Author Ray Ballantyne spotlighted in the Statesman Journal

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Ray doing what he does best, telling stories.

The Last Child of Hamelin by Ray Ballantyne

The Last Child of Hamelin by Ray Ballantyne

 

Our author, Ray Ballantyne, recently launched his book The Last Child of Hamelin to a fabulous crowd at A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village. Not only did he read a chapter from his newly published book, but he also told a story that inspired him to write it. You can hear him tell this story and read about Ray’s journey to publication online.

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Ray signs a book for a local fan.

 

 

 

 

 

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The woman in the green shirt was a school secretary at Campus Elementary in Monmouth, a school my Ray taught at 40 years ago. The reason she remembered him was that he was so kind and appreciative of the office staff. She recognized his picture in The Statesman article last week and wanted to be there!

 

 

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Follow the Piper: Fiction in the Classroom

FOLLOW THE PIPER:FICTION IN THE CLASSROOM

 

by Ray Ballantyne

 

 

 

I have walked on Mars.

 

I have paddled an outrigger canoe over the Pacific Ocean.

 

Al Capone has done my shirts.

 

And all without stirring from my chair.

 

For, you see, I read fiction.

 

Not only have I experienced all this through books, I have lived it. And I remember them.

 

Storytelling is a part of our nature. We are built to tell and remember stories. What we experience in fiction becomes a part of us. That is the “Piper” we must follow. Not the Pied Piper who took the children away, but one who satisfies the deep need for story we all share.

 

That alone is enough reason for fiction to a part of every language program at every level. However, you as a teacher may feel bound to justify that fiction should be included. Then know this—: all the language skills you are responsible for can be learned through fiction.

 

Vocabulary? In any good work of children’s literature, the child reader will find words they don’t know, but they will encounter them in context. Many times that is all the child will need to understand the word. Other times it will snap into place later in the story. In the hands of a good author, the story will continue to flow, and the meaning of individual words will take shape.

 

Children don’t learn vocabulary with worksheets and drills.  They learn by being immersed in quality writing. That is what I mean by following the Piper.

 

Grammar and usage? Keep them reading fiction. It provides a sure model of the very best of the English language.

 

And read this from the Common Core: “Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.”

 

So there you have it. Fiction is in. It can be justified with many different learning objectives in your curriculum.

 

But the most important reasons for including fiction are the hardest to measure. Nonetheless, most are immeasurably more important. We educators have a frightening tendency to include in our curriculum those things that can be most easily measured.

 

But to quote Einstein, “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.

 

So what counts?

 

Wonder. Wisdom. Empathy.

 

There is a quality of rehearsal, of practice inherent in fiction. We can experience problems and dilemmas through someone else—a character in a story— before we experience it ourselves. We watch fictional characters struggle, err and work through difficulties.  We feel what they feel. We end up just a little more prepared for life.

 

How did Harriet extract herself from the social mess she finds herself in? How did Anna and Caleb cope with having this tall stranger named Sarah enter their lives as their stepmother?  How did Juan de Pareja deal with being an art apprentice in a hostile place?

 

Every well-wrought protagonist has character flaws. Fiction demonstrates how a person survives these flaws and grows in the process. We live it with the character.

 

It is no magic bullet, no easy fix. It comes from years of immersion in the best fiction we can offer children.

 

Then there is imagination. Oh, how fiction stirs our imagination. Every fiction writer depends on that. With a few deft details, an author sketches a world and leaves the reader to fill in the rest of the details with our imaginations. And we do, and imagination blossoms.

 

To quote our dear Einstein one more time, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.

 

Finally, fiction allows us to see the world through another pair of eyes, to know life as someone different from us knows it.  We can live another culture. The other gender. A different time in history. As it says at the beginning of Sharon Creech’s  Newberry-winning book, Walk Two Moons, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”

 

Fiction helps us not view the rest of the world as “others,” people to be avoided or even feared. When we “walk two moons,” it is very difficult to do that.

 

Finally, there’s the wisdom inherent in fiction, perhaps in children’s fiction most of all. I’m not talking about the “sermons” of those pedantic stories children must all-too-often endure. Wisdom is deeper, older; it is shared by of a great character in a great story.  Wisdom, passed down through multiple folktales, through stories that have stood the test of time.  Wisdom that is endemic in the best of children’s literature. And fiction gives children an opportunity to not just hear this wisdom, but see it lived out. To live it themselves. Following the Piper.

 

With fiction.

 

With story.

