| Author Study
B. Williams & Miriam Bissu
This author study is useful for grades K-3 and may be adapted for
varying ability levels. The books can be read aloud or by the children
themselves during guided reading.
Reading: 25 books, 4 book or book equivalents
by one author.
Writing: Creation of a finished piece of writing
that reflects an understanding of the author's style.
Art: Use watercolors, crayons and pastels to illustrate
an original story, journal or writer's notebook.
Math: Counting change in a jar; making diagrams and
models to explain concepts.
Social Studies: Communities, workers, helping one
another; reading and making maps to help the reader understand the
geography of an area.
Technology: Text can be composed on computer.
Time required: 4-6 weeks.
Vera B. Williams writes books around the themes of community and family.
They may be used to study memoir and to encourage children to write
their own memoirs. The books may also be used to encourage children
to begin inquiries into their own family stories. They can record
their stories, memories, knowledge, and impressions in the form of
books and/or artwork. These books are especially good to read when
studying communities and around Mother's Day.
They also lend themselves to making predictions about the text
and to allowing the reader to think of solutions to very real problems
A Chair for My Mother:
This book deals with difficult times for a single parent and her
family. After a fire destroys their home and their belongings, friends
and family pitch in as much as they can. The mother, a waitress
in a diner, has no comfortable furniture in the apartment to sit
on after a long, hard day of work. The family pitches in by adding
coins to the collection of tips being saved in a large jar with
the goal of buying a large upholstered chair. Eventually they save
enough to buy a beautiful overstuffed chair with big red flowers
on the fabric.
- Difficult times can occur in all families.
- Families work and save together for a common goal.
- Single parent family where grandmother helps out and is cared
for by her children and grandchildren.
- Extended family: aunts and uncles help in times of trouble.
- Obstacles can be overcome through hard work and people coming
together to help each other.
- Use of flashback to add dramatic element.
- Memories of childhood experiences add interest.
- Interest is piqued by family problem.
- Problem is resolved when characters achieve goal.
- Use of color.
- Size of objects and people.
- Borders on pictures.
- Illustrations fill the page.
Music, Music for Everyone
This book, which is a sequel to A Chair for My Mother, can stand
on its own as a story. The main character's grandmother is ill and
needs medical attention, but the family lacks the money to pay for
it. The girl, who plays the accordion, organizes a band to earn
the money to help the family. The band earns money by playing their
music at the 50th anniversary party of their great-grandparents'
fruit market. The entire community is invited to the festivities
and the girls earn enough money to pay for the medical attention
- Community involvement
- Empowering children: the children work together to solve the
problem of the adults.
- Opening sentence involves the reader immediately.
- Mood of house is empty and quiet.Festive mood of the party.
Same in A Chair For My Mother
Cherries and Cherry Pits
This is a very charming story of a girl who makes up stories as
she draws pictures of the people she sees in her neighborhood and
on the subway. The characters eat cherries and throw away the pits,
a refrain that is repeated throughout the book.
- We live in a diverse community.
- Members of the community have a great deal in common.
- We can use our knowledge of friends, family, and community to
write interesting stories.
- Using a writer's notebook to record our observations of the
world around us.
- Using a writer's notebook to draft and illustrate stories.
- Repetition of a refrain gives comfort to the reader.
- Universal appeal of certain foods, in this case, cherries.
- Using illustrations to record impressions.
- Using illustrations to tell stories.
Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe
This book is written largely as a journal with illustrations by
the child-author. The extended family chips in to take a trip on
a river in a red canoe. The child who is writing the journal narrates
the story. She includes illustrations, maps, and diagrams to help
tell the story. She even includes instructions for making knots
in a rope and for cooking dumplings and a fruit stew. All of the
family members take turns paddling, cooking, building fires, and
pitching tents. They encounter some difficulties during a storm
and in the rapids in the river.
- Families are diverse.
- Families vacation together.
- All the members of the family have a distinct role.
- Family members pull together in times of trouble.
- Living and vacationing in the country require different survival
- Vacations in the country provide us with opportunities to observe
and enjoy nature.
- Use of a narrator to tell the story.
- Journals can be used to record events and feelings.
- Illustrations, maps, and diagrams help the reader get a clearer
understanding of the author's writing.
- Writers often make lists, write out instructions and recipes
- Authors use maps and diagrams to explain details.
- Illustrations help us visualize the experiences of others.
For each of the books in this or any other author study, I would
suggest that you read the books one at a time and conduct book talks
with the children. I would record the key points of the discussions,
particularly those related to the author's style and themes, on
chart paper with some supporting details. The children should write
a response for each book. You can use their book talks and written
responses to begin a chart outlining the most important ideas for
each of the books.
The children can show they have met the standard by using their
individual written responses and the chart mentioned above to write
about the author's work in a way that shows their understanding
of this author. The children could create their own memoirs, accounts
of vacations, family events, or class events such as trips or preparing
for a class play, to meet the standard.