own unique ways.
On safari in South Africa, but for the necessity of abiding by the safety rules, I could just about reach out and touch even more elephants, as well as lions, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, leopards, zebras, cape buffalo and other animals in the wild. Lectures by rangers and wildlife experts enhanced newfound knowledge on which I could ruminate in between drives on the wildlife reserves.
When traveling to Iguassu Falls in Brazil and Argentina, the toucans held me spellbound. Groups would spot a toucan in a tree and try to follow it, just to get a quick glimpse. Similarly, seeing cassowaries in Australia, I marveled at these unique birds—they looked like they had visited from a prehistoric time.
Before traveling to Australia, I yearned to see marsupials up close and learn more about the novel characteristics like the pouches in which they carry their young. The Australian koalas and kangaroos did not disappoint!
An interest in animals can absorb all five senses. The sounds of the animals taught me much about their communication systems and how they use their grunts, growls, hoots, snivels, or hisses, not only to communicate with each other, but also to place their families and other members of their herds on high alert when predators approach. However, no sound could quite match that of the howler monkeys. When howler monkeys start hooting and howling, the sound is one not easily forgotten.
Many animals have keen hearing and some have ears that move in opposite directions from each other. Another extraordinary experience.
These adventures, forever in my memory bank, inspired me to begin painting the animals. I set up an art room in my home for this sole purpose. Using acrylics, I began painting 16” x 20” canvases of each of the animals in the book. After completing the first painting, I hung it on a wall facing my easels and art supplies. Before long, in front of me appeared that wall featuring nearly twenty paintings, floor to ceiling.
About a third of the way through the process I started writing poems about each animal—conveying factual information in rhyme. I sought a way to share this information with children in a manner that would be interesting, educational, and fun! Consequently, this book entitled, Do You Like Wild Animals? was born.
A book for children of all ages, Do You Like Wild Animals? enables children to learn about the animals through the rhyming fun facts while enjoying each animal’s colorful paintings.
Thank you for your interest in my book!
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