In The Classroom with THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK (plus a Giveaway!)

It may not be normal but THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is a hilarious read-aloud that can also be used in fun lessons about language arts, science, and social-emotional discussions about collaboration and compromise.

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK begins as a stroll through the common, every day, normal animals – mammal, bird, amphibian, insect, reptile, and fish. The story quickly evolves, however, into a meta-fiction disagreement between the author and illustrator over how to draw the animals. The author wants simple, normal animal drawings. The illustrator, however, is confused and makes a bit of a mess. The conflict reaches its peak when the illustrator refuses to draw the author’s choice of fish. Granted, the blobfish is an unusual choice of fish.

With the below activities, kids will laugh while learning! Here are a few fun ways to use the book in your classrooms:

The Magic of Voice

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is a book in two voices – the author and the illustrator. Before reading the book aloud, ask the kids to create the book characters so they can act out the story. They can draw pictures of an author and an illustrator and glue them onto craft sticks, or make puppets out of socks or paper lunch bags, or bring in stuffed animals to represent the two different characters. Anything works! Have fun as the kids join in on the storytelling with their “characters!” For older readers, you can take the dramatic read-aloud to the next level by discussing the personality traits of each character as reflected in their dialog.

What Kind of Animal is That?

Different animal classes have different characteristics. Use the back matter in THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK to brainstorm animals in each category and then play animal charades! The kids can play individually or in teams and act out different animals while others guess the animal and its classification!

Collaboration and Compromise

In THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK, the author and illustrator don’t agree on how the animals should be presented. In the classroom, you can reenact this author-illustrator dynamic by having the kids write a short story with the plan that it will be illustrated. Then, ask them to illustrate someone else’s story! Discuss the challenges and benefits of relinquishing control over the art. Reflect on any conflicts or compromises that were encountered along the way, and how they were resolved. Some qualities that make for good collaboration include: Listen to the other person; when you disagree with someone’s opinion, disagree with the idea, not the person (respect one another); and, allow for compromise if there is a disagreement.

For complete standards-aligned lesson plans for grades PreK-6, visit!

 Julie Segal-Walters is the author of THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before becoming a writer, Julie was the president and founder of Civic Action Strategies, a grassroots organizing and democracy development consulting firm. She worked in Kosovo, where she directed citizen engagement programs for U.S. and European organizations.

You can find more information about Julie on her website or on Twitter.

GIVEAWAY TIME! Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway of a FREE classroom Skype visit (+book swag for the students)!

Grow a Greater Understanding of Figurative Language with Grandmother Thorn.

Grandmother+ThornPicture Books are a great classroom tool for exploring metaphor, simile, idiom and other figurative devices. The combination of text and pictures helps children decode the meaning of figurative phrases, and to better understand that there is more to words than their literal interpretation.

In Grandmother Thorn, I used many examples of figurative language to build a strong connection between the main character and nature, including simile, personification, onomatopoeia, and metaphor.  For example, at a moment of crisis, Grandmother’s voice “droop[s] like an old tree, withering in drought.” In fact, the book in its entirety subtly equates Grandmother to the stubborn, thorny vine she battles. Given time and space to grow, both burst with unexpected sweetness. Talk about a metaphor!

In my free Educator’s Guide download, you will find a Figurative Language lesson plan and berry printable. Teachers can create a twisting vine of green yarn around a bulletin board or classroom.  Then ask students write or draw examples of figurative language from the book on their berries. Your classroom vine can bloom and grow all year long as you add examples from other books!

The Guide also includes a Text-to-Self connection printable that encourages kids to compare themselves to a plant, with room to draw and write a response. This gives your class another terrific way to explore figurative language with a nature theme.

Grandmother Thorn Giveaway!

Use this Rafflecopter link to be entered for a chance to win a free 15-minute classroom Skype session with Katey, a signed copy of the book, and a classroom set of Grandmother Thorn bookmarks.


Katey Howes is the author of picture books Grandmother Thorn (Ripple Grove Press, 2017) and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe, coming January 2018 from Sterling Books.  A former physical therapist, life-long book lover, and self-proclaimed “fun mother,” Katey can often be found exploring outdoors, making messes and machines with her three daughters, or consuming large quantities of black coffee and Moose Munch as she revises her latest manuscript. Katey is a team member at All The Wonders, a website that connects readers to children’s books in new and wondrous ways.