About the BookEleven days, thirteen clues and one kid who won’t give upSmack Dab in the Middle of Maybe takes readers on an adventure with 12-year-old Cricket and her companion,a field cricket named Charlene, through an overgrown ghost town in Electric City, Mississippi, to solve a thirty-yearold clue trail in search of a secret room that may or may not exist, all to try to win back Cricket’s run-away mother.Cricket must use her wits and just a smidgen of luck to live off the land in a Mississippi winter, survive sleet stormand snake-bite, and work to solve an increasingly baffling clue trail left by an eccentric artist with a logic all his own.Along the way, Cricket meets the reclusive last resident of the ghost town, enlists the help of a poetry-loving dog, andtakes up a touch of grave-robbing. These experiences awaken Cricket to the possibility of finding strength in the mostunlikely of places—within herself.About the AuthorJo was born near Ocean Springs, Mississippi, whereher favorite artist, Walter Anderson, painted a secret room.Jo later moved to a ghost town, Electric Mills, Mississippi.Anderson’s secret room and the ghost town inspired Jo’snovel, Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe. TodayJo lives in Greenville, South Carolina with her husband,children, and her dog Pupper, who just happens to closelyresemble the character of Percy in the book. Jo foundedwww.outdoorosity.org, a free resource for educators andfamilies celebrating the treasures and curiosities ofnature with stories, know-how and inspiration to getreaders outside. You can find Jo online at JoHackl.com.Facebook: Jo Watson Hackl AuthorTwitter: @JoHacklInstagram: @JoHacklPraise for Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe “Told in the easy, laconic tone of good, Southern storytelling, Hackl’s debut rolls off the tongue and into the hearteasy as warm butter on a biscuit. . Lyrical and endearing, this debut is a genuine adventure tale, poignantand as fresh as a spring garden.”— Kirkus Reviews, starred review “Cricket is an intriguing and complex protagonist, and the plot, full of adventure, treasure hunts, and mystery, willkeep young readers hooked.”—School Library Journal “A masterful debut. Cricket is my new hero, brave and funny and full of heart. Jo Watson Hackl’s new middlegrade novel has art, poetry, and adventure—and I couldn’t put it down.”—Augusta Scattergood, award-winningauthor of Glory Be “Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe is part treasure hunt, part wilderness adventure, and all heart.” Alan Gratz,New York Times bestselling author of Refugee Winner of the Southern Book Prize An Indie Next pick and Okra pick2 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
IntroductionThis activity booklet contains a multitude of activities to supplement Smack Dab in theMiddle of Maybe by Jo Hackl. This activity book is appropriate for use in classrooms, homeschoolprograms, museum programs, and at home for anyone who loves to read. Activities can be doneindividually or in groups. Students in 4 th–8th grade are the target reading level for the story, butyounger students through adults can enjoy both the book and the included activities.Each activity is broken into subject themes. Some activities can be extended by visiting thewebsite, www.johackl.com. Extensions are included for anyone who wants to further their learningand engagement within a topic.Astronomy - Ecology - Economics - GeographyGraphic Design - History - Literacy - MathMental Wellness - Outdoor Survival SkillsPoetry - Science - Visual Art - WritingText excerpts Jo Watson HacklEducational activity content Jessica HayesCover art and cricket Gilbert FordInterior art Catherine Hackl and Emily Sobeski3 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: Making PaperCollards always reminded meof Mama. She used to make medrawing paper out of collards,sumac seeds, dryer lint, andnewspaper Daddy choppedup in his wood chipper. Sheplunked things in her paper theway other people stuck thingsin scrapbooks. Thread fromthe hem of her wedding dress,a four-leaf clover, Daddy’sfirst grey hair. Mama’s paperheld so much life, it made mydrawings pop right off the page.Chapter 1, Pages 1-2Subject: Environmental Science, Visual ArtObjective: You will begin to learn about thehistory of paper, the importance of recyclingpaper, and how paper is made.Book Activity:Did you know paper has a long history? Do you know the impact that making paper has on theenvironment?Modern paper is usually made from wood fibers in trees. Before paper, people used other surfacesfor writing surfaces. Clay, wood, stone, and even animal skins have been used for writing. About 2000years ago, the Chinese invented paper by mixing a pulp together, pressing out the liquid, and letting it dryin the sun.In the story, Cricket talks about the way Mama made paper. She says it made her drawings pop rightoff the page. Recycled paper is special, but another environmentally friendly action you can