Paul Fleischman
Henry Holt & Co. 1998
Book Talk
Stella Malone

Author/Illustrator study
Brooke Coalter

Related Books
Earl Foster

Classroom Connections
Brandon Mason

Web  Activities
Sabra McIntosh

Related Websites


Book Talk
By Stella Malone

Brent Bishop is not quite 17, yet he has already decided that life is just too risky and too difficult to continue living. He is about to make a mistake which will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Having recently moved to Chicago with his parents, Brent desperately wants to be accepted by the popular group of students at his new high school.  However, at an important party, Brent finds humiliation instead of the acceptance that he desires.  Desperate to run from his classmates and his shame, Brent races off in his car, fueled by rage and alcohol.  In his despair, Brent impulsively decides to end his pain forever: He closes his eyes and takes his hands off the wheel.  Brent does not die on the highway that night, but another innocent driver does--an 18 year old girl named Lea Zamora.

Part of Brent's criminal punishment involves restitution to the family.  He meets with Lea's grieving mother who would like Brent to extend the memory of Lea's warmth and smile across the country.  Mrs. Zamora's request requires that Brent accomplish an unusual task: He must replicate Lea's image on four whirligigs and erect them in the four corners of the United States.  Brent accepts the task, and embarks on a mission to build the whirligigs and to rebuild his shattered soul.

Brent's journey is shadowed by the image of himself as someone who has inflicted pain, suffering, and death on strangers.  No amount of physical distance can change this fact.  Brent's only chance for restitution and spiritual recovery rests in the completion of his task.  As Brent learns how to build the whirligigs, he also learns about the essentials of life;  about the importance of one's decisions and actions;  about the gift of existence;  and about the essence of a girl named Lea.

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Author Study
By Brooke Coalter

Paul Fleischman was born in California in 1952.  He is the son of Albert Sidney and Beth Fleischman.  His father, Sid Fleischman has written many children's books.  Growing up, Paul would spend many hours in the library listening to music composed by Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms.  He would try and form his writing from the music he listen to.

After graduating from the University of New Mexico, he handed his father his first story that he had written.  This story later became known as The Birthday Tree.  Paul had been learning to write while listening to his father's books being read to him in the family circle they shared after Sid completed a new chapter.

Paul Fleischman has a fascination with learning everything he can about the past.  He once said that, from his father, he "learned the joys of research: digging up old names, old words, old facts about how people dressed, what they ate, how they worked."  He has a few books that express his fascination to this fact.  Paul Fleischman writes not only young adult novels, but picturebooks and poetry as well.  Of these books Fleischman has more than 15 awards.

Fleischman has worked as a bagel baker, bookstore clerk, and as a proofreader.  He is married to a nurse, Becky, and they have two children, Seth and Dana.   (This information was found in Something about the Author, vol.72, pg. 68-71.)

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Classroom Connections
By Sabra McIntosh

These ideas are general and would have to be refined to suit the grade level and the particular students:

1. Design your own whirligig using the books regarding whirligigs at the reference desk in the library, designated for this course, as a starting point.  The final project can be a drawing, a model, a real whirligig, a photo essay of existing whirligigs or any other approved plans.  Be prepared to share your project with the class including an explanation of the various shapes, symbols and motifs which you have chosen. The plans are due one week following the assignment of the book and the final projects are due three weeks after the plans.  Your plan should include a description and detailed drawing of the project.

2. Write an essay depicting or make a drawing which describes the karass created by Paul Fleischman in Whirligig. Define the connections of the various members in your essay. Don’t forget to include yourself as one of the links in the karass.

3. While Brent is constructing the first of four whirligigs for Lea, he remembers the story of Hercules performing 12 labors to cleanse himself of a crime.  Research and summarize this myth.  Include in your summary a detailed description of the labors.

4. Brent constructs and deploys 4 whirligigs.  Briefly describe each of the 4 whirligigs and their locations.  Include in the description the impact each of the whirligigs has on the characters who encounter them.

5. Using the maps provided, highlight the trip that Brent took to install the 4 whirligigs; note that the text is generally specific about routes.  Mark each city where he installed a whirligig.  Using the map key, estimate the total mileage for the trip.

6. Brent makes two journeys, one physical and one spiritual.  Write an essay which discusses the spiritual growth that Brent experiences because of his actions.  You may find it helpful to anchor him physically to a location while defining the various stages: his transgression, the judgment, the atonement and the forgiveness.

7. Break into circles of 4 students each.  Discuss Brent’s emotional maturity and state at the beginning of the book, at the time of the accident and the end of the book.  Describe a time when you lost control of your emotions, were publicly embarrassed or humiliated or chose an action which was wrong and resulted in punishment.  How did you feel at the time?  How did you make amends or find peace after the experience?

8. Break into groups of 5 students each. Choose a main character from the book.  List the characteristics of that character at the beginning of the book.  List ways that character evolved by the end of the book.  Draft a short description of the book from that character’s point of view. Present your summary to the class.

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Related Books
By; Earl Foster

1. Easy-To Make Whirligigs, by Anders S. Lunde
Dover Publishers, 1996
2. Making Animated Whirligigs, by Anders S. Lunde
Dover Publishers, 1998
3. The Flight of the Whrligigs, Grant Innes
Annick Press, 1999
4. Whirligigs and Weathervanes: A Celebration of Wind Gadgets with Dozens of Creative Projects to make,by David Schoonmaker
Lark Books, 1992
5. Wind Toys That  Spin, Sing, Twirl, and Whirl, by Cindy Burda
Sterling Publishers, 1999
6.  How to Make Animated Whirligigs, by Jack Wiley
Solipaz Publishing Company, 1991
7. How To make Propeller- Animated Whirligigs, by Jack Wiley
Solipaz Publishing Company, 1993
8. Whirligig Book: How to Make Action Mechanical Whirligigs
Jack Wiley, 1990

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Web Activities
By Brandon Mason


Students will go to this site and take the 12 question quiz.  The answers are either “yes” or “no.”  It will not be difficult.  The students will keep their answers to themselves, but they must write down their favorite question in order to prove that they visited the site.


Students will have to get on the website and read the short story.  Students will have to answer the following questions:  What does Jason’s message against drunk driving mean to you?  How does his story make you feel?  Are you in favor of his message or against it?


Students will have to look at the various pictures and prices of the whirligigs (particularly the Pink Flamingo, White Goose, Eagle, Hand-carved Indian) and they will have to answer the following questions:  Are Whirligigs expensive?  If so, name at least three prices for different whirligigs.  Do you have a better understanding of what Whirligigs look like, and how they can be profitable?

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Related Websites

Review of Whiligig:

Books ForYoungReaders


Whirligigs & More

Moazark Whirligigs



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