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  • Putting Books to Work

Putting Books to Work: Jan Brett's HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

by Kathy Prater
December 20, 2011
HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by Jan Brett (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011)
Pre-K through Third Grade


HOME FOR CHRISTMAS is a story about a young troll right before Christmas struggling to find his way in the world and family. The story opens with the narrator explaining that trolls’ tails fall off when they become helpful and kind. Instead of wanting that to happen, the troll, Rollo, runs away from home seeking to find someplace where he can “do what he wants.”

He attempts to live with many animals along the way and comes to a realization about helping. He thinks he won’t have to make a bed when he is with the owls’ family but then is forced to try to fly. With the bear family, Rollo was enjoying the luxury of not cutting wood until having a close call with a hive of bees. He also tried living with an otter family, a lynx family, and a moose family. Each place had its own trouble although it was different trouble than what Rollo was running away from. Rollo realizes that home is where he needs to be and has quite a creative trip getting back home with the aid of a shed moose antler. Once returning home, Rollo has a change of heart about helping out and the cat gets a new chew toy—Rollo’s tail.

As is common in Brett’s books, the inset pictures tell another side of the story. They show the actions of Rollo’s family missing him while preparing for Christmas on the left side of the story, and give hints to the next page’s events on the right side. As always, there is a picture story within the picture story.

Cross-curricular Connections: Character Education, Science, Reading, Art, Math

Ideas for Classroom Use:

Helping Out (Pre-K through Third Grade)

The purpose of this activity is to engage the children’s prior knowledge and events at home to help build on work ethic, reinforcing the skill of retelling and composing. After reading the book to children, discuss as a group or in small groups, the actions Rollo chose when confronted with work that might be boring or difficult. Talk with the students about different types of work done by each animal in the book and how each animal felt about their own work. Also discuss the change in Rollo’s behavior as he was exposed to new jobs and ideas.

Apply this knowledge to the students’ own lives and have them share in pairs or small groups what they find difficult or mundane as a chore at home. Have students work in pairs or individually to create a story about what they feel is a difficult task and compare it to something that could be even harder.

Final products could be written compositions for older students, or drawings with dictation for younger students. Have students share their work with classmates and encourage discussion. Remind students to use positive statements in order to be kind to other authors.

Timelines (Second and Third Grade)

The purpose of this activity is to have students compare the time Rollo spends away from home with the time it appears to be taking in the inset pictures, reinforcing the skill of sequencing. The story says that Rollo stayed with the owls until the owlets started to fly and with the bear family until the end of the summer. Have the students document changes through the pictures and the narrative of the story, estimating the number of days Rollo stayed in each place.

Then, in small groups or individually, have students create a time line of events in the story words and in the pictures on each page. Timelines should be written and illustrated with explanations. Display the time lines together so students can compare their time line to other groups. Discuss the differences between the perception of time for Rollo, the understanding of time by the groups in the time lines, and actuality.

Animals and Challenges (Pre-K through Third Grade)

After reading the story, talk with students about things animals do that we may not think of as work, reinforcing connection of prior knowledge to stories in books. Have students choose an animal to illustrate and tell about what the animal does that may be hard for a person to do. As a contrasting activity, have students discuss some things their animal does that a person may be able to do as well. Older students can research unusual animals and younger students can use familiar animals such as a dog or cat. Share information in a newscaster type setting for older students or in group meetings for younger students.

Additional Resources and Activities:

Jan Brett's website This website is the home of Jan Brett and includes links to her many books, activity pages, and interactive content. At the time of publication, no activities were included for HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, but many other activities would be adaptable to use with the book.

Wild Animals A-Z This website, hosted by Discovery, has a list of wild animals of all kinds. Mammals, birds, invertebrates, etc., are all included with videos, links to additional information, and interactive quizzes. This site would be a good starting point for choosing and learning about an animal.

Timelines: A Timeless Teaching Tool This article contains advice and ideas on using timelines to teach students of all ages. The information is broken down into subjects and grade levels. There are also multiple links to additional information concerning timelines.

Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist and Pre-Kindergarten teacher in Starkville, Mississippi. She tutors students with dyslexia and teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi. Her passions include reading, writing, and helping students at all levels to find motivation for lifelong reading and learning. She believes that every child can become a successful reader if given the right tools and encouragement. She has been teaching Christmas Around the World for multi-grade students for the past 18 years.

WANT TO WRITE FOR ENGAGE? Send your name, the grade level(s) you teach, the title of book that you put to work, and a line or two about how you use it in your classroom to engage-membership@reading.org.

© 2011 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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1 Comment

  1. 1 kjhaon 26 Apr
    I have a undertaking that I'm just now working on, and I've been at the look out for such information.You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you ffxi gil buying

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