The disembodied voice seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere – ricocheting off rocks, echoing through trees, speaking out of thin air. But try as they might, Nancy and Joe could not lay eyes on the Being that belonged to the spooky words that had just rasped, “What have you got there?”

“Who are you?” Nancy asked, speaking to the air. She trembled; her fingers let go of the robotic arm. It dropped to her feet.

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is available in hardcover, paperback, and audio. Ask for it at your local library and bookstore!
Read more about the author Megan McDonald and illustrator James Ransome here!

Click on a title below for book recommendations; reading, writing, and art information and activities; and discussion questions.

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

Wolves! Annotated List of Suggested Read Alouds and Independent Reads

by Thom Barthelmess, Curator at the Butler Children’s Literature Center at Dominican University

Read Alouds:

Gravett, Emily. Wolves. 40p. Gr. 1-3.
A tender rabbit takes a trip to the public library, and happens upon a book about wolves. Wolves, you say. Rather a dangerous topic for a tender rabbit, perhaps? Never fear. It’s only a book, and we mustn’t confuse a story with reality. That would just be silly…

Kasza, Keiko. The Wolf’s Chicken Stew. 32p. Gr. PreK-3.
The Big Bad Wolf himself is scouring the forest for his dinner. He is just about to pounce on a chicken, when he decides to fatten her up, for an even better meal. For the next few days he deposits scrumptious desserts at her door, but discovers, too late, that hers is not the only mouth to feed. He may not have dinner, but he has 100 new friends!

Trivizas, Eugene, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig. 32p. Gr. PreK-3.
In this fun and fanciful twist on the old favorite, three little wolves barricade their homes against the big bad pig with fortress-like properties. When his escalating attacks trump their tactics, they try something completely different, and weave a peaceful house of flowers.

Independent Reads:

Aiken, Joan. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. 168. Gr. 3-7.
Bonnie and Sylvia worry about the ferocity of the legendary wolves that roam the woods around Willoughby Chase, but it is the nefarious motives of the evil Miss Slighcarp, their temporary Guardian, and her designs on the family fortune, that represent the real danger. With the help of Simon, the half-wild goose boy, they embark on a plan to foil their foe, and find Bonnie’s parents.

Lyons, Jayne, illustrated by Victor Rivas. 100% Wolf. 256p. Gr. 4-6.
Ten-year-old Freddy Lupin anxiously awaits his “transwolfation,” when he can claim his place among the respected wolves of his lineage, and escape the control of his uncle Sir Hotspur and his home at Farfang Castle. When he becomes a tiny poodle, instead of a great wolf, Freddy must rely on his smarts, and not his strength, to outrun a werewolf hunter and join a band of homeless dogs with ideas of their own.

Wood, Maryrose. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling. 288p. Gr. 4-6.
When Penelope Lumley, 15–year-old recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, assumes responsibility for the children of Ashton Place, she is met with three children raised by wolves in the woods of the Estate. Can instruction in poetry and Latin overcome their feral tendencies, and even if it does, will that be enough?

© 2010 Thom Barthelmess

Activities for the Classroom: Riddles

by Marilyn Ludolph, Ed.D, Dominican University School of Education

Some say that riddles began in ancient times and were mainly about the sun, the moon, the rainbow, and the wind. Riddles were taken very seriously back in the days of the Greeks. Homer, a great Greek philosopher, is said to have died of humiliation because he couldn’t answer a riddle!

In the Middle Ages, riddles were considered a form of entertainment associated with the bards. The format of riddles facilitated their job as traveling entertainers. Riddles were also a sort of trivia, passing information between people that others could not understand, comparable to “undercover information.”

A riddle is a question that usually requires clever or unexpected thinking in order to come up with the correct answer. There is usually one correct answer to a riddle, and the correct answer is usually given, even if the person guessing doesn’t think of it.

Episode Ten includes this riddle, “Thirty white horses upon a red hill. Now they champ, now they tramp, now they stand still.” Nancy and Joe venture several guesses before exclaiming the correct answer. Did you know the answer to the riddle? Have you heard or read this riddle before? Here’s a hint: it comes from a “somewhat” famous book by a writer named J.R.R. Tolkien! Can you guess the answers to these other riddles from the same book:

Riddle #1

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down. 

Riddle #2

What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows? 

Riddle #3

Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking

Riddle #4

A box without hinges, key or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid. 

Riddle #5

It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.

Figuring out the answers to riddles can be a lot of fun. It is also fun to create riddles of your own!

