My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco
Reviewed by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, email@example.com
Picture book for ALL elementary-aged students
Young girl as main character (and a rotten redheaded older brother)
Rating: Best book about sibling rivalry!
Short, short summary: This is one of my favorite Patricia Polacco books. I shared it with students in grades K-5 when I was a writing specialist, and I wanted to teach about writing with great voice. Patricia Polacco tells an amazing story of herself and her older brother. Richard is four years older and can do EVERYTHING better than Patricia. He can pick more blackberries, eat more rhubarb, spit farther, burp louder, and climb higher. These facts drive his little sister crazy until she wishes on a star one night that she can do something better than him. The next day at the carnival, she rides a carousel LONGER than him, but this results in her falling down when she steps off the merry-go-round. What the reader finds out at the end of the story is how much Richard really does care about his sister when he is not trying to beat her at everything!
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Siblings play an important role in many of your students’ lives. If you are a parent of more than one child, you may have some sibling rivalry going on at your house. This book can be used to start a discussion about the GOOD points of having a sibling. On a piece of chart paper (or notebook paper if you are at home with your child), write the following: Sisters and brothers are good because. . . Then ask students to help you generate a list of why siblings are great. If students have trouble getting started with the list, use some ideas from Polacco’s book such as “they help you when you get hurt” or “they play with you.” When you are finished brainstorming ideas and writing them in a list, ask students to write an essay or a journal entry about the GOOD points of having siblings. Students often want to focus on the negatives of having a sibling, but with this activity, you want to focus on the positive!
2. Many writing curriculums include having students write a personal narrative. This is often hard for students because they want to tell too much about their lives in one assignment. Polacco has written a type of personal narrative here. Show students how she took the topic of her childhood and focused on one aspect–her brother and their relationship. She doesn’t try to tell EVERYTHING about her and her brother. She sets up the story by showing how he beat her at everything, and then the one thing she beat him at–he helped her when she needed it. You could even show students how Polacco’s story might fit into some graphic organizers, such as a word web. Then when you are finished using Polacco’s book as an example, students can plan their own narratives, remembering to narrow their topics and stay focused.
3. For a fun journal entry or discussion, ask students to write or discuss what else Patricia could do better than her brother. Ask questions such as: What else could Patricia have challenged Richard to do? Would it have worked? What would you have done in this situation? Do you and your siblings, friends, or cousins ever have contests to see who can do things the best? Any time students can make personal connections to a book, they are improving their overall reading comprehension skills.
4. See this book is so good, I thought of a fourth activity. If parents are okay with this activity, bring in some rhubarb or even rhubarb pie for your students to try. (Maybe there is a parent of one of your students who loves to bake!) Most children have probably not heard of this plant.
If you have used this book in your classroom, library, or at home, please leave a comment here and tell us about your experience.
If you have a book you would like me to read and review, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here.