 

Discussion Questions and Classroom Unit for The Last Child of Hamelin

The Last Child of Hamelin by Ray Ballantyne

Classroom Study Unit for The Last Child of Hamelin

BEFORE YOU READ

You may be reading The Last Child of Hamelin to your class or they might be reading it themselves. Either way, before they experience the novel, be sure your students are familiar with “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” tale.

  • 1.0 Tell the story out loud if possible.
  • 2.0 If you are reading it out loud:
  • -with older kids, you might read the Browning poem/story of the Pied Piper. Pick one where the illustrator does  not sentimentalize the ending.
  • -with younger children, find a retelling that is straight-forward and honest. Again, avoid a sentimental ending, that emphasizes the wonder of the land inside the mountain without examining the tragedy inherent in the story.

-compare illustrations in various versions.

-Ask: which ones capture your sense of the story?

3.0 Discuss the tale:

  • 3.1 How did you react to the ending of “The Pied Piper?” What were your emotions?
  • 3.2 What do think the ending was like for the children?
  • 3.3 What do think the ending was like for the parents?
  • 3.4 How would other people in Hamelin have reacted to losing the children?
  • 3.5 Did Hamelin deserve to lose the children? Why or why not?
  • 3.6 What might it be like for the children inside the mountain in a month? a year? five years?
  • 3.7 If you were the child left behind like the lame boy, what might you be feeling

DURING THE READING

Study the illustration on the cover. Look carefully. Share what you see.

2.0Pieter’s Life in Hamelin

  • 2.1 What surprised you about how people lived in the 1300s A.D.?
  • 2.2 Why do you think Hamelin was surrounded by walls?
  • 2.3 Why was no music allowed in Hamelin?
  • 2.4 Draw a plan of Pieter’s house.
  1. -where is the cooking fire?
  2. -where is the “center post?”
  3. -what was it like inside the house?
  4. -what do you see?
  5. -what sounds would you hear?
  6. -what would the table top feel like? the floor? The wood in the doors?
  7. -what smells would be present?

[Teachers: Similar questions can be used with any of the buildings in the story: Keeper’s house, The Square Pig, The Tower of the Lays, etc.]

  • 2.5 Find Hamelin on the map in the front of the book. Locate Koppelberg Mountain. Where do you think Pieter’s secret valley is located?

3.0 Know the Characters

  • 3.1 Make a character sketch of Pieter.
  • 3.11 With words or short phrases, list descriptions of:
  1. -Appearance – face, hair, eyes, build, clothes, unusual features (scars, tattoos, physical deformities, etc.), age, body language. What does he most dislike about his appearance and body?
  2. -Strengths/Gifts – What does this character do well? What are his or her gifts?
  3. -Flaws and Weaknesses – What does this character do poorly? Which of these causes problems for him? What is his weakest trait? What does he or she most dislike about himself?
  4. -Ethics/Beliefs – What does this character believe strongly? How is that shown in actions or words? How             do those beliefs help? When do they get in the way?
  5. -Relationships – Who does this character care about the most? Who are his best friends? How does he treat people he meets?
  6. -Emotions – What are this character’s usual emotions? What makes him? How often? What makes him happy? What do you think he is most afraid of?
  7. -Change and Growth – Return to this as you read the book. Jot down ways in which he or she was changed or grown throughout the story.
  • 3.12 What do you wish you knew about him?
  • 3.13 What do you think you know about him, even though it is not stated in the text.
  • 3.2 Make a character sketch of Simon.
  • 3.21 With words or short phrases, list descriptions of his:
  1. -appearance
  2. -strengths and gifts
  3. -flaws and weaknesses
  4. -ethics and beliefs
  5. -relationships
  6. -emotions
  • 3.22 What do you wish you knew about him?
  • 3.23 What do you think you know about him, even though it is not stated in the text.
  • 3.3 What do you think makes Pieter’s father so angry?
  • 3.4 Describe Pieter’s relationship with Agnes, his little sister.

4.0 Early Events — Chapters 1 to 6

  • 4.1Why did Pieter return again and again to Koppelberg Mountain?
  • 4.2 Do you have a secret place like Pieter does? What do you do there? Describe it.
  • 4.3 Why didn’t Pieter obey the law against music?
  • 4.4 Why did Simon return again and again to Koppelberg Mountain? How do his reasons differ from Pieter’s?
  • 4.5 What do you think makes Simon such a sad man?

