Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Monday, January 11, 2010

How to Save Your Tail

How to Save Your Tail
Mary Hanson

About the book:
How does a book-loving, cookie-baking rat named Bob save his tail from being gobbled by two hungry cats? By telling them fairy tales about his family, of course! There’s the one about Great-granduncle Mustard, who upgraded his family from a house of straw to a lovely three-bedroom brick place. All was swell until some wolves with snout-warts showed up. And then there’s the story of Grandma Lois, who, after her mother ran away with the circus, took a job spinning straw into gold. But that’s hard to do without the help of a hairy chimney troll. Will Bob be able to keep those story-loving, cookie-chopming cats occupied, so that he doesn’t become their next meal? Readers will be kept guessing as they listen to this Scheherazade- ian rat spin fairty tale after fairy tale, with a quick break for a cookie )or dozen) in between.

About the author:
Mary Hanson is the author of several books for children, including The Difference Between Babies & Cookies and The Old Man and the Flea. A retired children’s librarian, Mary enjoys reading (sometimes to her cats), coaching high school mock trails (with her husband), and looking forward to visits from her two children, who grew up against her wishes and went away to college. Her favorite cookies are chocolate-layered toffee crackers.

John Hendrix’s illustrations have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone, among others. He is the illustrator of one book for children, also involving rats: The Giant Rat of Sumatra: or Pirates Gaore, by Sid Fleischman. John currently lives in Saint Louis with his wife, Andrea, and their son, Jack, and teaches illustration at Washington University. He loves shortbread cookies with icing and sprinkles.

Before Reading:
Read the full title, cover and flap copy aloud. Predict what you think will happen over the course of the book. What makes you think these things will happen?

Discussion Guide:

  1. Describe Bob. What are his favorite things? What are yours?
  2. How does a book get Bob into a tight spot? How does he first get out of it? After that what does he do?
  3. Who is Sherman? How does Bob know his stories?
  4. Do you recognize any characters from other stories? Can you make connections between that story and this one? What things do they have in common?
  5. Who is Uncle Mustard? Does he end up escaping? How?
  6. What part does the warthog play in the story? If you were creating a story with a cast of animal characters which animals would you choose and why.
  7. Describe the problem Troll faces with Lois’s firstborn. Why is it more than he bargained for? In the end what happened to Troll and his family?
  8. In your own words, retell Griselda’s story. In fairy tales do most characters get what they deserve? Did all the characters in this novel?
  9. What fairytale is Bob’s own story weaved inside? Does it remind you of any other story?
  10. How does Bob convince the cats not to eat him just yet? How does he satisfy their taste for stories? How do you satisfy your own?

Across the Curriculum:

Language Arts:
Write your own fairy tale story based on one of the Grimm’s Fairy tales or one that your own family used to share with you. Be sure to use at least three elements that are similar but change aspects of the story to update it for modern readers.
Cookie Recipe Math!
Each student should bring in their favorite recipe for cookies and also advertisements from local grocery stores. Children should try to figure out how much it will take to make a batch of their favorite cookies. Or, for younger children, have them practice simple fractions from a cookie shape- ½, ¼, 1/3, etc.

Inspired by the end pages of the book have children create their own maps from a world out of their own imaginations.  Draw, sketch, paint or even collage magical kingdoms. Use these to spark stories when the well is dry!

Music:  sing to “If You’re Happy and You Know It!”
If you need to save your tail then tell a tale!
If you need to save your tail then tell a tale!
If you need to save your tail
and things are looking pretty pail-
if you need to save your tail,
then tell a tale!