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donnaodonnellfigurski.com - LITTLE BY LITTLE

Little by Little
Written by Amber Stewart
Illustrated by  Layn Marlow

Publisher: Orchard Books
ISBN-10: 0545061636
Ages: 4 to 8

Review and lesson plans by
Donna O'Donnell Figurski

Did you ever want to get something done quickly?

Little by little by little . . . that’s how to accomplish something BIG. Well, that’s a reasonable way to think about it. Of course, I am always too impatient. I want results . . . yesterday. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

I want to be fluent in Spanish. I bought the books and listened to the tapes. I practiced for a week or two, so why can’t I understand my neighborhood grocer? I remember when I was about eight years old; my parents gave me a beautiful, blue two-wheeler bike. I also remember my skinned knees, my tears, and wishing I could ride like my best friend. She never got scraped knees. Why does everything take so long to get? Why is it so hard to accomplish? I guess the key is patience and persistence and a lot of hard work . . . one step at a time, or in Otto’s case . . . one stroke at a time.

Otto wanted to swim. That’s what otters do. All his friends were swimming. They were having fun. It looked easy . . . but not for Otto. He tried. He really did! He even pretended to swim by running quickly on the riverbed floor. His mother told him not to worry, he would learn. His sister encouraged him, too. But when his sister told him to start small, that’s when big things happened. Otto hopped. He kicked. He floated. He practiced and practiced and practiced and to his surprise he was able to swim from riverbed to riverbed. Soon Otto was jumping off the highest-ever rock into the deepest-ever pool just like his friends. Hmmm, maybe I need to take a lesson from Otto. I better hit the Spanish books again and take it one chapter at a time. And little by little, with patience and persistence, I just may be able to talk to the grocer on the corner.

This review can also be seen on: SmartWriters

FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“Otto couldn’t swim,” said Rena.

“I think he felt bad,” said Mikaela.

Callie nodded. “Hmmm, he was sad,” she said. She looked a little sad for Otto, too.

“His mommy tried to teach him,” said Brayden, “But he was scared.”

“I think Otto was scared of water,” said Mark.

“He wanted to swim,” said Mikaela.

“Right!” said Rena. “Otto wanted to swim because all of his friends were.”

“So, Otto pretended that he was swimming,” said Denae.

“Because he felt really embarrassed about not being able to swim,” explained Jewel.

“Otto saw his friends, the beavers,” said Rena. They asked,

“Are you going to swim?”

“But, he was too shy to tell his friends that he couldn’t swim,” said Timmy.

“His mom said to not listen to the other animals,” said Johnny.

“But, he was still feeling bad,” said Mark.

“I can relate,” said Jewel. “I felt the same way that Otto did when I tried to learn how to ride a bike.”

“Otto was trying to swim,” said Callie. “But, he couldn’t swim by himself, so his sister helped him.”

“His sister is a good sister,” said Denae. She should know; she has a lot of sisters.

“His sister said, ‘Start small,’” said Brayden.

“And, his mom always told him, ‘Today is the day,’” said Mikaela.

“But it wasn’t,” Mark said with a frown.

“Otto tried and tried,” said Rena

“Otto’s mom said he would learn little by little,” said Johnny.

“This book is about doing things step-by-step,” said Jewel.

Timmy nodded. “I learned . . . start out small and work your way up . . . which means if you don’t know how to swim, you should start by hopping in the water and then do more and more and more."

“Otto will swim!” said Abby with conviction.

“He was kicking,” said Brayden. “Then he could swim.”

“He had to start little,” reminded Rena.

“Otto practiced until he was ready,” explained Mikaela.

“When Otto was ready he invited his family to watch,” said Johnny.

“ . . . and his friends,” added Denae. “He made a surprise.”

“Otto jumped off the highest rock ever and into the deepest pool ever,” said Johnny.

“I think Otto was proud of himself,” said Abby with a smile.

“The book helps to teach kids to do something step-by-step,” said Jewel.

“If you start small,” said Timmy, “you can get better.”

“Otto started small and finished BIG!” said Brayden.

“Then he was happy,” said Mark.


What You “Otter” Know About Otters: Language Arts/Science

Otters are “otterly” fascinating animals. They are furry and cute and look like they thoroughly enjoy life as they swim and tumble through river water or ocean waves. Learn more about these fun-loving creatures.

•    Read several books to your class about otters and visit some of the suggested websites to learn more about otters. Examples follow:
•       Otters have diamond-shaped noses.
•       Otters have webbed feet with claws.
•       Otters have sensitive whiskers, which help 
         them to find their prey.
•    Tell the children to listen carefully as you read and ask them to remember at least one important fun fact about otters.
•    Ask children what they learned and record the new learned facts on chart paper.
•    Then give the children blank books so that they may write their own books about otters. (Use two pieces of 4 1/2” x 6” colored construction paper for the covers and three pieces of manila paper for the inner pages. Staple together to make a book.)
•    The children should write five facts. Have them write one fact on each page. Depending on ability, they may copy facts from the chart paper list or use a separate piece of paper to make up their own facts, using invented/temporary spelling. In any event, be sure to edit for spelling and grammar.
•    Children may then illustrate each page in their books to match their text.
•    When all books are completed, have an “Otter” Share.
•    Meet as a group. Children may read their books to the class.

Self-Esteem Builder: Language Arts/Writing/Science

When Otto realized he couldn’t swim, he felt bad. His self-esteem was low and he was even a little embarrassed. But, Otto did the right thing. He focused on the positive. He wrote an I CAN DO list. Otto could do a lot of things. He could do both a backward and a forward roly-poly. He was great at mud sliding and building sand castles. He was kind to frogs. The only thing Otto couldn’t do was swim . . . and he wanted to swim.

Have your class focus on the activities they do well. Make a WE CAN list on chart paper.

•    Write WE CAN at the top of the paper.
•    Record suggestions from children. See examples below.
     •    Timmy can ride a bike.
     •    Callie can read a book.
     •    Mikaela can play volleyball.
     •    Jewel can take care of her hamster.
     •    Johnny can take out the trash.
     •    (Be sure each child offers at least one activity.)
•    Type all suggestions into your computer. Use a larger font for easier reading.
•    Print a copy for each child.
•    Use a three-hole punch and place in a three-ring binder.
•    Encourage children to practice reading this class-generated writing in class or assign it for HOMEFUN.

(Although I examined these websites and found them to be very helpful, please use them at your own discretion.)

River Otter
Animals Creature Feature; River Otters
Environmental Education for Kids; The River Otter
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Animal Diversity Web
The River Otter


written by Adrienne Mason, illustrated by Nancy Gray Ogle
Finny Learns to Swim
written by Christianne C. Jones, illustrated by Sara Schultz
The Little Engine That Could
written by Watty Piper
Now One Foot, Now the Other written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

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All contents copyright (c) 2002. Donna O'Donnell Figurski.
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