Sunday, March 17, 2013

You Wouldn't Want To Be...

I love the entire series of these books, but You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Pyramid Builder:  A Hazardous Job You’d Rather Not Have by Jacqueline Morley is my absolute favorite.  I have used these books over and over again in my classes, with students from 2nd grade through 9th grade, because I think they teach wonderful information in a fun and dramatic way.  In this particular edition, my students love all of the reasons why they would not want to be a pyramid builder and they enjoy gasping over the facts revealed as they turn the pages.

The books are fabulously laid out, with a table of contents for each topic covered.  In this book, readers learn all about the various aspects of the job pyramid building.  The first page is an introduction to the setting.  The entire book is written in second person, so that the reader is immediately drawn into the world.  “You are living in Egypt around 1500 B.C.  … each pharaoh gets his subjects to build him a gigantic tomb - a pyramid - which will preserve his body forever.  Thousands of Egyptians are forced to work on it, including you.”  This is the same type of introduction that each book in this series has, only each introduction orients the reader to a different life (A Slave in Ancient Greece:  A Life You’d Rather Not Have; A Roman Gladiator: Gory Things You’d Rather Not Know; A Medieval Knight:  Armor You’d Rather Not Wear, etc.)

Each two-page spread has a new topic, fantastic illustrations (often with labels and captions), and my students’ absolute favorite part — a Handy Hint.  An example would be on the two-page spread entitled “Wrapping Up the Pharaoh”.  The Handy Hint for this page was “Don’t throw any body bits away.  Their owner will need them later.  Store liver, intestines, stomach and lungs separately in four jars.”  This particular handy hint was always good for a few groans, as were the instructions for removing the brain.

What makes these books so interesting and fun for kids is that they aren’t afraid to play up the gross factor (in a way that will make them shudder without being graphic).  In addition, the illustrations are funny and interesting.  On one two-page spread, you could have as many as eight separate illustrations.  There is usually one large illustration on the right-hand page, along with a small box in the top right-hand corner with a small illustration and the handy hint.  Then along the bottom of both pages, there might be a sequence of pictures with a caption for each picture, or there might simply be two or three smaller pictures on the left-hand page around the writing.

Every two-page spread has a summary paragraph on the let-hand page that introduces the topic of that page (for example: “Carvers and Painters”). On the right-hand page is the Handy Hint and on both pages are a number of illustrations (as mentioned before, as many as eight per two-page spread).  My students love this series of books and will spend a lot of time pouring over the pages.  They will often miss something the first or second or even third time reading, but will eventually discover everything there is to discover within the pages of these books.

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