Monday, March 2, 2015

Special Delivery by Philip Stead and Matthew Cordell

When I found out that Philip Stead and Matthew Cordell were collaborating on a book, I was beyond excited. Either of these two creating a book is enough for me to purchase it. Both of them together? It would be a must buy. And then, I got an email. Would my class consider doing a pen pal activity with another class to celebrate Stead and Cordell’s new book, Special Delivery? I didn’t have to think twice. Absolutely.

A week or so ago, I received the large package from MacMillan. In it were envelopes to mail our post cards, postcards, books wrapped up in craft paper, and a red envelope. I put them on the shelf in my classroom closet and chose not to glance again until this week. I so badly wanted to read the book ahead of time, but I made myself wait.

Now, most classrooms that are reading Special Delivery are doing so tomorrow, on the book’s actual release date. However, since I had all three of my reading classes participating, I needed to go ahead with the activity today. Tomorrow my classes will all be PARCC testing and I won’t see any groups besides my homeroom.

With each class today I explained our project – to write pen pal letters to some classes, including my friend Mrs. McAllister’s class, in Maine. But what should we write about? Then I showed them a letter from Philip Stead.

They were a bit excited to see a letter from an author. Then I showed them the post cards; they thought those were pretty cool. And then, we opened the book.

First we had to smell the book in each class, a lesson my students have taken from Mr. Schu. Then we oohed and aahed over the cover that was under the cover.
J When we were satisfied that we had checked out the stamps featured on the cover enough, for now, we opened the book.

Special Delivery tells the tale of Sadie who wants to mail an elephant to her Great-Aunt Josephine because she is a bit lonely and could use the company. We follow her throughout the story as she calmly problem solves the correct way to ship an elephant. My students were highly entertained by Sadie’s plight, her problem solving skills, and the variety of animals that she encountered along the way. Listening to these big fifth graders chant, “Beans Beans Beans” as a reply when I read, “Choo Choo Choo” was the highlight of my day. Who says older kids don’t enjoy picture books? My kids sure do. But really, we fell in love with Sadie, her spirit of adventure, bravery, and kindness. I mean, if you are willing to write a letter to an alligator – and send him a stick of gum – there is not much you wouldn’t do for a friend.

Upon closing the book we brainstormed, what should we write our letters about? Some kids wanted to write about the best thing they ever got in the mail. Some wanted to write about the best thing they sent. And many wanted to write about what they would ship if they could. We all agreed that if I could ship anything in the world, I would ship a Starbucks store to myself. Then I could stop driving fifty miles round trip any time I wanted a Chai Latte.

Thanks to MacMillan for such an enjoyable day spent in our classroom. If you haven’t checked out Special Delivery yet, my students and I recommend you do. And then you can ask yourself – and your students – what would you ship to someone else (or yourself) if you could? The sky is the limit! Have fun!