Written by Julia Denos, Illustrated by E.B. Goodale
Published by Candlewick Press, 2017
Have you ever found yourself walking down a street at twilight, watching the lights pop on inside the houses and apartment buildings you pass by? As the northern hemisphere turns and twirls towards winter, autumn afternoons grow shorter and shorter and it becomes easier to catch a glimpse of the lives lived behind closed doors. Author Julie Denos and illustrator E.B. Goodale take us on one such walk in Windows. The book is written in the second person, and while the author references the protagonist as a boy in a video interview, the illustrator has drawn a protagonist who could be male or female. Dressed in a red hoodie, s/he is reminiscent of Peter in Ezra Jack Keats’s A Snowy Day. As the reader and the protagonist make their way together through “a neighborhood of paper lanterns,” we see intimate details of everyday life: someone making dinner; someone reading the paper; a yoga class; glowing television light. Without plot or conflict, Windows is a journey of vignettes as dusk falls and evening begins, a series of snapshots rooted in the lived experiences of both author and illustrator in Somerville, Massachusetts, as well as all the places in which it might be read by readers — teachers and students, parents, grandparents, babysitters, and children – as they cherish the beauty of the world around them and the cozy feeling of coming home. This quiet book is ideal for family read alouds, library story times, and classroom explorations of community.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Twilight Text Set: Over the course of a week, read aloud Twilight Comes Twice, The Blue Hour, and Windows, three books about twilight. What do your students notice that is similar across the three books? What is different? What differences are caused by setting (one urban, suburban, natural setting)? What differences are caused by language? Next, for “homework,” have your students observe twilight from their house or apartment, after-school setting, or car, train, or bus window (since darkness can fall quite early in autumn & winter and not all young children are home at that time of day). What do they see out their window? Some students might want to take pictures with their grown-up’s cell phone camera and send them to the teacher. Some students might want to draw what they see. Others may want to write down words or have their grown-up write down words. In class, compare and contrast what children observed during this magical time of day. What activities are ending? Which ones are just starting? What views were similar? What views were different? Why? Compose a class book in which each child writes about and illustrates a snapshot of what s/he saw.
Snowy Day Text Set: Some reviewers have claimed that Windows is on some level an homage to Ezra Jack Keats’s award-winning 1962 picture book The Snowy Day. Read Windows and then read The Snowy Day and see what comparisons your students come up with. The next day, read aloud Andrea Davis Pinkney’s A Poem for Peter, and have your students share their reactions orally to Keats’s important role in children’s literature history.
Writing Narratives: Who are the People in the Windows?: After reading Windows, ask your students if they have ever enjoyed glimpsing through windows at twilight or night as they walk or drive home. What have they noticed? Do they like to do this with other people? Do they ever feel funny about it? Is it a more familiar thing for people who live in urban areas to do? Why or why not? Place students in small groups to examine the book more closely (perhaps you can get multiple copies out of your local library). Have pairs of students select a single window that is their favorite, and have the two work together to write about the person(s) in the window. Who are they? What do they do? Why are they doing what they are doing? Have students write and illustrate their vignettes and share them with one another and create a class book.
Windows Mural: After reading Windows, ask your students what someone would see peeking into your school windows towards the end of the day. Take one side of your school building and identify all the teachers who have windows facing the street, playground, or parking lot outside. Take your students outside and have them take pictures, draw pictures, and write down notes about what they see from the outside. Next, divide students up into small groups, give them pencils, paper, and clipboards, and have them go into those very classrooms for about 15 minutes towards the end of the school day. Have them write or draw all that they see. After students compare and contrast what they see across the different rooms, create a mural of that side of your school building. This could be a permanent or semi-permanent mural in a hall, or something painted on cloth or paper that you hang temporarily. In advance, some students can paint the outline of the school building and empty window space. Have each small group paint the classroom window that they observed. Be sure to invite the members of the classroom communities depicted to view the mural.
Nighttime Journeys Pathways Text Set: Read aloud both City Moon and Windows. What does each protagonist see on his/her walks? What is similar? What is different? Ask your students if they have ever “chased” the moon at night, or walked around peeking through windows. Have students watch the interview with Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale, where they discuss how the book is in some ways a celebration of Somerville, Massachusetts, where they both have lived. What would be a celebration of your community? Have your students create a journey through the neighborhood by your school, or, if you live in a suburban or rural community, the pathway to school by car, bus, or truck from various places within the community. What would be happening at twilight? Brainstorm and write the book together as a class, and have each individual student illustrate a page. Create a book trailer for the book and make sure that your school and local library get a copy of the book for their collections.
Neighborhood Text Set. One week, read this text set of picture books on neighborhood walks and journeys: Windows, Last Stop on Market Street, Say Hello!, Maybe Something Beautiful, Madelenka, and a A Place Where Hurricanes Happen. Have students compare and contrast the communities across the different texts using a graphic organizer anchor chart. How are they similar? How are they different?
Illustrating Other People’s Stories. Have students brainstorm a list of author-illustrators with whom they are familiar. Read Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, Julia Denos’s debut book as both author and illustrator. Next, read aloud Grandma’s Gloves and Just Being Audrey, fiction and nonfiction books written by other authors that Denos illustrated. What do students notice about Denos’s illustration style? What stays the same across the three books? What is different? Finally, read Windows aloud and see if students notice that it is illustrated by someone else. Ask students to consider why an illustrator would have someone else illustrate her book? If your students are familiar with Kevin Henkes’s body of work, share Birds, a book written by Henkes, but illustrated by his wife, Laura Dronzeck. Next, support students to write their own stories, but not illustrate them. Play the video interview with Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale, and discuss students’ reactions. What is it like to illustrate someone else’s words? Put students in pairs or allow students to choose pairs, and have the pairs illustrate one another’s work. To finish it off, have record interviews of the author-illustrator pairs talking about their process.
Cardillo, M. (2011). Just being Audrey. Ill. by J. Denos. Balzar & Bray.
Castelucci, C. (2010). Grandma’s gloves. Ill. by J. Denos. Candlewick Press.
Cole, R. (2017). City moon. Ill. by B. Gomez. Schwartz & Wade.
Denos, J. (2016). Swatch: The girl who loved color. Balzar & Bray.
Fletcher, R. (1997). Twilight comes twice. Clarion. K. Kiesler. Clarion.
Henkes, K. (2009). Birds. Ill. by L. Drozneck. Greenwillow Books.
Isadore, R. (2010). Say hello!. Putnam’s.
Keats, E.J. (1962/2011). The snowy day. Viking Press.
Simler, I. (2017). The blue hour. Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers.
Sis, P. (2000). Madlenka. Square Fish.
Watson, R. (2010). A place where hurricanes happen. Ill. S. Strickland. Random House.
About Mary Ann Cappiello
Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (2013) and Teaching to Complexity (2015) and Text Sets in Action: Pathways Through Content Area Literacy (Stenhouse, 2021). She has been a guest on public radio and a consultant to public television. From 2015-2018, Mary Ann was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction (K-8) Committee, serving two years as chair.
SLJ Blog Network