Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Stranger

Van Allsburg, Chris (Author/Illustrator)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 1986. 32 pages
First published: 1986
ISBN: 9780395423318 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, evocative language, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

When Farmer Bailey accidentally strikes down a man on the road, he decides to care for him in his own home. In no time, the innocent and enigmatic stranger in “odd rough leather clothing” grows on the family. Though he has lost his memory, he seems to possess a peculiar gift: an unusual ability to affect the seasons. For example, when he blows on a leaf, it slowly turns from green to golden red.

Building suspense right from the get-go, this subtle but stunning read-aloud hovers in the realm of the magical, never revealing the true background of the stranger, even when he finally takes leave of the family at the end of the story. The ambiguity opens up the story to myriad opinions and interpretations. Could he, in fact, be Jack Frost?

Framed in a generous swath of white space, the short, evocative narrative on each left-hand page echoes the simplicity of the full-colour pastel image on the facing page that showcases and celebrates the beauty of fall.

  •  

    Predict what will happen to the stranger when he stays at the Baileys’ home.

  •  

    Discuss who you think the stranger might be. What elements add to the mysterious nature of the story? Do you think the stranger will return?

  •  

    Write a response to the story. Be sure to include comments on the author’s craft (structures and features).

  •  

    Before reading, do a picture walk and predict what the story will be about.

  •  

    Talk about what happens in nature when summer turns to fall. What does the stranger do that shows he is close to nature? What clues indicate his real identity?

  •  

    Make a T-chart to compare what is ordinary about the stranger to what is mysterious.

  •  

    Write an epilogue to explain who the stranger really is. Use details from the book to support your explanation.

  •  Analyze the page on which the stranger is lying on the road. Make predictions about the story based solely on this page. Discuss possible before and after scenarios.
  •  Focus on the family in this story and find at least three similarities to and three differences from your own family. (Think beyond just physical differences.) Refer to these for a peer discussion on the topic.
  •  

    Using one illustration and the characters from the story as inspiration, create a new story. Prepare it in written format, as a multimedia presentation or in the form of a short skit. Present your stories and the original picture book to elementary students.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Environmental Awareness and Consumer Rights and Responsibilities