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From Russia with Lunch

Last updated Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Author: Bruce Hale
Date of Publication:
ISBN: 015205488X
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2010

Synopsis: When a mystery arises, possibly involving members of the school staff replaced by contraptions such as the Bibliomalgamator, which slings inappropriate books at students, and the Munchmeister 2000, which dispenses bowls of pizza-flavored glop, Chet Gecko, “Emerson Hicky Elementary’s top lizard detective,” and his partner in crime solution, mockingbird Natalie Attired, spring into action. The story unfolds in Chet’s entertaining first-person narrative, laced with puns, wisecracks, and mentions of edible treats involving insect ingredients.

Note to readers:
•  This book is CHOCK FULL of puns/plays on words, especially with the characters names (e.g., Principal Zero, Pete Moss--the little brown groundhog described as "take[ing] the world's most average student and multiply[ing] by twelve", and the boring field mouse Olive Drabb). You may want to stop and discuss some of them that the kids will know/pick up on, but others may not be familiar to them and may just slow down your story more than it's worth. For example, they can probably deduce, with your guidance, the characteristics of Principal Zero (i.e., he's a loser), however most of the kids will probably have no idea what peat moss is. We suggest reading through as far as you can and stopping for general clarification/exploration into double meanings. Stopping at every play on words, however, will leave you stuck in chapter one the entire time, having lost the children's attention.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Does anyone know what the title might mean? Do you know of any movie with a similar title? (hint: James Bond From Russia with Love)
•  Look at the front cover. What do you think this story will be about? What kind of characters do you see? Do you think they are all good (protagonists), bad(antagonists), or are there some of each?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  As mentioned in the note to readers, feel free to stop and explain concepts which you think the kids might know about/be interested in. Some possible discussion ideas follow:
•  The story starts out with Chet stating an anomaly (something abnormal/opposite from what you would expect): "If Number 2 pencils are the most popular, why are they still Number 2?" Do you know any other anomalies? (hint: why do you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?, why are things transported on a ship called cargo and things transported in a car called a shipment?, why are they called apartments when they're all stuck together?, why does your nose run and your feet smell?, etc.)
•  What is the Dewey Decimal System? (system used to organize library books). Nowadays everything's turning over to the internet, but do you remember the days of card catalogs etc.?
•  What famous inventors do you know of? What did they invent? (pg. 2)
•  You can discuss homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings) in relation to the confusion which/witch causes (pg. 18)
•  What does PI stand for? (Private Investigator) (pg. 18)

Craft ideas:
•  Create a story with your own plays on words/names where the names describes characteristics
•  Create your own invention that would make things easier for you at school, like the Bibliomalgamator or the Munchmeister 2000. Present your invention to the group: what is it, how does it work, what does it do, etc.

*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!