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Thunder Cake



Last updated Monday, October 27, 2008

Author: Patricia Polacco
Date of Publication: 1990
ISBN: 0399222316
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Nov. 2008

Synopsis: When the air gets heavy and dark clouds drift low over the fields of Grandma's farm, her frightened granddaughter hides under the bed. But Grandma insists that this is Thunder Cake baking weather and the two are soon scrambling to gather the ingredients to make the cake--and get it into the oven before the storm arrives. Full color. -Barnes&Noble

Note to readers:
•  As you read, engage the children by asking for their help in making the thunder noises.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What do you think the title “Thundercake” means?
•  Where do you think the story takes place?
•  What are the people and animals on the cover picture looking at?
•  What kind of animals do you see?
•  What causes a thunderstorm?
•  Have you ever seen or heard a thunderstorm? Vocabulary: Sultry, shudder, horizon, cooed, trellis, luscious, samovar (see the picture of it on the 3rd from last page, the coffee urn-like object)

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Where is Michigan? Have you ever been to Michigan? Do you know how their weather is different than California’s?
•  Are you afraid of thunderstorms? Why or why not?
•  Do you know where Russia is?
•  The Russian word for “Grandma” is Babushka. What do you call your grandmother?
•  Why is she hiding under the bed? Why is her Babushka yelling at her?
•  Have you ever seen lightning? Have you ever counted after lightning to determine how far away the storm is? Do you know why this works? (Light travels faster than sound)
•  The girl and her Babushka find a recipe to cook together? Do you ever cook with your family? What types of things do you like to cook?
•  Has anyone ever seen a chicken or gathered eggs?
•  Where are the girl and her grandmother in the picture?
•  The girl and her Babushka are hurrying to prepare the cake before the storm arrives. Why do you think they must finish before the storm comes?
•  Why are the chickens and cows mean to the girl?
•  Why is the farmhouse so far from the dry shed?
•  Can you see the storm in the distance? Is it looking closer or farther away?
•  What do you think the secret ingredient is?
•  Has anyone ever helped you when you were scared? Do you think you are brave sometimes even if you don’t feel brave?
•  Has anyone ever made butter?

Craft ideas:
•  Make your own recipe for a cake you would make with your grandma during a storm.
•  Make a barn with the animals that you see in the book.
•  Bring ahead: Make a rain stick.
•  Make intersecting clouds to create lightning.

*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!