take is reusingpaper. Instead of using a new, white sheet of paper, reuse a piece of paper or cardboard to draw a picture.You can use an old newspaper, the back of a cereal box, the back of a piece of paper you previously used,or even the back of junk mail paper. Look around your house; what can you use that would otherwise bethrown away? After you draw your picture, make a list of things special to you that you’d like to includein home-made paper. It can be anything small enough to be made into paper - petals from your favoriteflower, leaves from your favorite plant, even a piece of hair from your pet.” What would you name yourpaper concoction?Website Activity:Making your own paper is a lot easier than it sounds! You can visit johackl.com for instructions on makingyour own paper. You can also find tips for recycling paper.4 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: SimiliesI saved her from the spider, but Little Quinnswooped in like a duck on a June Bug.Chapter 1, Page 4Subject: Literacy, WritingObjective: You will learn how figurative language adds color, or interest, tostories and poems.Book Activity:In the story, the author uses figurative language to describe what Cricket thinks, feels, sees, hears,and discovers. Instead of directly making a statement, figurative language is creatively used to get a pointacross. In the quote above, instead of saying that Little Quinn ran quickly towards the cricket, the authorsays Little Quinn “swooped in like a duck on a June Bug!” This is called a simile.Throughout the story, you’ll find examples of similes and metaphors. Similes compare two thingsusing the words “like” or “as.” A metaphor compares two different things without using words “like” or “as.”Track them on the table on the next page and make notes about the simile. What did the author mean?Can you think of another simile or metaphor to use in place of the existing statement?5 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Simile or MetaphorNotesWrite your own Simile or MetaphorCan you create your own similes and metaphors usingstatements from the story?Website Activity: What is meant by “Hope is the thing with feathers?” Read the entire poemat johackl.com to better understand the metaphor.6 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: Charlene’s ChirpsCharlene chirped three quick times, hernotes high and fine and clear.Chapter 2, Page 11Subject: Literacy, Animal ScienceObjective:1) You will learn to spot examplesof personification in stories.2) You will learn about the naturalhabitat of crickets.Book Activity:Have you ever heard a cricket at night? Malecrickets have a sharp ridge called a scraper on a wingthat they rub against wrinkles, called files, on theirother wing. Male crickets chirp for several reasonsincluding to communicate with female crickets, todefine their territory, or when they feel threatened.In the story, Cricket comments on Charlene’schirping. We also see examples of personification asCricket applies human characteristics to Charlene. Canyou find examples of this personification in the story?Example:Example:Example:Example:Example:7 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Extension Activity:Cricket creates a home for Charlene in a box with dirt and leaves. Research the natural habitat ofcrickets and create your own home for Charlene. Or you can use art materials and the box below to design“Charlene’s home.” You can use a shoebox and natural materials from outside to create Charlene’s home,or you can use art materials to create the home. Remember, there are many types of crickets. What type ofcricket do you think Charlene is? Why?8 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: Going SouthI tried to keep what I could seeof the sun on my right side.“The sun sets in the west,” Iwhispered to Charlene. “Thisway, we know we’re headingsouth.” With each step, though,it seemed like the sun wasslanting at us lower.Chapter 3, Page 17Subject: Literacy, GeographyObjective: You will begin to learn aboutcardinal directions and how to make acompass.Book Activity:Carrying a compass with you in your backpack whenexploring the woods or hiking is always a good idea. Thelocation of the sun in the sky can also help you find your way– remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.You can remember the order of cardinal directions with amemory trick –Never Eat Soggy Waffles (North, East, South, and West!).Mnemonic devices can help you remember all sorts ofinformation! Can you think of your own mnemonic device toremember cardinal directions? Write it here:Can you think of your own mnemonic device to remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in thewest? Write it here:9 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: The Woods Turned WildThe rows stopped by thebarbed wire fence. Behindus, row after row of same-sizetimber company pine treesstretched as far as I could see.In front, the woods turned wild.Hardwoods, pines, briars, andbushes, they