The Fire Cat by Esther Averill is a perfect book for emergent readers. Pickles is a young cat with big paws who wants to do big things. He takes us on his journey, which leads to his adoption and transformation into a good fire cat. Readers will rejoice when Pickles finds a place where he belongs.
This book is a great way to introduce key lessons to young students, including comparing and contrasting, making connections, and analyzing vocabulary words. Including storyboards with these activities will enhance creativity and comprehension through the visual nature of storyboarding!
By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!
A Quick Synopsis of The Fire Cat (Contains Plot Spoilers)
Pickles is a young cat who is yellow with black spots. He has big paws and wishes he could do big things with them. But he can not find anything big to do.
Pickles’ home is in a barrel in an old yard where there is nothing big to do. So, Pickles spends his time running after little cats that run into his yard. This is a bad thing but it is all Pickles thinks he can do. Mrs. Goodkind, Pickles’ only friend, feeds him and offers him a place in her home. She gives him toys to play with and a chair to sit in. Pickles does not like it there and decides to go back to his barrel.
One day, he chases a little cat up a tree. He sits near the little cat and does not let her climb down. After a while, a storm comes and the wind and rain blow furiously. Pickles finally lets the little cat down but Pickles cannot climb down himself. He is stuck!
Mrs. Goodkind calls the fire department, and they come to rescue Pickles. Fireman Joe climbs up the ladder and brings Pickles to safety. Joe and Mrs. Goodkind talk about how Pickles is a cat who wishes to do big things. Fireman Joe decides to bring Pickles to the firehouse.
Pickles meets the Fire Chief, and he tells Pickles that if he learns to be a good firehouse cat, then he will let him live there. Pickles decides he needs to learn to do what the firemen do. Pickles learns how to slide down the fire pole, how to jump into the fire engine and sit up straight while the truck races to a fire, and how to help hold the water hose.
The Fire Chief loves how Pickles has been a hard worker and he decides to make Pickles their official Fire Cat. He gives Pickles his own fire hat. Pickles is told that a Fire Cat must be nice to everybody, so Pickles learns to become friends with the other cats.
Pickles is called to a rescue; it is one of Mrs. Goodkind’s cats. He rescues the cat from the same tree Fireman Joe had rescued him from. Mrs. Goodkind thanks him and tells him that she knew he would do big things. Pickles the firecat rides home on the engine, happy and proud.
As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log, also called a character map, allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!
You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.
Here is an example for Pickles the Fire Cat.
wishes to do big things
mixed-up (not bad but not good)
"Pickles was a young cat, His paws were big. And he wished to do big things with them."
"Pickles, you are not a bad cat. You are not a good cat. You are good and bad, And bad and good. You are a mixed-up cat.”
Another great way to engage your students is by creating a storyboard that uses vocabulary from The Fire Cat.
In this activity, students demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words using sentences and corresponding images. Students may be provided the vocabulary words, or they can use words that they have discovered through their reading of the text. The sentences and images validate the understanding of the word and the context that it was used in the novel.
Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the story .
In this activity, students decide what they think the important parts in the text are and categorize them into the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Having students decide on the beginning, middle and end will help them break the text up and makes it easier to choose one or two main events to represent. Students can plan their ideas with a partner or individually and decide what events they would like to add to their storyboard.
The storyboard below shows two examples for the beginning, middle, and end. You can set a number of frames for the students to use based on the ability of the student, or the length of the text.
Pickles lives in a barrel, and since there is nothing better to do, he chases other cats. Mrs. Goodkind is his only friend, she feeds him and offers a home for him, but Pickles likes living outside better. She warns Pickles that something bad will happen if he continues to act bad.
Pickles chases a young cat up a tree and will not let the cat go. A storm comes, so Pickles lets the little cat go, but he is too scared to climb down! Mrs. Goodkind calls the firefighters and Fireman Joe climbs a ladder and rescues Pickles.
Mrs. Goodkind explains to Fireman Joe that Pickles wants to do big things in life. Fireman Joe brings Pickles to the fire station and the Chief says he will let pickles stay, if he learns how to be a good fire house cat.
Pickles learns the ropes very quickly. He learns how to slide down the fire pole, how to jump onto the engine and sit straight while the engine drives, how to help hold the firehose, and much more.
The Chief calls Pickles into his office. He tells Pickles he has seen all the hard work he has done. The Chief makes Pickles an official Fire Cat and gives him a little fire hat.
Pickles learns to be friendly with other cats. He goes on a call to help a cat stuck in a tree. It is the same tree he was rescued from! Pickles bravely climbs up the ladder and rescues the cat. He is very proud of himself and happy.
Connection that reminds you of something in another book or story
Text to Self
Connection that reminds you of something in your life.
Text to World
Connection that reminds you of something happening in the world.
Making connections is a very important skill to acquire and perfect. The Fire Cat is a great story for students to connect to on many different levels. In this activity, students will be making text to text, text to self, and text to world connections. Students should choose which connection they want to make first and work to write a narrative for that. Once all three connections have been made, students can work on their illustrations.
TEXT TO TEXT
Text: In this story, Pickles chases cats around because it is the only thing he can do.
Text: In another Esther Averill book, The Hotel Cat, a cat moves into a hotel because he is really good at chasing mice.
TEXT TO SELF
Text: Sometimes, Pickles was a bad cat. He would chase around other cats for fun.
Self: My cat Hazel reminds me of Pickles because she is bad sometimes. She chases my other cats and loves to jump up onto our flat screen TV!
TEXT TO WORLD
Text: Pickles was a stray cat, and Mrs. Goodkind went out of her way to feed him and offer him a place in her home which he decided was not a good fit for him.
World: I read in a magazine about a lady who took care of stray cats. She took care of over 30 stray cats. She fed them and some even lived in her house!
[ELA-Literacy/RL/2/6] Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.
Pickles the cat changes a lot throughout the story. In this activity, students work to identify how he changes from the beginning of the story to the end. Students can work individually or in pairs to research and compile a list of evidence. Students will describe the traits they compiled about Pickles in the beginning on one side, and the traits they discovered that have changed in the end on the other. The traits that remain the same throughout the story will go in the middle. Using the T-Chart layout, students can create a version of a Venn Diagram!