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School Library Journal:

K-Gr 2 — The 13 words that are the basis for this sophisticated picture book are “bird,” “despondent,” “cake,” “dog,” “busy,” “convertible,” “goat,” “hat,” “haberdashery,” “scarlet,” “baby,” “panache,” and “mezzo-soprano.” Each word is listed at the top of the page spread where it is featured, and the story continues on. The despondent bird lives with the dog and the mezzo-soprano. The dog, in an effort to cheer up his friend, goes for a ride with the goat to the haberdashery to pick up a hat for the bird. Upon returning home with the gift, the dog tells the mezzo-soprano about their day, and she commences to sing out the plot of the book. While not standard picture-book fare, there are moments of silliness (the owner of the haberdashery is a baby) and joy (all kinds of cake). The artwork is trademark Kalman: playful, colorful, and filled with surprises. Best for one-on-one reading, 13 Words could also be used as a model for primary-grade children to write their own stories featuring a list of seemingly unrelated words.—Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York City –Stacy Dillon (Reviewed December 1, 2010) (School Library Journal, vol 56, issue 12, p89)

13 Words Lesson Ideas

Grade 4 question:

The characters in “13 Words” are from a rich and educated social class. What kinds of evidence or details might prove this claim?

 Grade 5 question:

Create a profile of the bird in the story based on stated or implied information in the text.

 Grade 6 question:

Some of the reviewers of “13 Words” claimed that Lemony Snicket’s book didn’t work as a picture book. Explain what might account for its failure.

 Grade 7 question:

Watch the youtube trailer for the picture book, “13 Words” by Lemony Snicket at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VI1HZFrijeU and then read the book. Which presentation is more effective and why?

Grade 8 question:

At the end of “13 Words” the bird remains despondent. Why might the author’s decision to end the book with a sad bird, make the story more interesting than a more predictable happy ending?

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