The Little Island, a literature-based unit study for the book by Margaret
The Little Island, a literature-based unit study for the book by
Margaret Wise Brown
The Little Island
By Margaret Wise Brown
(originally published under her pseudonym, Golden MacDonald)
Illustrated by Leonard
Once there was a little island in the ocean. That little island changes as the
seasons come and go. The storm and the day and night change it. So do the
lobsters and seals and gulls that stop by. Then one day a kitten visits the
little island and learns a secret that every child will enjoy.
Unit and lapbook
prepared by Shannon Cook
Library List of Recommended Books:
An Island Grows
by Lola M. Schaefer
Cloudy with A
Chance of Meatballs
by Judi Barrett
Do Lobsters Leap
Waterfalls? A Book about Animal Migration
by Laura Purdie Salas
Grace for an
Island Meal by Rachel Field (also set on a Maine Island)
by Barbara Cooney (also set on a Maine island)
by Philip Steele
It Looked Like
by Charles G. Shaw
Stories of Migration
by Cynthia Rylant
The Reasons for
by Gail Gibbons
The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats
by Patricia Polacco
The little cat does
not understand how the Island is part of the land. Because the cat cannot follow
the fish underwater to see how the two are connected, the fish tells the cat he
will have to “take it on faith” that what the fish has told him is true. The
fish’s definition of faith is “to believe what I tell you about what you don’t
know.” When we believe what God tells us in His Word, the Bible, we have faith
in Him. There are many Bible stories of people who had faith in God. Here are a
few you could read with your child this week:
Genesis 6:12-22: Noah
believes God and builds the ark.
Joshua 6:2-20: Joshua and the
battle of Jericho
I Samuel 17:1-50: David and
John 4:49-54: Jesus heals the
John 9:1-11: Jesus heals a
man born blind.
A good Scripture memory verse
to go along with these stories is Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.
Margaret Wise Brown
uses many descriptive words, or adjectives, to paint vivid pictures and engage
four of the reader’s senses – sight, smell, hearing, and touch. See if your
student can find some of these describing words and phrases as you read the
story. Talk with your student about some of the words the author uses such as,
“tickly – smelling pear tree” or the ”howling, moaning, whistling wind”. Do
these words make you think about how the wind sounds during a storm or how a
pear tree might smell?
Ask your student to choose an object to describe. Have some items available for
him from which he can choose. Some items from nature would be especially fitting
for this story - perhaps a flower, a pinecone, or a leaf – things that will be
easy for your student to describe with more than one of his senses. For the
younger student you may need to guide him in describing his object with more
than just his sense of sight. Let your student make a list of words that
describe the object he has chosen.
Ledges - A cut or projection
forming a shelf on a cliff or rock wall
Shed - To lose by natural
Prowl – to roam or walk
around in a stealthy manner
Secret – something that is
kept hidden from view; concealed
Island – a piece of land
entirely surrounded by water and smaller than a continent
Sometimes when an author doesn't want his/her true identity known they will use
a name other than their own, called a pseudonym. The word pseudonym means "false
name" and is also called a pen name. The author of
The Little Island, Margaret Wise Brown, used the pseudonym Golden
MacDonald when she wrote the book in 1946.
One of the most famous pseudonyms in literature is Mark Twain, which was assumed
by Samuel Clemens. Ask your child if he can think of any reasons an author might
choose to use a pseudonym. Sometimes when an author is just starting out, they
may be afraid their book won't be a success. They don't want to use their real
name, because it is easy enough to change a pseudonym and get a fresh start.
Sometimes, authors just don't care for their names, and they want something that
remember. Ask your child what pseudonym he would use if he were writing a book.
Compare and Contrast
(Alike and Different)
few readings of The Little Island, read Grace for an Island Meal
by Rachel Field.
This is a beautiful, rhyming story
about a day on one of Maine’s coastal islands. Talk about the islands in both
stories. They share several things in common, but they also have some
differences. Help your student make a list of things that are alike and
different about each island.
An island is a
piece of land that is completely surrounded by water but is not large enough to
be a continent. Check out a book about islands to look at together. Show your
student how the islands are completely surrounded by water. You might also want
to show them this on a map. Explain to your student that even though an island
is surrounded by water, it is still part of our earth because it is attached
down at the bottom of the ocean. This may be a hard concept to grasp. You might
want to draw a simple sketch showing the side view of island and what it looks
like beneath the water. Check out the book
by Philip Steele for more information and pictures.
There are many
different kinds of islands. Some are flat with sandy beaches, some have rocky
beaches, others (like the one in the story) have rocky cliffs and ledges, and
others are mountainous. Islands are formed in different ways. Some, such as the
British Isles, were part of large continents but became separated from the
continents when sea levels rose and land was flooded. Some other islands like
New Zealand were formed because they became separated from large continents when
movements in the Earth’s plates caused the land to break off and drift away.
