The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

2013 Geisel Award Winner: The Watermelon Seed

2013 Theodore S. Geisel Award Winner
The Watermelon Seed
Written and Illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
Published by Hyperion in 2013
Grades PreK – 6
Book Review
Drama, disaster, suspense, redemption, and relapse. The 2013 Theodore S. Geisel award winning title, The Watermelon Seed has it all. In his debut picture book, author/ illustrator Greg Pizzoli introduces us to Kroc, a crocodile with a passion for watermelon. Addressing the reader in first person, Kroc describes his obsession with the rotund fruit: “I like it for breakfast. / I like it for lunch. / I like a big salty slab for dinner… ‘ and I LOVE it for dessert!” But, like many youngsters, Kroc fears the consequences of swallowing a seed while munching on his favorite fruit. In fact, when actually does, he works himself up to such a frenzy that he rescues himself by burping up the seed. The humorous and expressive text of The Watermelon Seed is just right for beginning readers and the comic pacing will keep young readers on the edge of their seats, but the real fun here is in the illustrations. Using the palette of the melon he celebrates (pink, green, and black), Pizzoli effective employs space, shape, and size to heighten the emotional tension in his screen-printed images. Ripe for classroom exploration of author/ illustrator craft or to prompt discussion of childhood fears, this title is versatile as a read-aloud, guided reading, or independent reading book. But is there a happy ending for our watermelon loving Kroc? No spoilers here! Oh, well maybe there was one in the first line…..
Teaching Invitations: Ideas for Your Classroom
Grades PreK and Up
Discussing and Writing About Fears. Reading The Watermelon Seed can provide a launching point for students to discuss fears that they have, both rational and irrational. Invite your students to share fears that they are comfortable sharing, either whole group, small group, or with a partner. Ask them to contrast their fears with other feelings they have, describing something they are excited about, sad about, happy about, etc. Reassure children that having a range of experiences is a normal part of the human experience and that it often helps to talk about strong feelings. Follow this opportunity for oral rehearsal with some time for children to write; ask them to consider what options they might have for overcoming this fear. If children share a concerning fear that raises a real concern with you, you will want to discuss it with your administrators. 
Art and Storytelling: Pizzoli’s Illustrative Style. With minimal text, all dialogue, the illustrations in The Watermelon Seed take center stage in storytelling. Engage students in close study of these illustrations by having students attend to the meaning making they are doing by “reading” the images of the text. Model this process by thinking aloud as you examining the illustrations on the first couple of pages, then have students take turns with a partner, “thinking aloud” as they read the visuals. Following this, examine the book design (use of 3 colors and line drawings, endpapers) and engage students in a discussion of Pizzoli’s use of space and perspective. Learn more about Pizzoli’s technique on this website and blog (including Pizzoli’s tribute to Ed Emberly with a ‘how to draw’ version for Kroc). If time allows, collaborate with your art teacher to offer students some hands-on experiences with print-making.
Growing Watermelons / What Does a Seed Need To Grow? You may have students in your classroom who share Kroc’s misconception that it is possible for a seed to grow in a stomach. Explore the science behind seed growth either through in class experimentation (see information on seed starting indoors from Kids Gardening) or through books that feature seeds and seed germination, such as: Planting the Wild Garden, From Seed to Plant, and the Good Brown Earth. To assess student understanding, ask students to write an illustrate what seeds need to grow.
Have a Watermelon Feast / Melon Tasting Party. At their website, The National Watermelon Promotion Board, offers an array of delicious-sounding recipes for cooking with watermelon. Recruit parent help to obtain the ingredients so that your students can create / cook several of these treats for a watermelon tasting party. If this is too ambitious, an alternative would be to have a melon tasting party. You might want to add some storytelling to the festivities by reading the picture books Peter Spit a Seed at Sue and/or Watermelon Wishes.
Celebrating Fruits and Their Place on “My Plate”. Kroc’s recounting of his daily menu highlights a need for balance in his diet. Following a reading of The Watermelon Seed, invite your students to consider the range of tasty fruits available by reading April Pulley Sayre’s Go, Go, Grapes: A Fruit Chant. Extend your discussion with a focus on My Food Plate and the new dietary recommendations for a balanced diet. As a writing extension, you might consider having students construct a new menu for Kroc to try.
Picky Eater Text Set. Read The Watermelon Seed as part of a solar system (see our Teaching With Text Setsentry) of books featuring characters with picky our unusual habits. For examples, read this book along with: Tales for Very Picky Eaters, Bread and Jam for Frances, Gregory the Terrible Eater, Burger Boy, Little Pea and I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato. Compare the characters’ preferences, strategies, and the outcomes. Following this study, invite students either to write about their own food particularities or to write a fictional story featuring a character with peculiar tastes.
