Thursday, September 17, 2015

Learning from Picture Books – How to Wash A Woolly Mammoth

I always enjoy stories that try to show me how to do the impossible! (Kind of like washing your dog after it runs into a skunk, which I had to do earlier this summer.) Anyway, this book is a lot of fun and a good one to use with students to explain how to write step by step instructions in a fun way.

Summary from Amazon:

Things can get a bit messy when you try to wash a woolly mammoth. Follow this step-by-step guide to successfully clean up your hairy friend. Be forewarned! A mammoth's tummy is terribly tickly. 

Young readers and parents alike will appreciate this hilarious bath time adventure.

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth was written by Michelle Robinson and illustrated by Kate Hindley, published by Henry Holt and Company, 2014.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

This story has a fun concept that captured my attention. It’s written as a series of steps, an interesting story structure to try if you’re wanting a new approach to story writing. The illustrations add so much humor and life to the text, especially the expressions on the mammoth’s face.

The author, Michelle Robinson, has an interesting and useful Ten Minute Story Making Masterclass

My Thoughts as a Teacher:

The step by step instruction format is a great model for young writers who are learning to write procedures. I’d love to discuss the character’s creativity and ingenuity in problem-solving in a group discussion, talking about going beyond the obvious, and how sometimes you need to try more than one idea or be persistent to get something to work.

I also enjoyed the different washing products illustrated inside the front cover. They could be used as a model for an art or media activity. And I liked the way the illustrations were labeled Fig. and shown on graph paper, demonstrating scientific illustration.  

Themes: persistence, planning, following steps, problem-solving

Ages: 3 – 7

Grades: preschool – grade 2

Follow-Up Activities:

Create a plan for how to do something using pictures and labels.

Brainstorm a list of different ideas for how to get a mammoth down from a tree and write a different ending for the story. 

Watch the video with Michelle Robinson to learn how an author uses a "web" to brainstorm story ideas, and give it a try.


  1. I love the build up in this story. What a truly fun way to learn to follow steps. I am also a sucker for anything prehistoric!

    1. Yeah, kids love prehistoric animals, don't they?

  2. What an entertaining book for kids. I can see it used in the classroom. Want to check it out because of your comments about the story structure.

    1. Michelle Robinson's video is really interesting, too.

  3. This looks like a fun one. Will have to check it out. I've never written a steps or guide picture book. They are fun to read with my son.

  4. Wow! This sounds like a fun an useful book! Thanks for putting it in the spotlight!

  5. I love this book - it's a fun way to get kids to think about process. Also about how to break mammoth problems down to size.


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