Explore a Book: This Way Charlie

It’s been way too long since our last Book Exploration, so let’s jump back in with a new title today: This Way Charlie. Author and social worker Caron Levis has created a delightful story that offers so many options for discovery and connection. There’s lovable animals, lessons about friendship and examples of mindfulness. Plus illustrator Charles Santoso’s artwork is just gorgeous. I’m not always a fan of animal stories, but this one really surpassed my expectations.

If this sounds like a story that your family or class will enjoy, grab a copy, read it together and then extend your exploration with some of these ideas.

First, make sure you download the author’s free activity guide. She provides activities that work for a variety of ages (best for ages 5-10 or 11). I’ve included my favorite activities from the guide in this list, but you may want to use others with the children with whom you are exploring this book. These other activities will be especially helpful to teachers or librarians doing this exploration with their students.

  1. To calm everyone’s body and minds before you start reading, try the Honeysuckle Breath for Bravery activity found in the activity guide. Honeysuckle is a scent that makes Jack feel calm in the story. Is there a scent that makes your body feel peaceful and confident? You can use your scent to make a sachet to smell when you need to feel calmer or braver.

2. Watch the author read her book. If you can’t purchase the book or borrow it from the library, you can just use this read aloud video. If you do read the physical book, read it slowly, savor the beautiful illustrations and let the story sink in. Then watch this video with your kids. She reads the story quickly, but her questions and invitations to readers add value.

3. While you read or watch, use the coloring page in the activity guide to keep your hands busy. For many people (kids and adults) having something (quiet) to do while they enjoy a story actually improves concentration!

4. Talk about the book. If you need ideas to starting the conversation, think about these questions: how are Charlie and Jack the same? How are they different? What are some things Jack does that show he is a good friend to Charlie? What are some things Charlie does that make him a good friend to Jack? Are you more like Charlie or Jack?

5. The author ofThis Way Charlie was inspired by a true story. Watch the news story of the real life horse and goat friends. Discuss what details the author changed when she transformed the story into a fictional book.

6. This book has been nominated for children’s choice awards in Maine, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia and Washington. If you live in one of these states, read some of the other nominated books and then vote for your favorite. Talk as a family or class about why you picked the book you voted for. If you want to go all out, create a ballot box and vote by secret ballot. What is your family or class choice? Is it the same book that won the statewide vote?

7. In the video, Caron Levis encourages you to make moon medals for people There’s a simple template in the activity guide you can use, but feel free to get more creative. Pull out some cardboard, paper, paint, markers, glue, tissue paper and other craft supplies and have a blast. Hang your moon medals on your fridge or bulletin board for awhile to remind you of your special moon people. Then give them the medal so they know how important they are to you.

8. In the story, the Open Bud Ranch provides a safe place for Charlie, Jack and the other farm animals. There are probably animal sanctuaries or shelters in your community that provide safe places for animals. Research these places, visit if you can and consider doing a service project to help the animals there. Check with the sanctuary or shelter to find out what would be helpful, but a few ideas: donate animal food, litter or toys, volunteer to walk animals or clean up pens, stalls or cages or run a fundraiser for the organization.

9. Create your own story about animal friendship. Page 9 of the activity guide has an activity to help you come up with your tale. You can come up with your own individual story or work together with your family or class group. For extra fun, use animal puppets you own or make your own puppets to act out your story. Here’s some puppet making inspiration to get you started.

10. Finish up with the Favorite Field grounding activity from the activity guide. Do the visualization activity and draw your special place. Over the next few weeks, remind each other that when you feel frustrated, nervous or sad that you can imagine yourself in your special place and feel safe and peaceful.

Illustrations done by Charles Santoso.

If you enjoyed This Way Charlie, author Caron Levis has written several other books, including Stop that Yawn, Mama’s Work Shoes and Ida, Always.

Check out our first book exploration, A Gift for Amma by Meera Sriram and Mariona Cabassa.

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Explore a Book: This Way Charlie