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Aug 16 / The Teacher Geek

Mentor Text Monday: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

What is a mentor text? For me, it’s a trade book that I use in class (either as a read aloud or as an excerpt) to enhance the teaching of reading and writing at all grade levels. Mentor Text Monday is a new feature on Th

e Teacher Geek. Here, I will showcase my favorites and give you tips on how to use them in your teaching. Note that these entries are not to be construed as a larger unit study around the book (though you could certainly use these ideas to create one), nor are they to be considered book reviews. Enjoy!


EdwardTulane

Have you ever cried in front of your students? I have, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Three times, in fact. Each of those three times was during a read aloud of the last paragraph of Kate DiCamillo’s beautiful book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. This elegant and charming book is a good read for upper-elementary students, grade 3 and up, due to the sophisticated vocabulary and mature issues (such as death and child abuse).

Here are some ways you can use this book in your classroom:

Author’s Voice: Edward Tulane, a rabbit made of china, doesn’t talk. But he THINKS, and the people around him don’t know that he thinks. Only the passive narrator knows what’s going on in Edward’s head. This in and of itself is an interesting teachable moment about 1st versus 3rd person. As an author, DiCamillo has a sly ability to craft the mood and imagery of a time and place like no other. We don’t know exactly where and when it takes place, but you can imagine a time when steam liners crossed oceans, hobos jumped trains, and child welfare agencies didn’t exist. Compare this book to the southern twang and charm of her other best seller, Because of Winn Dixie, and you’re halfway to a fascinating author study.

Vocabulary: Get out your sticky-note flags: Within the first two pages, you will encounter words like jaunty, ennui, exceptional, unsavory, and commissioned. What exquisite words to play with! In order for students to fully enjoy this book as a read aloud, I suggest previewing the vocabulary on a chart beforehand, then simply referencing the chart while you read. You can certainly do more with the vocabulary words, but this is a good starting point. Be sure to put students’ favorite words on your Word Wall.

Inferring: As mentioned above, the author doesn’t mention a specific time or place to the book, and the settings change several times throughout. There are many opportunities for students to read between the lines, and to figure out what Edward, the title character is going through. Which leads me to…

Character Study: The title eludes to a journey, and Edward not only goes on a physical journey, but an emotional and spiritual one as well. As a character, we see his faults, and how they evolve as he survives mishap after mishap. He has to learn to love and deal with loss of love, and at one point becomes so despondent that he wants to give up. In the satisfying ending, he comes full-circle with his emotions. Edward Tulane was my mentor text for a 5th grade character study unit, and it truly fit the bill.

Have you used this book in your classroom? Please share in the comments. Happy reading, and be sure to have tissues at the ready!

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