Saturday, May 18, 2013

Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli, Illustrated by Matt Phelan

Image from

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007
Diana loves her yellow house with the white shutters and everyone who lives in and around it. She loves her parents, her best friend Rose, and even her annoying little sister, Twink. She loves the bedroom that she and Rose have painted the color of the night sky and the baby birds that have nested in the willow wreath on the front door. But now Diana has to say goodbye to all of that because her father lost his job and the family has to move all the way across Pennsylvania to live with Grandpa Joe. Diana doesn’t want to move and she channels her sad, mad, mixed up feelings into her poetry. But after a while, and a lot of poems, Diana realizes her new home, with its white stucco walls and red geraniums, isn’t so bad after all.

In a series of free verse poems (“It doesn’t rhyme” says Twink) Diana describes her world with energy, passion, and love. Spinelli’s gentle, yet clever, poems capture the desires and emotions of an elementary school aged girl. The poems are arranged chronologically and each one is a quick snapshot. Some poems are short reflections on a person or incident and some are lists, like “My Six Favorite Star Facts” and “Six Reasons We Have to Move.” Phelan’s greyscale pencil illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book. They realistically depict scenes from Diana’s life as if they were candid photos. This creates a scrapbook-like feeling. The illustrations create visual interest, especially nice for early readers, but poems can be understood and appreciated with or without the illustrations. This is a very quick read, great for an early chapter or poetry book club.

*This is a great book to share before/during/after moving. Talk about the feelings Diana had about moving (sad, mad, mixed up), what she had to say goodbye to, and what she discovered at her new home.

*Diana loves astronomy, so bring in some non-fiction books on the planets and constellations.

*The book is short enough to be read aloud in an hour or so. Practice oral fluency by having each student read a poem. Encourage kids to write their own free verse poem, maybe about where they live or a list of six things, like Diana does in the book. More ideas in the educator’s guide from the Libraries of the Edwards County School District.

            Bird by Zetta Elliott, Illustrated by Shadra Strickland
            Eva of the Farm by Dia Calhoun, Illustrated by Kate Slater

*Other chapter books by Eileen Spinelli:
            The Best Story Ever Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
            The Dancing Pancake Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
            Summertime House Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Age 6+ / Grade 1+


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