By Christine Brovelli-O’Brien, Ph.D., Content Contributor
With quiet complexity, Brendan Wenzel’s book Hello, Hello introduces readers to the behaviors, colors, textures, patterns, shapes, and sizes of creatures both familiar and unknown. Wenzel, a New York Times bestselling author and recipient of the Caldecott Medal, uses simple, rhythmic text (which echoes the children’s classic book Goodnight Moon) and pairs it with gorgeous illustrations of graduated hues. You can’t help but fall in love with these animals, big and small.
Until you read Wenzel’s “A Note from the Author” in the back of the book, you may not even realize that “many of these creatures are in trouble,” as he indicates. He is dedicated to conservationism; he emphasizes not only why endangered species need to be saved but also offers suggestions for how kids can do something about it.
One of his recommendations is to write a letter to conservation groups, which is a great in-class activity for young readers. Because kids in the target age range for this text (3 – 6 years old) are not actively reading and writing independently, you can generate a list on the board of reasons why they believe these animals should be helped. Giving them this kind of agency – showing them that they can make real changes in the real world – helps young children learn how to collaborate and get stuff done, two important skills that will serve them well as they figure out their place in the world.
Although it may take more than one class period, you can work Wenzel’s idea of further research into endangered species. Start by selecting a few of the creatures in Hello, Hello and then investigate each animal, either as a class or in small groups, which would be fun for classrooms that involve tablets, and generate a list of facts about the animal: diet, habitat, mobility, and so forth. Kids can draw their own rendition of their favorite critter and embellish the drawing by gluing on feathers, sequins, and other multi-dimensional decorations.
If you really want to go all-out with this project, you can give each child their own small blank book (white paper that’s folded and stapled together also works) and ask them to create, a la Wenzel, their own book about endangered species. If they’re obsessed with one particular animal, let the kid run with it and make the entire book about a platypus. One page shows the platypus eating, another shows it swimming. Or, kids can draw a different animal on each page, use a few pages per animal: You get the idea. First-grade teacher friends of STEM Read have created similar projects for their students that were a bit time-consuming because of extensive research, but you can keep it simple and stick with drawings and uncomplicated text. After all, look at the big impact Wenzel makes with such straightforward text such as “Hello, Color”!
Wenzel’s publisher, Chronicle Books, donates to the Wildlife Conversation Society (WCS). Through their outreach program, Chronicle Connects, the independent company is dedicated to environmentalism, volunteerism, and conscientious. They don’t just publish materials about our fragile ecosystem – they engage in activism to repair it.