5.0      Leaving Hamelin – Chapters 7 to 14

  • 5.1 Why did Pieter leave Hamelin with Simon?
  • 5.2 Why did he continue traveling with Simon from Tracker’s cabin?
  • 5.3 Simon reads “The Piper’s Song,” which they find hard to understand. Pick a verse and discuss what it might mean.
  • 5.4 Why do you think the clues are so difficult to unravel?
  • 5.5 Who does Simon think Pieter will become?
  • 5.6 Follow Pieter on the map as they travel.

6.0      Silverfoot

  • 6.1 Why is Pieter unafraid of the wolf?
  • 6.2 What do you think is happening between Silverfoot and Pieter?
  • 6.3 If you could choose an animal friend like the wolf, what animal would you choose?
  • 6.4 Is Simon right to fear Silverfoot? Why or why not?

7.0      Gretchen – Chapters 15 and 16

  • 7.1 Make a character sketch of Gretchen.
  • 7.11 With words or phrases, list descriptions of her:
  1.   -appearance
  2.  -strengths and gifts
  3.  -flaws and weaknesses
  4.  -ethics and beliefs
  5.   -relationships
  6.   -emotions
  •  7.11 What do you wish you knew about her?
  •  7.12 What do you think you know about her, even though it is not stated in the text.
  •  7.2 Pieter and Gretchen don’t seem to be getting along. Why do you think this is?
  •  7.3 Was Simon right to take Gretchen with them? Why or why not?
  •  7.4 When the two children played and sang, why did Simon  weep?

8.0      The First Two Clues – Chapters 17 to 20

  • 8.1 Why were they confused about the first and second clues?
  • 8.2 How might the story have been different if they had missed Harmony Vale?

9.0      Harmony Vale – Chapters 21 to 24

  •  9.1 How is Harmony Vale different from an ordinary valley?
  •  9.2 Make a character sketch of Keeper.
  •  9.11 With words or phrases, list descriptions of him:
  1.   -appearance
  2.  -strengths and gifts
  3. -flaws and weaknesses
  4. -ethics and beliefs
  5. -relationships
  6.  -emotions
  •  9.21 What do you wish you knew about him?
  •   9.22 What do you think you know about him, even though it is not stated in the text?
  • 9.23 Is there something wrong with Keeper or is he just different? What makes you think this?
  • 9.3 Do you think you would have been frightened by Keeper? Why or why not?
  •  9.4 How does Keeper “keep” the music?
  •  9.5 Draw a picture of Harmony Vale.

10.0    The Square Pig and the Monastery – Chapters 25 to 39

  • 10.1 Why were Pieter and Gretchen so successful in performing?
  •  10.11 Describe two or three things that were unusual about their music.
  •  10.12 How are Pieter and Gretchen getting along now? When do they argue? When do they not argue? Why?
  •  10.2 Make a character sketch of Theodus, the minstrel.
  •  10.11 With words or phrases, list descriptions of him:
  1. -appearance
  2.  -strengths and gifts
  3. -flaws and weaknesses
  4. -ethics and beliefs
  5. -relationships
  6.  -emotions
  • 10.21 What do you wish you knew about him?
  • 10.22 What do you think you know about him, even though it is not stated in the text?
  • 10.23 Would you want him to teach you music? Why or why not?
  • 10.3    Make a character sketch of the monk, Brother Rufus.
  •  10.31 With words or phrases, list descriptions of him:
  1. -appearance
  2.  -strengths and gifts
  3. -flaws and weaknesses
  4. -ethics and beliefs
  5. -relationships
  6.  -emotions
  •  10.32 What do you wish you knew about him?
  •  10.33 What do you think you know about him, even though it is not stated in the text?
  • 10.4 Mark the journey to Verden on the map.

 

11.0    On to Bondswick – Chapters 40 to 48

  • 11.1 Things seem tense between Brother Rufus and the old man, Simon. Why do you think this is?
  • 11. 2 Pieter did not want Gretchen to come with them. Yet she has been a help to them. List some specific ways she has      helped Pieter and/or Simon.
  • 11.3 How did Brother Rufus rescue them from the outlaws? Describe.
  • 11.4 On Cooper’s Island, Pieter becomes quite upset. What do you think is making him so angry? What does he fear?
  • 11.5 Follow Pieter on the map from the monastery to Bondswick.

