PPBF: Talking Walls

My stars, check out the nearly-finished visual display in our cafeteria, courtesy of some of our leaders in Student Council. Each star responds to the inquiry: 
How will you make 2015 better?

I'm going to keep looking for new PPBF titles to share;
today's pick, at more than 20 years old, is actually new to me.

Title: Talking Walls
Author: Margy Burns Knight
Illustrator: Anne Sibley O'Brien
Publisher: Tillbury House Publishers
Date: January 1, 1992 (reprint edition)
Suitable for: ages 8 and up
Themes: culture, history, landmarks
Brief Synopsis: Explore fourteen walls around the world and learn the story behind why they were built and what they represent and symbolize.
Opening page:  According to an old tale, the only structure on earth that can be seen from the moon is the magnificent Great Wall of China. For about fifteen hundred miles this ancient fortress twists and turns like a massive stone serpent across the mountains, plains, and deserts of China. Chinese children and their families and people from many other countries love to visit the wall where they walk along a path, as wide as five horses, that winds along the top of the wall. 

More than two thousand years ago, large stones and granite boulders were used to construct much of the wall's eastern side. Bricks that were formed by pounding together moistened dirt made up sections of the western side. Some say the Great Wall was built to keep out invaders. Others say it was built to keep the Chinese at home.
Resources:  Visit the author's website {here}.
Download Curriculum Activity Page - ASCD Educational Leadership {here}.
Connect with the For Action Initiative Lesson Plan {here}.
Get details for my Wall of Trust activity {here}.

Why I like this book: Not only is this book such an interesting read about so many noteworthy walls globally, it's also got potential for a reflective discussion about the literal as well as figurative walls that people build. I connected with the philosophical questions at the back of the book and could totally see using them to spark discussions or as journal-entry prompts:

Do you know about other walls?
Are they visible or invisible?
Are they monuments?
Do they tell stories?
How are walls built?
Do they need to stay up or come down?
Do you build walls?
Would you tear them down?
Can you imagine a world without walls?

Since this book isn't necessarily a read-aloud but more of a resource guide, I would pair students and assign them each one of the walls showcased in this masterpiece. How far away from the wall do you live? How long would it take to get there? Let students plan a trip there, complete with the financial calculations for such an adventure. Encourage them to make a travel brochure or present their findings to the class aloud. Suggest a debate or a persuasive paper or talk answering the question: Should this great wall be on someone's bucket list? Why or why not? 

For more PPBF picks, visit Susanna's blog.


  1. What an interesting idea for a book - this could provoke lots of discussion in a classroom!

    1. I can only imagine all of the tangents that this text could take our students on. Thanks, Andrea, for stopping by!

  2. This looks like a lovely and informative book for children. I'v not seen it before. I love your talking wall, so I thought that this is what the book is about. But, I see in the resources there is a book on talking walls. This book would encourage many discussions about the kinds of walls there are around the world -- ancient to current. I really like your activities and enjoyed your choice.

    1. Hi Pat - thanks for your kind comments. I love the challenge of putting together enrichment ideas and activities. I think you'd really like this one!

  3. What a great-looking book, Barbara! And don't you love it when you find older gems? It's like finding buried treasure :) Thanks so much for sharing this oldie-but-goodie!

    1. Yes, Susanna, it was exactly like uncovering some exquisite jewels! Thanks for stopping by and connecting.

  4. Interesting. I encounter lots of walls in my world. Physical and emotional ones. Who knew there were so many notable ones out in the world that are worth studying?! I like all your ideas for using this book. Looks like a great one for a classroom! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I like the word notable, Rhythm, and no, I never knew about all of these walls. Thank you for your kind reflections and for your routine visits to my corner of the world!!

  5. This sounds absolutely fascinating - gonna go request it from the library. Thanks so much!

  6. I remember reading this years ago - it was fascinating! Thanks for the reminder.

  7. so many walls.... how long can they last? I love the questions raised: are walls built to keep things out? keep things in? what a thought-provoking book.


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!