Discussion and Activity Guides

Finding Day’s Bottom Discussion, Activity, and Resource Guide:

  1. Grandpap tells Jane-Ery three stories, which are oral folktales collected by Richard
    Chase, who published them in Grandfather Tales.  In the dedication to Grandfather Tales, Richard Chase quotes storyteller Tom Hunt:  “No, it’ll not do just to read the old tales out of a book.  You’ve got to tell ’em to make ’em go right.”  Learn a short tale—or better yet, make up your own.

    • Choose a short tale you really like
    • Don’t memorize it word-for-word
    • Practice telling it—out loud
    • Tell it in your own words
    • Leave out “um” and “y’know”
    • Look at your audience
  1. When Jane-Ery first hears about Day’s Bottom, she thinks it might be a carnival or a car race.  What is your idea of Day’s Bottom?  What would a place of “light and wonderment” look like to you?  What would you do there?
  1. Grandpap is superstitious.  He tells the bees of Jane-Ery’s father’s death.  He plants by the signs of zodiac.  And he urges Jane-Ery to wish on a new moon.  Do you make wishes on first stars or birthday candles?  Look up other things you can wish on, like spilling salt or you and your friend speaking at the same time.  Make a list . . . and make wishes!
  1. A colloquialism is an expression used mostly within a limited geographical area.  The characters’ speeches are peppered with mountain expressions, such as:  “moony as a white horse,” “hate work like a January blizzard,” “a toad-strangler” rain.  Do you live in a region of the country where people use unusual sayings?  Do members of your family have special expressions?  Ask your grandparents (who are likely to remember things their parents said) and aunts and uncles.  Keep a record of their particular sayings.
  1. Food is important to Jane-Ery’s family.  They eat odd things like cathead biscuits, stack cake, cornbread crumbled in buttermilk, and ramps cooked in bacon drippings.  What they eat may seem strange to you.  Suppose you cooked a dinner for them?  What foods would Grandpap think are “certain-strange?” 

Read more folktales:
Chase, Richard. Grandfather Tales. New York: Houghton, 1973.
The Jack Tales. New York: Sandpiper, 2003.
American Folk Tales and Songs. New York: Dover, 1971.

Learn to make your own stack cake or potato candy:

Page, Linda Garland & Eliot Wigginton. The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984

Applit:  Resources for Readers and Teachers of Appalachian Literature for Children and Young Adults

Make a Pine Needle Basket (not an easy craft but good insight into how one makes this type of basket with walnut slice in the center)

Biographical Note and Bibliography of Works by and about Richard Chase, notes on the folktale collector

Seeing Sky-Blue Pink Discussion and Activity Guide:

  1. Sam tells Maddie that his cat Abraham can predict the weather.  Maddie wonders about this.  Animals can give us clues about the world around us.  Have you ever noticed birds eating at a birdfeeder just before a snowstorm?  Have you ever seen a dog stretched out flat in the summer heat, keeping cool?  The next time rain or snow or a thunderstorm is predicted where you live, watch the birds and animals.  Write down what they do.  You may be surprised that they know bad weather is coming before humans!

  2. Maddie thinks that Sam has made up a color.  She has never seen or heard of sky-blue pink. Have you ever tried to make up a color? Combine two or three different crayons or colored pencils (markers will be too wet) and see what you new color you invent. Don’t combine too many colors or you’ll get brown!

  3. When Maddie loses Buckingham, she is very upset.  Have you ever lost a favorite toy or stuffed animal?  Write down what happened but let your toy tell the story. How do you think your toy felt when it was lost?  Scared?  Worried?  Or excited to be on a big adventure?

  4. Maddie wants to find the chinquapin bush and taste the nuts more than anything.  But the chinquapin bush in Sam’s woods has died.  Go back in time with Maddie to Sam’s childhood.  The three of you will find the chinquapin bush, leafy and loaded with nuts.  The nuts are ripe!  What do you think they taste like?  Write down all the words that describe a chinquapin nut—“crunchy,” “sweet,” etc.

  5. Maddie wishes to have her old Perfect Days back, when she and her mother would go to the library and then share a maple walnut sundae at Rudy’s. At the end of the book, though, Maddie learns there are all kinds of Perfect Days. If you  had one day to anything you want, what would you do? Where would you go? Who would be with you? Write down all the things that make up your Perfect Day. Your Perfect Day might really happen!

  6. Maddie is allowed to draw on the basement wall.  Her pictures are mostly about how she feels at the moment.  Why not start a drawing journal?  Staple together some blank paper.  Each day draw whatever you think about, or do, or see—things that matter to you.  You don’t have to be an artist!  Just draw!

Make Your Own Maple Walnut Sundae
So what is a maple walnut sundae?  Well, the ice cream is plain vanilla but the topping is “wet nuts.”  Here is a recipe for maple
“wet” nuts:

1 ½ cups corn syrup
1 cup maple syrup
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups walnut pieces (you can buy these in your local grocery store)

With the help of a grown-up, combine the corn syrup, maple syrup, sugar and water in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil.  Stir in the walnut pieces.  Store in a jar or container. 

Built your sundae with vanilla ice cream, your maple walnut topping, whipped
cream and a maraschino cherry.  Yum!


Pony Island Discussion, Activity, and Resource Guide:

  1. In some of Wade Zahares’ illustrations, a ship sails along the horizon.  Look for the ships.  Do you notice anything about them?  Pony Islandis a story about the Chincoteague ponies but it is also a story about the passing of time.   How did the illustrator show changes throughout the centuries?  If you illustrated this book, how would you show the passage of time?
  1. If you look closely at the illustrations, one thing can seem like another.  On the page where the shipwrecked horses are swimming, do you see the raindrops?  Do you see the horses’ noses between the waves?  Look at the page where the ponies have grown shaggy coats?  Is that four trees in the upper left-hand corner?  Or are those a pony’s legs?
  1. In the story, the people of Chincoteague sell some of the Assateague ponies to earn money for a fire engine.  This tradition continues today.  The fire department uses the money to run the fire department.  The firemen also feed the ponies on Assateague during the winter and pay for them to be checked by a veterinarian three times a year.  The people need the ponies and the ponies need the people.  Can you think of any other instance where animals and people need each other?
  1. A lot of children want to buy a Chincoteague pony during the Pony Penning and Auction every July.  If you had a Chincoteague pony, what would you name it?  Write a story about your new pony.  Draw a picture of you and your new pony.

Books about Chincoteague Ponies by Marguerite Henry:

Marguerite Henry wrote many books about horses, but Misty of Chincoteague, about a real Chincoteague pony, is the most famous.

Misty of Chincoteague. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1947

Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1949.

Stormy, Misty’s Foal. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963.

Misty’s Twilight. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.


Chincoteague Pony Websites:

Misty of Chincoteague Foundation

Chincoteague Pony Association

Chincoteague Pony Centre

There’s more to explore in Candice Ransom’s world of books and writing:
flower    Ellsworth’s Journal
Under the Honeysuckle Vine Blog   flower
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