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The Great Big Green

The Great Big Green
Written by Peggy Gifford and Illustrated by Lisa Desimini
Published by Boyd Mills Press in 2014
Grades PreK – 6
Book Review
The thing is,/ the thing is green./ And the green is the green is green./ And by green I mean…” Peggy Gifford, author of the Monty Maxwell chapter book series, offers a picture book homage to our green green earth, a tribute that trips off the tongue. Oozing with alliteration, assonance, consonance, and wondrously over-hyphenated phrases, it is impossible to not read this book aloud. For example, try the following: “It’s got green grasshoppers springing / from green groomed lawns…” and “eat-your-broccoli greens / your bunch –of-green-grapes green/ your watermelons-sparkling-in-the-sun greens.” With perfect pacing, the free verse text lists flora, fauna, and human-invented greens; offers layers of clues; and invites readers to guess what the “thing” is. The it, earth, is never named but Lisa Desimini’s lush illustrations ensure no doubt lingers in young readers’ minds. Rendered in digital collage, Desimini’s images incorporate rich textures and entice the reader to pore over the book, drawn in to the range of color and variation. The Great Big Green has great big potential for classroom explorations of art and science, conservation and observation, and language play through poetry.
Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom
Grades PreK – 3
Earth from Space: Colors in Satellite Images. Using an overhead projector, display images of earth from space using the NASA website. Then, use Google Earth to zoom into your location. Allow children to explore Google Earth in a computer lab or on iPads. What colors do they see when they explore the continents? Make connections to geographical features, such as deserts, mountains, and the polar ice cap. Invite students to draw their own images of our earth, choosing colors that match their home environment.  
Creating Color Collages. Arm your students with cameras or iPads, and have them look out the window or take a walk with them around the school or neighborhood. Assign each student a different color and have them take photos of all the different objects they can find that are that color. Then, have them study the photos to compare and contrast the various shades of that color. Invite them to name and label each shade, such as “bumpy-dusty-sidewalk gray” or “gleaming-taxicab-yellow.” Collaborate with your art teacher to use prints of the photos to create a collage images for each color. Create a museum display or a class composed book. If digital cameras are not available to you, have students cut out colors and textures from magazines.
Color Text Set.Read The Great Big Green in a Solar System Model (see our Teaching with Text Sets entry) along with other books that celebrate the colors of our world such as Ehlert’s Planting a Rainbow, Fleming’s Lunch,  Jenkins’s Living Color, Seeger’s Green, Seeger’s Lemons are Not Red, or Shannon’s White is for Blueberry. Create a note-making chart and guide students to compare how information is presented in the books, the design and role of the illustrations, and the structure and style of the text. After your review of the text set, invite students to compose their own color texts.
Except where it’s blue…”: The Great Big Green as a Mentor Text. The last phrase of The Great Big Green is a clear invitation to teachers and students to extend this text – to create a companion book. Invite your students to write The Great Big Blue, using the text and illustrations of The Great Big Green as a model for their writing.
Green Pledge.Read The Great Big Green along with other texts that encourage “green” actions, such as Gabby and Grandma Go Green, The New 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save The Earth, or Ten Things I Can Do to Help My World. Discuss with your students some action steps that you can take in the classroom over the course of the school year, and ask each students (or the class as a whole) to make a pledge that commits them to carry out one or more of these action steps. Students can document their pledge by illustrating and writing their goals. These can be displayed on a bulletin board or bound into a class book.
Duet Model Reading with Green. Read The Great Big Green in a Duet Model (see our Teaching with Text Sets entry) with Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Green. Both texts explore the variations of green found in our world, but there are subtle differences worth teasing out. Discuss the illustrations as well as the texts. Your students are sure to notice that both books include striking images of a tiger! Following your focused comparison, invite students to compose their own illustrated explorations of green.
Grades 2 -6
Language Play: Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance. In The Great Big Green, Peggy Gifford provides us with many wonderful examples of language play using alliteration, assonance, and consonance. Help your students to understand these elements of style by writing examples from the book on sentence strips. Read the phrases aloud, focusing students’ attention on the sounds of the language. Sort and label the phrases. Ask students to keep an ‘ear out’ while they read other texts and collect additional examples of these stylistic elements.
Performing Poetry. You and your students are going to love reading The Great Big Green aloud. Invite students to practice reading the text aloud to achieve fluent reading and plan a performance of the book for neighboring classes. You could also build a reading of this text into a performance of other poems featuring color and nature such as those found in Joyce Sidman’s award winning book Red Sings From Treetops: A Year in Color.
Further Explorations
Online Resources
Author Website: Peggy Gifford
Illustrator Website: Lisa Desimini
NASA Visible Earth
Google Earth
YouTube: Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Natural Resources Defense Council: The Green Squad
Earth Day Network
Think Green: Discovery Education
Ehlert, L. (1992). Planting a rainbow. Orlando, FL: Voyager Books.
Fleming, D. (1995). Lunch. New York: Henry Holt.
Jenkins, S. (2007). Living color. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Katz, K. (2002). The colors of us. New York: Holt.
Reynolds, P.S. (2012). Sky color. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Seeger, L. V. (2008). Lemons are not red. New York: Roaring Brook Press. 
Seeger, L.V. (2012). Green. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
Shannon, G. (2005). White is for blueberry. New York: Greenwillow Books.
Sidman, J. (2009). Red sings from treetops: A year in color. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.
The Earth Works Group. (2008). The new 50 simple things kids can do to save the earth. Ill. by M. Montez & L. Bodger. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishers.
Walsh, M. (2008). Ten things I can do to help my world. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Wellington, M. (2011). Gabby and Grandma go green. New York: Dutton

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.