This is one of the 2012 winners of the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award:
Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O'Connell George (Clarion, 2011)
Here is a Digital Trailer for EMMA DILEMMA created by graduate student Gayla Mulligan.
Here is a Readers' Guide for EMMA DILEMMA created by graduate student Dana Cruz.
George, O’Connell, Kristine. 2011. Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN 9780618428427
Recommended Age Levels 6-9 years old
Summary of Book
The bond of sisterhood between fourth grader Jessica and her three year old sister Emma are delightfully captured in Ms. George’s thirty-four free verse poems. Told from the perspective of Jessica, the reader learns what it is like to be Emma’s big sister. Emma is a boisterous, fun loving preschooler who looks up to her older sister. She wants to tag along, have her sister’s approval, and be her big sister’s best friend. Jessica is at times embarrassed, compassionate, playful, and annoyed at Emma’s antics. Their father calls Emma, Emma Dilemma, and Jessica feels that this is true for her. The poems weave together several days and incidences in Jessica and Emma’s lives. Progressing from one day to the next the reader gets a true feeling of being part of the family. Little showcases of sisterly love are displayed through handholding in the car and letting Emma sleep in her bed, to putting rocks in Jessica’s shoe and wanting to complete homework with Jessica. The culminating event in the set of poems begins with Jessica and her friend, Sasha’s escape to the tree house in “Freedom”.
The reader can see and feel the excitement to be away from a younger sibling and to be with your best friend; reminiscent of almost anyone’s childhood. The reader feels Jessica’s pain and sorrow when Emma falls while trying to get to her sister in the tree house. The long wait for Emma’s return from the hospital conveys the true emotions that flow through families. Emma is a dilemma, but a good one for her sister. Through the course of the story, the reader learns that family ties are deeper than annoyances. George’s specific and descriptive word choices in her poems of everyday events in Jessica and Emma’s lives are beautifully interpreted by Carpenter’s ink and digital illustrations.
"The vignettes form such a vivid portrait of Emma and Jessica that readers may feel as if they personally know them—and a tense turn of events will have readers holding their breath." Publisher’s Weekly, starred review
“The illustrations give us a glimpse into Jessica's conflicted emotions as she vacillates between affection and exasperation.” Children’s Literature
"A potent combination of accessibility and understanding, this will work well as a read alone or a read aloud, offering sympathy to those who are in the older-sib position and perspective to those who aren’t." Bulletin, starred review
"Spring-colored line drawings in pen-and-ink and digital media are filled with engaging details, expressive characters, and lots of humor, and bring the family dynamics to life while the verses build to a climactic situation that brings these youngsters together in a touching way." School Library Journal, starred review
"This touching portrayal captures well the many mutual acts of kindness and tolerance inherent in healthy sibling relation." Kirkus Reviews
"The poems and art tell an absorbing story—complete with a few tense moments and a warm, believable conclusion—widening the audience and making this book more than just an opportunity for big sisters to nod their heads in total recognition." The Horn Book
"Older siblings everywhere will recognize the big-sister’s view of family fury and fun." Booklist, starred review
• Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, 2012
• Promising Poet Award
• Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, 2012
• SLJ Best Books of 2011, Nonfiction
• Booklist Lasting Connections of 2012, Nonfiction
• ALA Notable Children's Book, 2012
• BCCB 2011 Blue Ribbon, Nonfiction
• International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice, 2012
Questions to Ask Before Reading
Invite children to discuss the following questions prior to reading aloud Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems.
Before holding up the book ask the class:
• By a show of hands ask the students the following questions. How many of you have an older sibling? How many of you have an older sister? How many of you have an older brother? How many of you are the oldest in your family? The teacher can keep a tally on the board or chart paper and can use the data as a math connection later.
• Ask the students, “Do you and your younger or older brother or sister always get along?”
• “Can you give me some examples of what you and your younger or older sibling(s) do together?” Allow the students’ time to share their responses. Summarize the enjoyable and annoying traits that siblings have.
• Tell the students the title of the book you will be reading today - Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. Ask the students to predict what they think this story will be about based on the title and the illustration.
• Ask the students, “What does dilemma mean?” For the younger students this can be a difficult word to define. Use the illustration to help provide understanding of the word dilemma.
• The title has the word poems in it. Ask the students, “What are some of the types of poetry you are familiar with?”
Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
• “Dracula” poem- This poem lends itself well to choral reading. Divide the class into two groups. The teacher reads the first line “Emma leaps out at me.” Group 1 says, “Cape.” Group 2 says, “Fangs.” Group 1 says, “Fake blood.” Group 2 reads “Scared you! Scared you!” and can point their fingers at the other group. Group 1 reads “Did not! Did not!” Group 2 read “Did too!” Group 1 reads “Did not!” Teacher finishes with “I like to start my day with a scream.” And all the kids scream.
• “Below” poem- Read the poem through one time with the whole class. Then divide the class into two for a call and response. Have each group come up with body movements or facial expressions to accompany their groups’ specific lines of poetry. Stanzas 1, 3, and 5 for group 1. Stanzas 2, 4, and 6 for group 2. Stanza 7 will be both groups together. The groups may choose to act out the stanza with a few students while the rest read the stanza in unison with gestures or facial expressions.
• “Fun with Yarn” poem– Ask the students to close their eyes as you read this poem to them. Ask the students to visualize what they think the words would look like in a picture/illustration. Before showing the illustration to the students ask them to describe what they saw in their mind as you read. Compare and contrast their visions to the illustrator’s interpretation.
Follow Up Activities
Writing and Reading
• Emma Dilemma gave us a look at Jessica’s life as a big sister. Ask the students to choose two to four poems/events and re-write them from Emma’s point of view. Students will add in illustrations for their new renditions of Emma Dilemma. Once completed there can be a share aloud for anyone who volunteers.
• Ask the students to write a personal narrative about their family. Tie this assignment back to the “Before Reading” question 2 and 3 (Do siblings always get along?) that the class brainstormed. For students who are an only child ask them to use examples from interactions with cousins, with friends, or use an idea that a classmate shared.
• Students can write their own free verse or rhyming poem about an event that took place in their family. Ask the students to illustrate their poem and to give it a title. Collect all the poems and create a class poetry book that can be shared aloud.
• Students will write a story on the topic, “What does family mean to me?”
• Review the definition of the word dilemma with the class. Ask the students to brainstorm or web their ideas about a dilemma they have had to face in their lives. Once the student has the dilemma he/she will creatively devise a way to introduce the dilemma and how he/she addressed the dilemma so that the class (if read aloud) or teacher understands. Examples of ways students can creatively portray their dilemma: cartoon, blog, video, a play with people or puppets, through a song, a commercial, a collage, or a maze.
• “Yards of Yarn” – there is a reference to a spider in the poem. Students can write their own spider poem.
• “Family Tree” – Have the students write a poem about their family. It can be humorous or serious take on the family; rhyming or not rhyming; haiku or cinquain. Display the poems at Back to School Night.
• Students will compare and contrast Emma Dilemma to one of Ms. George’s other poetry books. The results can be reported through a T-Chart or using a free blog program like Blogspot or Prezi.
• Students can read other poetry books about families and siblings and create a Venn diagram for the two selected books.
• The poetic style of Ms. George can be compared to other children’s poets. Students will select and read one book of poetry by Ms. George and another children’s poet. What are some of the similarities and differences in style and word choice? Are the poems free verse or rhyming? Do other children’s poets use illustrations with their poetry? Groups of students will create a multimedia presentation to report their findings.
• Using the poem “Fun with Yarn” as your starting point; ask the students how long is a yard? Once you have the answer ask the students to calculate the “yards and yards of yarn.” Review the calculations. Using prediction skills ask the students how big they think a ball of yarn is? Would it cover a bedroom like in the poem? Ask the students to look at the classroom and then estimate how many yards it is. Will the ball of yarn in your hand cover this classroom like Jessica’s room? If they do not think so, how much of the classroom will be covered? Have the students write down their predictions in their math journal and the teacher keeps a record under the document camera or on the white board. Divide the class into groups and provide them with yard sticks and have them measure the perimeter of the room. Have one group member record the measurements. Re-group as a class and go over the measurements. Together calculate the perimeter of the room. (4 times the length). Were the students’ measurements accurate?
