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When The Whippoorwill Calls

  Author: Candice F. Ransom
Illustrator: Kimberly Bulcken Root
Summary: A Blue Ridge Mountain family is displaced to the flatlands by the creation
of the Shenandoah National Park.
ISBN: 0-688-12729-0; 0-688-12730-4

Unit prepared by Nicki Jerome


Social Studies

Human Relationships- Family and Responsibilities
Discuss the following questions with your student.
What family relationships do you see in the book? How similar / different are they compared to your own?
What rules does the daughter have? Or think that she has? What rules do you have?
What responsibilities do her parents have? What responsibilities do your parents have?
As parents, grandparents, and family friends about what rules and responsibilities they had growing up, as well as what they have now. Ask them why they had certain rules and responsibilities.

Human Relationships- Change & Moving to a New Place
The character had to move to a new place. Have you ever moved? How did she feel? How would have felt?

Compare the character’s life in the mountains to her life in the flatlands:
Mountains: trees everywhere, lived in a log cabin, coal oil lamps, hauled water inside, carried baskets on back, walked to school, threw wash over bushes,
Flatlands: open fields/few trees, white painted house, inside electricity and water, truck carried the baskets, rode a school bus, clothesline

In the book there are a few occupations that are presented. Discuss each one with your student. Are there any jobs your student would like to consider for the future?

Farmer – A person who grows field crops, and/or manages orchards or vineyards, or raises livestock or poultry. Their products are usually sold in a market or consumed by the family.

General Store clerk/owner - In Australia, Canada and the United States, a general store is a retailer located in a small town or in a rural area with a broad selection of merchandise crammed into a relatively small space where people from the town and surrounding rural areas come to purchase all their general goods, both in stock and special order from warehouses.

Basket Maker - A person who uses a variety of materials to fashion baskets to be used for holding items.

Fruit Picker - A person who picks fresh fruit/vegetables, or seafood (depending on where you are in the world) for people to consume or to be sold.

Homemaker- A person whose primary job is to care for their family and home. In this story who is a homemaker? How is this evidenced? One way is that mama does home canning, also known as putting up, is the process of preserving foods (in particular, fruits, vegetables, and meats) by packing them into glass jars and then heating the jars to kill the organisms that would create spoilage (a process called "processing") These are then either stored for future consumption or sold.

Construction workers (men who operated the bulldozers) - Construction workers are skilled in building or demolishing offices or homes as well as other various projects (like roads).

Forester - A forester is a person who practices forestry, the science and profession of managing forests. Foresters engage in a broad range of activities including timber harvesting, restoring forests, and managing protected areas of forest.

Identify the distinguishing physical features of the community in the book (mountains, trees, etc.) and your own community. Compare and contract the two. Talk about different land formations and other physical features such as mountains, forests, streams. Are any of these near where you live?

Geography: Blue Ridge Mountain Region
The Blue Ridge Mountain Region is found in the Eastern United States. Find the mountains on a map with your student. Choose a state for the setting of the story and research the following information

- When was the state Admitted to the United States of America?
-What is the state abbreviation?
-State Capital?
-Major industries?
-Main rivers?
-Bordering States
-Bordering body of water?
-State nickname?
-State motto?
-State Flower and Animal?

Discuss various forms of transportation with your student. How do people get from here tothere? (walking, biking, wagons, trucks, automobiles, trains, planes)
Which methods of transportation were used in the book?
What methods of transportation are popular today?

Rabbit Trails
Your older student may want to research and learn more about want of the following:
-Creation of the Blue Ridge National Park (read author’s note at the end of the book)
-History of electricity and indoor plumbing
-History of the automobile
-History of the Fridge and Freezer


Mycology- Mushrooms
In the science world, the study of fungi is known as mycology. Fungi (which is plural for fungus) were once thought to be a kind of plant; however, today they are considered to be more closely related to animals. Fungi (along with bacteria) are our primary decomposers meaning they break down plant and animal material. Yeast, mould, and mushrooms are all different kinds of fungi. It is believe that there are about 1.5 milLion different kinds of fungi; however, only about 70,000 have been described. Fungi are very important, not only because they are decomposers (can you imagine a world where dead things did not break down?), but also because it is through fungi that we get yeast to make our bread rise and antibiotics to make us healthy when we get sick. Some fungi are edible, but many are poisonous.

The merkle, or morel mushrooms that Pap and Polly find in the story are, of course, edible. Each year, thousands of people go looking for morels—for the fun of the hunt, for food, and to sell. The world ‘merkle’ comes from a corrupted form of the word ‘miracle.’ The Day the Sun Came Out by Dorothy M. Johnson is a story about how a mountain family was saved from starvation by eating morels, and thus they considered the mushroom a miracle.

Safety note: It is very important that we do not pick and eat mushrooms that we find. Many mushrooms are quite poisonous. There is one called a "False Morel" that looks similar to a true morel, but is deadly poisonous if eaten raw. (It can be eaten if parboiled.) Even if you are in closed quarters with false morels, you can get very ill! You should only eat fresh mushrooms if you are with a very knowledgeable mushroom hunter, and even then children especially should only eat small amounts.

