Characters, setting, conflict and resolution are all familiar plot devices in storytelling. After years of reading books or watching TV, people can easily recognize these story elements.

What about kids who are only a few years old? Some have picked up the cues, while others are still learning.

Stacey Morgan’s fourth grade English Language Arts class at Fountain Hills Middle School had a simple but important class reading on Sept. 9. For the first time, Morgan used “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,” as a lesson for her students.

The book was published in Oct. 2019 and is written and illustrated by Charlie Mackesy. The school’s reading specialist, Jane McDonald, received Mackesy’s book as a Christmas gift from her mom last year and fell in love with it. McDonald purchased a class set for the school’s use.

The book follows an unnamed boy who befriends each animal. First, he meets the mole, who later frees the fox after the fox said he would kill them if he wasn’t trapped. Against the odds of mother nature, the trio arrives at the horse as friends.

The dialogue between the boy and each animal provided plenty of theme for Morgan’s class. When the mole asks what the boy wanted to be when he grew up, he said “kind.” Later, the horse says that asking for help is brave and follows it up by stating that asking for help isn’t giving up, but “refusing to give up.”

After the reading, the class raised their hands and said the prominent words that stuck out to them. Words like love, friendship, forgiveness and kind were circled on the list, and used in the next activity, creating a themed bumper sticker.

Besides a great tool to teach story elements, Mackesy’s book ties in with the school’s positive behavior intervention and support (PBIS) program. After a test on story elements, Morgan will lead her class in reading the novel “Because of Winn-Dixie,” another feel-good story about friendship.