Marie-Louise Gay’s Caramba is set in a world where cats fly. But unlike his fellow felines, the title character is unable to take flight, no matter how hard he tries or how much he wants to. When Caramba’s cousins take him for a flying lesson, they accidentally drop him. He lands in the water and discovers his talent for swimming, a talent the other cats don’t possess. This endearing story with an encouraging message is awash in soothing watercolour artwork.
Created by Carol-Ann Hoyte
- Write a story about Caramba that starts at the point where the book ends. You can just have Bijou, Bug and Portia as characters; introduce new characters or have a mix of both in your story — it’s all up to you. Perhaps you would prefer to write a story about an animal who isn’t like the other animals of his kind but would like to be like them. How is he different from his kind? Maybe your animal character discovers he has a skill that others of his kind don’t have. Draw a picture to accompany your story.
- Make a puzzle from a picture. See if you can find one of cats, pigs, swimming, flying or anything else that is in or happens in the story. Flip through unwanted magazines, old newspapers and out-of-date calendars to find a picture. If you find a real photograph you would like for your puzzle, ask an adult to make a copy of it for you to use. Glue the picture onto thin cardboard that is at least the same size as the picture. If the piece of cardboard is bigger than the picture, you can trim it so that its edges are even with those of the picture. Let the glue dry. Cut the picture into as many rows as you like. Cut each row into as many pieces as you like. Let the puzzling fun begin!
- Draw-and-tell stories are fun to share with children. The storyteller draws part of a picture as she tells each part of the story. She completes the drawing as she tells the final part of the story. In keeping with the cat theme of the book, share the “Kitty Draw and Tell” story with your child. Print both pages of the story found online at www.makinglearningfun.com/themepages/PetKittyDrawandTell.htm. If you aren’t able to do this from home, visit your public library to print it or ask a friend or a family who has a computer and printer to do it for you. Happy drawing and telling!
- You’ve got the music in you! Try your hand at writing a simple song about the story or inspired by the story. A simple way to do this is to take a short children’s song, like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star or Alouette, and substitute its lyrics with your own words. Need some inspiration? Here is my made-up song sung to the tune of Frère Jacques: “Cats are furry / and they hurry / after mice / after mice / They like to lie in the sun / when their chasing is done / Purr, purr, purr / Purr, purr, purr.” Perform your song and see if a friend or family member can provide musical accompaniment.
- Pretend you are Caramba and you would like to write a letter. You want to share how you felt when you discovered you could swim and describe what your first experience in water was like. Who will you write to? Decide if you would like to write your letter to your cousins, Bijou and Bug, or to your best friend, Portia the pig. Share your letter with a parent, brother or sister.
- Celebrate books about cats during a storytime that lasts an evening, a day or a weekend. Here are a few Canadian picture books that would be purr-fect for the occasion: Marie-Louise Gay’s Moonbeam on a Cat’s Ear, Tim Wynne-Jones’s Pounce de Leon and Zoom series (Zoom at Sea, Zoom Upstream, Zoom Away), and Mélanie Watt’s Chester series (Chester, Chester’s Back, Chester’s Masterpiece). Note that cats are optional guests for the event.
- Make a cat mask. It can cover your entire face or just its upper half. Your mask can be of a house pet like a Siamese or Calico cat or of a wild cat like a lion or tiger. The only limit to what materials you use to create your mask are your imagination and what items you can find available at your home. You can make the main part of the mask from a paper plate, thin cardboard or a paper bag. Don’t forget to check the recycling bin for items you can use to decorate your mask. Merry mask masking, everyone!
- Write a poem that is related or connected to Caramba in some way. Your poem can be silly or serious. It can rhyme but it doesn’t have to. But let’s say that you do want to write a rhyming poem about cats. Think of words that rhyme with the word “cat” and use some of these words in your poem. You can look at a picture of a cat, the sky or the ocean as another way to help you get started on writing your poem. Happy poem making!
- Puppet making in the house! Make cat and pig puppets. They can be as simple or detailed as you like. An old sock, a paper bag, an orphaned glove or thin cardboard are some of the items from which you can make the bodies of your puppets. Don’t forget that the recycling bin is a treasure chest of materials that you can use to decorate your puppets. When others see your creations, they’ll say, “Hey kids, let’s put on a puppet show!”
- Lights, action, diorama! A diorama is a creation of a mini world, which is displayed in a box. Create a diorama of your favourite scene from Caramba. Find a shoebox or a similar type of box. Use construction paper to decorate the background. Decide which characters and objects you would like to have in your diorama. Draw them with a pencil; colour them with markers, coloured pencils or crayons and glue them into place. Add small toys or models if you wish. Write the name of the book and its author on the top of the box as well as your name.