“Legs on the Run”
by Shannon Hale, illustrated by Calef Brown

They continued out of the forest, the only sounds the creak of the howdah on Hathi’s back, the soft thuds of the elephant’s feet on the ground, and Joe’s calls of a “little to the right, Hathi” and “straight ahead” as he consulted the red arrow on his toe. Roberta was motionless, as if in rest mode. There were blankets in the howdah, and Nancy snuggled in, warm between Sybil and Joe. She let her mind go soft and slept some.

Legs! Annotated List of Suggested Read Alouds and Independent Reads
Activities for the Classroom
For Parents, Teachers, Librarians — Talk Art!
Discussion Questions

Legs! Annotated List of Suggested Read Alouds and Independent Reads

by Thom Barthelmess; Butler Children’s Literature Center at Dominican University

Read Alouds

Keller, John, illustrated by Henry Cole. The Rubber-Legged Ducky. 32p. Gr. PreK-3.
In this clever reimagining of the Ugly Duckling, Five (the fifth duckling) is teased about his stretchy rubber leg until he foils a nefarious fox and saves the day, proving that sometimes, a rubber-band-leg is just the thing.

London, Jonathan, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Froggy Gets Dressed. 32p. Gr. PreK-3.
When Froggy wakes up from his hibernation early, and encounters SNOW, he can hardly wait to get out and play. But his inexperience bedecking his frog legs, and all of his other frog parts, with wintertime regalia, troubles him aplenty, resulting in repetitive, hilarious sartorial high jinks.

Newsome, Jill, illustrated by Claudio Muñoz. Dream Dancer. 32p. Gr. K-3.
Lily loves and lives to dance ballet. But when a fall from a tree leaves her immobilized with a broken leg, she is despondent. A gift from her grandmother, in the form of Peggy, a ballerina doll, brings a touch of imagination to Lily’s recuperation. Or is it magic?

Independent Reads

Elkeles, Simone. Leaving Paradise. 312p. Gr. 8-12.
When Caleb drove drunk and hit Maggie, both were changed forever, her leg mangled, and his psyche collapsed. Today she gets home from the hospital, and he gets out of prison. Their happenstance reunion, and the insight it opens up, surprises them both.

Henkes, Kevin. Words of Stone. 160p. Gr. 3-6.
One of Blaze’s last memories of his mother is waiting with her in line at the fair, when a power cable explodes beneath him, leaving permanent scars on his legs, and his courage. When Joselle arrives next door, the two forge a tentative friendship, tested by their individual struggles with longing and trust.

Paulsen, Gary. The Monument. 151p. Gr. 5-9.
Rocky is insecure, about her leg brace and her darker-than-Kansas skin. But when Mick, a wandering artist, arrives, and turns her small town on its head, Rocky learns that sometimes the relationship between what’s on the outside and what’s on the inside isn’t as simple as it seems.

© 2010 Thom Barthelmess

Activities for the Classroom

by Rebecca Berezin

Using a Story Map to Aid Comprehension

When students read or listen to a story, it is important that they learn how to identify the elements of fiction, such as the title and author, setting, characters (main and supporting), problem, events, and solution. Comprehension is an essential component of the reading process. According to Fountas and Pinnell (2001), “Comprehension is not something that happens after reading. Comprehension is the thinking we do before, during, and after reading” (p.323). Students need to learn that comprehension occurs before reading by looking at the title as well as any available pictures and forming predictions about the story. During reading, students need to realize that they incorporate their background knowledge and make connections. Also, they learn to begin to identify the significant elements of the story. After reading, students need to summarize and synthesize the story. They further think about the important elements of the story and analyze what happened.

The story map is an excellent strategy that can be used to help students with comprehension. It includes all of the elements of narrative text. As Fountas and Pinnell (2001) point out, “The reader must select important information, weave it together, and integrate it with background knowledge” (p.324). The story map is an effective organizational tool for helping students focus on the important information, summarize, and synthesize. It also gives students the freedom to incorporate their background knowledge.

Download a PDF version of the Story Map graphic organizer.

Suggestions for Using the Story Map

The story map can be completed as a whole class, with partners, or individually. It is important to model how to use the story map before applying it to the narrative text being used. Another suggestion is to divide the class into groups and have each of the groups figure out the solution. Then, come back together as a whole class and have each group share what they think is the solution. An overhead projector or document reader is recommended when using the story map. A third suggestion is to divide the class into groups and have them create an alternate solution to Episode 19. After each group creates their alternate solution, return together as a whole class and have each group share.


Fountas, I.C., & Pinnell, G.S. (2001). Guiding Readers and Writers: Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

© 2010 Rebecca Berezin

For Parents, Teachers, Librarians—Talk Art!

Chalk Art: In the Galleries and on the Streets

by Mary Brigid Barrett, NCBLA

"Legs on the Run" © 2010 Calef Brown
“Legs on the Run” © 2010 Calef Brown

“Hathi had reached the chestnut tree, and an elephant knows when she’s been outrun. She turned to face the predator, standing between wolf and pig, her trunk raised.”
— From Episode 19: “Legs on the Run” by Shannon Hale

There is a sketchy, chalky quality to Calef Brown’s illustration for Episode 19 even though Calef created it with computer software. It is not only the textural effects of the color coverage in the illustration that make it similar to a chalk drawing, it is also the use of lilac and sage, muted purple and green colors to which white has been added, that give the illustration that “chalky” feeling.

