What can we learn from Sheila Rae?

Sheila Rae wasn’t afraid of anything.

That’s the first line of Sheila Rae, the Brave written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. “Hey everyone,” I said, “Isn’t this just like some of you? No fears at all?” (This came out in our discussion yesterday) We decided to read and find out just how brave Sheila Rae really is.

Well, the dark didn’t spook her. Neither did thunderstorms, principals or closets supposedly full of monsters. She approached life brandishing her bravery. She rode her bicycle no handed. She walked backwards with her eyes closed. She bared her teeth at stray cats. Fearless and determined to show it! When her little sister Louise marvelled at her decision to walk home from school a new way (“You’re too brave for me.”),  Sheila Rae called her a scaredy-cat.

But when Sheila Rae suddenly finds herself lost, her bravado melts away. She sits on a rock and wails. Louise pops down out of a tree where she has been secretly spying and carefully leads Sheila Rae back home.

Phew! Home is in sight!

Sheila Rae is thrilled to get home and turns to her sister.

“Louise, you are brave. You are fearless.”

“We both are,” said Louise.

Our class talked about what Sheila Rae learned in this gem of a story. Some pretty thoughtful responses were volunteered.

  • It’s okay to be brave but you don’t have to be mean
  • Everybody can be brave
  • Everybody has some fears.
  • Brave people sometimes aren’t.

Stay tuned for more stories on this theme as we try to figure out just what it means to be courageous.

Gilbert the Hero

Deborah, our BLG reader this week, read us Gilbert the Hero – a sweet little story exploring sibling dynamics, written by Jane Clarke and illustrated by Charles Fuge.

Having to look after his little brother Finn is a real nuisance for Gilbert the shark. Finn is too small for everything! Too light to weigh down the sea-saw (an  old oar). Too small to leap out of the water without “splash” landing. Too tiny to flick the sea urchin for a game of finball. Just a bother. So Gilbert and his friends decide to put Finn in a seaweed swing and play their own adventurous games. Oh . . . don’t you just know this is going to lead to something bad? A student piped up, “Remember at the beginning – the Mom said don’t leave your little brother!”

When a large orca bursts out of nowhere with a mouth full of fish, Gilbert realizes that Finn is vulnerable. Instantly, he is a protective older brother zooming into action – reminding us that underneath all of that sibling rivalry, the connections are strong!

Our student reviewers report:

Eddy: I liked the part when Gilbert and Finn were playing on the sea saw and Gilbert hit the ground because he was big and heavy.

Kevin: I was scared when orcas came. I was afraid if the orca will eat Finn up.

Annie: It was scary when the orca was about to eat the baby shark who was strapped on a swing but Gilbert saved him. I was relieved.


Books about relationships help us explore strong feelings

Our reading group has been enjoying stories from our Connect book bin.  We found two books about friendship and sibling relationships that we could really relate to as the characters had feelings just like we do:  frustration, impatience, jealousy, regret and forgiveness.  All such normal feelings as we interact with friends and brothers and sisters.

Matthew and Tilly, written by Rebecca C. Jones and illustrated by Beth Peck explores the feelings of friendship and forgiveness. This is a short but powerful story about best friends that argue, as friends do, but then find it easy to forgive each other when they realize that favourite activities are just not the same without a friend.  We discussed the story and wrote responses.

Lisa writes: “I think Ms. Gelson put the book in the Connect bin because everyone could have an argument but then after, we say sorry.”

Kevin explains: “The message of the story was: if you get mad at each other, take a break and you will feel better.”

Judy Blume‘s The Pain and The Great One is a humourous account of a brother and sister told from each perspective.  Each thinks the other is loved more by their parents and explains clearly why it is just not fair.  The Great One thinks her younger brother is a messy slowpoke who is super annoying – doing things to her like singing and dancing around her when she talks on the phone.  The Pain thinks his older sister is a bossy know-it-all who unfairly gets to do things that he can’t. like feed the cat just because she knows how to use the can opener.  Big issues in his little world!

Catriona summarizes the book clearly: “The Pain thought The Great One was a know-it- all. And the Great One thought The Pain didn’t know anything!”