How to write a riddle:

When writing a riddle three rules apply:

1. Pick one item you would like to talk about.

2. Think crazy thoughts about the item you would like to talk about.

3. Give clues about your item.

 Here’s an example:

What do you call a kitten drinking lemonade? (a sour puss)

One more:

What flower do you always wear? (two lips)

Now it’s your turn! Based on any of the episodes you have read so far, what riddles might you write that could be entertaining or be designed to pass on information in an undercover fashion?

Answers to Riddles: 1-Time, 2-Mountain, 3-Fish, 4-Egg, 5-Darkness. The “somewhat” famous book in which these riddles appear is The Hobbit!


Az Kids Net Riddles
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit Plot Summaries Page

©2010 Marilyn Ludolph

Discussion Questions

by Geri Zabela Eddins, NCBLA

Following their confrontation with the Wolf, Nancy and Joe are confronted with another crisis when they realize they have lost both Baby Max and the key given to them by Angel. Joe protests immediately when Nancy suggests they must split up. The twins have never been apart, and they can hardly stand the thought of it. It is the red arrows—each pointing in a different direction—that convince the two that going separate ways is the right decision. What do you think about Nancy and Joe’s decision to separate? Can you think of an alternative? What do you think will happen next? Have you read any other stories in which siblings were forced to separate? What were the circumstances…and the consequences?

Have you ever been forced to say goodbye to someone you care about? How did you feel? Were you as lonely as Nancy and Joe seem to feel?

Imagine you were a witness to the parting of Nancy and Joe and you can choose to join one of them as they leave each other. What would you say? Think about the conversation you might have…and write it down as a duologue. Who would you choose to talk to? Nancy or Joe? Would you find one to be easier to talk to? Write down your conversation, and be sure to specify who says what. You might also want to include “stage directions” in parentheses to indicate the action that is taking place. For example, your duologue might start like this:

(Joe begins to walk more quickly toward the water, though his head hangs low. I approach from the side.)

Joe: Who are YOU? Where did you come from?!

Me: Errrr…Hi. I was hanging out at the other end of the beach with my family. We heard something loud––like an explosion—and I ran up the beach to see what it was. Are you ok? Is that your sister? (Points to Nancy, who is walking the other way.) 


Moffett, James. Active Voice: A Writing Program Across the Curriculum. Boynton/Cook Publishers: Portsmouth, NH; 1992.

© 2010 Geri Zabela Eddins

For Parents, Teachers, Librarians—Talk Art!

Chris Van Dusen’s Illustration for Episode Nine and James Ransome’s Illustration for Episode Ten

By Mary Brigid Barrett

Illustration for Episode Nine
by Chris Van Dusen

Illustration for Episode Nine
by James Ransome

Creating Pictorial Depth with Lights and Darks

In their illustrations for The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, both Chris Van Dusen and James Ransome have skillfully contrasted light and dark values in their paintings creating drama and depth. Instead of imagining a source that sheds light from the front of the picture plane, Chris and James have imagined a light source emanating from the back of the picture plane, creating a backlit illustration.

In most illustrations and paintings, figures and objects in the foreground are frontally lit so that details and expressions are easily read by the viewer. Backlighting in an illustration or painting accentuates figures or objects in the foreground, dramatically separating the foreground from the middle and background, adding great depth to the picture. Atmospherically, because details in the foreground figures and objects are obscure and deeply shaded, the use of backlighting can add a sense of heightened drama, mystery, excitement, and even danger to an illustration.

Even more, backlighting is a technique that draws the viewer into the picture. In both Chris’ and James’ illustrations, backlighting the figures in the illustrations makes us feel like we are right behind or above the figures, looking over their shoulders, watching, perhaps even worrying.

Chris and James have shaded the figures in the foreground, using contrasts of dark against light values, giving form and weight to the figures. One of the masters of light and dark shading in both drawing and painting is Rembrandt van Rijn, a 17th century Dutch painter. In his painting here, Christ at Emmaus, you see a beautiful example of backlighting and chiaroscuro, the visual modeling and shading of light and dark that gives a sense of volume, of three-dimension, to figures and objects.

Home and Classroom Art Activity: Shading and Modeling with Light and Dark

Supplies: White or cream paper; soft lead #2 pencils or Ebony pencils; a kneaded rubber eraser; a light board or heavy piece of cardboard to be used as a drawing board; a spotlight, lamp, flashlight, or independent source of light that can be moved easily; whatever objects you have on hand to create a still life (fruits and vegetables, pile of blocks, simple geometric objects, etc.)

Kneaded rubber erasers are one of the very best, and cheapest, art supplies; every kid should have one! Not only are they amazing erasers, but they are similar to Silly Putty in that they are very malleable, and can be shaped and molded into any kind of object or figure you like. I often take them with me when I do author/illustrator presentations at schools.
I demonstrate how a kneaded rubber eraser can be shaped into a rabbit, and then popped on the end of pencil, and the next day it can be reshaped into a lion’s head for an all together different look! Very cool, and the kids think so too!

