Dandelions

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by Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Greg Shed. Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 2-4.
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Review

cover art

Eve Bunting and Greg Shed's Dandelions is a superb picture book appropriate for a wide range of grade levels. For those of you unfamiliar with this treasure, let me introduce you. We meet Zoe and her family on the way from Illinois to their new home in an ox-drawn covered wagon, their cow walking behind.

For this family, the children and father adapt quickly, but the pregnant mother is overwhelmed by the loneliness. When Papa declares they are "here", there's nothing to see but the endless plain that has surrounded them for weeks. Soon the well is dug, the sod house made and it begins to feel like home for everyone but Mama. She feels insignificant and lonely and says that the sod house disappears into the terrain almost as soon as they step away from it.

Zoe's clump of dandelions which she digs up and brings carefully home from a trip to town are planted on the roof. Like the people, the dandelions are not easily transplanted, but they take root. In the last scene, we see the brilliant yellow roof they create on the sod house. The story is well told and the illustrations which glow with gold from the first spread on, bring us the feeling of sun-drenched plains and of dandelions.

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Things to Talk About and Notice

  • The book brings the prairie years into focus, of course, but it also can lead into such discussion topics as:

  • What are the various needs of the characters in this book? What other books talk about similar needs?

  • What makes a place home for you? What material things from your present home would you place near you in a new one to make it feel like home? Is it something you could have had in the time in which this book is set?

  • Imagine your family transported back in time to a dwelling like the one in Dandelions. Which members of your family would adapt best to the conditions there? What about yourself?

  • The dandelions may also represent caring and love for her mother on the part of the daughter. Have you ever used a flower or something equally simple to show the same? Has something similar ever been done for you?
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Activities

  • In this story, the dandelions could be symbols of beauty found in simple, common things. Make a list of plants that can similarly bring a whole environment to mind the way that dandelions can evoke a meadow or a lawn or a cactus can recreate a desert.

  • Make a model or diorama of a sod house. You may even be able to use real sod for your building materials. If you can't, improvise.

  • When the plains were settled, many other people were unsettled. Take one area of the plains and find the names of the Native American people that were there then. What happened to those people?

  • Find a piece of music, a painting or a poem that could represent a feeling from Dandelions. Explain your choice.

  • Read a novel which is set in approximately that time and place and compare those characters and events to the ones in Dandelions.
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Related Books

  • Conrad, Pam. Prairie Visions (HarperCollins, 1991 ISBN 0 06 021375 2)

  • Rounds, Glen. Sod Houses on the Great Plains (Holiday, 1995 ISBN 0 8234 1162 1)

  • Rounds, Glen. The Treeless Plains (Holiday, 1992 ISBN 0 8234 1084 6)

  • Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. The Sioux: A First American's Book. Illustrated by Ronald Himler. (Holiday, 1993 ISBN 0 8234 1017 X)

  • Turner, Ann. Dakota Dugout. Illustrated by Ronald Himler. (Simon & Schuster, 1989 ISBN 0 02 789700 1)

  • Conrad, Pam. Prairie Songs. (HarperCollins, 1985 ISBN 0 06 440206 1)

  • MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah Plain and Tall. (HarperCollins, 1985 ISBN 0 06 440205 3)

  • Turner, Ann. Grasshopper Summer. (Simon & Schuster, 1989 ISBN 0 02 789511 4)

  • Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House on the Prairie. (HarperCollins, 1953 ISBN 0 06 026445 4)

  • cover art The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. (1987, Picture Book Studio. ISBN 978-0887081552. Order Info.) Picture Book. 36 pages. Gr PreK-2.
    We follow a seed from birth to flower to seed again. It's fall and the seeds are being blown along by the wind. Obstacles abound, but one seed is able to grow to maturity where it faces more perils. This classic, first published in 1970, is a great introduction to the life-cycle of flowering plants but also a beautiful philosophical look at life. Read Featured Book Teachers Guide.
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