A Wolfe Stew Review of Calvin Gets the Last Word

 

Picture book cover with Wolfe Stew Book Review atop a bookcase of faded books to the right.

 

While Calvin may get the last word, you’ll get the last laugh. This book brings you to unexpected places in memorable ways. An engaging involvement in word collection woven into a relatable story. After reading, you’re likely to start thinking of the words you use in a different way.

As always, I’ll alert you to potential spoilers with asterisks surrounding the header.

 

Target Audience

Leaders of learners looking to excite vocabulary interest and for anyone who is part of a family. 

Wolfe Stew believes this book is a great read aloud option for ages 6 to 8 with independent reading encouraged for 8-10.

Calvin Gets the Last Word (as of May 5, 2021) does not yet have a Lexile or AR Level.

The author’s (Margo Sorenson) website lists it suited for ages 4-9.

Amazon lists it as appropriate for grades 2-6 (approximately ages 7-12).


Leader/Learner Summaries

Print these pictures. Then, display the "learner" card on a suggested reading bulleting board and paste the "leader" card in a folder to remind you of this book when you're planning a related lesson.

Brief book description with activity suggestions on left with cover on right. Headed with book title and author name.



Brief book description on the left with book cover on the right. Title and author of book head the notecard-sized summary.


Artwork Description

Subtle colors with bright accents focus attention on elements Mike Deas (the illustrator) wishes to highlight without compromising detail. Well placed kid drawings and lettering add to the relatability of the characters and setting.  A setting which you feel as though you could jump right into with characters who seem to move along the pages.

 

Setting

At home, on the bus, during school and at baseball practice – places of supreme familiarity to many children.


Main Characters

  1. Calvin – a boy who collects words.
  2. Brother – the objective of the quest for Calvin’s right word.

 

*Point of View*

A first-person limited point of view told from the perspective of Calvin’s dictionary. The dictionary narrates Calvin’s actions and feelings based on the effect on its pages and observations of Calvin’s interactions. Each scene is summarized in one featured word, at the end of which the dictionary dictates Calvin’s internal thoughts regarding the selection of the word for his brother.

 

Conflicts

Calvin v. Words: An internal struggle to find just the right word for every situation and for his brother.

Calvin v. Brother: Wrestles with understanding and naming his feelings and attitude regarding the treatment and personality of his brother.

Calvin v. Life: An effort to uniquely navigate life in a way that reflects his thoughts and character.

Themes

Family

Wordplay

School Life

 

Our Favorites

Characters

The Mrs.: The dictionary. Not only does it offer a unique perspective on storytelling, but it does so in an intelligent and matter-of-fact way – as a dictionary should.

The Mr.: Calvin. He’s funny.

Quotes

“Hold on a second! Calvin is laughing. His brother is laughing, too. They high five each other. So now I’m looking for hilarity in my pages instead.”

*Scenes*

The last page and the largest spoiler of the book. I don’t want to share it because it’s the word that Calvin finally chooses to describe his brother. Revealing the word would ruin the entire effect of the book. Which I don’t want to do; so, I won’t. Go get it and read it!

 

About the Author

Margo Sorenson ventured into her writing career through a roundabout journey. Inspiration began at a young age when her best friends – books - were her constant companions during her childhood years in Spain and Italy. After earning her Bachelors in Medieval History (fascinating!) from UCLA, Sorenson taught middle school and high school English, and coached Speech and Debate (Read more about Sorenson’s personal life in this Wrangler Living resident feature). It was not until parents of her contest-winning writing students asked her if she herself wrote that she considered it though. (Read more about Sorenson as a writer in this Writer’s Rumpus interview). Opportunity for her to write fulltime presented itself when her husband took a job in Minnesota. Since then, Sorenson has published over 30 books with audiences ranging from toddlers to adults.

Calvin Gets the Last Word, one of her more recently published works, stems from Sorenson’s lifelong love of words. Being voted “Walking Dictionary,” in ninth grade, teaching English, and coaching Speech and Debate all bear witness to Sorenson’s logophilic nature.

But not all Sorenson’s works center around the celebration of words. In fact, her published works span a wide range of genres from nonfiction books about weather (Tsunami! and Hurricane!) to young adult romances (Secrets in Translation) to adventure - biographies (Leap into the Unknown: Albert Einstein and Danger Marches to the Palace: Queen Lili’uokalani). While few topics elude Sorenson’s pen, her preferred audience is children because they are more likely and willing to jump into the story. Find out more about Margo Sorenson, her stories, and even arrange an author visit at her website: www.MargoSorenson.com

 

About the Illustrator

Mike Deas’ illustration career, nourished in childhood from devoured comics, reached well-rounded success after leaving the video game industry. Originally from Canada, Deas returned to his hometown by way of England and California where he illustrates, among many other picture and comic books, biographies of Canadians (links to a title listing and biography of Deas at Scholastic). A Canadian countryman at heart, Deas most enjoys exploring the wilderness with his family when he’s not drawing. But, then again, Deas finds ways to involve his family in his work too: Deas and his wife, Nancy, coauthor the Sueno Bay Adventures series.

To design his illustrations, Deas’ starts with the big idea, then focuses in on the details - a mindset mimicked in his relationships. Deas, surrounded in the support of his local artistic community, then focuses in on supporting colleagues.

Salt Spring Island, British Columbia - the community Deas calls home - is inarguably a community embedded in artistry. Sand in My Suitcase deems it a sanctuary to many artists while specifically mentioning one of Canada’s well-known artists: Robert Bateman. In addition, Salt Spring Island circulates its own currency for the sole purpose of commemorating hometown artists and pioneering individuals. One can easily see how from such a community Calvin Gets the Last Word illustrator, Mike Deas, would rise. View more of Deas’ works at his website: www.deasillustration.com

 

Academic Activities

  1. Comprehension Skills
    • Predicting (What word do you think Calvin will choose?)
    • Noticing Details – Replicate Calvin’s dictionary according to the details in the story
  2. Communication Skills - Discuss the word Calvin chooses at the end and the effect the words we use have on others. How might the story end differently if an alternate word was chosen? (For a Christian perspective, consider reading Wolfe Stew’s “Lent Challenge” or “Communication as a Responsibility” posts.)
  3. Vocabulary Skills
    • Start a word collection book of their own. It need not be a dictionary, but instead a book to collect words that sound interesting to them personally.
    • Complete a “Big Words” word search courtesy of Celebrate Picture Books (scroll to the bottom.)
  4. Reference Skills – The inside covers display dictionary style entries to feature Calvin’s words from the book. Use these examples to:
    • Analyze the format of a dictionary entry.
    • Start personal dictionaries. Perhaps even consider adding details similar to Calvin’s dictionary (broccoli bits, a crumpled page, etc.) to animate each page.
  5. Writing Skills - Keep a daily word journal. Choose one word for each major event throughout the day.

Before You Go, We'd Love to Know:

1. If you've read this book, what is your favorite activity to pair it with?
2. If you have yet to read this book, what other book would you pair with this one?

We're looking forward to reading your thoughts! Leave a comment below or email us at mr@wolfestew.com or mrs@wolfestew.com.

At Your Service,
Seasoning life with a Christian husband and wife.


Interested in reading more of our thoughts on things? Then you're looking for our Reviews page. This is where we share all our thoughts on things and look forward to hearing your thoughts on things too.

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