Another group of third graders began mini-lessons about character this week. They started by listing everything they learned about Grandpa in Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman. Yesterday they separated physical traits from character traits in Dandelion by Don Freeman. Today, they listed to Annie and the Old One by Miska Miles (a 1972 Newbery Honor Book) and relayed the things they learned about Annie and her grandmother through their actions. It was one of the most powerful discussions I have experienced with young readers. They talked about Annie's kindness, her determination, her fierce love for her grandmother, her tendency to think before acting. Then, one boy said, "I know she is kind, but in a way, she is also selfish." Many of the readers gasped. He went on to explain that though Annie wanted her grandmother to live (and found many ways she thought would delay her return to Mother Earth), perhaps it was selfish of her to try keeping her grandmother on this earth when perhaps the Old One was ready to die, ready to be free of the trials of this world. Sigh. Their teacher and I had tears in our eyes, in awe of a child with such a profound observation.