Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rick and Rack and the Great Outdoors

Title: Rick and Rack and the Great Outdoors
Author and Illustrator: Ethan Long
Copyright Date: 2010
Genre: fiction (graphic novel)
Theme: animals, outdoors, friendship, humor
Grades: 1+


In three adventures, Rack the deer tries repeatedly to get his friend Rick the raccoon to enjoy outdoor activities with him, resulting in humorous consequences.
1) “The Big Fish”---Rack tries to teach Rick the joys of fishing, but Rick only finds it boring, repetitive and stinky. How will Rack fix the smell problem?
2) “Mystery Tracks”---Rack and Rick go on a hike on when they stop for a break, Rick discovers some mysterious animal tracks. Who could they belong to? A tiger? A rhino? A dragon?
3) “Canoe Leak”---Rack teaches Rick how to canoe and the importance of life jackets.

Pre-reading Activity

Before reading the story, it would be a good idea to have the students think and share with a partner any experiences they may have had in fishing, tracking or canoeing/boating. What types of things did they use? What rules did they have to follow? How did they do the activity? Then make three webs, one for each activity, with connected information. Doing this will access the students’ prior knowledge and assist those who have no experience with these activities, gain some information about them to use as context for the stories.

During the Reading Activity

Because of the three short stories in this book, you have multiple opportunities to practice skills like making predictions. Using their background knowledge and the thought webs, students can make predictions about what they think Rick and Rack will do at multiple points during each little story. As they go along, their predictions will either be correct or incorrect, and more will be created. Because the three stories are independent, you can either break them apart into three separate days of prediction practice or one big day with multiple examples. 

Post-reading Activity

Using the three stories as examples, and the easily followed format as a pattern, students may find it fun to create their own Rick and Rack story about a different outdoor activity. This book would serve as a good example to use in teaching students how to create a graphic novel, and would allow them to practice their writing skills (in writing the story and planning the graphic novel) and allow for creativity and practice with art skills.

Author and Illustrator
Ethan Long is not only a talented illustrator and author of children's books(such as Chamelia and Soup for One), he also has worked for television. Not only having created work for Scholastic and Harcourt, Long has Nickelodeon as a client of his and is the creator of the Playhouse Disney program Tasty Time With ZeFronk!. He has won many awards for his work and currently lives in Florida. (Source: here and here.)


This is a great example of a book that can be used to teach graphic novels to younger grades. It’s well written, has an easy to follow story, is laid out in a simple way, and most importantly, it is very funny. The three stories in one book aspect, gives it great flexibility in the classroom. You have the option of spreading it out over multiple reading periods (but I guarantee your class will beg for “just one more”). I recommend this book for any younger grade classroom and will point out that the Balloon Toons series has many different graphic novels with a variety of characters that could also be useful in classroom libraries.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

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