What would happen if someone stole the moon and sun?
Such a plot unfolds in Louhi, Witch of North Farm. This picture book, with a retelling by Toni De Gerez and illustrations by Barbara Cooney, portrays a story from Finland’s epic poem, the Kalevala,. Through the rich text and poetic pictures, mystical characters share their magical powers and, perhaps, more powerful, their connections to nature.
Introducing the book:
Depending on the depth and breadth of our study, I would use this book with first through fourth graders. This could easily be a Winter long thematic unit, bringing us into Spring with the return of the sun, growth, plant life etc. I’d first read it aloud during group story and scaffold it with a discussion (I have an idea of the themes I recognize, but this would be a good opportunity to tap into the students’ interests). During the following days, I might read it again and invite the community to listen and think of one of the themes – listen and really imagine the mystical happenings–How does it feel to dream into animals and forge a great sun or moon? – listen and then afterwards record their thoughts in their journals and later we would act them out on our stage (Vivian Paley style).
A taste of possible theme related activities:
The book offers a variety of curricular opportunities ranging from scientific inquiry to poem writing, and
Louhi also dreams herself into various creatures; our supporting journal entries could be: What animal would you dream into? How would you feel? Move? – this could even stem into an aside research project on their individual animals) creative movement and guided imagery could enrich the ecology of the imagination and bring the children’s experience into that of the story’s. The text also introduces folklore, and magical characters such as Vainamoinen (the great singer, boat maker, and knower) and Seppo (the great smith), the class can use these characters to connect to different folklore we have.
Other relevant studies include: skiing; the different qualities in snow; the importance of the sun and moon; animal connections; Finland; Scandinavian culture; epic poems; links to Native American poems and changing animals; creative movement; log home building; blacksmithing. Beyond concrete academics, this book fosters a compassionate bond with nature, and with others. If we only think of our wants or needs, the community could suffer. We must remember we are all in this together, all a team taking care of the earth which sustains us. Good notions to help children to consider.
Poetic Language and Creative Writing
This text offers a variety of graceful images, like Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, and children gain a lovely sense of appreciation of such through reading this book. Phrases such as “down a cloud hill,” “the wind howled angrily,” and “all is still except for Vainamoinen,” invite children to expansively wonder and marvel at the magic of life. When is all still for you? How do you feel? How does it sound? How do you get there? Who is with you? How would it feel to ski through the sky? Such conversations provide kind prompts toward reflective imaginative writing. Wind poems, snow poems or cloud poems could be modeled. Use this time to expose children to the full meaning of the vocabulary, for without words, how does one think? Let children deliciously know and understand and move through different knew words, encouraging children to raise their hand and look forward to discovering a new word, not feel any shame or stupidity for not knowing its meaning.
For more activities on this delightful book, visit http://www.vickipeters.net.