Readers of THE MUNCHED-UP GARDEN, the first volume in the green Troublesome Creek series, may recall the quiet boy, James. This time, he becomes the hero of Troublesome Creek when he discovers the legacy of a long-ago war that is killing the fish in the stream and poisoning the Troublesome Creek gang's swimming hole. This is an eco whodunit with a happy, kids-take-charge ending.
Trouble in Troublesome Creek, was selected to represent Kentucky in the The Pavilion of the States at the 2010 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C
Author Nancy Kelly Allen’s words and the colorful drawings by K. Crawford both evoke a wonderful, carefree time when kids could wander freely, and a swimmin’ hole and a strong rope swinging over the water were all they needed to enjoy a perfectly gorgeous day. With that in mind, a lot of grown-ups will be awfully nostalgic when reading this book aloud or just for a look-see, even though “Trouble in Troublesome Creek” is very definitely a book for 6-to-9-year-olds. If your child believes that summer vacation isn’t long enough and the school year comes too soon, then having this book on your shelf can extend the season. For them, the fun in “Trouble in Troublesome Creek” is spot-on.
Before reading the book, ask the students the following questions:
1. What do you think might happen in the story?
2. What does the title tell us about the book?
3. Should we expect a problem? Explain.
Read and discuss Trouble in Troublesome Creek. Ask the following open-ended questions:
1. This story is told from the point of view of James. How would the story be different if Sallie or Liz had told it?
2. Sallie is rude to the other characters. Why do you suppose they hang out with her?
3. James was afraid to swing on the rope. Have you ever been with a group of friends and was afraid to do something the others were doing? If so, how did that make you feel?
4. Have you ever been lost? What are some things should you do if you’re ever lost?
5. The Troublesome Creek kids entered a cave without telling anyone where they were going. What would have been a better choice? What are some of the dangers of entering unexplored caves?
6. Minnie balls were polluting Troublesome Creek 150 years after they were left in the cave. What are some
things we can do today to prevent pollution of streams and land?
7. Why is it important to keep creeks clean and unpolluted?
8. Why do people pollute land and streams?
9. Why is studying the history of Minnie balls and the Civil War important?
10. Why is it important to keep artifacts, such as minnie balls, in history museums?
11. How did the main character, James, change by the end of the story?
12. Why is it everyone’s responsibility as good citizens to prevent pollution?
Five kids plus Aunt Pearl are the main characters in Trouble in Troublesome Creek and The Munched-Up Flower Garden. Write a story in which two of the characters first meet. Describe the event and the setting. How old were the characters? Why did they meet? Give the story a beginning, middle and ending.
Trouble in Troublesome Creek takes place in Knott County in Kentucky. Locate Knott County on a map. Explain that a real Troublesome Creek exists.
What is the Title?
Explain how titles reflect the story. Read a book without revealing the title and let students make up their own titles for a story.
Letter to the author:
Students write letters to the author. Students share reactions to the book.
Compare and contrast Trouble in Troublesome Creek with The Munched-Up Flower Garden. Consider character traits, illustrations, setting, events, resolving the problem, etc. Create a chart to display the data.
Compare/Contrast Troublesome Creek, a modern, rural community, with Troublesome Creek during the time of the Civil War in the 1860s. Chart the likenesses and differences. Consider population, transportation, foods, housing, pollution, etc.
Interview a character: A Student interviews one character from the book and writes a newspaper article about the interview.
Ten facts: Students write 10 Facts about Trouble in Troublesome Creek. The facts are statements about the story.
Comic book: Students turn different pages of the book into a comic book. Staple pages and add a cover sheet to make a classroom book.
Discuss setting. Write a report on how the setting was important to the story.
Spelunking is the sport of exploring caves. Students imagine they are spelunking. What three items would they take with them? If they became lost in a cave, what would they do to try to find the way back out? Should one person become the leader? If so, how should the leader be chosen? Divide class into groups comprised of 3 of 4 four students to brainstorm ideas and create a story. Tell the story with a skit performance.
Pollution Solution: Pollution affects every community and is harming our environment. Discuss preventive measures to slow or stop the destruction of pollution and to protect the environment. Create a chart of possible ways to stop pollution. Invite students to make posters encouraging others to not pollute or showing the dangers of pollution.
Dramatize three scenes from the book:
Three students will dramatize scenes from the beginning, middle and ending of the book. Students write a script for each scene and practice a few times before the presentation.
Bottle It Up:
Add three cups of water to a 2-liter bottle. Repeat the process so you have three bottles containing water. Discuss how the bottles and water represent a creek habitat and how the water is clean. Add one cup of oil to the first bottle. Discuss how animals that live in or drink the water can be harmed when oil spills into creeks. How does oil in water affect people who use the water? Add soap and detergents to the second bottle. Again, discuss how the pollution affects animals and people. Add oil, soap, and detergents to the third bottle. Again, discuss the affect of pollution of our water supply. Write articles on how pollution has long-lasting effects on the environment.
Write a travel brochure based on Troublesome Creek. Include flowers, cave, creek, swimming hole, and other sites people will want to see. Draw a map of the area where the events took place. You may also include events from The Munched-Up Flower Garden. Both books have a Troublesome Creek setting.
Make a Book:
Promote student observation and descriptive language by making a classroom book. Allow students to explore various textures of items found in the environment.
Examples: ground coffee, pebbles, sand, leaves, twigs, tempera paint, grass, string, pieces of construction paper, crumpled paper, cotton balls, bits of cloth, such as velvet and burlap, and other convenient items. Sort items into groups by similar texture and discuss the sense of touch: this feels smooth or this feels bumpy. Students make collages with groups of items. Combine the collage pages into a book.
Ending: Writing a different ending to the story.
Oral Book Reports: Students prepare oral book reports and answer questions about the book following the reports.
Newspaper Article: Write a newspaper article about the kids finding Minnie balls in the cave.
Create a commercial: Write the script and perform a commercial as if you’re trying to sell the Minnie balls. Invite students to illustrate posters as visual aid for the commercial.
Write similes: The author wrote, “The mountain gaped open like a yawn.”