Specific Examples of the Power of Three

Last week I wrote about the power of three in writing.  I felt my post lacked specific examples of what this looks like in published writing.  So, I looked back at Carmen Agra Deedy’s newest book,  14 Cows for America (written in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah), which has examples where she writes in threes. Hence, I contacted the Permissions Department at Peachtree Publishers so I could reprint a few lines of text from Deedy’s book (permission was granted and the lines of text follow below).

Why this book, as opposed to the other titles I mentioned in last week’s post?  There are actually three reasons.

1)  I’m a fan of Deedy’s work.  I especially loved The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark.  Hence, I was excited to make mention of her newest book, which came out last month.

2)  The story has gorgeous illustrations, which were created with pastels, colored pencils, and airbrushing by Thomas Gonzalez.  There’s nothing better than reading a gorgeous picture book to children!

3)  As we approach the eighth anniversary of September 11th, this text is timely since it’s about the way the Maasai People of Kenya reached out to the Americans nine months after the devastating terrorist attacks on this country.  If you’re looking for a new text to use in your classroom on September 11th, then this is surely worth adding to your classroom library.

An example of starting three sentences in the same way:

Deedy wrote:

They sing to them.

They give them names.

They shelter the young ones in their homes.

An example of posing three questions for emphasis (notice the repetition of the word they in each sentence):

Deedy wrote:

Buildings so tall they can touch the sky?

Fires so hot they can melt iron?

Smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun?

As with any mentor text you use to illustrated a point to your students, I think it’s helpful to have at least two places in a text where the author does the thing you’re talking about with the child.  Also, showing more than one instance the author wrote in a particular way makes it seem less accidental, and more purposeful, thereby making our students want to purposely try out the same strategy.