March 31, 2014

Fantasy Fiction: Classroom Ready Ideas

Written by Deborah B. Ford

Hostage PrinceLast weekend at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art  NESCBWI sponsored a one day program on using children’s books in the classroom. (Are you a member of your regional SCBWI? You, too, could attend programs like these in your own community.)

Among the sessions was an author panel: “From Creative Process to Curriculum Connections.” Teaching ideas on recent releases were presented. With kind and gracious permission, I will be posting these in the next few days. Remember that you can use the tag search to the right to locate these and related posts after they leave our home page.

THE HOSTAGE PRINCE, THE SEELIE WARS, BOOK ONE  by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple FM   : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5–8), Sept 2013.

Teaching Ideas:

Maps of Magical Realms. The Hostage Prince begins with a map. This map not only grounds the reader In the world of the story, in this case the Seelie Lands and the Unseelie Lands. The map also serves as a preview of what is to come within the pages of the novel. The action that unfolds transpires within the locations important enough to be identified in the map. Compare and contrast this map with other maps of magical lands, such as Narnia, Oz, Middle Earth, and Hogwarts. What does each map tell you? How can readers mine maps in order to predict action as the story unfolds? You can even look more closely at the interactive version of the map from the book:

Researching References. Like Texting the Underworld and Lucy at Sea, The Hostage Prince is filled with references to folklore, myth, and legend. As students read the book, have them keep track of words they do not recognize, and what they mean. In some instances, it may be a folklore reference. In others, it may be an example of Yolen’s extensive vocabulary at work. For example, ostler is an uncommon word, but it references someone who works at an inn or manages a stable, not a mythological creature. Have students research the origin/background of the fantastical creatures mentioned, such as, but not limited to: ogres, satyrs, feys, Queen Mab, bogles, and goblins.

Prediction. What happens next to Prince Aspen and Snail, now known as Karl and Nomi? Have students write the opening chapter of the sequel that Yolen and Stemple are currently revising. Where do they go next? How do they stop the war from starting? How will their friendship change? What mistakes will they make? Who can they trust? The beauty of predicting within a series it that eventually, you really do get to find out what happens next.

History of Hostages. Where did the concept of the “Hostage Prince” originate? While the story may be fantasy, the reality is that hostage taking, particularly among ruling and politically elite families, has a long history in our world. Break your students up into small groups to research and explore this history. Perhaps you can divide up your students into different continents, to see what role the exchange of hostages played at different times in history in different representative countries.

Alternating Perspectives. What’s it like to try and write from more than one first person perspective? Before, during, or after your reading of The Hostage Prince, share other stories for young people that offer alternating chapter narrations, such as The Pigman (Zindel), The View from Saturday (Konigsburg), Behind You (Woodson), and Same Sun Here (House and Viswani). Have students then write a short story that is told in alternating points-of-view between two characters. If this is too difficult, some students could choose to co-author a story, work out the plot and characterization, and then each writes from one perspective.

Combined Teaching Idea: Grades 5-8

Who’s Who of Fantasy. Have students in small groups read one of the following: Texting the Underworld, Lucy at Sea, or The Hostage Prince. As students are reading, have them research and keep track of the different creatures and humans mentioned associated with myth, folklore, and legends (see above entries). When students have completed the books, have them identify the creature that they are most interested in reading about next. Work with students using a database like Titlewave, lists from the Cooperative Center for Books for Children, and your local library’s digital database to identify another novel which features that creature. When the students have finished both novels, create a class “Who’s Who” book, in which students complete entries for the different creatures they researched, informed by their reading of both novels. What crossovers occur? Which creatures are mentioned in some books? Most? All?

Thanks again for the gracious and generous permission of the developer for sharing these ideas and resources.

Developed by Mary Ann Cappiello, Associate Professor of Language and Literacy, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA.

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Deborah B. Ford

Deborah B. Ford

Deborah B. Ford, JLG’s Director of Library Outreach, is an award-winning library media specialist and international speaker with almost thirty years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools. Traveling across North America, she does workshops, library coaching, and professional development for school and public libraries. Deborah is the author of JLG's Booktalks to Go @ SLJ. She also maintains an award-winning coordinating online resource at Contact her at Follow her on Twitter @jlgdeborahford.

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