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Follow the Drinking Gourd

Last updated Thursday, July 16, 2009

Author: Jeanette Winter
Date of Publication: 2008
ISBN: 0394896947
Grade Level: 1st    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2009

Synopsis: Illus. in full color. "Winter's story begins with a peg-leg sailor who aids slaves on their escape on the Underground Railroad. While working for plantation owners, Peg Leg Joe teaches the slaves a song about the drinking gourd (the Big Dipper). A couple, their son, and two others make their escape by following the song's directions. Rich paintings interpret the strong story in a clean, primitive style enhanced by bold colors. The rhythmic compositions have an energetic presence that's compelling. A fine rendering of history in picturebook format."--(starred) "Booklist.

Note to readers:
•  Read the Note in the first few pages for background.
•  Vocabulary: Gourd, plantation, constellation.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you know what a gourd is? (A vegetable/squash that is cut out and it can store liquids)
•  What is everyone carrying on the front cover? (Their belongings)
•  Do you know what slavery is? (When you are forced to work very hard for someone in very poor conditions without pay and without any choice)
•  Would you want to be a slave?
•  Can you see the big dipper in the sky?
•  Why is everyone on the cover looking up at the sky?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Would you want to be separated from your family? From your parents? From your sister or brother?
•  What is it called when the stars make a picture in the sky? (Constellation)
•  Have you ever seen a constellation before? (the big dipper i.e. the drinking gouard; the north star; orions belt; the little dipper)
•  Have you ever followed a trail before?
•  Why is it important to mark the trail?
•  Would you risk your life to make a better one?
•  Do you know who Quakers are?
•  How many people did Peg Leg Joe save?
•  Why did he risk his life to save these people?
•  Did other people help Peg Leg Joe?
•  Were Peg Leg Joe and the other people who helped the slaves heroes? Why?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a constellation. Have the kids draw stars on a piece of construction paper. Have the kids connect the stars to create the big dipper, north star, orion’s belt or their own constellations!
•  Have kids color a piece of paper with a black crayon. Then have them use pen heads, pencils or coins to scrape out a star pattern on the paper.
•  Make a song or map of how you get to school. Mark the trail with clues that you and others will understand.
•  Make a father’s day card

*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!