You can use measurement tutorials at:
http://www.aaastudy.com/geo78_x8.htm AAA Math – square
http://www.easycalculation.com/area/learn-square.php easy calculations has an example
• “Soccer Game” - Ask the students what shape is a soccer ball? (Sphere). What other things are sphere shaped? Write the list on the board. What are the black shapes on the soccer ball called? (Pentagons) How many sides are on the pentagon? Can you think of other things that are pentagon shaped? Look at the picture of Emma in the stands, how many items is Emma wearing? Compare the number of items she is wearing to the number of items that Jess is wearing. Who is wearing more and who is wearing less? What is the total number of items for each?
• “Emma’s Hand” - Ask the students “Are hands all the same size?” “Why is that?” Go over how to read a ruler in inches and review height and length. Trace your hand onto a piece of paper. With a partner measure each other’s traced hand with a ruler. Write down the length and height in inches. Discuss whose hand is larger and smaller. How much larger and smaller are the hands?
• Use “Late for School” and “Emma’s Birthday”- Calculate how many more years until Emma can attend school. Calculate how much older Jess is than Emma. Calculate how much younger Emma is than Jess. Further connection, will Jess and Emma ever attend the same school? Use their ages to help you figure it out.
• “Sharing” – Use a plastic pie or a circle cut out to teach the students about fractions. Ask the students how would I cut this pie in half? Demonstrate. Now what if I want to cut it in half again? Demonstrate. Can we further divide the pie? Is each part equal? Now allow the students to use their knowledge of whole, half, and quarter with manipulatives. Divide the class into groups that will rotate through centers and practice the skills of fractions. You can have groups with fraction bars, different shapes, and computer fraction programs.
Below is a site that reinforces various math skills. You can select the grade level and the skills you wish the child to work on.
Math Blaster Plus is also a good program to reinforce math skills.
• “Cheating” – Bring in a deck of cards. Ask the students how many cards are in a deck. What are the numbers that you see on a deck of cards? Are there any other types of cards in the deck? How many of each is in a deck? What are the shapes on the cards? Divide the students into groups of 4 and give each a deck of cards. Allow the students to play “Go Fish”. Have the students predict how many cards each of them will have at the end of the game. How many pairs and groups of four do you think you will have? Once the game is complete have the students review and see if their predictions were right? Have the students calculate their total number of points? Who has the most points and who has the fewest points? What is the difference between the most, second most, third most, and fewest points?
Elementary Math Games: Fun, interactive math games - http://www.elementarymathgames.net/first-grade-math-games.html
Many free math games to work on a variety of skills.
• “Field Trip” – Based on this poem Jess has $3 to spend at the museum. Have the students do an economics unit and create their own business. The students can earn money to spend at other peoples’ shops or to buy supplies to make items for their business by doing their classwork, homework, cooperating with others, etc. The teacher will collect data for a week and then let each student know how much money they have earned toward the project. Each student will need to use addition and subtraction skills when purchasing supplies or items from other businesses.
• “Telling Time” – Use this poem as an introduction to teaching the students how to read a clock. Most students can read a digital clock but cannot read an analog clock. Show the students 6:00 o’clock on each type of clock. Show the students the five minute increments and quarter after, half past, and quarter till. Students will practice telling time by rotating through stations.
• “Collector” - Emma likes to collect rocks. The teacher can do an introduction on rock collecting and how people have enjoyed learning about rocks. The teacher can show an introductory video from BrainPop on “Types of Rocks.” Discuss the three groups of rocks and let the student know that they will be researching more about the different types of rocks that exist. (Sedimentary, Metamorphic, and Igneous )What materials are rocks made out of? Where can you find your type of rock? Is there a life cycle for a rock? Student will be divided into research groups. Students can use online and print reference materials to gather their information. Students will report back their finding one of these ways: blog, labeled graphics, a brochure, or as a news report.
Resources: Interactive Rock Cycle website: http://www.learner.org/interactives/rockcycle/index.html
Ask GeoMan website: http://jersey.uoregon.edu/~mstrick/AskGeoMan/geoQuerry13.html
NeoK-12 Type of Rocks website: http://www.neok12.com/Types-of-Rocks.htm
BrainPop Types of Rocks video: http://www.brainpop.com/science/earthsystem/typesofrocks/preview.weml
Geography4kids.com website: http://www.geography4kids.com/files/earth_rocktypes.html
• “Yards of Yarn” – In the poem there is a reference to a spider. For the insect unit the students can learn about the different types of spiders, what are the parts of a spider, where they are located, are they predators and who preys on them? The teacher can use a virtual fieldtrip to a museum to learn about spiders and their habitats. Teachers can use a virtual image of a spider to label the anatomy of the spider.
