Monday, January 27, 2014


One of my favorite books to read to my class to help me teach them how to summarize a book is Arrowhawk by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska.  I teach third graders and this book is unlike any they've read before.  This book is based on a true story of a hawk that is shot by a poacher's arrow.

I do not tell the children how the book ends, I only introduce the character, the hawk.  The descriptions in the story are well written - you can hear the arrow as it streaks towards the hawk and you can feel the injuries that the hawk endures.  The story takes us through weeks of suffering as the hawk struggles to capture food with an arrow in his body, breaks a leg, and reopens the wound.

The best part of the book is the pictures.  The students react to this book and the pictures.  They feel empathy and want the bird to survive.  Usually, students start asking questions right away when I read this book.  The pictures take up the entire page and are either of the landscape and hawk soaring over fields, or they are close-ups of the hawk.  You feel like you are with him as he is shot and then struggles to capture his prey.

I just read in our textbook about how the illustrations can affect someone's understanding of the book.  So, I'm not an expert, but here are some things I noticed.

  1. If the book is opened up so you can see the entire dust jacket, you see the healthy hawk who looks like he is about to catch his prey.  Could he be whole as a cue that the hawk will survive?  
  2. The first picture and the last picture are definitely related.  Arrowhawk is free to fly in both.
  3. On the page where Arrowhawk is hit with an arrow, the arrow seems to be lighter in color and diagonal as if it is flying swiftly through the air.  
  4. After four weeks of suffering, there is a picture of Arrowhawk traveling down a dark road.  You can tell he has flown far because the road leads away from him and disappears in the distance.  
  5. The students are shocked when they see the last picture, a photo of Arrowhawk.  They realize that his story is true.  
The book ends with factual information about Arrowhawk and information about the people who helped Arrowhawk, the importance of taking care of our environment, as well as a bit more information about other raptors. The vocabulary in this part of the book is somewhat more complicated than the rest of the book, but the students enjoy having me read this section and always have more questions to ask.  It is a wonderful book to use to teach the elements of a story because the children become completely engrossed in it.

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