Pictures of Morels

Zoology- Whippoorwills
Whippoorwills are nocturnal birds that live in the eastern half of the United States. They winter in the south-eastern states and in eastern Central America. Whippoorwills eat insects. They do not build a nest, but lay eggs on fallen leaves. The female times it so that her egg will hatch 10 days before a full moon. The whippoorwill is very well camouflaged and difficult to spot. They are varying shades of brown, gray, and black.

Blue Ridge Mountain Flora and Fauna
What plants or animals are mentioned in this story? Remind your student that different groups of plants and animals grow in different areas of the world. What is found in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Does your student see anything in the pictures that isn’t mentioned in the text?

Here are a some examples from the text/pictures- apple trees, oak trees, clover, corn, fish, wisteria, huckleberries, briars, etc. Let your older student research the Appalachian Mountain region to discover more of the plants and animals that live there.

Health & Nutrition- Food Groups
What foods are mentioned in the story? Cattle, corn, huckleberries, milk, etc.

Discuss the food groups & the servings required for a balanced meal. Allow student to make a meal by cutting pictures from magazines & gluing them to a paper plate. Help them determine if the meal is balanced.

Grains – (6-11 servings a day) Point out foods students might not think of as grains –oatmeal, corn meal, or rice and popcorn. Tell students that some grains are whole grains. At least half the grains they eat should be whole grain. Some names for whole grains are whole wheat, whole-grain corn, and oatmeal. Show them the words “whole grain” on the ingredients label or the front of a cereal box and ask them to look for it on a cereal box at home.

Vegetables – (3-5 servings a day) Do your students eat fresh vegetables? Frozen? Canned? Dark green and orange vegetables are especially important. (Examples include spinach, broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes.) Ask students to name dark green and orange vegetables they’d like to try.

Fruits – (2-4 servings a day) Explain that fruit can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. Ask children about their favorite fruits. What type or form do they eat?

Milk –(2-3 servings a day) Ask students to name some foods in the milk group (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream). Where does milk come from? Do they drink milk every day? For children who are lactose intolerant, there are lactose-free products.

Meat and Beans –(2-3 servings a day) Ask students to name foods from the meat and beans group (meat, fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, dry beans, and peas, nuts, and seeds). Do they ever eat beans at home for dinner?


In the story, the main character wants to find the “gold” in the mountain in order to buy it. Introduce coins and their values.

A century is 100 years. Can your student count by 100s?


Primary Colors and Various Shades of Color
Have your student name the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) or introduce this concept to your student. What colors are seen in the book. Show your student how to distinguish between the lighter and darker tones of color in the illustrations. How are the shades of color in the story used to convey emotion?

Wisteria Pictures
First paint the vines and leaves. Then dip a finger into a light purple paint and make fingerprint wisteria blooms hanging in bunches downward (similar to a bunch of grapes but more uniform in width). You may want to use this opportunity to view and discuss Wisteria by Claude Monet and/or the Wisteria Collection by Tiffany.

Language Arts

Holler- to yell or call out
Twilight- the period or the light from the sky between full night and sunrise or between sunset and full night
Peak- the top of a hill or mountain
Sprawled- spread out
Mending- to fix something so that it can be used again
Sums- math problems (addition)
Gossip- rumor
Trample- to run over the top of something and to injure it
Scattered- to cause to separate widely
Amazement- great surprise
Yonder - that place over there
Tremble- shake (with fear)
Abandoned- something left empty or unused

After the first reading, have your student demonstrate understanding of the text.
If your child is artistically inclines, let them draw the story using their own pictures and colors.
If your child likes telling stories, have them retell you the story in their own words
if you child likes writing stories, have them retell the story using their own words and writing it down for you.

Onomatopoeia is a word (or group of words) that imitates the sound it is describing. Identify the example of onomatopoeia in the story (snap-pop) . Have your student think of specific sounds heard in the house environment (e.g., door closing), city environment (e.g., cars and busses traveling), and country environment (e.g., animal sounds).

Using a Thesaurus
These three words are all found throughout the text of the story: glowed, glimmer, and shimmer. While they do not have the exact same meaning, their meanings are similar and related.

Show your student a thesaurus. Choose a word (any word) and show your student how each word listed gives examples of other words that are similar in meaning. Look up each word (glowed, glimmer, and shimmer). What words are provided on each list? Is shimmer on glimmer’s list? Is glowed on shimmer’s list?

Bible / Character Development

Where is this seen in the story? Where in the Bible can you see times where people had to obey, even if they didn’t want to?

Gen 12:1-4
Gen 22:1-19
Joshua 1:7
Story of Jonah

Bible Story- Relocation
Are there any instances in the bible about people having to locate for one reason or another ?
(Read Luke 2:1)

Just for Fun

~Try some basket weaving (tons of varieties found using Google)
~Make some jam or pie. Use a family recipe. Use an old fashioned recipe
Grow your own Morel Mushrooms
~Draw pictures from the science section in your field journal. Share your journal with a friend or family member

Physical Activity
Perform the basic movement skills required to participate in physical activities: locomotion, traveling (e.g., galloping, running), and manipulation (e.g., throwing, catching), and stability (e.g., jumping, landing). Was the character in the book able to do these things? Are you? Can your student turn a somersault?