Illinois State Museum website: http://www.museum.state.il.us/ismdepts/zoology/spiders/
Australian Museum website: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Spiders/
• “Family Tree” and “Oak” – Tree references are found in both of these poems. What trees are natural to your area? Are they deciduous or coniferous trees? Define both terms. How can you tell how old a tree is? Discuss how the rings in the tree tell about its history and life. You can tell the years that there were droughts based on the size of the rings. If there is a tree stump in your school area, take a nature walk and show the students the rings. If not, take a picture of the rings or use a picture found on the internet. Calculate the age of the tree. Ask the students how else we can calculate the life of something? Can you tell the age of someone by using your family tree?
• “Freedom” – Connect the poem to your unit on the Civil War and Slavery. Have a discussion about what freedom means to the students? Have there been times in history when people have not been free? Students can learn about slavery. Students can write their own “Freedom Manifesto.”
• “Role Model” – What are the character traits that a good role model has? Can you think of any positive role models today? There have been many role models in history. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Henry Ford to name a few that were men. But who are the historical role models for young girls? Boys and girls will be able to find girls and women from the past who are good role models. Have the students do a survey of 5 different role models listed on the National Women’s History Museum Website. Chart why each of the 5 role models was important. What characteristic did you connect most with out of the 5 role models you researched?
Use websites like: National Women’s History Museum, Young and Brave: Girls Changing History Website: http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/youngandbrave/index.html.
• “Family Tree” – Have the student do a genealogy project. Students will interview their family members about their history. Where did their ancestors originate from? When did they arrive in the United States? What were some of the jobs that your ancestors had? Did any of your ancestors take part in any major historical events (wars, civil rights movements, inventions, etc.)? Draw out your family tree; try to include as many dates as you can. Students can also use genealogy sites to assist them if they like.
• “Justice” – Prior to reading the poem “Justice” ask the students to define the word. Read the poem and discuss what justice means to Jess. Ask the students if they sometimes feel the same way as Jess. Ask the students if they think that throughout history people have felt that justice or injustice has existed? You may need to explain injustice to them. What are some historical events where there has been justice and what are some historical events where there has been injustice? Examples: Justice – court systems or abolishing slavery. Injustice-slavery and human rights issues.
• Based on the poem “Sharing” have the students cooperatively design a motivational poster for the school about the need to share.
• Based on the poem “Emma’s Hand” have the students trace their hands onto white paper. Using pens and pastel like Carpenter, the students will illustrate their hand with important pictures about their life.
• Students can work in small groups to produce a Reader’s Theater. Students will bring or make the props (scarf, hat, jewelry, shoes, etc.) needed for their version of Emma Dilemma. Students can work with the music teacher to create a dance variation or find music that can accompany the performance.
• Students can create a Digital Trailer for Emma Dilemma. After sketching out the Digital Trailer during art class, the students will create the Digital Trailer during computer class. Student can utilize Web 2.0 tools like Animoto.
• During computer class, the students can use Google Docs to create a poem with another student from another school in the district or elsewhere. Student one will begin the poem with stanza one. Student two will continue the poem with stanza two. The teacher can determine how many stanzas the poem is to have or set a time limit for the project to be done.
• The classroom teacher will divide up the students and give each pair a poem from Emma Dilemma. During computer time, the pairs retype their Emma Dilemma poem onto a PowerPoint slide. The pairs will add in graphics from a clip art program and any animation that will enhance their poem. Using GarageBand the pairs will add in music to fit with the tone of their poem. The second part of the project is to re-write their Emma Dilemma poem from the point of view of Emma. The pairs will repeat the steps from the first PowerPoint slide. The teacher will combine all of the poems into a PowerPoint presentation that will be shown to the class.
Related Web Sites
You can visit Kristin George’s website to learn about her life and her poetry. She also provides tips for teachers and students; as well as some of her favorite quotes. Ms. George has also created her first digital trail for Emma Dilemma and you may find it on her website. http://www.kristinegeorge.com/
Learn more about Emma Dilemma’s illustrator Nancy Carpenter at the Houghton Mifflin website. http://www.eduplace.com/kids/hmr/mtai/carpenter.html
You can visit the free family tree maker website to start inputting your family data. It is good starting point to organize your history.
