Although not a traditional Easter story, this book is a great one to read around that time of year. Patricia commonly recounts stories from her own childhood in her books, and this is no exception. Her childhood neighbors, Stewart and Winston, are much more like brothers to her, despite her Russian Jewish heritage and their being African American boys. The boys’ grandma, Miss Eula, is raising them, and Patricia looks to her as another grandmother as well. The three children decide they want to buy Miss Eula an Easter hat that she has had her eye on. Unfortunately, their good intentions are misunderstood, and the children learn a lesson about kindness and humanity, as well as how to make Pysanky eggs. The story is filled with family values, and it bridges racial and religious differences in a beautiful tale about building relationships.
Even before the day you read the book, it is important to discuss theme vs. main idea, as these two get confused often. Mary from Teaching With a Mountain View has a great post about this, and this gorgeous anchor chart, too!
The day you read the book, remind students of the meaning of theme before beginning, and ask them to think about what lessons are learned, or what is the message in this book as you read it aloud to help guide their thinking.
After reading Chicken Sunday, ask students to think about the message of the book. Sometimes it helps to talk about the problem of the story and how it was solved to help see the “big picture,” or theme. Give students the activity and discuss (you also may want to return to parts of the book) the evidence that shows the theme they suggest.
There are certainly several themes that could be supported in this story, but the one I saw the most was kindness.
The children wanted to get Miss Eula the hat she had been wanting to show thanks and kindness.
The children make Mr. Kodinski the Pysanky eggs to show kindness – even though he was mad at them for something they didn’t do.
Mr. Kodinski gives the children the hat to show kindness.
You can do this activity together as part of a mini-lesson if you are early on in teaching theme, or you could have students complete it on their own. As long as students can support the theme with three pieces of evidence from the story, I would accept any theme that is suitable to the story.
I included a graphic organizer for theme that can be used with any book in your free download above! You could have students use the organizer with their own book, or with another read-aloud.
You might also like to show the students THIS VIDEO about how Pysanky eggs are made!