What Zombies Can Teach About Writing

Book Cover

Why would a zombie just walk, when she could lurch?  Or clomp?  Or even trudgeMonsters Can Mosey–Understanding Shades of Meaning, story by Gillia M. Olson, illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic, is an excellent read aloud choice for upper elementary students to demonstrate how vocabulary choices can make writing more exciting and vivid.

It presents 18 different words with similar but different meanings, as zombie child, Frankie, is encouraged by her zombie mother to select a signature way of walking.

The illustrations are cartoonishly ghoulish, and will captivate a younger audience without frightening them.  Characters have a gray-green pallor, unkempt hair, torn clothing, and have a few stitches holding them together, yet their wide-eyed faces give them a cute, silly appearance.

What did we do after we read the book?  Picture a library full of 3rd graders, performing their best zombie walks with arms outstretched, and vacant expressions.  These were the instructions, as we took 5 slow steps in each style.

  • Lurch:  an awkward staggering walk
  • Trudge:  walk like it is really hard work
  • Lumber:  walk clumsily and heavily
  • Clomp:  walk heavily and noisily
  • Stomp:  walk heavily, noisily and usually angrily
  • Mosey:  walk in an unhurried or aimless manner
  • Stride:  walk with large steps usually with purpose

You can guess how they walked out of the library, after their teacher lined them up.  All monsters need a good walk.

Creepy Carrots!

 Creepy Carrots Book Cover

Need a slightly scary story to read aloud in October, but don’t want to seriously frighten your little listeners?  The 2013 Caldecott Honor Book, Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds is the answer.

Jasper Rabbit had a passion for carrots, and liberally helped himself to the carrots in Crackenhopper Field…until they started following him.  Dun, dun dun!

Readers are led to wonder whether Jasper is imagining the appearance of scowling carrots in various locations. He sees them in the mirror of his bathroom while he is brushing his teeth, but when he turns around, there are only three orange objects sitting on the bath tub ledge.  Were three creepy carrots glowering at him?  Or was it just an orange washcloth, rubber duck, and shampoo bottle?  Each sighting is similarly vague, with a variety of orange objects providing just enough doubt that only at the end of the book do readers learn the delightful truth about the carrots.

Creepy Carrots!

Creepy Carrots!

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After I read the book, students made their own creepy carrots, and had the option to take it home with them, or tape it up in the library anywhere they chose (except ON a book).  If they had time, many made two–one to take home, and one to decorate the library with for the month of October.  The library has creepy carrots peeking out of all the bookshelves, and the students are loving seeing them all around.

Student:  “My sister made one yesterday and hung it up on in the dining room at home!”

Me:  “Was it really a creepy carrot, or was it just an orange vase?”