written by Darcy Pattison; illustrated by Kathleen Rietz
(2011) Sylvan Dell
Source: Orange County Public Library
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I just finished reading Skylark, the sequel to Sarah, Plain and Tall, with one of the reading groups in my class. The weather on the prairie is an important feature of the plot in this story and I wish I had taken time to read Prairie Storms as we were reading the novel. My students would have learned that it can be quite dry on the prairie and that information would have helped their understanding of the main issue in Skylark. Prairie Storms is a month-by-month account of the prairie climate, with weather and its effect on animal habitats described in a vivid paragraph narrative. Accompanying each monthly chronicle is a two page watercolor illustration that is realistic and engaging. I really like the language Darcy Pattison uses to illuminate the climate for a particular month. Look at this example for August:
Still no rain. Clouds gather, but in this heat wave, the air just crackles with dry lightning. Flash! Flash! Flash! In the dry sandy soil, the earless lizard shimmies and disappears beneath the surface.
Pattison takes great care in choosing animated adjectives and verbs to make the narrative sparkle. This book would be a good choice for modeling how to make nonfiction writing shine. After reading Prairie Storms, students could create their own monthly booklets to describe the weather and habitats in their area. You could divide students into partners and assign each group a month. Other lesson ideas (52 page pdf!) and related websites are available on the Sylvan Dell website. The back matter for this book is also available on the Prairie Storms website.
Archimedes Notebook (includes interview)