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Mr. George Baker

Last updated Monday, December 18, 2006

Author: Amy Hest
Illustrator: Jon Muth
Date of Publication: 2006
ISBN: 0763612332
Grade Level: 1st    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2007

Synopsis: (From Publishers Weekly) Hest (the Baby Duck books) and Muth (Stone Soup) eloquently capture a friendship between two neighbors in the span of a morning wait for the school bus. First grader Harry and Mr. George Baker ("He's a hundred years old, no kidding," the boy claims), an African-American jazz drummer ("some people say he's famous"), share a special bond revealed through Harry's descriptive, first-person observations. "I really like his sweater,/ all hangy with three buttons./ It's chilly in the morning, and/ we both hug our knees./ And wait. We wait, watching/ leaves blow off trees." His youthful, sometimes lyrical narrative offers a peek into their understated relationship. "See his pants, all baggy, baggy, baggy?/ .../ There's candy in those pockets./ .../ George pops one in his mouth and I do too." But the biggest connection the two share is that they're both learning to read.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Looking at the cover, we see an old man and a boy who are friends. Are you friends with someone who is old? What do you do together?
•  How important is reading? How do people use reading in their lives?
•  You’re learning to read. How hard is it?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  As you read through the book, discuss the things that George and Harry have in common, despite their age.
•  Do you know any older people who can’t read? Is it ever too late to learn to read?
•  Why does everyone on the bus want to sit with George?
•  Do you know anyone who plays an instrument?
•  How are learning to read and learning to play an instrument similar?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a card for an older relative or friend. Draw things you like to do together. Write your name and the friend’s name on the card.
•  Make a book by folding and stapling white paper. Help the children write some favorite words or phrases on the pages. Illustrate the words with pictures.

Special activities:
•  Have a drum circle, with students tapping and clapping around the circle; use your knees, hands, and the floor to make different sounds.

*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!