Written and Illustrated by Mo Willems
Published by Disney / Hyperion in 2016
Grades PreK – 6
Has Mo Willems done it again? “You bet!” Combining word play, innovative illustration, and a scenario to which young children can easily relate, beloved author/illustrator Mo Willems delivers yet another picture book guaranteed to fly off classroom and library shelves. Nanette, a young frog, has a day she “won’t soon forget.” Today is the day “that Nanette gets to get the baguette!” With great excitement at this newfound independence, she steps out into the central square of her French village. Nanette’s journey to the boulangerie is replete with anticipation, rhythm, and rhyme; she encounters a quartet of neighbors (Georgette, Suzette, Bret, and Mr. Barnett with his pet Antoinette) but manages to stays focused on her task. Baker Juliette “gets Nanette the best baguette yet!” and she proudly heads for home. But, oh no – that baguette is so tempting…… There follows tragedy, forgiveness, redemption, and, of course, lots more humor. Using mixed media, Willems combines traditional and digital techniques; a cardboard village creates a three dimensional setting for Nanette’s short but dramatic journey. Per usual, Willems excels at creating facial expression; he precisely depicts Nanette’s pride, temptation, dismay, and surprise. Will you and your students love Nanette? “You bet!”
Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom.
Grades PK – 4
Responsibility. “Getting to get the baguette is Nanette’s biggest responsibility yet.” Discuss the concepts of responsibility with your students and ask them to identify times when they were entrusted with a new task or responsibility. After sharing orally, students can draw and write about these moments. Find ways to offer your students new responsibilities in your classroom and school and celebrate their accomplishments.
Baguette! Offer your students the opportunity to hold, smell, and taste a warm baguette. Explore the role the baguette plays in French eating habits. Recruit the support of your cafeteria manager to allow children to have the experience of making and baking a baguette. Extend your study by learning more about different kinds of bread from around the globe. Ann Morris’s photo essay Bread, Bread, Bread may be used to launch this exploration. Invite families to share the specials breads associated with their cultural and religious affiliation.
Specialty Shops. Read Nanette’s Baguette along with other books that feature specialty food shops, such as Monica Wellington’s Pizza by Sally and Mr. Cookie Baker. Next investigate the specialty shops in your community, taking a field trip to visit the shops or inviting several shop owners to visit your classroom to talk about their work. What role do these shops play in your community? How do they reflect the cultural make-up of your community? What’s involved in running a small business? Ask your student to consider what type of food they might like to make and sell? In preschool and primary grade classroom, work with your students to set up several shops in the classroom to be used for imaginary play. Be sure to support students to name and create signage and other text materials (menus, recipes, sale flyers, etc.) for their stores. As students engage with the materials you have gathered, notice how they use language and styles of interaction that they have experienced through your study of specialty shops.
Food Rhymes. Mo Willems cleverly employs words that rhyme with Nanette and baguette making this a very humorous book. Rereading Nanette’s Baguette, ask your students to identify all of these rhyming words, listing them on chart paper. Then, as an extension, invite students to create lists of rhyming words for other foods, challenging them to create phrases or sentences using the rhymes. Their work can be illustrated (consider using cardboard as Mo Willems has done) and displayed on a bulletin board or bound as a class big book.
Forgiveness Text Set. Although Nanette fails to bring home the baguette and is fearful of her mother’s reaction, she is met, not with anger, but with warm forgiveness. Read Nanette’s Baguette along with other titles that explore transgressions and forgiveness, for example: Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, David Shannon’s No, David!, and Mem Fox’s Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild. Invite children to discuss times when they made mistakes – what happened? (Be prepared that some students may share negative responses to their transgressions). Support a growth mindset by framing mistakes as opportunities for learning.
Tongue Twisters. Nanette’s Baguette is a wonderful model of language play. As students reread the text, invite them to notice which phrases create tongue twisters. Read collections of tongue twisters, such as Nancy Loewen’s She Sells Seashells and Other Tricky Tongue Twisters. Notice the letter combinations and repetitions of sounds that make tongue twisters tricky. Then, ask students to compose and illustrate their own tongue twisters!
Cardboard Constructions. Read a text set of books that either feature illustrations created with cardboard or feature characters that use cardboard for constructions: for example, The Nowhere Box by Sam Zuppardi happens to do both. Set up a center in your room that offers students the opportunity to create art with cardboard. Be sure to photograph their creations or create a display to share with a larger community.
Reader’s Theater. Nanette’s Baguette is an excellent title for dramatic exploration. DIvide your class up into working groups. One group will create the backdrop setting, using a large roll of paper to create a mural of Nanette’s village (this group may draw inspiration from this video of Mo in his studio). Another group will be in charge of costumes, creating paper props for the characters in the story. A third group will be the actors, they will rehearse a dramatization of the story events. A fourth group can be the sound crew, responsible for creating the sound effects. Be sure to invite parents and other members of the school community to enjoy your performance.
Grades 3 – 6
Mixed Media. With a background in television production, Mo Willems brings to children’s books a focus on multi media illustration. Read Nanette’s Baguette along with Willems’s That’s Not a Good Idea, which plays with the conventions of silent movies in picture book format. Invite students to think about how video techniques and technologies have changed over time. Consider how the three dimensional setting in Nanette’s Baguette invites a reader to visualize the narrative as an animation.
E-Book or Animation. Using Nanette’s Baguette as a model/mentor text, invite students to create a cardboard setting and an array of characters who live in that setting. Students can then compose stories or scripts, creating narratives that explore the lives of these characters. Work with your technology integration specialist or a community member with expertise to offer the students an opportunity to publish their stories either creating an e-book, with an app like Book Creator, or a short stop motion animation.
Decodable Text. This activity would work best if you have a cross grade “reading buddy” program embedded in your school: Gather a collection of decodable texts. Be sure to include books by Dr. Seuss, books published for an educational market, and additional trade book titles. Guide students to evaluate these titles, focusing their discussion on appeal and supportiveness for beginning readers. Work with your students to create a list of criteria reflecting: What makes a good book for beginning readers? Then, compare your criteria to that of the Theodore S. Geisel award. As an extension, create an opportunity for your students to visit the library to select a book to read to/with a Kindergarten or first grade student in your school community.
Constructing Nanette’s Village
Viator.Com: Behind the Scenes of a Boulangerie
Paris Perfect: Boulangerie
ALA: Theodore S. Geisel Award
Loewen, N. (2011). She sells seashells and other tricky tongue twisters. Ill. D. Wu. by Picture Window Books.
Morris, A. (1989). Bread, bread, bread. New York: HarperCollins.
Wellington, M. (2006). Pizza at Sally’s. New York: Dutton.
Wellington, M. (2006). Mr. Cookie Baker. New York: Dutton.
Willems, M. (2013). That is not a good idea! New York: Baltzer & Bray.
Zuppardi, S. (2013). The nowhere box. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Filed under: Fiction Picture Books
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.
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