Create a value chart for a handy reference

Most young people love to draw, and love to experiment with “shading” the figures and objects in their drawings. But, most young people are hesitant to use strong darks in their drawings. Creating a simple value chart on paper is a drawing exercise that raises their awareness not only of the dark values that are needed to give a shape form and depth, but also makes them aware of the wide range of middle values available.

On a white or cream sheet of paper, you and your kids draw a long vertical rectangle of at least six inches and roughly, and lightly, sketch out ten somewhat equal sections within the rectangle (see the drawing to the left). The top section will be the white of the paper; the last section will be the darkest dark you can create with your pencil, black if possible. In the eight sections in between the “white” and the “black,” you and your kids should try to make a gradated flow of pencil graphite that take the shades from the sharpest darkest dark of the bottom section, gradually getting lighter and lighter until it blends into the pure white of the top section.

It sounds easy, but it can be very hard to make this value chart. Experiment and don’t worry if the first time you or the kids try that it does not show a gradual blending of shades. It is important to try to make a value chart, not only to raise the kids’ awareness of the wide variety of shadings available, but it can also be used as a guide when shading their own drawings. Most often, in realistically inspired drawings, most of the values used in shading objects and figures will be those eight middle sections in the chart. But importantly, all drawn object and figures will also need both the lightest white and the darkest dark to really give the shape weight and dimension. Kids can use the value chart as a comparison point when working on their own drawings as it is a helpful reminder that all the values should be represented when they are trying to render figures and objects three dimensionally.

There are many different ways to shade objects and figures. One way is to gradually blend the different shades, which can be done by applying different levels of pressure on a soft lead pencil, and also by rubbing and blending the graphite with a tissue, a figure, or lightly with kneaded eraser. You can also use a kneaded eraser to reveal whites of the page, and to lighten areas that are too dark. Another method of shading is to cross hatch lines over and over again to attain needed dark shades. A third way to shade is to use small dots, or points—pointillism—to achieve light and dark areas. You and your kids may want to experiment with all three methods by drawings simple spheres, like in the above drawing, and then shading them.  

The illustration at left is a drawing that I did in colored pencils to illustrate “The Testimony of Padraig Tomas O’Deorain,” a story I wrote for the NCBLA’s award-winning book Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. (For more information go to

In this realistic drawing that details the stone arch that is over the front door of the White House, I have used the full range of values from white to black in order to show readers the incredible depth of the stone carvings on the White House. See if your kids can find the two griffins that guard the White House in the arch!

And below are some rather incredible Rembrandt drawings that you can share with your kids to show them the many different ways they can shade their own drawings.

Have Your Kids Arrange and Draw Their Own Still Life!

A still life is an “artful” arrangement of intimate objects. The object can be simple, like round pieces of fruit standing on the table or in a bowl, a vase of flowers, or a tower of blocks. The still life can be more personal—an arrangement of beloved stuffed animals or favorite toy cars and trains. It can be anything you and your kids would have fun drawing, but for the first time, simple may be best.

Have your kids arrange their chosen objects on a table. See if you can get rid of all natural and man-made lights sources in the room—close the curtains and shades, turn off all overhead artificial lights. Then get your portable light source and place it somewhere near the still life. It can be behind the still life to get a backlit effect. It can be to the right, left, or way above—whatever you and the kids like! You may want to try a series of drawings—drawing the same objects from a variety of different viewpoints with a different lighting source direction each time.

The kids should pull up a chair near the table, resting their “drawing board” at an angle from the table to their laps. A piece of drawing paper can be masking taped to the board. They will also need their soft lead pencils and an eraser. You can sit right next to them and draw, too! Everyone should lightly and loosely sketch in the objects in the still life, and use the entire sheet of paper!!! Once you have an idea of where you want the objects on the paper, draw in details and shade the objects so that they begin to have dimension, weight, and form.

When everyone is done—have a tea party and tape your drawings all around the living room or your classroom for your own gallery showing!!

Websites to find out more about Rembrandt and the art technique of shading:

Rembrandt van Rijn, National Gallery of Art

Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art, The Dayton Art Institute

Rembrandt Van Rijn: Life, Paintings, Etchings, Drawings, & Self Portraits

Rembrandt, WebMuseum, Paris

Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn, The Getty

Rembrandt, Wikipedia

Rembrandt and the Technique of Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro, Art Studio Chalkboard

Chiaroscuro, Wikipedia

© 2010 Mary Brigid Barrett