Literature Links

from the March/April 2000 issue (vol. 13, Issue 4) of Connect,
a publication of Synergy Learning

These examples of children's literature have been selected because they raise opportunities for inquiry of one sort or another. But you may disagree. Any high-quality children's book might raise intriguing questions for a specific child. On the other hand, our choices here might not captivate a certain reader or listener. What do you recommend? Let us know and we will publish your idea or list in a coming issue.


Weighing the Elephant bookcover

Weighing the Elephant, by Ting-xing Ye (Annick Press, 1998), tells the story of a boy and young elephant. The Emperor will take the elephant away unless the villagers can tell its weight. They have two days.

The boy, Hei-dou, devises a plan and it works, to the amazement of the villagers. Colorful and detailed illustrations by Suzane Langlois add to the story and allow you to raise other questions about the community, the elephant and the emperor.


June 29, 1999, by David Weisner (Clarion, 1995), tells of strange things happening all over the US shortly after Holly Evans launches vegetable seeds in flats into the air, lifted by weather balloons. Her science project may be the explanation for such things as, "Artichokes Advance on Anchorage" and other headlines. The book explains one approach to the scientific method while it is also a work of science fiction that has been enjoyed by teachers and students.


A River Ran Wild, by Lynne Cherry (Harcourt Brace, 1992), could be used in relation to a specific study of watersheds. Or, it could raise questions about human behavior, first about ignoring a valuable resource and then working to restore it.

Specifically, the book is about the Nashua River in eastern Massachusetts, but the story could apply to many rivers and bio-regions. Wonderful illustrations, large and small, allow for many more questions by readers.

A River Ran Wild bookcover



Wise Woman and Her Secret bookcover

The Wise Woman and Her Secret, by Eve Merriam (Simon & Schuster, 1991), tells the tale of a woman who will not reveal the secret of her wisdom. Finally, a young girl discovers it, yet she is amazed, "How can I have found it?"

Because, the old woman replies, "The secret of wisdom is to be curious . . . to keep on wandering and wondering." This is an exceptional book that also includes the criticism that the old woman faces because she believes so firmly that people must find the secret on their own. Illustrations by Linda Graves add to the story and its characters.


Who Really Killed Cock Robin? by Jean Craighead George (Dutton, 1971), is a young adult book with an exciting environmental storyline. Two eighth-graders have set out to discover why this particular robin died. After much investigation, they find the cause in a story that is believable, interesting and informative. Although its neighborly, small town environment would not be familiar to all readers, this scientific detective story remains fresh even after thirty years.

The Mystery of King Karfu, by Doug Cushman (Harper Collins, 1996), uses both story and art to tell a story and provide clues to the mystery. Readers can discover more than the text actually tells. The entire book pretends to be the notebook of the famous detective, Seymour Sleuth, with his notes, pasted-in clues and scraps of information. The text and illustrations would be of interest to many primary children, but older elementary students can raise interesting questions from careful study of the book.

Permission to post this issue of Connect granted by Synergy Learning International, Inc.

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