Things to Do
For artists:  

Download this pdf to your computer. Then print on heavy paper, if you have it.

For scholars: 

Download this pdf to your computer. Then learn how to to form the letters of the Ancient Egyptian alphabet.

For writers: 

In Calabash Cat, the original calabash cat has a lizard and a fish inside the cat. (See the original calabash here.) I don’t know why the artist did that but I decided to draw animals inside all of the animals I put in the book, too.

Then I thought: what if someone reading my book could think of a story about why there is a lizard and a fish inside the cat? What if the story started out like this:

One day, Lizard went down to the river to get a drink. A fish popped her head out of the water and said, “Friend-Lizard! Friend-Lizard! I need your help!”

Lizard looked up, a bit surprised, and said, “Who? Me?”

“Yes, you!” cried Fish. “I want to teach that old cat a lesson, and only you can help.”

“Hm,” thought Lizard, for he was often bothered by Cat who wanted to catch him for his dinner. So, Lizard said, “What’s your plan? Then I’ll see if I can help.”

“Well,” said Fish, her eyes gleaming with delight, her scales glistening. “This is my plan.”

And she told Lizard what she had in mind.

That afternoon, everything was ready. Cat was sniffing around the rocks by the river looking for something to eat as he usually did that time of day, when suddenly, . . . . .

I bet you could finish this story. What could their plan have been?  Will it work? Will they be able to teach the cat a lesson or will they end up as his dinner?

Or, maybe you can think up another story. If so, write it! The trick is: let your imagine go!  Look, too, at the other animals in the book. Why is there a snake in the camel? What is the story behind the bird, the fish, and the horse? Could the title of the story about the tiger be: “The Most Beautiful Tiger in the World”?

For artists:

Why not draw your own animals in the style of the ones in Calabash Cat? I did mine with a felt tip marker. I used a fat one to draw the outline and a thin one to make some of the designs. What if you drew a dog with butterflies all over him? How about a pig with mice? There is no end to what you could do!

For Writers & Thinkers:

1  In Rain School the Chadian children built their own school out of tree limbs, grass, and mud. Write how you would feel if you came to school on the first day and had to learn how to build your own school room.

2  Write a history of your school. When was it built? What is it made out of? What was there before your school was built? A pasture? A parking lot? An old house? After your school was built, were buildings added? When were they added and why? Does your school need repairs? Does it need to be renovated? If so, what needs to be done?

3  Make an essay of photos of the schools in your area. Which one is the oldest? Which one is the newest? Which one do you think looks the nicest and why?

4  Search the internet for pictures of interesting schools around the world. What kinds of buildings do you find? What are they made of? Write a caption for each picture and turn your research into a photo essay and present it to your class.

5  If you could design and build a dream school, what would it look like? Draw some pictures and describe why your school would be the best ever. Maybe you would even like to make a cardboard model of your dream school.

6  Write an essay on why a school building is not as important as the teachers and the students in it.

7  Write an essay on why in today’s world it is important to have the most up-to-date school possible. What does “up-to-date” mean in terms of the technology you would like to have in your school?

8  Interview your parents and your grandparents. Find out what their schools were like and how they are different from the school you go to.

9  Go back in time. Pick a time and describe what school was like: in Ancient Greece, in biblical times, in Ancient Rome, in medieval times, in colonial times in America, in the Old West, in America for African-American children after the Civil War, in America now for illegal immigrants and migrant workers.

10 Winslow Homer (1836–1910) was a famous artist. He did several paintings of schools in the nineteenth century. Here is a famous one called “Snap the Whip” now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Homer did the picture in 1872. Click here to see a larger image of the painting:

Write a story about the kids in this painting who are playing a game called “snap the whip.” In such a game, the kids hold each other’s hands and form a long line, whipping around until those at the end of the line are flung off.

When you write your story, let your imagination go. In Rain School, I imagined the whole story. I saw only the washed out school one day when my wife and I took a walk. I didn’t see the children build the school. I didn’t know their teacher or what she or he looked like. I had to imagine all of that. You can do the same with this picture.

Pick one of the boys and tell his story. Or pick one of the girls in the background. Or, if you are the teacher, write a story for the students in your class from the point of view of the teacher, who must be somewhere in this painting.

Here is another painting by Winslow Homer.  This is called “The School Room.” It was painted in 1871.  It is in the Saint Louis Art Museum. Write a story about this painting. Illustrate your story in your own way.


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