all crowded outthe light.Chapter 3, Page 17Subject: Ecology, Science, Visual ArtObjective: You will begin to learn aboutobserving and documenting the naturalwoods.Book Activity:Cricket is familiar with the different types of plants she sees in the woods. She can identify the names andtypes of plants throughout the story, even when the woods turn wild. Look up photos of hardwoods, pines,briars, and bushes and draw a picture of what you think Cricket saw in the woods:10 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Next time you are near the woods, see if you can identify the different types of plants you see. Thesecan be woods in in your neighborhood, at a nearby park, or anywhere that you can safely explore. Part oflearning about the woods is observing and documenting what you see. In the story, Cricket’s Daddy’s bookeven documented plants that were safe and harmful to eat. You can take pictures of plants if you have acamera, and you can draw pictures of the plants and make notes about what they look like below. See ifyou can find out the names of the plants you have documented.Plant 1Plant 2Plant 3Plant 4Extension ActivityStart a nature journal! All you need is a blank journal, a pencil, and crayons. You can documentanything you find in nature, such as animals, plants and insects. Each time you find something you want todocument in your journal, include the date, time, and location.Draw a picture of what you found and describe what it looks like. You can describe the colors, thetextures (if it is safe to touch), and the size. Include any other observations.Use a credible source to see if you can find out more about what you found in nature, including thescientific name of any plants or the life cycle of any creature.11 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: Ghost TownsBack before the logging roadgot grown over, the state hadput up a plaque. Now the signwas faded and off kilter, but Icould still read the words.Chapter 4, Page 20Subject: History, WritingObjective: You will learn aboutthe history and significance ofghost towns throughout the world.Book Activity:Electric City, Mississippi is an overgrownghost town Cricket travels to in search of the“Bird Room.” The author, Jo Hackl, drew from herown experiences for this part of the story. WhenJo was Cricket’s age, she lived in the real ghosttown of Electric Mills. Electric Mills, establishedin 1913, was the site of one of the first electriclumber mills in the United States. Once all thelumber had been harvested, most of the homes,buildings and town were removed.Ghost towns often come into existencebecause people are forced to move away orbecause they cannot survive. Once the lumberwas harvested in Electric City, Mississippi, therewas no longer work to be done. A natural disaster,such as a tsunami, landslide, or volcano can alsoforce people to move away due to damage orthreats. Sometimes, there is not enough food forpeople to survive.Create an imaginary ghost town in yourstate or country. Write about the location ofyour ghost town, when the original city wasestablished, and when and how it becameabandoned in this historical marker sign.12 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Extension Activity:Research real ghost towns that exist in your region and around the world. How did they become ghosttowns?13 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: New Book CoverAlways seek the beauty.Chapter 5, Page 23Subject: Art, Literacy, Graphic DesignObjective: You will learn to use the main ideas and themes from a story tocreate a new book cover.Book ActivityUsing the main idea or an important scene from the story, create a new book cover for Smack Dabin the Middle of Maybe. First, look at the existing book cover for the story. What important elements areincluded on the cover? What characters do you notice? What is the setting? What objects do you see?What colors are used? Why do you think these elements are included in the cover?Next, think about the main idea, themes, and symbols from the story. What do you think should beincluded in the cover of the book. Would you give the book a new title? Create your design below. You canalso make the design on a computer if you have access to graphic design software.14 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: The Tree HouseOur tree house stood sevenfeet off the ground, tucked sotight between the branchesthat you’d walk right past it ifyou didn’t know what you werelooking for.Chapter 5, Page 23Subject: MathObjective: You will find out more aboutCricket’s tree house using math skills.Book ActivityCricket’s tree house sat on the trunk of a gingko tree in the middle of large branches. In the picturebelow, you can see the base on the floor of the woods, the tree trunk, the ladder, the floor of the treehouse, the four walls, and the roof. See if you can answer the following questions based on the dimensionsyou are given.15 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