 

12.0    Scopford and The Lady of the Lay – Chapters 48 to 52

  •  12.1 Vocabulary: Have you come across words that are new to you. Keep a list.
  • 12.2    Given how they are used in the story, what is your idea of  their meaning?
  •  12.3 Are you stumped by any of them? Use your dictionary when you finish reading for the day. Don’t stop and look up a word while you are reading. And don’t look them up too soon. Wait and see it the story makes  it clear later.
  •  12.4 Make a character sketch of the woman in the tower, Merle.
  •  12.41 With words or phrases, list descriptions of her:
  1. -appearance
  2.  -strengths and gifts
  3. -flaws and weaknesses
  4. -ethics and beliefs
  5. -relationships
  6.  -emotions
  • 12.5 What do you wish you knew about her?
  • 12.6 What do you think you know about her, even though it is not stated in the text?
  •  12.7 Who is Merle? How is she connected with Keeper?
  • 12.3 The last clue was not in the “Piper’s Song.” Where was it and how did they discover it?
  • 12.4 What do you think is happening between Merle and Gretchen?
  • 12.5  What did Gretchen do that surprised everyone (except perhaps, Merle)?
  •  12.51 How does Gretchen feel about this?
  •  12.52 How does Pieter feel about her new-found gift?

 

13.0    In the Mountains – Chapters 53 to 60

  • 13.1 Why did Pieter enter the cave by himself?
  •  13.2 What does the Pied Piper want Pieter to do?
  •  13.3 Make a character sketch of the Pied Piper.
  • 13.31 With words or phrases, list descriptions of him:
  1. -appearance
  2.  -strengths and gifts
  3. -flaws and weaknesses
  4. -ethics and beliefs
  5. -relationships
  6.  -emotions
  • 13.32 What do you wish you knew about him?
  • 13.33 What do you think you know about him?
  • 13.4 How do you feel about the Pied Piper now? Is he an antagonist or a protagonist? Explain your answer. 13.5 What flaws or weaknesses led the Pied Piper to take the children of Hamelin into the mountain?
  • 13.6 What must Pieter do to save the children?
  • 13.7 Why couldn’t Theodus, the minstrel, use the pipe?

 

14.0 On to Hamelin – Chapters 60 to 64

  • 14.1 What are some reasons Pieter does not want to return to Hamelin?
  • 14.2 What are some reasons he does want to?
  • 14.3 Why did Pieter cause the wolves to jump off the cliff?
  • 14.31 Was this the right thing to do? Why or why not?
  •  14.4 What has changed about the fellowship and Silverfoot?
  • 14.5 How are things different now that Keeper has joined them?

 

15.0    Hamelin Once More – Chapter 65

  • 15.1 Describe the reunion between Pieter and his mother and sister.
  • 15.2 Why did Pieter go to The Tong and Anvil to see his father? Was this a good idea? Why or why not?
  • What might have happened if Pieter’s father had tried to hurt him?
  • 15.3 What led the people of Hamelin to gather in the square to hear Pieter?
  • 15.4 Why did they follow him to Koppelberg Mountain? Would you have gone? Why or why not?
  • 15.5 Describe the land inside the mountain. Use words or art.
  • 15.51 Is it a place you would want to go? Why or why not?
  • 15.52 How do the children feel about this place?
  • 15.6 What are some problems the children will have when they return to Hamelin?
  • 15.6 What problems might the adults have?
  • 15.7 Summarize the song Pieter sang to the children inside the mountain. What was the main thing he was trying to tell them?
  • 15.8 After he’d been inside the mountain for a while, what did Simon decide to do? Were you surprised? Why or why not?
  • 15.9 The title of this book is The Last Child of Hamelin. Who is the last child? Explain your answer.

 

16.0 What Happens Next?

  • 16.1 What do you think the next year be like for the children?
  • 16.2    What will Pieter do next?
  • 16.3 What about Gretchen? What do you think is coming in her life?
  • 16.4    Write the next chapter, one that starts after the end of The Last Child of Hamelin.

For a printable document of The Last Child of Hamelin STUDY QUESTIONS  click here!

Cover Reveal! Last Child of Hamelin

The Last Child of Hamelin Ray Ballantyne ISBN 978-1937053550 August 26, 2014

The Last Child of Hamelin, coming in August 2014. Click here for an advanced reader copy!

Sixty years have passed, and the people of Hamelin have yet to heal from the loss of their children to the Pied Piper. Pieter has grown up in a town without joy, without hope, without music. Yet his heart is full of songs and tunes he cannot express.

He often escapes to the side of Koppelberg Mountain, the very spot where the children disappeared, and there he can hear what he thinks no one else can-the notes of the Piper’s song still floating on the air. But there is another who hears: Old Simon, who as a boy, was left behind.

Pieter’s musical gift creates a connection with the piper of legend, but will Pieter be able to control the magic of his music or will it control him?

Get to know the author by visiting his author page.

Pre-order the book on  Amazon, Barnes and Noble or BAM!