Chalk drawings are an affordable and approachable color art medium for kids and grownups. Colored chalks are relatively inexpensive, and can be used on all kinds of paper. No worries about spilling messy paint, and if you make a mistake you can just wipe the chalk away. Chalk drawings done by fine artists are called pastel paintings. Quality fine art pastel sets can cost hundreds of dollars. Many artists in the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist eras used pastels to create riveting paintings

A chalk art activity for kids of all ages is sidewalk chalk art, which can be done in the suburbs, small towns, and cities on sidewalks both cement and tar, in parking lots, playgrounds, gardens, parks, or shopping malls—basically anywhere there is space to draw and people who will enjoy viewing the art!

You may want to introduce the idea of a sidewalk chalk art to your kids by first reading “The Day Out,” Chapter Two of Mary Poppins, written by P.L. Travers and illustrated by Mary Shepard, the daughter of Ernest Shepard, who illustrated all the original Winnie-the-Pooh stories. In this chapter, a great read-aloud, nanny Mary Poppins takes her charges Jane and Michael on an outing to the park where they meet Mary’s friend Bert, the “Match Man” and part-time pavement artist. Many kids will be familiar with this scene from the Mary Poppins Disney movie, but will not have read this wonderful book. Reading this chapter aloud to them will get them excited about becoming  pavement artists, and it may also inspire them to read all the wonderful Mary Poppins fantasies.

After sharing this chapter, you may want to show them the incredible sidewalk art of Julian Beever, an English artist who is famous all over the world for his amazing 3-D sidewalk art. You can show kids the examples of his work below.

You can find colored chalks just about anywhere, but to get a wide variety of colors check out your local art supply store or educational supply store. I would not recommend kids using expensive pastel chalks for sidewalk art!

Choose a site for the chalk drawing activity. It may be your own driveway or street sidewalk. It may be the pavement in front of your town’s storefronts, or your neighborhood mall parking lot or playground. You can plan it as a spontaneous activity or as fundraising event for your school, library, or your kids’ favorite charity. Kids can sketch whatever they want impulsively at the site, or you might like them to do a preliminary color drawing or sketch beforehand so that they have some kind of plan. It is all up to you!

Have each kid take a light color of chalk to line the area they would like to cover on the pavement of tar. A playground is a great safe place to do chalk art drawings because there is usually oodles of space, and playgrounds are usually fenced off from traffic.

Make sure you have lots of water for kids to drink, and also water and rags for them to able to “erase” their chalk if they make a mistake. You may also want to have paper towels or soft cotton rags around for use if kids want to rub or blend their colors together. Lemonade and cookies make a great treat at the end of the activity! Kids, parents, and guests can then stroll around, lemonade in hand, gazing in appreciation at the wonderful sidewalk gallery! And who knows?—perhaps your kids, like Jane and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins, will make an imaginative leap into one of the drawings, and come back to write a story about their adventure!

Online Resources

© 2010 Mary Brigid Barrett; The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance

Discussion Questions

by Mary Brigid Barrett, NCBLA

Writers must not only create convincing characters and dialogue, they also need to create a believable world for their characters. Realistic fiction and fantasy writers use sensory description—words and phrases that depict smells, textures, temperatures, sounds, tastes, and visuals—to a make place and time convincing. Shannon Hale is highly skilled at using potent sensory description to enliven and energize her work, creating a believable sense of place and time and a vivid sense of atmosphere—giving sense and place added shadings of emotion. Have your students reread Episode 19 “Legs on the Run” by Shannon Hale and ask them to identify words and phrases that relate to the “five senses.” (You may want them to identify the five senses first!) Then ask them why writers use sensory language when building a sense of time and place, instead of more innocuous words like beautiful or ugly, to create a sense of time and place in their stories.

In Episode 19, Joe and Nancy once again find themselves in a dire situation. Ask your students and/or kids if they have ever been a dangerous situation. What happened? How did they react? Did they find themselves freezing up? Did they get nervous, and if yes, how did they act? Were their grown-ups to help them, or were they on their own? Do Joe and Nancy have identical reactions to the situations and adventures they have encountered in their quest? Does that make them more or less believable as characters?

Sybil Hunch is an intriguing name for a fortune/misfortune teller. Writers often take great care in choosing characters’ names. What are your favorite character names in The Exquisite Corpse Adventure? Why?

At the end of Episode 19, Shannon Hale writes, “Roberta stood up – yes, stood. A no-nonsense android who has been missing her legs for ten years won’t waste time snapping them back on. She put her hands on her hip-region and squared her shoulder-type area toward Joe and Nancy, as if meeting them with the steely gaze she surely would have if she’d had a head.” Are these “take charge” actions of Roberta’s in keeping with what you know of her character throughout the story, or were you surprised by Roberta’s attitude and actions? Why or why not? In creating believable characters, writers have to make sure that what a character does is consistent with the personality and mindset of the character. There are many characters in The Exquisite Corpse Adventure. Have they all been developed with believable consistency? Share examples to illustrate your opinion. If the characters have not acted in a manner consistent with their personalities and mindsets, why might a writer have a character act in a way that is inconsistent with their previous actions and mindset?

In Episode 19, Joe and Nancy yearn for things they have never experienced: sitting on a couch in a living room; being tucked into bed at night. Questions to pose to your young people: Some people may think that Joe’s and Nancy’s yearnings are insignificant, but what do those yearnings really represent? What have they been missing in their lives? What are their deepest and truest hopes and desires? Are they the same or different from what you want? Do you ever look at other people’s lives and yearn for something that they have? Is what you desire symbolic of a deeper yearning?

© 2010 Mary Brigid Barrett; The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance