Friday, March 22, 2013

Previously by Allan Ahlberg - Perfect Picture Book Friday

I've been grumbling for weeks about how it doesn't look like spring outside one bit. My husband's turned the long winter blues into a psychology survey, asking everyone we meet what they would do if spring didn't come this year. (The responses have been interesting!)

I emailed a dear friend of mine this question, along with annoying grumblings about spring not arriving when it was supposed to. He works in a secret lab underground (no joke) and is involved in all kinds of astronomy research and chemistry experiments. I figured if anyone could come up with a way to make spring come, it would be him.

In my inbox this morning, he sent me a link to this photo:

NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured this image of the Earth at the spring equinox, on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 7:45 a.m. EDT.

Along with the link, he sent me a reminder that it actually does look like spring. . .somewhere. From outer space, spring arrived quite beautifully, in fact. Before looking at this photo, however, I just couldn't see it from my perspective.

His email cheered me up tremendously, and made me think of how so many books bring children and adults new, needed perspectives on a subject. And that brings us to today's Perfect Picture Book:


I first stumbled on this book about a year ago, at Linda Skeers and Jill Esbaum's Whispering Woods writing retreat. I'm sure many of you know my love for folk tales and folk tale spins, so this one naturally caught my attention. But what's especially neat is how this one ties many stories together, and presents a different perspective on what really happened (before the part of the story that we know) with each page turn.

Here are the details:

Title: Previously
Author: Allan Ahlberg
Illustrator: Bruce Ingman
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Year: 2007
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 4-8
Subject/Topics: folk tales, fairy tales, humor, different perspectives, adverbs
Synopsis: Every story, every person, and every thing started somewhere. Find out what all of your favorite fairy-tale characters were up to PREVIOUSLY. . .

First page(s): 
Goldilocks arrived home all bothered and hot. Previously she had been running like mad in the dark woods. 

Previously she had been climbing out of somebody else's window.

Previously she had been sleeping in somebody else's bed, eating somebody else's porridge, and breaking somebody else's chair! 

Previously she had been humming a tune and having a little skip by herself in the dark woods. 

Previously she had bumped into a hurtling and older boy named . . .[page turn] 


Jack was running like mad. . .previously he had stolen. . . 

[I'm cutting, but it goes on like this.]

Why I chose this book: 
The structure is so fresh and new, yet the subject matter so familiar. I think kids will use a unique set of skills as they follow along with this book in its backwards-format.

Resources or Activities:  
I think teachers can try to encourage students to rethink stories they already know by writing them from a different angle. A teacher named Mrs. Gold did that with her students, and you can read samples here:

I also think teachers or parents can examine the "page-turn" structure of books like PREVIOUSLY and books like EXCEPT IF by Jim Averbeck. Have students write a story where the last word of a sentence actually comes after the page turn, making the end of one sentence the beginning of a new scene. 

With middle grade students, you'll want to introduce them to the ellipsis if they are going to embark on activities like this. The National Punctuation Day website has some great resources for studying the ellipsis, also known as dot-dot-dot. :)

I'm off to celebrate the fact that it's spring—But I've got to shovel a driveway of snow, first. :(

Have a great weekend!

P.S. If you don't know about Perfect Picture Book Fridays yet, click here for a list of great books!


Kirsten Larson said...

This book has such a fascinating approach, building but backwards. I will have to check it out.

Laura Anne said...

Miranda, this sounds like a book I SHOULD have read previously....this is going on my library list...too fun to not read.

Joanna said...

Clever and what a great way for all of us to look at what makes a great page turn!

Sue Heavenrich said...

this sounds like a fun, fun book. Definitely going to look for it! I love the idea of "previously" and going backward to make sense of where you are now. Previously, I was wondering where spring went, but now (with this book) I'll just grab a cup of cocoa and read...

Patricia T. said...

Miranda, what a great find. Am so glad you shared. I can see this as an asset and great way to encourage imagination in the classroom. I'm going to have to order it.

Loved the NASA photo from your friend. You're shoveling, we will be on Sunday. I remember in the early 1990s going from winter to summer in May.

Miranda Paul said...

Kristen - Yes! A fascinating approach, and yet so simple of an idea. It's one of those books where I say "Why didn't I think of that?"

Laura Anne - Glad that this one is making your library list which it was PREVIOUSLY not on. :)

Joanna - How was the opera? And yes, studying the page turn pays off. I am a huge fan of the ellipsis myself.

Sue - Yum, cocoa. I shouldn't be wanting it anymore, but alas, I am. Going backwards to make sense is right!

Patricia - I remember! It was May 10, 1990 or 1991. We took pictures on top of a hugh snow mountain the day after and they had the date on them. I can't believe I even remember that. We had less than four weeks of school left and got a snow day! By 5th grade graduation day (that's how young I was then), it was beach weather.

Ellen L. Ramsey said...

What fun! I love unusual books like this one--I'll look for it at the library!

Vivian Kirkfield said...

Now this book I absolutely LOVE! Miranda, what a find...thanks for sharing it. Looks like fun to read for both adult and child.:)
I've always loved folktales, fairy tales and fables...what a clever Kirsten says...albeit backwards...which is how I do things sometimes.:)
We are supposed to get snow as well (in Colorado)...but I remember NYC back in the day...never a spring...straight from freezing winter to blazing hot humid summer.:)

Teresa Robeson said...

I've never heard of this before, but it sounds really cute (like a non-creepy "Memento". ;) I adore twists on fairy tales and nursery rhymes, so will definitely check this one out.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

This looks fantastic, Miranda, and reminds me so much of a book called Fortunately that I think maybe it was the same author! I love the concept here. I will definitely be adding this one to my library list as well as the PPBF list :) Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

What a great book! Reading a story backwards! I read upside down sometimes, but this is pretty cool! I'll have to check this one out! Thanks!

cathy mealey said...

Previously, I'd been watching the snowflakes twirl down through the skies.

Previously, I'd been drying racks of wet hats and mittens beside the woodstove.

Previously, I'd been piling extra quilts on the beds, when suddenly I bumped into...SPRING!

Julie Rowan-Zoch said...

Oooo - another Ahlberg -Ingman collaboration. Previously I had been enamored with the Runaway Dinner and The Pencil. Thanks for finding this one - for me!

patientdreamer said...

Loved the tickle-my-nose comments here...
As you know I love folktales and this is gorgeous and cleverly done.
Here's the thing though, I am heading into autumn followed by winter..eeek! Should I read the story upside down then? Instead of previously it was summer heading into autumn, it will be........ :) tricky!

Yanting Gueh said...

Miranda, this book sounds like a springfield full of fun!

Laura Renauld said...

Can't wait to borrow this one!

Barbara said...

What a fun post ... interesting lead in to present what appears to be a prequel ... thanks for the tip about National Punctuation Day ... didn't know there was such a thing.

Spring has definitely sprung in Texas; I hope your snow melts away into beauty soon!


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