By Kathi Appelt
Illustrated by Dale Gottlieb
(Henry Holt, Inc., 1996)
One winter day, when I was living in Dallas, and feeling very cold and
very lonesome, I heard a song on the radio by Guy Clark called "Watermelon
Dreams. That song reminded me of summer and being with my cousins and
peach ice cream and games and mostly, watermelon. Suddenly, I felt a lot
better, even though I knew that summer was still far away. Knowing that
it would return made waiting a little easier. It made me feel not so cold
and not so lonesome.
That day I began to write Watermelon Day. It's a book about all those
things I mentioned, but it's also a book about "waiting."
Waiting is hard for everyone, but kids are asked to wait a lot. Have
them write about a time when they had to wait for a long time--maybe a
birthday--and then what happened when the waiting was finally over.
I hope you can find Mr. Clark's song too. I think you'll enjoy it.
Other ideas for using this book are:
SCIENCE & MATH
- This is easy! Find a patch of ground in your schoolyard and plant
some watermelon seeds. Watermelons are easy to grow. They don't require
a lot of attention or time. Some of my favorite watermelons have grown
from seeds that my sisters and I spit off our front porch from a house
we once lived in. If you live in a cold climate, you might want to start
your plants indoors. Just be sure they have plenty of sunlight.
- Even if you don't grow your own, you can still do things with watermelons
(including eating them). For example, take three watermelons, each one
bigger than the other. Poke a hole with a screwdriver into each one
and insert a thermometer. Using a washtub with ice, or three ice chests,
calculate the amount of time it takes for them to lower their temperatures
to 60 degrees or below. Which watermelon cooled down the fastest? Why?
- Watermelons are great for demonstrating fractions. They can be cut
in so many different ways.
- What other fruits are in the melon family? What countries do they
come from? What other plants have fuzzy leaves? Why are the leaves fuzzy?
- Fill a jar with watermelon seeds. Have a contest to see who can guess
how many seeds are in the jar?
- Notice how Ms. Gottlieb used bright, warm colors to show how hot the
day was, and deep blue to show the coolness of the lake. Most of the
colors in this book are very bright and rich. Compare this book to other
picture books to see how the artists used colors to denote warmth or
- Use seeds of all kinds to create a picture. (Teachers, you might want
to zap the seeds in a microwave first so that they don't germinate when
softened by glue or water.)
- Watermelons, like pumpkins, can be carved or turned into sculptures.
Try your hand at it. Have a watermelon-carving contest.
- Use the rind to make prints. Carve a design in a small piece of rind
and then use it as a stamp. You can do this with potatoes too.
- Listen to the songs, "Turkey in the Straw" and "Stars
and Stripes Forever." If you know someone who plays the banjo,
invite them to come play for the class.
- You can dance to "Turkey in the Straw" and march to "Stars
and Stripes Forever." Go ahead.
- Celebrations are part of family and community life. Many cultures
traditionally celebrate harvesting. Some tribes are very dependent upon
certain kinds of crops. The potato is one of the most widely celebrated
foods, especially in South America where there are many different varieties
of potato. Study harvest celebrations around the world. Then have your
own "Watermelon Day." Be sure to include a seed-spitting contest.
- Does your family have a special celebration? Write about it.
- Tell the story of a family reunion. It can big or small. It only takes
two to make a reunion.
- Plant a watermelon and then keep a daily journal. Take a picture once
every few days to mark your plant's progress.
- What is the best thing about summer? Write about that.
- If you had your own garden, what would you grow? Why?
- Write watermelon poems. Write poems about other foods. Try eggplant!
P.S. If you have any other good ideas about using this book, please send
them to me care of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 115 West 18th Street,
New York, NY 10011 or email
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