Are you familiar with “noodlehead” stories? These are stories in which a well-intentioned character takes instructions too literally- usually with comical results. (Also known as literal language stories.) The Amelia Bedelia series is a prime example of “noodlehead” storytelling.
The other day when I was visiting Chrissy Greenman’s room, I asked her to share her favorite children’s books with me. Lo and behold, I once again found “old” books that were new to me. That is always a thrill!
The series is the Epossumondas series by Coleen Salley and illustrated by Janet Stevens. Oh what fun! Epossumondas is a baby possum (wearing diapers!) being raised by his Lousiana mama (who happens to be the spitting image of Coleen Salley.) Mama gives Epossumondas specific directions, but he sometimes takes them too literally and makes quite a mess!
These books are absolutely delightful and make perfect read-alouds for the K-3 age group. (I dare say that older kids would like them too!) The illustrations are full of personality and are done in an effective mixed media style. Kudos to Janet Stevens for adding so much depth to the text through her images.
Sadly, Coleen Salley passed away in 2008. (FYI- she published her first children’s book at the age of 72! How’s that for living a full life right up to the end?) However, she will live on forever in her Epossumondus books. I love them.
Get your best Southern accent ready (preferably Cajun, if you can pull it off,) grab a group of children, and get ready for some serious fun with reading!
Epossumondas – This is the first story in the series. It follows the typical format for a “noodlehead” story. Great for working on prediction!
Why Epossumondas Has No Hair on His Tail – This one is a pourquoi tale as it explains why the possum has a “naked” tail.
Epossumondas Plays Possum – Coleen Salley employs another storytelling device in this entertaining tale- the art of the cumulative narrative. In this type of narrative (also known as a “chain tale”) the storyteller repeats action or dialogue to build the story. Though the plot is usually spare in these kinds of stories, a good storyteller can pull it off. Coleen Salley is a good storyteller.
Epossumondas Saves the Day – Finally, Epossumondas is the hero of the tale! It’s his birthday, and Mama keeps sending folks to get more “sody sallyraytus” (baking soda) for the strawberry shortcake. (The kind made with biscuits, of course.) The problem is that her helpers keep getting eaten up by the “great, huge, ugly, Louisiana snapping turtle!” Finally it’s up to Epossumondas to save his loved ones (and his party.) Great fun!
What could you do with the Epossumondas stories in your classroom? (Besides the main goal of demonstrating just how fun reading can be!) Here are a few ideas that come to mind:
- Teach a writing mini-lesson modeling how authentic dialogue strengthens an author’s voice. (These books are the perfect anchor text for this lesson.)
- Read other “noodlehead” stories (like Amelia Bedelia) and comapre/contrast the characters.
- Invite students to write their own “noodlehead” stories during Writing Workshop. If students are young, perhaps the class can create a group story under the teacher’s guidance. Maybe another Epossumondas story?
- Teach prediction and cause/effect. All of the Epossumondas stories (with the exception of the one about his tail) follow a fairly predictable pattern. The teacher could model prediction or cause/effect with one title and then engage the children in a guided practice of the skill with another.
Do you have any other favorite “noodlehead” stories to recommend?