Family Tree Chart: Google Search
This site has 22 pages of various family tree templates that you can print and begin recording your family history for posterity.
Here is just one of many free search engines for researching your family’s genealogy. Make sure that the free sites meet your needs. http://www.usgenweb.org/index.shtml
Other Books of Poetry by Kristine O’Connell George
George, Kristine O’Connell. One Mitten. Ill. by Maggie Smith. ISBN 9780618117567
George, Kristine O’Connell. A Great Frog Race: And Other Poems. Ill. by Kate Kiesler. ISBN 9780618604784
George, Kristine O’Connell. Little Dog and Duncan. Ill. by June Otani. ISBN 9780618117581
George, Kristine O’Connell. Little Dog Poems. Ill. by June Otani. ISBN 0395822661
George, Kristine O’Connell. Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems. Ill. by Kate Kiesler. ISBN 9780618752423
George, Kristine O’Connell. Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems. Ill. by Kate Kiesler. ISBN 9780618045976
George, Kristine O’Connell. Fold Me a Poem. Ill. by Lauren Stringer. ISBN 9780152025014
George, Kristine O’Connell. Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems. Ill. by Barry Moser. ISBN 9780152023256
George, Kristine O’Connell. Book! Ill. by Maggie Smith. ISBN 9780395982877
George, Kristine O’Connell. Up! Ill. by Hireo Nakata. ISBN 0618064893
George, Kristine O’Connell. Swimming Up Stream: Middle School Poems. Ill. by Debbie Tilley. ISBN 9780618152506
Other Books Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
O’Neill, Alexis. Loud Emily. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780689846694
Jacobs, Kate. A Sister’s Wish. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780786801381
Kroll, Virginia. Can You Dance, Dalila? Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780689805516
Bowdish, Lynea. Brooklyn, Bugsy, and Me. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780374309930
Offill, Jenny. 11 Experiments That Failed. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780375847622
Yolen, Jane. My Uncle Emily. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9780399240058
Winters, Kay. Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books. Ill. by Nancy Carpenter. ISBN 9781416912682
Other Poetry Books about Families
Cooper, Melrose. I Got a Family. Ill. by Dale Gottlieb. ISBN 9780805055429
Greenfield, Eloise. Brothers and Sisters: Family Poems. Ill. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. ISBN 9780060562847
Hoberman, Mary Ann. Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems. Ill. by Marylin Hafner. ISBN 9780316362511
Hoberman, Mary Ann. And to Think That We Thought We’d Never Be Friends. Ill. by Kevin Hawkes. ISBN 9780440417767
Katz, Bobbi. Could We Be Friends?: Poems for Pals. Ill. by Joung Un Kim. ISBN 9781572552302
Rush, Elizabeth. M Is for Myanmar. Ill. by Khin Maung Myint. ISBN 9781934159286
Williams, Vera. Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart: The Story of Amber and Essie told here in Poems and Pictures. ISBN 0060294604
Fiction Children’s Literature about Sisters
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women: Or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. ISBN 9781152391666
Boling, Katharine. January 1905. ISBN 9780152051198
Curtis, Marci. Big Sister, Little Sister. ISBN 9780142300787
Harper, Jamie. Me Too! ISBN 9780316605526
Holeman, Linda. Promise Song. ISBN 9780887763878
Madden, Kerry. Gentle’s Holler. ISBN 9780142407516
McPhail, David. Sisters. ISBN 9780152046590
Pham, LeUyen. Big Sister, Little Sister. ISBN 9780786851829
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. A Gift for Jo. ISBN 9780385326681
Russell, Paula. My Sister, Olive. ISBN 9781921272882
Wilkes, Maria D. On Top of Concord Hill. ISBN 9780060270032
Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. Sketches from a Spy Tree. ISBN 9780618234790
Nonfiction Children’s Literature about Sisters
Bailey, Debbie. Sisters. ISBN 9781550372755
Bailey, Diane. Venus and Serena Williams: Tennis Champions. ISBN 9781435835528
Kenyon, Karen Smith. The Bronte Family: Passionate Literary Geniuses. ISBN 9780822500711
Meyer, Donald. Editor. Views from Our Shoes: Growing Up with a Brother or Sister with Special Needs. ISBN 9780933149984