1) The tree house base floor has a width of 6 feet. The area is 36 square feet. Can you find the length ofthe tree house base?2) There are four walls in the tree house. Two of the walls are seven feet by six feet. Can you find thecombined total area of those two walls?3) The other two walls are the front and back walls of the tree house. The bottom portions of these wallsare squares measuring seven feet by six feet. The tops of these walls are triangles. The height of triangle istwo feet and the base of the triangle is three feet. Can you find the area of these triangles to find the totalcombined area for both walls?Tips:Area of a Triangle: A base x height/2Area of a Square or Rectangle: A width x height16 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Extended Activity:Using card stock, foam paper, or even cutup cardboard from a shoebox or cereal box, can you build amodel of the tree house? Design your tree house below before you create your model.17 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: The Ginkgo TreeWe walked half the morninguntil I spotted that gingko tree.Its limbs spread out, invitingme to climb up on in. In thespecked sunlight, itsfan-shaped leaves quivered insixteen shades of green.“This is it,” I said.Chapter 5, Page 24Subject: Ecology, Visual Art, LiteracyObjective:1) You will learn details about the ginkgo tree.2) You will learn to write an acrostic poem.Book ActivityHave you ever seen a ginkgo tree? Research photos of a ginkgo tree and make observations. Whatcolors do you see? Are the leaves fan-shaped like Cricket said? Do you see many shades of green? How farout do the limbs spread?An acrostic poem uses the letters in a word to begin each line of a poem. Use each letter ofthe word “ginkgo” to describe the ginkgo tree. You might need to find out more information about thecharacteristics of this tree.GINKGO18 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Extension ActivityUse different shades of green to create your own ginkgo tree. You can use watercolors, paints,crayons, markers, or any combination you like to create your piece of art.19 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: The TanagerMama snuggled me closer.“That room had every kindof bird you can think of –cardinals, woodpeckers,hummingbirds, doves, evencrows. But the one I liked bestwas a watermelon-red birdwith black wings. It fluttered itswings at me.”Chapter 6, Page 30-31Subject: Art History, Visual Art, EcologyObjective: You will learn about birds thatlive in your area.Book ActivityThe secret room, or the “Bird Room,”is inspired by the author’s favorite artist– Walter Inglis Anderson. A room calledthe Little Room was discovered in OceanSprings, Mississippi, where Anderson didmost of this work. He oriented the paintingsto interact with the light outside thewindows. Mama loved the birds she saw inthe fictional room in the story, especially thetanager.Go outside to see if you can spot anyof the birds Mama mentioned in the story.If so, use the next page to draw a picture ofthe bird you found. Birds often gather wherethey have access to food, water and shelter,so you might have luck finding birds near awater source and trees.First, find out which birds can befound in your area. Many of these birdsare found all around the world, but not allof them. If you have binoculars, you mightbe able to spot birds more easily. It mighttake time to locate a certain type ofbird depending on the seasonand where you live. If yousee a different type of bird,document what it looks likeor take a picture of it and see if youcan find out what type of bird it is.20 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Pictures of CardinalsPictures of WoodpeckersPictures of HummingbirdsPictures of DovesPictures of CrowsPictures of TanagersExtended Activity:Poll your class or family members! Create a graph of everyone’s favorite bird.Website Activity:Visit https://www.walterandersonmuseum.org/ to see pictures of more work by Walter Inglis Anderson.21 JoHackl.comRandom House Children’s BooksEducator’s Guide Available at JoHackl.com
Activity: DoogalooI was holding a doogaloo, the coin they taught us about in school.Chapter 7, Page 35Subject: Visual Art, History, EconomicsObjective: You wil
habitat of crickets. Book Activity: Have you ever heard a cricket at night? Male crickets have a sharp ridge called a scraper on a wing that they rub against wrinkles, called files, on their other wing. Male crickets chirp for several reasons including to communicate with female crickets, to In the story, Cricket comments on Charlene’s
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Le genou de Lucy. Odile Jacob. 1999. Coppens Y. Pré-textes. L’homme préhistorique en morceaux. Eds Odile Jacob. 2011. Costentin J., Delaveau P. Café, thé, chocolat, les bons effets sur le cerveau et pour le corps. Editions Odile Jacob. 2010. 3 Crawford M., Marsh D. The driving force : food in human evolution and the future.
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