Whales on Stilts! (M. T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales) by M. T. Anderson
Reviewed by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Middle-grade novel (science fiction, action-adventure)
12-year-old girl as main character with two sidekicks–one boy and one girl
Rating: A crazy, silly, witty, strange, kids-will-love book!
Short, short summary: Lily Gefelty goes with her dad to his work on Career Day. While she is following her dad around, she realizes his boss, who wears a sack over his head, is actually a mad scientist, who is trying to take over the world. She quickly enlists the help of her two best and famous pals–Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, and Katie Mulligan from the Horror Hollow books. Together, the three friends discover that Larry the boss is actually half-whale and a bit on the nutty side. Lily’s clueless dad’s business is actually helping Larry to make stilts for whales, who will soon take over the world with their laser beam eyes. With these whales on stilts, Larry plans to seek revenge for his terrible life. Luckily, Lily has a conversation with her grandma that gives her quite an elaborate plan, and her two superstar pals are just the ones to help her carry it out.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. This is a great book to talk about writing a good beginning for your story or book. M. T. Anderson’s opening line is: “On Career Day, Lily visited her dad’s work with him and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the earth through destruction and desolation.” WOW! This sentence has it all. First, you definitely want to keep reading the story after an exciting opening sentence like this. Also, it provides a bit of an insight into what the book will be about. Finally, the beginning of Whales on Stilts promises an adventure and sets a certain tone for the rest of the book. This is a perfect opening. Can your students use these characteristics of a good opening and write one of their own? You can also discuss with your students or your child that authors sometimes will write 10 or 20 opening sentences before they get the perfect one.
2. Since Katie and Jasper have their own book series, M. T. Anderson has provided some advertisements for these books. Lily doesn’t have her own series, but she soon might with her fantastic plan in Whales on Stilts! Using M. T. Anderson’s ad work as an example, your students could create ads for Lily and her adventures. They can start with this title, and they can make up some more of their own. What would they say about Lily? What other type of adventures would they put her in? Where would Lily’s books be available? Students can have a lot of fun creating these advertisements while working on their writing and designing skills.
3. This would be an activity to do BEFORE YOU FINISH READING the book with your child or students. On pages 124-129, Lily, Jasper, and Katie discuss the plan to stop the whales on stilts. But they do not share their plan with the reader. Instead, you will see [ ] and [ ] where the plan should be written. Your students can make a prediction on what they think the plan will be. (The chapter after this one, called “Execution,” gives a couple hints.) Then, students always need practice with writing and punctuating dialogue, so have them write what should go in these [ ] blanks. When they finish reading the book, they can compare their predictions with what actually happened in the story to see if anyone came close to the right plan and thinks the same way as M. T. Anderson does. (Oh no! Don’t worry about your children if they think the same as the author.)
If you have used this book with your child or in your classroom, please let us know some activities you did or discussions you had by leaving a comment here.
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