Others, like the Hawaiian Islands, are the result of volcanoes erupting under
the ocean. The deposits of molten rock and lava grow larger until eventually an
island is formed. The world’s smallest island, Surtsey, in Iceland, was formed
in this way over a period of days in 1963.
Read the book An
Island Grows by Lola M. Schaefer. This is a fun, rhyming picture book that
shows how a volcanic island is formed.
Since some islands are formed from
volcanoes, make and erupt your own volcano.
-empty juice or two liter pop bottle
-baking dish or foil pan (to set the
volcano in if you do this inside)
-liquid dishwashing detergent
-red food coloring
-playdough or mud (if you want to do
Use playdough or mud to mold the
volcano around the bottle.
Use the funnel to pour the following
into the bottle: ½ cup water, 4 to 5 tablespoons baking soda, and a few
drops of dish detergent.
Mix a few drops of food coloring with
½ cup vinegar. When you’re ready to erupt the volcano, use the funnel to pour in
the vinegar. Pour quickly and then get out of the way! For an even larger
eruption, use more baking soda and vinegar.
The Four Seasons
Many changes take
place on the little island as the seasons come and go. See if your student can
point out some of the things that mark each season on the Island.
discuss what the four seasons are like in your area. Talk about what the weather
is like during each one, what type of clothing people wear, holidays or family
birthdays that occur in each season, and the months that each season spans. Does
your student know in which season he was born? Have your student choose one
thing for each season that stands out to him and helps him to remember what
takes place during that season. (ex. summer – sun or flag for July 4th;
winter – snow or a picture of himself dressed in snow gear) Let him use
and draw pictures of his choice in the appropriate section for each season. Some
students might prefer to cut pictures from magazines to glue in each section.
The little Island
experiences many different kinds of weather as the seasons pass. Can your
student point out some of these? (sun, clouds, fog, wind, rain, snow)
Ask him what his
favorite kind of weather is and why? What about his least favorite?
If your student brings up thunderstorms and is possibly afraid of them, talk
with him about things you do to stay safe during a storm. Remind him that God is
always watching over us and caring for us. Consider reading
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.
Have your student begin a daily weather journal. It can be something as simple
as drawing a symbol on a calendar. After several days or weeks, it will be
interesting for your student to look back at his journal and see the different
types of weather that he has experienced. After a couple of months he might
begin to notice some patterns. (ex. Snowy weather began to disappear in the
month of March, and the sun came out more than it did in the winter months.)
Here are some other fun
weather books you might enjoy reading together:
In the story many
animals come to the island for different reasons. When animals travel to a
different area at certain times of the year in order to survive, this is called
Talk about the different
animals that migrate to the island and their reasons for coming there. (The
lobsters come there to molt, the seals come there to raise their young, and the
kingfishers come there to build their nests.) See if your student can name any
other animals that migrate to the little island. (butterflies, moths, etc.)
If your student seems
really interested in the topic of migration, here are two great books that tell
about other migrating animals:
Do Lobsters Leap Waterfalls? A Book About Animal Migration
by Laura Purdie Salas
Stories of Migration
by Cynthia Rylant
wide variety of animals take part in the story. Everything from insects to birds
to mammals to crustaceans to fish makes up the community of creatures living on
and around the little Island. If you’re student is keeping an animal
classification chart or notebook, he can add
to his collection.
For any students who are interested in
learning more about the crustaceans in the story, here is some information to
get them started.
Lobsters are invertebrates,
which means they do not have a backbone. They do not have a skeleton on the
inside like we do, but they do have a hard exoskeleton, or outer shell, that
protects them and gives them their shape. Because they have an exoskeleton, they
are also called crustaceans. Lobsters usually live at the bottom of the sea and
like to hide in rocks and weeds. They like to eat crabs, clams, small fish, and
sometimes even other lobsters! A lobster chews its food with teeth, but its
teeth are in its stomach instead of its mouth. Most lobsters are a
greenish-brown color. Some lobsters are other colors such as blue, yellow, or
white, but this is not common. Most lobsters turn red when they are cooked. When
lobsters need to grow, a new exoskeleton is formed underneath the old one. Then
they shed their outer hard shell (exoskeleton), and their body grows to fit the
new, larger one. This is called molting. While the lobster is molting, it is
helpless and unable to protect itself, so it usually hides for several days
until its new shell has hardened. A lobster molts many times throughout its
life. The largest lobsters ever seen were about four feet long. Lobsters can
live to be over one hundred years old!
The author does
not reveal to us the exact location of the little Island, but we do know that
this island was visited by lobsters and seals and had rocky ledges and fur trees
– just like the islands off the coast of Maine. Also, Margaret Wise Brown had a
home on an island in the Gulf of Maine, so we would probably be safe to guess
that this story is set in the coastal Northeast. If you’d like, make a story
disk and place it on your map.
