|Note: Though My Life Among the Aliens, Club
Earth, A Year With Butch and Spike and The Hero of
Ticonderoga are no longer easily available for purchase, we are leaving the
teaching material for them here at the website for a while longer because the books are
still being used for classroom read alouds and for student reading groups. They are
available through many school and local libraries.
The only reason to analyze literature is to better understand and, therefore, enjoy
what we're reading. It's important to make the introduction of basic literary elements, as
they're often called, enjoyable. Using My Life Among The Aliens, A Year With
Butch And Spike, or Club Earth in your classroom is a fun way to illustrate the
concepts you're trying to teach.
A third grade boy once asked me how I could say I write fiction if I really gave my son
a birthday party with an Olympic theme and then used the party in My Life Among The
Aliens. Excellent question. Fiction writers take something from their own lives (an
experience, a feeling, whatever) and combine it with some other idea they picked up
somewhere to create a third thing
Using an historical figure (or an event or a place) as a case study to help explain
such things as religious and philosophical movements and issues of a particular period is
known as micro-history. Micro-history helps make dry subjects like, say, religion
and philosophy, less theoretical. Religion, philosophy, politics, and all the other things
students hate about studying history, begin to make more sense when we can see how real
people were influenced by them. The Hero of Ticonderoga can enable
teachers to use Ethan Allen as a case study to explain some of the things that were going
on during the Eighteenth Century.
A fourth grade girl in our local school had to do some sort of book presentation for
her class. So, being a smart, clever girl she chose My Life Among the Aliens
as her book. As part of her presentation, she brought in food that is mentioned in the
book. And she had a lot to choose from.
In the very first chapter the aliens and kids eat hot dogs and popcorn. They're not
allowed to eat gum, but it is mentioned. The birthday party chapter features pizza and
watermelon. Bran muffins turn up in the book, as do mystery cookies. And, of course, in
the very last chapter you have what I always refer to as "snowballs"-prepackaged
cakes covered with marshmallow and coconut.
Now according to the mother of the girl who originally did this, the teacher was not
terribly impressed. I, however, was. I thought it was a great idea for a special event to
encourage reading in a classroom or for a special presentation such as this girl needed to