"They say on stormy nights you can hear the ghost cat as he searchesfor more cat victims . . . ."
The first-graders in Barbara Clark's classroom squirmed as 11-year-old Shawn Partner read from "Ghost Cat," his tale about a ghostly creature that preys on other cats on stormy nights, especially Halloween.
Kathryn Lee Crofton told the tale of a "three-legged cat named Tripod" who came out on the full moon and killed felines who could not solve this riddle: "What has four legs, two legs and three legs?"
"That's why many cats seem to disappear on a full moon's night," Kathryn read from "The Trick of the Tripod."
The first-graders drew a collective sigh of relief when the story's hero, Beat, solved the riddle (A human crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult and uses a cane in later life).
The fantasy stories were justa few of the many that New Windsor Middle School sixth-graders read to first-graders at Elmer Wolfe Elementary recently.
The books were written as a culminating activity for a unit on fantasy books in Susan Case's reading class.
After reading several fantasy stories, the students wrote and illustrated their own tales. They also bound the books and filled the pages with details, such as dedications, copyrights and information about the author.
Shawn "was born in Harrogate, England. He draws all his own illustrations. Shawn enjoys readingscience fiction, playing Nintendo and building models."
Eleven-year-old Kathryn, "who has been everywhere on the East Coast," dedicated her book to "all of the cats in the world . . . especially my little Sneaks and Beaty."
Their stories incorporated some of the elements of fantasy that Case taught them. They include characters on a quest through time or space or unusual characters, such as animals and trees, with human traits.
Some of the other stories had titles like"The Land in the Clouds," "The Adventures of Johnny the Dog" and "Hey, My School is Gone."
When asked what they learned from the lesson, the students said they learned about the "writing experience . . .How hard it is to write a book."
One boy replied, "I learned I don't want to be a publisher."
Case told her students that she hopedthey learned more than that.
"I hope you got a feeling of pride in what you've done," she said. "I hope you got a lot out of it."
Elmer Wolfe Principal Gilman Williar said the visit by sixth-graders shows the younger students how important reading is. Williar said the visit also gives first-graders an idea of some of the work they may be doing in the future.
"I don't know who gets more out of it -- Mrs. Case's class coming in and sharing their materials or the kids listening," Williar said.
He said the visit came on the heels of a month-long emphasis on reading at the school, where posters with quotesfrom famous children's stories and illustrations drawn by parents still hang from the ceiling.
"There really is a year-round emphasis on reading," he said. "Reading is important at Elmer Wolfe. We use parents a lot. We use all the help we can get."
Clark said her classenjoyed the stories.
"I think they really like the stories," she said. "It's good for them to see that people really do write books. We talk about that a lot. This makes it real for them."