Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Are You My Mother? follows a confused baby bird who’s been denied the experience of imprinting as he asks cows, planes, and steam shovels the Big Question. In the end he is happily reunited with his maternal parent in a glorious moment of recognition.
Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman belongs to the Question and Answer section of the Touchstone Books. Exactly like its name sounds, Question and Answer books repeat a particular question throughout the story. The question posed allows children to predict what the answer will be, or if the question requires a yes or no answer, to state yes or no based on previous knowledge of the story or the illustrations in the book.
Are you My Mother? is one of the earliest books I remember being read to me, or reading on my own. My copy was tattered, coloured on and ripped from overuse as a child, before it was lost while moving house. It was because of this book that my brother and I called backhoes “big snorts” for most of our childhood. Throughout the book, the baby bird is traveling around trying to find his mother. He asks each animal or thing, “Are you my mother?” In this book, students will be able to answer yes or no to the baby bird’s question by viewing the illustrations of the animal or thing the baby bird is talking to. The process of questions and answers will help students in comprehension of the story, as well as informed predicting. As well, the question posed in the book will aid in understanding the subject matter of the story. The question “Are you my mother?” leads the reader to believe the book is about someone or something trying to find its mother, which is perfectly correct.
Question Writing Lesson/Activity
Time: 1 hour
– e-mail me if you would like the worksheets.
Begin this lesson by playing a round of Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar. The students will go around the group naming each other as having stole the cookies from the cookie jar. If they say a name that has already been said, they are ‘out’. Play this for only about five or ten minutes before bringing the students into a group to read aloud the book Are You My Mother?
Explain to students that the book showcases a question and answer format of writing. Ask why they think you had them play the cookie jar song, and tie in the repeating question with the one from the book (are you my mother?)
– Even though the question is always the same, is the answer? Why? Why not?
As the book is being read, have students predict if the answer will be yes or no to the baby bird’s question by using the illustrations on the page.
– Look at the illustration. There is a dog. The baby bird asks if it is his mother. Is the dog the baby bird’s mother?
– When will the baby bird find his mother?
Highlight the difference between a question that only requires a yes or no answer, and ones that need a longer explanation (like the two example questions just posed). Once the book is finished, brainstorm different kinds of questions with the students, and have them fill out a worksheet. Each student will think of a question to write on top, and the sheets will be passed around the class for ten other students to answer.