Like a master alchemist, Dan Gutman can take ordinary stuff and turn it into comic gold. As the best-selling author of 125 books, he knows how to keep kids laughing as they turn the pages. I recently interviewed him for KidsPost/WashingtonPost about the first book (The Lincoln Project) in his new history series, “Flashback Four.” With its time-travel shenanigans, the new series is sure to be as popular as Gutman’s “My Weird School” and “Baseball Card Adventure” series.
Below are writing lessons for the classroom or for individual writers ages 8 and up. Gutman’s website www.dangutman.com includes puzzles and games related to his books.
VIEWS OF HISTORY: In the “Lincoln Project,” the four main characters travel back to the time of the Gettysburg Address, in 1863, for a wild adventure. But each experiences that time differently, depending on race and gender. Luke and Julia are white, Isabel is a scholarly Hispanic girl and David is an African American boy.
Classroom Discussion: Ask students to read the book and to jot down differences between the way boys and girls dressed or were treated. How about African American and white people? What is David worried about?
Classroom Writing: Ask each student to list what they would have liked/disliked/been worried about if they had traveled on Miss Z’s invention back to Gettysburg, in 1863. What would have been their favorite thing? Now, ask them to be someone from a different race and/or gender and do the same thing. How were the answers different?
Classroom Writing: Miss Z has tapped you to be one of her time-traveling students. What point in time would you like to travel back to—and where? (It doesn’t have to be the United States.) What important moment would you take a photo of? Write Miss Z a letter explaining (1) why you are the best person to go, (2) why this place and time are important to visit, and (3) why it is important that this moment be photographed. To prepare the most persuasive letters, ask students to do some research into their point in history. Ask them to write down what excites them and what they may be afraid of. How do they think they will be treated back then? Give some reasons why.