Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Fat-Cats at Sea

The Fat-Cats at Sea 
By J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Victoria Chess
Readers Guide
by Laura Schaefer 

Lewis, J. Patrick.  The Fat-Cats at Sea.  New York: Apple Soup, an imprint of Alred A. Knopf, 1994.  Illustrated by Victoria Chess.
Recommended Age Levels
5 - 10

Summary of Book
When the Queen of Catmandoo solicits brave cats to sail to the distant Island of Stickey-Goo and bring her back delicious sticky-buns, the Captain of The Frisky Dog, Hillary Hollery Q. McQatt, accepts the challenge.  He and his crew of five fat feline sailors: Razor-Toes Jerome the First Mate, Stewart Rottenham the cook, the Compass-Cat, the gunner Catty Moran, and Lookout Lou, set sail with the intent of finding the Queen her sticky-buns and securing the prize of catnip.  Along the way, they encounter the Equator made of bungee cord (in “Stuck on the Equater,”), homesickness (in “The Homesick Song of Rotten Stew,” an enemy ship crewed by poodles (in “Attack on the Poodles,” octopuses in love (in “An Octopus He and She,” the Nowhere Island (in “On the Nowhere Isles,” and three blue whales (in “The First Mate and the Whale Islands” before finally returning home to Catmandoo.  They safely deliver the much anticipated sticky-buns to the Queen, who is so thankful she knights them. 

Review Excerpts
“In rollicking poems matched with devilishly droll art, six well-fed felines set sail on The Frisky Dog under orders from Her Majesty, the Queen of Catmandoo, to bring back the incomparable sticky buns that grow wild on the isle of Sticky-Goo.”
- Publisher’s Weekly

“Nonfiction Review: The Fat-Cats at Sea,”  Last modified 08/01/1994.

Awards Received
Parents Magazine honor book award, 1994

“J. Patrick Lewis, Biography,” Last modified 07/15/05.

Questions to Ask Before Reading
1.  Let’s look at the cover art.  Why do you think the cats are fat and dressed as sailors?  Do you think there might be a poem about these cats in this book?
2.  If you could travel around the world in a boat, where would you go?  What would you want to bring home with you?
3.  Imagine how the cats feel sailing to an almost unknown land.  Why do you think explorers attempt journeys like this?
4.  Have you ever volunteered to do something really brave and important that you have not done before?    
5.  If you had to choose one food item that you loved so much you would search the ends of the Earth for it, what would it be?
5.  This book of poetry contains several poems related to one event: the cats sailing off to find sticky-buns.  Do you think it is more difficult to write a poetry book anthology about one event or to write an anthology comprised of several unrelated poems?

Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud 

1. “Hillary Hollery Q. McQatt” – Assign students to six groups and have each group use the supplied craft tools to draw their assigned character (one of the six members of the crew of The Frisky Dog).  As the poem is read aloud, each group will show their picture as their character is mentioned in the poem.
2. “Lookout Louie in the Crow’s Nest” – Have students read poem aloud as a choral reading after brainstorming hand motions to each line.  For example, “First to yawn”: everyone can make a yawning motion. 
3. “The First Mate and the Whale Islands” – Divide students into four groups and assign each group one of the four stanzas.  Have the entire class read the poem by allowing each group to say their part. 

Follow Up Activities
·         Have students write an acrostic poem using “Fat Cats”.  The acrostic poem should be inspired by the poems from “The Fat-Cats at Sea.”
·         Captain McQatt bravely volunteered to sail off in search of the Queen’s sticky-buns.  Have students remember a time when they volunteered to help someone else and write about that time.

·         Have the students draw a map of what they believe the Fat-Cats’ journey was.  (this activity could also be tied in with a Social Studies lesson on geography)
·         Using the poem “The First Mate and the Whale Islands,” give each student a piece of white paper divided with marker into four sections.  Have students draw the four major scenes (from the four stanzas) from the poem into the four sections so that they create a kind of comic strip. 
·         Ask students to draw a picture of what the Island of Sticky-Bun looks like based on the descriptions in the poems

·         If possible, make sticky buns, or at least bring some in to share with the students.

Social Studies
·         Captain McQatt and his sailors embark on an adventure for the Queen.  Discuss a few of the many explorers who also embarked on similar adventures.  Assign each student a real Captain or voyage to research

Related Websites/Blogs
1.  J. Patrick Lewis’ website
[Look here for Mr. Lewis’ list of great links to children’s literature and poetry websites]

2. “On the Trail of Captain John Smith: A Jamestown Adventure” from National Geographic Kids
[A fun interactive game that teaches students about John Smith’s experience as a captain]

3. Whalewatch for Kids
[Look here for games and information about whales]

4. Giggle Poetry
[Look here for a great site for kids about poetry.  Kids can read funny poems and rate them, there are wonderful poetry plays to read aloud, and the site provides some really useful ideas for teaching poetry]

Related Books (other poetry, related nonfiction, related fiction)
·         Pfister, Marcus.  Milo and the Mysterious Island.  New York: North-South Books, 2000.
·         Hirsch, Odo. Bartlett and the Ice Voyage.  New York: Bloomsbury Children's Book, 2003.

Nonfiction about Sailors and Explorers
·         Krull, Kathleen.  Lives of the Pirates: Swashbucklers, Scoundrels (Neighbors Beware!); illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt
·         Saari, Peggy, and Baker, Daniel B. Christopher Columbus. Explorers & Discoverers: From Alexander the Great to Sally Ride. Ed. Carol DeKane Nagel. New York: UXL Publishing, 1995.
·         Grant, Neil. The Discoverers. New York: Arco Publishing, Inc, 1979.

Poetry related to Ocean Life and Exploration
·         Bulion, Leslie.  At the Sea Floor Cafe: Odd Ocean Critter Poems.  Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers, 2011.  Illustrated by Leslie Evans.
·         Lewis, J. Patrick.  Blackbeard the Pirate King.  National Geographic Books, 2006.

About the Author      
J. Patrick Lewis is the critically acclaimed author of picture books, both poetry and prose, for children.  His first collaboration with Victoria Chess, A Hippopotamusn’t, was universally praised, Publishers Weekly calling it “joyful exuberance…reminiscent of Ogden Nash.”  Other titles include Two-Legged, Four-Legged, No-Legged Rhymes, hailed as “one grand chorus of delight” by The Horn Book, and The Moonbow of Mr. B. Bones, a 1992 ALA Notable Book.  Mr. Lewis, the father of three, lives in Westerville, Ohio, and teaches at Otterbein College. 
About the Illustrator
Victoria Chess is the deliciously wicked illustrator of A Hippopotamusn’t by J. Patrick Lewis, Spider Kane and the Mystery Under the May-Apple and Spider Kane and the Mystery at Jumbo Nightcrawler’s, both by Mary Pope Osborne, and The Bigness Contest and Tales for the Perfect Child, both by Florence Parry Heide.  Ms. Chess lives with her husband, two bull terriers, and two divine felines, Zazou and Pearl, in Connecticut.

Text from THE FAT-CATS AT SEA by J. Patrick Lewis.

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