As you wade into the waters of an author study, it may take you a while before you are swimming. Come on in! The water’s fine.
Upon reading the first piece of an author’s work, you test the waters with just one toe. As you read more, the cool water tickles your ankles and you notice common strengths between multiple works. You quickly submerge deeper, motivated by your findings. Pretty soon, you are swimming! This author shines in several ways and the work may possess common themes.
Just as the summer sun prompts us to dive right in, Maria Gianferrari’s work is burning bright. Since July of 2015, she has released six books and today marks the release of her seventh. Happy Book Birthday, Hawk Rising!
Maria is not new to the Reading for Research blog, and for good reason. Her exemplary work leads by example, defining the very essence of what a mentor text is. Just by looking at the covers of her work, it’s easy to see that she is an animal lover, and many of her books feature dogs as important characters. But beyond her love for dogs and animals, we find a multitude of writing strengths to learn from.
Maria Gianferrari… Word Economizer
The economy of words is important in our world of 300-400 word picture books. Vivid verbs not only enhance visualizations and ignite interplay between text and pictures, but they also make language sing and promote action. Maria masters the economy of words in all of her work, and continues in her newest, Hawk Rising. A few of the verbs you’ll find:
Do you sense poetic value as these verbs are isolated? I see a picture of a hawk emerging in my mind! The verbs alone tell a story. It is not uncommon to see this in all of Maria’s picture books. Challenge yourself and your students to find poetry in verbs as you study her work.
Maria Gianferrari… Language Capitalizer
As touched on above, verbs are one way that Maria capitalizes on language. But consider the similes in Terrific Tongues:
“A tongue like a straw” or “A tongue like an air conditioner”
And Coyote Moon, which additionally features onomatopoeia:
“As quiet as a ghost” and “POUNCE!”
As well as sensory language, precisely placed amongst an already quiet, sneaky setting:
Or the use of metaphor in Hello Goodbye Dog, comparing a dog’s legs to vehicle’s brakes:
“Moose put on her brakes.”
Maria Gianferrari… Story Weaver
Growing up, I remember the stiff, emotionless nonfiction offerings that did not excite me to read or learn more. But when facts are infused with story, we become invested readers, not even realizing that we are learning at the same time. We are led by inquiry, through an innocent observer’s eyes.
In Hawk Rising and Coyote Moon, we want to follow the animals on their night journey and we wonder:
How do they hunt? Are they always successful? Will their babies starve? Will any creatures get in their way?
Whether fiction or nonfiction, Maria always weaves a story and inspires problem solving, too:
In Officer Katz and Houndini, it’s a problem-solving showdown between characters. Deputy Catbird designs traps and Houndini solves his way out.
In Penny & Jelly: The School Show, Penny problem solves her way to finding the perfect talent show act. And truly, it is no different for her nonfiction animal characters, who problem-solve their way to a family dinner. Every traditional story features a character failing multiple times, but finding a solution in the end. This is the mark of a great story.
Keep your eye out for more mentor text greatness from Maria, as Operation Rescue Dog comes out in September! And in the meantime, Roaring Brook Press is sponsoring a giveaway in celebration of Hawk Rising. U.S. Residents may enter below:
mariagianferrari.com, on Facebook or Instagram.