Whistle for Willie

Written and Illustrated by: Ezra Jack Keats

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations

Once you've read the title of the story and the author's name, discuss what your child sees on the cover and what s/he predicts will happen in the story. Use discussion questions like:

Can you whistle? Let's try!

Why do you think the little boy is trying to whistle?

{Flip to a random illustration} What do you think is happening in this illustration?

{If you have a dog} How do you let {insert dog's name} know that you want him to come to you? Do you clap your hands? Call his name? Whistle to him?

As You Read

Vocabulary Building

Encourage your child to discover the meaning of a new word using the illustrations and words surrounding it. In addition to context clues, have your child reread the sentence or try to connect the sound of the word to ones s/he already knows. New words in Whistle for Willie include:



Make Connections

Help your child make text-to-text connections throughout the story by asking questions like, "Why is Peter pretending to be his father? Do you think his mom knows that it is really him? How? Do you think it will help him learn to whistle? Why or why not?" Make connections to your child's life by asking, "Peter is working really hard to learn how to whistle. Is there something that you want to learn to do but it is hard for you? What is it? How do you practice?" Also, continue to make predictions with your child as you go along, asking, "Do you think his whistling will work now? Why or why not?"

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret

Discuss the story once you are through reading, asking questions like:

Did you like this story? What happened?

Why did Peter want to whistle?

How do you think Peter feels at the end of the story? Why does he feel that way?

Extended Learning Exploration

Come Up With Your Own Story Title!

Supplies: paper, a pencil, and some coloring and paint materials


Ezra Jack Keats shares a fun fact on his website that he doesn't choose a book title until after he has finished a book. What is now called Whistle for Willie was once The Funny Day! Try to make up your own titles for the story and write them down! This may also require you to create a new cover illustration that better suits the story. Help your child list the important things in this story like Willie, the dog, Peter, the dog owner, and walking around his neighborhood, and use those to come up with a new story name!


Check This Out

Is your child having trouble learning how to whistle? Try using these helpful tips to get your child whistling the tune of their choice. If your child is still struggling, create a simple straw whistle until your child can whistle on his/her own.