Take away the A by Michael Escoffier
What you’ll need
- A copy of Take away the A (My review)
- Art supplies
Any aged class will happily listen to this story. For follow up activities and the ability to grasp the clever language concept, you probably want to reserve it for Year 4 and above.
Reading Take away the A
The concept is seemingly so simple and so clever. Each letter of the alphabet has its turn and pairs of words create a sentence. The second key word is the first key word minus a letter. I’m sure this could be explained more precisely using a mathematical formula like wo(A)rd + word = a hilarious sentence. Actually, let me just give some examples.
“Without the G the GLOVE falls in LOVE.” “Without the L PLANTS wear PANTS.” For some of the letters, the genius is in the sentence, and for others the illustration cleverly adds all sorts of additional meaning.
As soon as you get your hands on a copy of this book, it’s worth spending lots of time poring over the illustrations so you figure out all the jokes. There’s a couple of pages where you can pause for ages and eventually you start getting laughs as kids realise what’s happening in the illustration.
Before reading, I usually explain that this book is very clever. I don’t spell out exactly how it works, but after a few pages some of the kids start to get it. If you’re going to use it for a follow up activity you might want to read it once, just enjoying the nonsense, and then work through a second time, really explicitly talking through how the pairs of words work.
Have the class come up with their own sentences. Some will catch on straight away and will be already creating them before you finish reading the first time through. Others will need a bit of guidance. It’s not a bad idea to come up with some initial simple words of your own (hill, bus, face) that you could work through with less confident kids.
This part can fill as much time as you have. You could have the class sketch a possible illustration to go with their sentence. Or it could be a full art lesson where you explore a medium like pastels, dye and crayon, sharpies and coloured pencils, or mixed materials like the book. The class could then create a full colour illustration to go with their sentence and these could be combined to create your very own version of Take away the A.
Here is one I loved, created by a Year 5 student. “Take away the L and the WORLD is a WORD.”
I have a confession to make. I’m done! That’s it, that’s all the picture book examples I had up my sleeve that I’ve actually used for lessons in the classroom. So for now, I’ll have a bit of a break. But never fear, there are plenty of other ideas percolating. The next round of reviews might contain non-road-tested ideas. We’re still in Level 4 in Auckland so it might be a while before I can try them out myself, but feel free to share any wonderful successes you have here. Thanks for dropping by, see you soon!
Since I first reviewed this book, Auckland Libraries no longer has copies but National Library School Collection has copies, as do other libraries across New Zealand.
There are still copies for sale on Fishpond luckily!
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