Written by Laurie Halse Anderson
Illustrated by Ard Hoyt
This is a darling story about Zoe Fleefenbacher, a spunky first grader with wild red hair that has a life of its own. No, really. Her hair can change the channel, pet the cat, and take out the trash. Though her crazy hair is loved by her parents and friends, Zoe’s no-nonsense first grade teacher is not so excited about having it in her classroom. This is such a fun story about working together and finding solutions. This is a great one to use just for fun, but there are several other ways to use it in a classroom. Here are a few ideas:
Classroom Discussion: I would love to use this story at the beginning of the school year. Students (and teachers) are often apprehensive about their new class. They have to learn new rules, new expectations, and a new teacher. This silly story can help break the ice and open discussion on how students can work together with the teacher to create the best learning environment. This would be a great time to talk about how the “strict” teacher was not trying to torture Zoe, but she simply wanted to create a classroom where everyone would be able to learn. Once Zoe’s hair got on board with that goal, the problem was solved. I am a big supporter of letting the class help come up with classroom expectations. When they become a part of the creation of rules, students have a greater desire to follow them. Even the “hairy” students (pun intended) tend to respect expectations that they helped create.
Making Connections: Even though this story is quite fantastical, its very relatable setting makes it a great one for connections. Sometimes it’s helpful to encourage thinking by asking questions and having a student explain or share. Some questions to promote Text-to-Self connections might be: Can you relate to how Zoe’s parents love her odd hair? Have you felt comfortable in a class the way Zoe did in kindergarten? Can you relate to having a strict new teacher? Have you ever been punished for something you didn’t think was your fault? Have you ever felt misunderstood?
Visualizing: What a fun story to visualize! There are so many fun images in this story. I can guarantee that every elementary student would LOVE a chance to draw you a picture of what Zoe’s hair can do. I love descriptions that show how her hair “went on forever,” could do several tasks “all at the same time,” and finally “exploded into the classroom.” Just about every page describes how her hair looks or something it could do. I love using a book as a read aloud and letting the students draw what they visualized before I show them the illustrator’s version in the book.
Onomatopoeia: This would be a really fun book to use to introduce the concept of onomatopoeia. There are several examples in the story that students could identify and easily demonstrate. After discussing the definition and several examples, I might have students look for examples in a book they are reading on their own. They could also incorporate them into a story they are writing or create a comic to use them.
I definitely recommend picking this one up at your next library visit. It's a fun one you and your kids will love.