Geography: Map Skills
The directions North, South, and Southeast are mentioned in the story. (The
seals travel from the north, the kingfishers from the south, the wind blew from
the southeast, etc.) Look at a world map that has a compass on it, and introduce
the concept of north, south, east, and west to your student. Show them that
north is up, south is down, etc. You could also explain the concept of
northeast, southwest, etc. if there is interest. An aid for helping your older
student to memorize the directions on the compass is the phrase “Never Eat Soggy
Waffles” – starting with North at the top of the compass and moving clockwise
around it as you say each word.
is a compass rose that your student can label.
Math and Art
There are many
opportunities in the story for counting. On page 31 we read that the Island had
seven big trees, seventeen small bushes, and one big rock. Your student can
practice his counting skills while enjoying a fun art activity that reinforces
the concept of an island
There are two versions of
this activity, so you can choose the one that best suits your student’s art
out the shape of an island from poster board or a large piece of butcher
paper. (Let your student color it green for the land or use green colored
Glue or tape it on top
of a piece of large blue paper (the ocean). Gather a rock, some large twigs
with leaves attached for the trees, some small leaves or twigs for the
bushes. Little clusters from a pine or other evergreen tree would work well
here. Now your student can make a model of the little island by counting out
the correct number of trees, bushes, and of course the one rock! Let him use
small lumps of brown or green playdough to anchor the twigs and rock to the
poster board. If he’d like, he can also draw pictures of the different
animals, flowers, and other details mentioned in the story.
Make a salt dough model
of the little island.
Recipe for Salt dough:
3 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
1 tablespoon of cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups of water
Mix the flour, salt and cream of tartar
together. Mix a few drops of green food coloring into the water and then mix
the water in. This evenly distributes the color. (Another option for color
is to leave out the food coloring and let your student paint the island
after it dries overnight.)
The dough dries hard and sticks together well. If you
make it and it feels really sticky or grainy, there is too much salt. Just
add flour until the dough has the consistency of playdough.
Shape and mold the island on a piece of
cardboard that has been painted blue. Then arrange the correct number of
twigs (trees and bushes) and the rock, gently pressing them down into the
dough. Let dry overnight.
On page 39 we
read that, “Nights and days came and passed…” Talk with your student about the
length of a day and night equaling twenty-four hours, one hour equaling sixty
minutes, one minute equaling 60 seconds. To help your student get a feel for the
length of these units of time, set a timer for one minute. After the timer goes
off, talk about whether the minute felt long or short. You might also want to
watch a minute pass on a clock with a second hand. Then set the timer for one
hour and continue with other activities. At every quarter hour, ask your student
how many minutes he thinks has passed. Tell him how many have passed and how
many are left to complete the hour. When the timer goes off, talk about whether
the hour felt like a long or short period of time and also discuss all the
things that took place during the hour. For example, we ate lunch, cleaned up
the kitchen, and read a story.
Tint / Shade / Monochromatic Art
Look through the illustrations in The Little
Island. When an artist uses shades and tints of one color to illustrate a
scene it is called
Mono means one, and
Help your child make a monochromatic picture, demonstrating how to shade and
tint colors. Fold a piece of paper in thirds. Using tempera paints (or other
mixable paints), choose one color from the color wheel. Color the center
section of the paper with the color. Now, mix a bit of white with the color and
paint the bottom section, explaining that this is tint. Tint is adding white to
lighten the color, or "value". Then, mix a bit of black with the color and paint
the top section, explaining that this is shade. Shade is adding black to darken
the color, or "value". You can mix more or less black or white to get different
values of the same color. Now have your child paint a monochromatic picture
using different values of just one color.
The Caldecott Medal is
awarded to the illustrator of the most distinguished children’s picture book of
the year. The award was named after Randolph Caldecott, a nineteenth-century
English illustrator. The committee who awards the medal chooses a book with
excellent pictures – pictures that are drawn or painted exceptionally well and
do an outstanding job of telling the story.
Let your student design his
own medal to award to a children’s book. He could even name the medal after
himself! Bring out some of his favorite picture books for you to look at
together. After reminding him of the criteria for the Caldecott winner, have him
select one book to give his newly designed award to.
Just for Fun
an Island Picnic!
Spread a blue
cloth or blanket on the floor for the ocean. Pile some large cushions in the
center for the island. You could even make a pretend boat with chairs or large
blocks to travel in. Pack some fun picnic food and “sail” out to your island and
enjoy your picnic! (And if you have a stuffed cat, bring him along to help you
act out the story while you enjoy your snack or lunch!) Of course if it’s a
pretty day, you can make your island picnic an outdoor adventure!