Readers’ Theater. As we have suggested in previous entries for books comprised of dialogue (e.g., I Want My Hat Back , This is Not My Hat and Up! Tall! And High!), The Watermelon Seedis excellent material for exploration through Readers’ Theater.  Invite students to try their own dramatization of the text, discussing beforehand the voice expression they will employ and the aspects of the text and illustration that allow them to infer the appropriate expression.
Exclamation Points. Pizzoli uses exclamation points liberally throughout The Watermelon Seed. Discuss with your students the dramatic effects created by this use of punctuation. Have your students conduct a scavenger hunt through your classroom library collecting and recording other uses the exclamation point by writing sentences on post-its. Invite students to share their examples, posting the examples on large charts, clustering the examples by any patterns that emerge. Read Amy Kraus Rosenthal’s Exclamation Mark to extend your exploration and then invite your students to revisit a piece of writing, revising the piece using creative punctuation.
Grades 3 – 6
The Theodore S. Geisel Award. Discuss the fact that The Watermelon Seed has received an award that, in name, honors the work of Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss.  Compare The Watermelon Seed with one of Dr. Seuss’s beginning readers such as Hop on Pop. What is similar about the two books? What is different? What makes the books well suited for beginning readers? Expand this activity by gathering the other Geisel award winners and sharing the award criteria with your students. Distribute the books to small groups of students and ask them to discuss how in their view, the criteria apply to the winners. As a further extension of this activity, you might ask older students to use what they have learned about books for beginning readers to author their own beginning reader book. These books can be shared with primary grade students. Further discussion of Geisel award winners can be found in our Classroom Bookshelf entry for Up! Tall! and High! and  Tales for Very Picky Eaters.
Grades 5 – 6
Thematic Study on Irony. Irony is a tough concept for many students to grasp and therefore isn’t usually taught until middle school or high school. If your students are ready to learn about irony, gather a text set of picture books and short stories about irony. You might want to stick to a single definition of irony or introduce the different types of irony that can be found in literature: verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony. How to Lose All Your Friends, by Nancy Carlson, can be used to explain verbal irony. Chris Van Allsburg’s The Sweetest Fig, William Bee’s Beware of the Frog, and I Want My Hat Back work well for situational irony. Use Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who!, Emily Gravett’s Wolves, Peggy Rathman’s Officer Buckle and Gloria, and of course This is Not My Hat for dramatic irony. (This teaching invitation originally appeared in our entry for I Want My Hat Back)
Further Explorations
Online Resources
Geisel Award Home Page
Geisel Award Criteria
ALA Awards announcement
Author’s Website
Pizzoli Land: Author’s Blog
YouTube Book Trailer for The Watermelon Seed
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Interview with the Author
My Plate: Kids’ Place
National Watermelon Promotion Board
Children’s Nutrition: 10 Tips for Picky Eaters – Mayo Clinic
Kids Gardening: Planting Seeds Indoors
Child, Lauren. (2003). I will never not ever eat a tomato. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Durant, A. (2005). Burger boy. New York: Clarion Books.
Galbraith, K.O. (2011). Planting the wild garden. Ill. by W.A. Halperin. New York: Peachtree Books.
Gibbons, G. (1991). From seed to plant. New York: Holiday House.
Henderson, K. (2008). And the good brown earth. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Hoban, R. (1987). Bread and jam for Frances. Ill. by L. Hoban. New York: Harper Collins.
Klassen, J. (2011). I want by hat back. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Klassen, J. (2012). This is not my hat.Somerville, MA. Candlewick Press. 

Koller, J.F. (2008). Peter spit a seed at Sue. Ill. by J. Manders. New York: Viking. 
Moser, L. (2006). Watermelon wishes. Ill by S. Schuett. New York: Clarion Books. 

Rosenthal, A. K. (2005). Little pea. Ill. by Jen Corace. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. 
Rosenthal, A.K. (2013). Exclamation mark. Ill. by T. Lichtenheld. New York: Scholastic.
Sayre, A.P. (2011). Rah, rah, radishes!: A vegetable chant. New York: Beach Lane Books.
Sayre, A.P. (2012). Go, go, grapes!: A fruit chant. New York: Beach Lane Books.
Schneider, J. (2011). Tales for very picky eaters. New York: Clarion Books.
Sharmat, Mitchell. (2009). Gregory, the terrible eater. New York: Scholastic.
Books for Exploring the Concept of Irony:
Bee, W. (2008). Beware of the frog. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Carlson, N. (1997). How to lose all your friends. New York: Puffin.
Dr. Seuss. (1954). Horton hears a who!New York: Random House.
Gravett, E. (2006). Wolves. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Rathman, P. (1995). Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Van Allsburg, C. (1993). The sweetest fig.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.