Red Sky at Night by Elly Mackay - Book Review

Red Sky at Night begins with, "Long ago, here and far away, people looked for clues in nature to predict the weather." As the book begins with an explanation of the weather aphorisms to follow, it was easy for this reading specialist to focus on the text while glossing over the gorgeous illustrations that paint the narrative. Therefore, this reader spent the first read-through noting teaching ideas focused on the weather aphorisms almost completely ignoring the narrative unfurled in gorgeous paper-cut 3-D imagery! Luckily, on the second and third read, the narrative added another layer as to why this fabulous book should be added to classroom shelves.

Synopsis from the publisher: "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. And, the next morning, when the dew is on the grass, no rain will come to pass. These are the perfect conditions for a grandfather to take his grandchildren out on a fishing trip. Especially since, as the saying goes, when the wind is from the West, then the fishes bite the best. The family takes a boat out on the lake, fishing and swimming and eventually camping out on a nearby island, taking full advantage of the gorgeous weather. But the next day . . . red sky in the morning, sailors take warning! The family ventures back home just in time to avoid a rainstorm. But not to worry -- the more rain, the more rest. Fair weather's not always best. Acclaimed paper artist Elly MacKay illustrates a lovely family narrative through the use of weather aphorisms, creating a beautiful and informational story which will appeal to children's timeless fascination with the natural world."

Quick Teaching Thoughts to Accompany Red Sky at Night 
  • Discussions on oral tradition and how sayings were passed down through generations would be a good starting point and possibly tie well with a social studies unit on oral tradition, native peoples, etc...  I would not spend a ton of time on it, but standard, "CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.5 Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information" is worth a mention also.
  • Perhaps the most obvious lesson to plan with this text is to determine the nonliteral meaning of the sayings with the literal science principles the sayings depict (actual validity of sayings are organized in the back of the book chronologically). "CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language." Or, on the lower end of the  developmental ladder "CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.4 Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text." or "CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area."
  • But, there is also the added layer of understanding the craft of idioms in writing. This is a big lesson for a 3rd grader and the written form of it could extend to 4th - 5th graders 
  • The illustrations ARE the story in this book so, "CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7 Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events..." seems like a no brainer and if you use it with  "CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.6 Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text" you're planning a killer lesson! This concept works well all the way through the 3rd grade as, "CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)."
Genre: Picture Book, Nature & Science
Age: Preschool - 2nd grade (with implications as a way-in book for intermediate grades also)
Pages: 40
Themes: Weather, family, old sayings (aphorisms)
Originality: The unique 3-D illustrations add much depth to an otherwise simple list of common weather observations
Thank You to the Publisher: Tundra Books for 2 opportunities to preview this book on NetGalley and in physical form through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

You can read more about author/illustrator Elly Mackay on her website HERE 

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