Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sparrow Girl

Sparrow Girl

by Sara Pennypakcer

Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

About the book:

Ming-Li looked up and tried to imagine the sky silent, empty of birds. It was a terrible thought. Her country’s leader had called sparrows the enemy of the farmers—they were eating too much grain, he said. He announced a great “Sparrow War” to banish them from China. But Ming-Li did not want to chase the birds away. As the people of her village gathered with firecrackers and gongs to scatter the sparrows, Ming-Li held her ears and watched in dismay. The birds were falling from the trees, frightened to death! Ming-Li knew she had to do something—even if she couldn’t stop the noise. Quietly, she vowed to save as many sparrows as she could, one by one…

About the author:

Sara Pennypacker is the author of the acclaimed Clementine series, illustrated by Marla Frazee; Stuar’s Cape and Stuart Goes to School, both illustrated by Martin Matje; and Dumbstruck. Sara lives on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

About the illustrator:

Yoko Tanaka attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and before graduation, won a Gold Award from the Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in several magazines, and in galleries around the globe. Sparrow Girl is her first picture book.


What is a sparrow? Predict what you think the sparrow girl does for the birds.

Questions to consider:

1. Why was war declared on the sparrows? Who believes they are trouble?

2. How does Ming-Li offer to help without hurting the sparrows? Can you brainstorm other ideas too?

3. What worries Ming-Li about the sparrow war? Why don’t her father and brother listen to Ming-Li?

4. How do the people plan to rid themselves of the sparrows?

5. How does Ming-Li decide to help the birds? Who else does she convince? Why must they keep it a secret?

6. Why does Ming-Li compare the sparrows to teardrops not raindrops?

7. Describe how Ming-Li and her brother rescue the sparrows. What do they do to protect them?

8. What problems do the farmers discover without the sparrows? Why are insects a problem without birds?

9. How do the farmers react when they open the village barn doors?

10. Why does her father call Ming-Li a farmer too?



Study the imagery used by Sara Pennypacker to describe events. She uses simile in unexpected ways:

“…scratching at her thoughts like a monkey.”

“brain as small as sparrows”

“fall from the sky like a stone”

“sparrows like raindrops, like teardrops”

Describe an animal or weather using a simile or metaphor, inspired by Sara Pennypacker.


Create a cause and effect chart based on the events in the story.


Sing the following son based on the tune “Frère Jacques”

Little Sparrow

Little Sparrow

Come with me

Come with me

I will hide you safely

I will hide you safely

Until spring

Until spring


Have students trace the simple shapes of the sparrow onto a white paper plate after painting it cream and light brown. Be sure that the edges of the wings are toward the rim of the plate to make the feathers. Notch the feathers if you like.


Create origami sparrows out of scrapbook paper or paper bags. There’s a terrific demonstration by Robert Lang and the Indianapolis Museum of Art on YouTube for a demonstration.


Research and draw the food chain of a sparrow. Then, research the food chain of another animal in your own backyard.


Create a poster, pamphlet or powerpoint presentation on China. Find out it’s geography, major cities, type of government, and population.