The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla (affiliate link to Amazon) is a terrific book to use when introducing chapter books to second grade students. It's not terribly long. . . only 64 pages. . . and has clear cut characters, settings, problems, and solution.
About the Book
The Chalk Box Kid is a book about a boy named Gregory. Gregory is upset because he is moving and he can't celebrate his birthday. When Gregory gets to his new house, he was excited because he finally had his very own room! Maybe things weren't as bad as he thought.
But the good feeling don't last. The next day Gregory goes out to explore his new neighborhood. When he comes back he finds Uncle Max in the living room watching TV. Where did Uncle Max come from? Gregory goes to his new room and sees a second bed in the room with a guitar setting on it. That wasn't there before! It turns out that Uncle Max is moving in with Gregory's family and no one bothers to tell him.
When Gregory finally goes to school, things get worse. He has trouble making friends and doesn't fit it. He is even bullied. Gregory's only source of peace comes from an abandoned chalk factory that he finds on his is walk. The walls of the factory are charred black and become a canvas of sorts for Gregory. On these walls he draws a magical garden with trees, flowers, fountains, vegetables, etc. While drawing on the walls, Gregory doesn't have to think about the bullies at school or his Uncle Max. When he is inside the chalk box factory, Gregory is able to be himself and just breathe.
From Amazon: A classroom favorite about the power of art and creativity. A new neighborhood. A new school. A lonely birthday. Life isn’t easy for nine-year-old Gregory. Then he finds an abandoned chalk factory behind his house. It’s a secret place, just for him! Now he can draw anything he imagines on the dark brick walls. What amazing thing will Gregory draw first?
- Main Characters: Gregory, Uncle Max, Ivy, Vance, Mr. Hiller, Miss Perry
- Minor Characters: Gregory's family, children at school, Miss Cartright, Richard
- Setting: unspecified city in the United States, recent past or present, Gregory's home, abandoned chalk factory, Dover Street School
- Problem: Gregory is angry and upset. His family moved on his birthday. Uncle Max moved into Gregory's room. Kids and school are unaccepting of Gregory; some even bully him. Gregory feels alone.
- Solution: Gregory finds an abandoned chalk factory and turns it into his very own place. He finds solace in the factory and decorates the walls with drawings of beautiful gardens.
After reading The Chalk Box Kid many children are inspired to draw their own gardens. Let them! You can facilitate this in a variety of ways:
- Whole Group: Create a chalk garden on the black top at school or in the driveway at home.
- Small Group or Partners: Create chalk gardens on large sheets of black butcher paper.
- Individually: Create a small chalk garden on sheets of black construction paper.
Have you read The Chalk Box Kid with your children and students? Have you tried other types of enrichment activities with them? If so, tell us about them in the comments below. We'd love to read about your ideas!
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