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Big Al

Last updated Monday, July 25, 2005

Author: Andrew Clements
Illustrator: Yoshi Kogo
Date of Publication: 1990
ISBN: 0887080758
Grade Level: 1st    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2005

Synopsis: Poor Big Al! He just wants to make friends. And in the whole wide blue sea you can't find a nicer fish. But because Big Al is large and scary-looking, the little fish are afraid to get to know him. What can he do? He tries everything he can think of -- from disguising himself with seaweed to burrowing under the ocean floor so he'll look smaller. But something always goes wrong, and lonely Big Al wonders if he'll ever have a single friend. Then one frightening day, when a fishing net captures the other fish, Big Al gets the chance to prove what a wonderful friend he can be!

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What would you think if you saw someone who was big and tall and had big scary looking teeth?
•  What do you think of when you think of fish?
•  Do you know the phrase ?don?t judge a book by its cover?? What do you think that it means?
•  Looking at the cover of this book, what do you think that it?s about?
•  What do you think of this fish on the cover? Is he scary looking? Is it a lot bigger than the other fish?
•  Do you think most of the other fish like Big Al?
•  Have you ever felt like you didn?t have any friends? How do you make friends? Do you try to fit in, or just be yourself?
•  Have you ever been to an aquarium?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What did Big Al do to save the other fish?
•  What are some other ways that Big Al could have tried to make friends?
•  Did Big Al make friends by trying to fit in or by trying to be himself?
•  Stop at the page where Big Al is in the net. What do you think is going to happen next? Do you think the fish would have tried to save him?
•  Why did the fishermen throw Big Al back into the water?
•  Why didn?t the other fish like Big Al?
•  What do you think happened next? What other adventures did Big Al have with his friends?
•  If you saw some people trapped in a big net, what would you do?
•  What is something about yourself that you don?t like, and how might it turn out to be a good thing?
•  What is your nickname? Why?
•  Have you ever met someone that looked scary but turned out nice? Or vice versa?

Craft ideas:
•  Bring ahead option - bring in sticks or hangers (something sturdy), string, and paper plates. Make a fish mobile with Big Al in the center. To decorate the fish, you can take different colored circles and glue them all along the side of the fish to make scales, and then use crayons and markers to draw on the eyes and mouth.
•  Make colorful fish - use construction paper to layer colors onto the fish. Or, color a page with lots of different colors, cover over with black crayon, and scratch out fish in the sea.

Special activities:
•  Play ?fish, fish, Big Al? a la ?duck, duck, goose?

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!